Monday, June 27, 2011

Kids drowned in Bulacan, Pampanga, Aurora and Zambales

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga, June 28, 2011-Police authorities reported that death toll has risen in central Luzon due to typhoon Falcon; the victims were identified as Ranny Bernardo of Sto. Nino, Hagonoy Bulacan, Marlon Jay Musni from Sta. Cruz,  Mexico, Pampanga, and Fedelito Muana Jr. from East Bajac-bajac, Olongapo City, Zambales and April Rose Caruluan of Baler, Aurora.

Authorities stated that the latest victim was Musni, the one who was drowned in the creek of Pampanga rice field says police investigators led by PO3 Jonathan Barcelon. Musni was 15 years old, 3rd year high school student and a residence of Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Mexico, Pampanga and reportedly catching cricket (kamaru) together with his four (4) cousins at the flooded rice field when Musni accidentally slipped and fell down into the water irrigation around nine Saturday morning.

Due to the strong current, the victim was swept to the culvert box of the creek and as of this writings the victim could not be located while search and rescue operation is still going on.

In Aurora province, Baler police authorities reported that at around eight o’clock in the morning, Reyman Caruluan, legal age and his daughter April Rose Caruluan, 15 years old, other data unknown were crossing Tirong River when April Rose was carried away by the strong current of the river.

Search and rescue operation was still on-going. As of this report said victim is still missing.

It was reported that there were over 7,100 families or 34,000 persons were still in evacuation centers here in central Luzon.

Safe Kids Philippines, the Philippine Life Saving Society and the Department of Health entitled,” “Child drowning in the Philippines: The silent killer speaks” revealed that drowning is now the second leading cause of death among children outnumbering deaths from serious diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhea, malnutrition, cancer and meningitis. (Jason de Asis)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Legarda warned Phl officials for effective Dam water release in the country

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, June 27, 2011-To maintain strict vigilance as heavy rains continue to pour, leading to the overflowing of several dams and rivers in the country, Senator Loren Legarda calls for effective early warning system for Dam water release as she warned local government officials and government agencies to the possible bad effects of it if mistaken.

“The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that the recent heavy rains were 14 times higher than the daily average recorded every June of the previous years,” Legarda cited, revealing that the continuous heavy rains had led to the overflow of Tullahan and Marikina rivers as well as the La Mesa, Ipo, Binga and Ambuklao dams which reached their spilling level.

Legarda furthered that thousands of families in affected areas were brought to different evacuation centers saying that over 69,000 families in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Bicol Region were affected by Typhoon Falcon. In Marikina alone, at least 25,000 residents near the Marikina River were evacuated.

“We should be reminded of what happened during Pepeng, when waters from the San Roque Dam which was unduly released in the middle of the night. The dam operators, local and government officials must be vigilant in monitoring the situation round-the-clock, ensure that the proper protocols are followed, employ their early warning systems and guarantee the safety of the Filipinos as they are evacuated to safety,” the Senator stressed, adding that the country’s experiences with the typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Basyang exposed the country’s lack of an effective weather forecasting and early warning communications systems.

“They are either underutilized or outdated or inadequate to effectively predict typhoons, determine their intensity, and communicate warning to everyone exposed to these hazards,” Legarda said, revealing that the critical gaps in operational, scientific and institutional capacity can lead to increasing the vulnerability of the poorest sectors those living in high-risk areas and whose livelihoods are at the mercy of extreme weather events.

Legarda bats the Department of Energy and the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) to review their planning and operations in light of the science available and to ensure that extreme weather events are taken into consideration in the process.

“The lesson that we encountered two years ago must be reminded so that the dam operators should follow water release protocols,” Legarda said. “Have the dam operators updated their water release protocols?” she asked.

Legarda said that the country’s hydropower systems must be climate-resilient, which entails measures for improved management of our dams linked to reliable weather forecasts and effective early warning systems for communities at risk of floods due to dam water releases.

“As dams reach spilling levels due to heavy rains, it must be ensured by the operators that they do not indiscriminately release dam waters, that the warnings reach the communities that will be affected and that the alerts allow them to respond ahead of time. Meanwhile, our local governments must make sure that flood warnings are heed by the communities,” Legarda concluded.

It could be remembered that last 2009, the Senate Committee on Climate Change conducted a series of public hearings after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng which was chaired by Legarda where they discussed the dam operations and management which waters were released based on outdated protocols, flooding several provinces in Luzon. (Jason de Asis)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aurora governor lauded by NSWMC for effective waste management

BALER, Aurora, June 26, 2011-Aurora governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo who is a staunch environmental advocate was conferred a recognition by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) for pushing the implementation of the national government’s solid waste management program here Yesterday.

“Angara-Castillo’s exemplary leadership, performance and contribution in achieving the objectives of Republic Act 9003” or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act in the province serves as a great help in protecting the environment,” Emelita Aguinaldo, NSWMC executive director said.

During the awarding ceremonies at the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan yesterday afternoon, the plaque of recognition was handed to Angara-Castillo by Ma. Alma Ferareza, NSWMC senior environmental management specialist. The conferment of the commission’s recognition was one of the highlights of the “Gawad Punong Lalawigan para sa Kapaligiran” (GPLK) rites here.

Angara-Castillo rallied her co-Aurorans to help preserve the province’s dense forest cover, saying that the provincial leadership is singularly focused on protecting and preserving the environment and to maintain the image of Aurora as the province with the largest forest cover in the entire country.

Angara-Castillo gave out P325,000 in cash to individuals and establishments who stood out in the provincial government-initiated incentives program for clean and green advocacies.

The GPLK is the provincial counterpart of the national government’s Gawad Pangulo Para sa Kapaligiran which was implemented then discontinued in 2005 reportedly for lack of funds while the provincial government of Aurora continued the program in line with Angara-Castillo development agenda which include environmental protection.

Traditionally, the GPLK is being held every February but it was moved to June in line with the observance of Environment Month.

The awards cover various categories such as cleanest and greenest municipality (urban and rural), cleanest and greenest barangay (urban and rural), cleanest and greenest school (small elementary school, big elementary school, high school and college/university category), cleanest/greenest church (Catholic and non-Catholic category), cleanest/greenest store/food establishment, cleanest/greenest hotel/recreation center, best office Ecological Solid Waste Management Program implementer (without compound and with compound), best utility ESWMP implementer and special awards as most environment-friendly mayor and most environment-friendly school.

The panel of judges was composed of engineer Cristina dela Cruz, Josephine Leander, Rosanna Querijero, Sherylle Bernadette Natividad, Domingo Gonzales Jr., Geroldo Custodio, Rogelio Baturi, Rommel Lombres, Roderic Torre and Dennis Caanawan. 

Emerging as cleanest and greenest non-Catholic church was the Holy Place Pentecost Church, Inc. based in Dingalan. The HPPCTI, led by its president Ruth G. Sanchez received P5,000 in cash and a plaque.

The HPPCTI, a perennial winner of the yearly search, and which has a congregation in Barangay Caragsacan, Dingalan also maintains outreaches in Barangays Ibuna and Dikapanikian.

Placing second was the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church in Ma. Aurora.

In the Catholic category, the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Church in Ma. Aurora topped the list.

Mayor Tito Tubigan was conferred the most environment-friendly mayor while the Bazal Elementary School, Ditumabo ES and the Canili National High School were hailed as most environment-friendly schools.

The other awardees were the municipalities of Baler, Ma. Aurora and San Luis and Casiguran (cleanest and greenest municipality, urban category), and the towns of Dinalungan, Dipaculao, Dingalan and Dilasag (rural category); Barangay Calabuanan, Baler (cleanest and greenest barangay, urban) and Barangays Zone 1, Dinalungan and Mucdol, Dipaculao (rural) as cleanest and greenest barangay.

Adjudged as cleanest and greenest schools (small ES category) were Diome ES, Bazal ES, Estonilo ES, Kadayakan ES and Ramada ES (Ma. Aurora), Mucdol ES and T. Molina ES (Dipaculao) and Paltic ES (Dingalan) and Diagyan ES (Dilasag); San Luis Central School, Dinalungan CS, Ditumabo ES, Baler CS, Casiguran CS, Dipaculao CS, Dilasag CS, Ma. Aurora CS, Dingalan CS and Bianoan ES (big ES category) and Don Mariano Marquez National High School, Juan C. Angara NHS, Canili NHS, Calabuanan NHS (Baler), Mucdol NHS (Dipaculao), Ramada NHS (Ma. Aurora), Dilasag NHS, Lual NHS (Casiguran), St. Patrick Academy (Dingalan) and Mayor Cesario Pimentel NHS (high school category) and Mt. Carmel College (Baler), college/university category;

Bahia de Baler 1, La Cez Foodhaus and Bay’s Inn Restaurant (cleanest and greenest store/establishment); Bahia de Baler 2, Dinadiawan Beach Resort and Lorentess Resort (cleanest and greenest hotel/recreation center); provincial tourism office, governor’s office and provincial administrator’s office and provincial social welfare and development office (best office ESWMP implementer without compound); peace empowerment and advancement center for employment and provincial veterinary office (with compound) ; Rhealyn Santelises, Eufemia Bonifacio, Evelyn Samonte, Adelina Gonzales and Marlyn Valenzuela (best utility ESWMP implementer)

Fourteen heavy-duty grass-cutters imported from Japan were also handed out during the ceremonies.    

The awarding ceremony was graced by Vice Governor Gerardo Noveras and Mayors Arthur Angara (Baler), Tubigan and Ariel Bitong (Ma. Aurora), Philippine Coconut Authority regional manager Dennis Calub,  Alma Ferareza,  Belly Cabeso of the NSWMC, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central Luzon regional technical director for research Juliet Tecson, DENR provincial environment and natural resources officer Benjamin Mina, DENR community officers Raul Batang, Alfredo Collado and Jerry Casala and Babes de Luna of the Aurora environment and natural resources office. (Jason de Asis)

Friday, June 24, 2011

DENR eyes 2.7 million trees to be planted in Central Luzon

MARIA AURORA, Aurora, June 25, 2011-At least 2.7 million tree species here in Central Luzon as its share in the National Greening Program of the Aquino administration in his home region is planning to plant by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) says Sofio Quintana, regional technical director for forestry of the DENR.

“Our office targeted 2,773,500 tree seedlings to be planted in 5,437 hectares in the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales and in this province,” Quintana said Friday.

Quintana, along with Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and other local DENR officials led the kick-off ceremony for the NGP scheme in Aurora at sitio Canili, Barangay San Juan here.

A total of 1,000 trees were planted in the site which form part of the 484 hectares of areas targeted for planting in the province for this year says DENR provincial environment and natural resources officer Benjamin Mina.

Mina furthered that of the 484 hectares, 310 hectares are situated in protected areas, 120 hectares in reforestation areas, 50 hectares in community-based forest management areas and four hectares in urban parks.

Back to Quintana, he said that they are putting up agro-forest trees protected areas, forestlands, mangroves, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, river banks and stream banks and urban areas which are the designated NGP areas under Executive Order 26 issued last February 24 by President Aquino establishing the NGP as a national priority aimed at reforesting 1.5 million hectares of lands by planting 1.5 billion trees for the next six years, or an average of 250 million seedlings per year involving 250,000 hectares annually.

“This project also aims to address global warming and climate change which also promote environmental awareness,” he ended. (Jason de Asis) 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two nueva ecija mayors suspended by the Ombudsman

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, June 17, 2011-Two municipal mayors here in Nueva Ecija has preventively suspended for 60 days by the Office of the Ombudsman and were slapped administrative complaints by their respective subordinates for alleged violation of civil service rules and regulations.

Meted the preventive suspension without pay were San Isidro Mayor Cesario Lopez Jr. of San Isidro and Talugtug Mayor Quintin Caspillo Jr. where the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG), which was tasked by the Ombudsman to implement the suspension, installed Vice Mayors Edgardo Paez and Floro Pagaduan Jr. as acting mayors of San Isidro and Talugtug, respectively.

Dr. Abraham Pascua, DILG provincial director for Nueva Ecija and lawyer Myron Cunanan, DILG regional legal officer for Central Luzon, served the suspension orders in the two municipal halls starting last Friday who witnessed by the various chiefs of offices.

Pascua described the take-over by Paez and Pagaduan as “smooth and peaceful” as there was no untoward incident that marred the suspensions. He refused to comment on the twin orders, saying that these are based on the appreciation of the Ombudsman.

Pascua said that we were just tasked to implement the orders and nothing else so it’s beyond us to comment on the orders, explaining that the twin orders are immediately executory even if there is any motion, appeal or petition that may be filed by Lopez and Caspillo. “The motions do not stay the execution of the orders,” he said.

The suspensions were the offshoot of the orders made on November 23 and 24, 2010 by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni which were subsequently approved by then Ombudsman Maria Merceditas Gutierrez placing Lopez and Caspillo under preventive suspension.

However, it was only on May 27, 2011 when DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero issued a memorandum directing the DILG regional office, under director Florida Dijan to implement the orders based on the latest order from Assistant Ombudsman Rolando Zoleta.

The preventive suspensions stemmed from the complaint for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the service filed against Lopez and a separate complaint for grave misconduct, oppression and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against Caspillo.

The complaint against Lopez, who won in the May 2010 elections against former two-term mayor Sonia Lorenzo, was filed by former municipal assessor Elmer Garcia of Barangay Malapit, San Isidro.

The complaint stated that Garcia was appointed municipal assessor by Lorenzo on December 12, 2005 but Lopez constructively dismissed him from the post in a memorandum circular issued on July 19, 2010, less than a month after Lopez assumed his post. The circular directed the most senior career officer in Garcia’s office to take his place.

Garcia claimed Lopez ordered the municipal treasurer, municipal accountant and human resource management officer to withhold his salaries and benefits and his name struck out from the payroll.

In giving due course to Garcia’s complaint, the Ombudsman cited the grounds for the issuance of the preventive suspension on the grounds that the evidence against the respondent is strong, it involves dishonesty, oppression, grave misconduct among others, the charge would warrant removal from the service and the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.         

In its ruling, the Ombudsman said Garcia has shown that he was issued a valid appointment which has not been revoked or declared invalid and which was affirmed by the Civil Service Commission.

But in spite of this, Lopez refused to allow him to discharge his functions which, it said, may amount to oppression as “it appears there is excessive use of authority and domination on his (Lopez’s) part.” 

The complaint against Caspillo was filed by former municipal engineer Leonides Esperon of Osmeña District, Talugtug.

In his complaint, Esperon said he was municipal engineer since July 15, 2003 but when Caspillo assumed office, the latter placed him on floating status and replaced him on July 5,2010 with engineering assistant Wilson Nimenzo as officer-in-charge without any reason. He claimed that Nemenzo came from the private sector and was a neophyte in government.

Esperon further lamented that he was deprived of his representation and travelling allowances (RATAs) for July and August 2010 which were instead given to Nimenzo who even directed him to discharge some other functions.

Esperon, in his complaint, also claimed that Caspillo publicly bragged that he was not afraid of any complaint lodged by the former because “I have many connections in the Office of the Ombudsman.”

In rendering the suspension order, the Office of the Ombudsman said it found the prayer for preventive suspension against Caspillo meritorious, noting that that there was no showing Nimenzo was already an organic personnel of the municipal government at the time of his designation as OIC-municipal engineer.

Supreme Court rules stated that a designated OIC is considered merely as a caretaker of the office while the regular incumbent is on leave of absence. It noted that there was no showing Esperon was temporarily incapacitated to discharge his duties which would require the designation of an OIC for his post.

It also described Nimenzo’s designation as “precipitous” which may constitute oppression or abusive use of authority on the part of Caspillo.

The Ombudsman also said that the denial of Esperon’s allowances is another indication that the evidence of guilt of Caspillo is strong and convincing. (Jason de Asis)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Angara urges foreign affairs for Phl diplomatic team to resolve Spratly issue

BALER, Aurora June 16, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for the urgent creation for a diplomat team and train them to articulate in advance regarding the Philippines' interests in international negotiations through the Association of South East Asian Nations and the United Nations, saying that a diplomatic team that will negotiate with other claimant countries and China is the key for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the disputed Spratly Islands.

“This specialized team should possess the diplomatic and strategic skills, training and knowledge required to successfully negotiate through a dispute of this magnitude and follow through until it is concluded,” Angara said.

Angara advised that we must not let what happened to Sabah to the Spratly Islands. “We lost it because no one followed up on it after the administration changed,” he said.

“The Philippines lacks the military capability to match China's show of naval power in the disputed sea but should not make the government any less assertive in protecting its territorial claims,” Angara observed, explaining that it is obvious from China’s continued aggressive behavior and presence that it has enormous economic interest in the Spratly Islands so do Vietnam and other claimant countries.

“This brash display of power is undeserved,” Angara said; thus, there is a need for a forum where we can air our protests and resolve our differences diplomatically as this is the only recourse we have.

“The issue involves more than the Philippines and China. The resolution to this dispute cannot be unilateral. We must seek the help of our allies in the region, primarily the ASEAN to help us resolve this conflict once and for all,” Angara said.

Earlier, a Chinese vessel harassed a Philippine vessel conducting seismic surveys along the Recto (Reed) Bank, which is 80 nautical miles off Palawan and clearly within the 200-nautical-mile national territory defined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea where the government claimed that China has encroached into Philippine territory at least six times, including one in March as reported by the Philippine Coast Guard. (Jason de Asis)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NIA turns Pantabangan barangay cogon lands into fertile farms after 40 years

PANTABANGAN, Nueva Ecija, June 15, 2011-Ironically, a God forsaken barangay in the home of the giant Pantabangan Dam has finally received irrigation after almost half-a-century with the installation by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) of a mini-dam which turned an initial 170 hectares of purely cogonal lands into verdant and fertile farms.

NIA regional irrigation manager for Central Luzon Manuel Collado said that a total of 650 hectares of farmlands will be supplied with irrigation upon completion of a P298-million Teruvian Dam (TD) which initially watered areas planted to palay in Barangay Conversion, saying that the TD refers to a free-fall dam wherein irrigation water falls freely from a mini-dam and connected to a stilling pool using high-density polyethylene pipes.

“This type of dam is most suited in Conversion because the current there is strong and the slopes are stiffer,” Marcelino Santos, assistant regional director said.

Conversion, Pantabangan’s largest barangay covering an area of 6,000 hectares, belong to the original barangays of the old township which was submerged to pave the way for the construction of the World bank-funded Pantabangan Dam in the 70s. The dam now irrigates 102,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Central Luzon but not a single drop of water flows to Conversion which was relocated one kilometer upstream and was isolated from the rest of the barangays.

Conversion is now more accessible eight kilometers from Carranglan municipality when the rest of this town’s barangays can be reached by passing through Rizal and San Jose City.

Antonio Reyes, former president of the NIA Employees Association and a resident of this town said that because Conversion was made an “outcast” from the Pantabangan Dam, he and other officials of the association asked NIA last year to finance the construction of the mini-dam so farmers in the rain-fed area would receive irrigation.

Collado and then-NIA administrator Carlos Salazar approved the funding for the project which was finally realized when Antonio Nangel was appointed NIA administrator by President Aquino.

Nangel released P110 million for the project’s three phases. Pantabangan Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. also provided a counterpart funding from the municipal government equivalent to 30% of the project’s direct cost.

Last January 2010 when the dam construction started then a test run conducted by NIA officials and engineers yielded positive results as water flowed in the area nine months later.           

Juanito Jampil, NIA provincial irrigation officer for Nueva Ecija,  recalled that before it was constructed, some farmers in Conversion were skeptical about the project’s viability since water from the dam would be sourced from the Diaman River in Nueva Vizcaya which is below the project area. Water from the river would be made to flow through connecting pipes and impounded in a stilling pool located two kilometers away.

Wilfredo Riparip, barangay chairman of Conversion, said that the farmers, like the proverbial Doubting Thomases, could not believe water would climb from the river to the stilling pool.

He said one of them, Eladio Carpio even bragged he would have his body amputated if water could flow in the stilling pool from the dam. “Believe me, I would have by waist cut if water will come out from the dam,” he quoted Carpio as saying in Tagalog.

When the mini-dam finally flushed out water, Riparip said Carpio was nowhere to be found.

Engineer Martin Eduarte, NIA regional designer explained that this is made possible by force of gravity which pulls water from the river upward into the stilling pool.

“The farmers harvest an average of 100 cavans per hectare during the dry season from what once were desolate lands, so isolated these were dubbed Conversion’s version of “Marlboro Country,” in mock reference to a place in a popular TV ad of a leading cigarette brand showing a cowboy negotiating a dusty, isolated place,” Eduarte said.

Engineer Roberto Pascual, manager of the merged Bulacan, Aurora and Nueva irrigation management offices said that from cogon country, Conversion is now palay country because of the project and turned lush and green.

Billy Soriano, president of the irrigators’ association in Conversion said 98 farmers now benefit from the project and they are now planning to venture into onions with water now available. He said up to 200 farmers in the area will benefit eventually once the irrigation facility’s two other phases, are fully completed.

Meanwhile, to assist farmers in their post-production, Nangel has promised to provide post harvest facilities to uplift their source of livelihood. (Jason de Asis)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recto urges intensified trade and investments with Phl-China

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, June 14, 2011-In the midst of the controversies between China and the Philippines, Senator Ralph G. Recto yesterday said that the country’s trade with China is bigger than the United States (US) that boycotting everything “Made In China” is foolish and ill-advised, saying that the country should do the reverse by engaging in China through intensified trade and investments instead of boycotting their products.

Recto reacted on the statement of Albay Governor Joey Salceda who is a staunched advocate to boycott the China-made products in retaliation to China’s bullying in the disputed Spratly’s and in Western Palawan, adding that the retaliation through trade against China’s repeated intrusions in Spratly Islands and the West Palawan Sea has become the only viable alternative to ordinary Filpinos since military provocation was not an option.

“China is our biggest trading neighbor,” Recto said, explaining that the right response is to increase our trade and investments with China and wait for the proper time to find the right growth formula to settle the issue in Spratly Island.

“If the country would be able to close its $900-million trade deficit with China, it would be scoring a “big economic victory" more meaningful than trying to sink one of their vessels,” Recto said, adding that the country imported $7 billion worth of goods from China in 2010 while shipping a little over $6 billion goods to China.

“The country should act accordingly and should not boycott as China is part of the emerging economies and touted by respected global bodies to be in the Top 25 countries with strong economies by 2025,” Recto said, advising the government that we should engage in China diplomatically and business trade sound relations should be maintained.

Recto furthered that the country should start modernizing its armed services not to engage China or any country laying claim to Spratly militarily, but to protect its fishermen, ships and cargoes and territorial waters, explaining that there is a need to build the AFP not for arms race but to protect our coral reefs and fishermen.

“You need to do it. You have to start somewhere,” Recto stressed, saying that to protect the country’s territorial sovereignty gains importance more than ever now that the disputed Reed Bank in Western Palawan has been renamed as “Recto Bank” in honor of his grandfather, nationalist Claro M. Recto.

“The AFP led by the Philippine Navy should start buying modern equipment and fleet. We should start buying some of these equipment and I don’t care if we buy them from China,” Recto added. (Jason de Asis)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nueva Ecija classrooms reduced by 50% shortage

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, June 13, 2011-Governor Aurelio Matias Umali revealed that the hundreds construction of brand new classrooms initiated by the provincial government, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the local government units (LGU) have been reduced by more than half the classroom shortage in the 700 elementary schools and high schools provincewide, explaining that the classroom shortage placed at 1,070 in both the 604 elementary schools and 98 high schools are now down to only 565 after the provincial government, through the local school board he chaired, bankrolled the construction of 342 classrooms worth P325 million.

In the midst of criticisms that various schools in the province continue to suffer from acute shortage of classrooms even as classes for both primary and secondary education opened last Monday, Umali said that they are exerting fullest efforts to ease the problem and is not sleeping on it.

“Classroom shortage is nationwide in scale and is not unique here in Nueva Ecija,” Umali said, saying that the provincial government is doing its part to reduce this problem by financing the construction of more classrooms particularly in areas where they found in great need.

“The 342 provincial government funded classrooms were sourced through the school board’s Special Education Funds and through loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP),” Umali said.

Vice Governor Jose Gay Padiernos recently passed a resolution at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan which authorized Umali to enter into a loan agreement with DBP for the additional classrooms for the province.

Dr. Tarcila Javier, DepEd superintendent of schools and co-chairman of the local school board said that the 342 classrooms are on top of the 115 classrooms constructed by the department through the Basic Education, Facilities and Furnitures (BEEF) project.

“DepEd project costs P63 million and the second biggest classroom allocation here in Central Luzon,” she said, adding that there are also classrooms built through local government initiatives.

Javier cited the 48 classrooms in Cabiao town which were negotiated by Mayor Gloria Congco with the help of the Ateneo School of Government and Security Bank.

“The reported shortage of classrooms in the province is being addressed fast by Umali who manifested that schools are his topmost priority and other local chief executives who have responded positively to the DepEd’s appeal for intervention during an educational summit they held last May 18,” Javier said.

Mr. Orlando de Leon, DepEd Nueva Ecija planning officer said that the province has 1,771 existing classrooms in high school and 5,371 classrooms in elementary schools right now.

“Based on a ratio of one classroom per 30 students, the province is still short of 779 classrooms in high school. In the case of elementary schools and based on a ratio of one classroom per 40 students, the province is still short of 291 classrooms in the elementary level,” De Leon said, however, he stressed that the computation in high school has been based on a ratio of 40:1 or 40 students per one classroom, the shortage would only have been around 200 classrooms.

He furthered that among with the biggest high school classrooms backlog were the Nueva Ecija High School which needs 94 classrooms, Bongabon National High school (60) and Cabiao National High School (45), saying that the DepEd through the BEFF and the provincial government are now putting up classrooms to help bring down the backlog.

“The shortage in the elementary is not as severe as most schools only lack between two to four classrooms, mostly in areas holding multi-grade classes,” De Leon said, citing that the Guimba East Central School was short of 10 classrooms but this was reduced to only three due to the construction of seven additional classrooms by the DepEd and the provincial government.

He furthered that four additional classrooms were provided by the provincial government and the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce to the Santo Cristo Elementary School in the municipality of Quezon. (Jason de Asis)

Nueva Ecija is the Phl role model of effective disaster management risk reduction

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, June 12, 2011-Nueva Ecija province has emerged as a role model of disaster management and risk reduction among local government units in the country with its participatory approach and systematic handling of irrigation systems to mitigate the impact of calamities, resulting in minimal casualties and damage to property during typhoons, floods and landslides.

Governor Aurelio Umali told newsmen that the province has effectively handled past calamities with vigilance and foresight, consistently monitoring low pressure areas and releasing water from the Pantabangan Dam and other irrigation systems way ahead of the coming typhoons so that there would be no floods in known flood-prone areas.

Umali, who chairs the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council cited that during typhoon “Ondoy,” the province suffered zero casualty because the National Irrigation Administration’s Upper Pampanga river Integrated Irrigation Systems (NIAUPRIIS) released water from Pantabangan Dam several days before the typhoon came.

“The province’s management of disasters is participatory in that the Department of the Interior and Local Government takes a pro-active role,” Umali said,” remembering the past when he first became governor in 2007, he involved the DILG in disaster preparedness when he appointed its provincial director, Dr. Abraham Pascua as council co-chairman.

“In 2007, the rationale of my having appointed Director Pascua was because I have few allies among the mayors so I wanted the DILG to become a conduit of the provincial government with regards to disaster mitigation and to disabuse the minds of the local chief executives of politics. As a result, the mayors responded and now, they have been cooperating with us ever since,” Umali said.

He said that in areas beyond his reach, there’s a man of the hour calling the shots, convening emergency meetings and leading the conduct of training seminars on geo-hazards and the risks of landslides and floods. 

“The provincial government did its task of mitigating disasters without relying on the national government too much. We will only seek help when we are no longer capable. But we have shown we are capable in dealing with disasters,” he added; thus, the Spanish government extended 3.4 million euros (P203.2 million) worth of grant to the provincial government to further strengthen its capability to respond to disaster and calamity situations and implement rehabilitation programs. “They want to capitalize on our efforts,” he said.

“The grant was extended by the Spanish Cooperation Agency for Development (AECID) which entered into a project partnership agreement with the Local Government Academy - an attached agency of the DILG - to strengthen local governments' disaster preparedness and response,” Umali said, adding that the grant is now being used to fund the training component, infrastructure and livelihood components of the program in selected cities and municipalities of the province.

“Thanks to the Spanish government for extending assistance to the province and the Philippines which, he said, both have historical ties with Spain after whom they were named after,” Umali furthered.

The program aimed to help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities affected by supertyphoon “Pepeng,” being implemented in partnership with the Office of Project Development Service (OPDS) of the DILG and DILG provincial office which constitute the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) project steering committee.

Various projects are now being undertaken in the pilot municipalities of Carranglan, Llanera, Rizal and Pantabangan and in San Jose City aimed at strengthening their respective DRRM and response, improve inter-municipal networking, raise disaster risk reduction awareness and provide support and access to basic social and productive infrastructures and jobs.

LGA executive director Marivel Sacendocillo, the program's director, said that the province was chosen as pilot area by the donor country in recognition of Umali's leadership in mitigating disasters. She also cited the crucial role played by Pascua for overseeing disaster rescue, relief and rehab efforts along with Umali.

Pascua said that the province was effective against calamities because Umali was always on top of the situation, micro-managing and presiding over the inspection of damaged areas and in the distribution of relief goods to affected families.

“The governor risked his life, even going to landslide-prone areas and braving floodwaters in low-lying areas to oversee our disaster mitigation, rescue and relief efforts. He was not only visible. He was personally involved,” he said.

“The province formulated a comprehensive disaster risk reduction contingency plan involving the pre-positioning of evacuation centers and relief goods and assignment of focal persons in these areas,” Pascua said, adding that the council have five command posts and four advanced command posts in strategic areas of the province where personnel, heavy equipment, medicines and goods are deployed and stockpiled in advance in anticipation of a forthcoming typhoon.

Pascua said disaster management in the province has become a total team effort with the NIA, the Army, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Public Works and Highways which actively involved in all aspects of disaster mitigation.

“NIA effectively regulated the flow and release of water from the dam to prevent flooding during heavy rains brought by typhoons,” Pascua said.

At the height of “Pepeng” in 2009, Pascua recalled that then-UPRIIS operations manager and now NIA administrator Antonio Nangel and Freddie Tuquero, chief of the dam's reservoir division, consistently monitored the water level at the dam and released water prior to the onset of the supertyphoon, thus, preventing the Pantabangan Dam from reaching spilling level.

“During a four-day period in October last year at the height of typhoon “Juan,” water level at the dam was recorded at only between 194 meters to 197 meters, way below the spillway level of 221 meters because UPRIIS already released water before the typhoon came,” he recalled, explaining that if you can see, the disaster mitigation efforts of Nueva Ecija is very unique because you not only cope with calamities but also the water at the Pantabangan Dam. If you don't manage the dam well enough and its water release, then you will surely end in disaster,” he said, recalling the experience that befell Pangasinan when water overflowing from the San Roque Dam caused massive flooding.

“702nd IB, Brigade Commander Army Col. Felicito Trinidad constantly communicated on a 24/7 basis with the council for possible deployment of his men  in areas affected by the calamity ahead of the other government agencies,” Pascua recalled. (Jason de Asis)

P100-M CamSur-like tourism park and watersports complex to rise in Nueva Ecija

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, June 12, 2011-Governor Aurelio Umali said that the provincial government of Nueva Ecija is constructing a P100-million tourism park and watersports complex in this provincial capital aimed at converting the province into a sports-adventure zone and tourist mecca in the country.

Umali said that the tourism project centers on the development of the Aulo Dam irrigation project as the nerve center of water sports activities, taking a cue from the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC), easily the country’s biggest tourist draw because of its water sporting events.

The development of the P295-million, 27-meter high Aulo Dam, which irrigates 810 hectares, will be undertaken by the provincial government through a P100-million loan package in collaboration with the Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“This development of the Aulo Dam is very much like CamSur except that what we are developing is a dam, unlike CamSur which developed a man-made lake,” Umali said. He said the provincial government has hired CamSur Gov. Luis Raymond “LRay” Villafuerte as consultant in developing the tourism park and sports complex.

Umali said he, Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos and other local officials in the province recently visited CamSur and were awed by its success story in tourism which propelled it into greater economic heights.

He said that prior to the establishment of its water sports complex, CamSur was mired as the 39th poorest province in the country but has since emerged as the 10th richest province.

Today, the CamSur local government is the only eco-tourism zone in the country endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry’s special attached agency, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. 

“It’s amazing how tourists now go gaga over CamSur. We have to learn from its experience and take it from there to carve a niche for Nueva Ecija as an emerging tourist mecca,” he said.

The CWC features a world-class six-hectare complex with a six-point cable ski system for cable skiing, wakeboarding, knee boarding, water skiing and wake skating. It is now widely known as the best cable park in Asia.

Across the road from the CWC is the Lago del Rey family entertainment and water sports facility where a giant man-made lake features water slides, an aqua obstacle course and boat-towed wakeboarding and skiing. Families can go swimming, kayaking, dragon boating, aqua wall climbing or play water volleyball and water polo.            

Tourists and water sports enthusiasts from around the world have flocked to seek out adventures in CamSur, which will host the 22nd Philippine Advertising Congress in November. It has hosted several high-profile events, including the annual Summit Water CamSur Marathon and the Ultimate Wake Championship, two of the country’s most important sporting events which include athletes from as far as the United States, Europe, South Africa and from all over Asia.

Umali said that the Aulo Development Park will feature zipline, zafari and zoo and offer activities for wakeboarding, motorbiking, mountain trailing and camping site.

“Nueva Ecija is the next big thing to Metro Manila and we will capitalize on our water resources to breathe life to tourism because water is life,” he said.

He said the provincial government’s tourism enterprise will be eco-friendly with only e-vehicles allowed to come inside the facility. (Jason de Asis)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Aurora cops seminar highlights values and techniques of news writing and broadcasting

BALER, Aurora, June 11, 2011-To uphold true broadcast and journalistic values, Aurora provincial director, Police Senior Supt. Ervin “Jojo” B. Gumban led a two day enhancement training on news writing and broadcasting for the 35 Philippine National Police (PNP) newly designated as police information officers here at Camp Captain Victor Ravina, Brgy. Sabang last June 9 to 10, 2011.

Cops participants highlighted the need of upholding the high values of journalism, especially within the new security environment in which there is a clear danger of losing the truth and credibility when faced with violence and hostile ground realities.

The views were put across during the workshop organized by SPO2 Desiderio “Ding” M. Noora, Aurora over-all PNP spokesman in collaboration with the different point of views of the police, saying that the true journalistic values had been compromised a bit since each media outlet constantly tries to outshine others in the race of broadcasting breaking news; however, the police agreed that in the face of tremendous challenges face by the media, there are still journalists out there who do not compromise on facts and truths and those are the real unsung heroes and flag-bearers of the profession.

The participants said that determining the national interest was too important business to be left with the security institutions to protect the welfare of the people in the province.

They said that the parliament, civil society and the media must get together to evolve a consensus over what constitutes national interest. Cops participants also highlighted the dilemma of how some stakeholders, through their vested interests, tried to influence media through money and advertisement revenues.

Noora believes that the freedom of speech and freedom to write is a responsibility. Without responsibility and accountability, freedom and independence could become harmful. 

“There are numerous factors out there which hamper the pursuit of truth and threaten the journalists’ integrity,” Noora said, explaining that the Aurora cops realized to establish police spokesman to give the truest information to the people without fear.

Noora said that the seminar is intended for the creation of Aurora PNP press corps, the creation of radio program on DZJO FM which is run by the catholic and the establishment of “Pulis Silangan” a police news letter to be circulated in the entire province next month.

He furthered that the seminar will also serve as the central source of information release by the police; assist the media in covering routine news stories; prepare and distribute news releases; arrange for, and assist at, news/press conference; coordinate the release of information that concerns confidential police operations and/or investigation; provide information openly and honestly to contribute confidence, trust and respect in the police force among others.

“I think this is the first province which has been organized here in central Luzon to disseminate information to the public from the police force,” Noora ended. (Jason de Asis)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Trillanes calls for in-depth study on the ambitious K+12 of DepEd

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, June 10, 2011-Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV bats for the investigation about the ambitious Enhanced Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K+12) program of the Department of Education (DepEd) which seeks to expand basic education to 13 years from the current 10 years, describing the DepEd program intend to implement next school year as a big, costly and potentially disastrous experiment that would only worsen the existing problems confronting the education sector in the lack of teachers and classrooms in the country.

Trillanes said that the DepEd revealed that severe shortage estimated to around 103,000 elementary and high school teachers plus 27,000 Kindergarten teachers and an equally severe shortage of classrooms estimated at around 90,000.

“Why are our education officials proposing to adopt a system which will obviously result to an aggravation of the already severe shortage in teaching personnel and classrooms?,” he asked, pointing out that most public schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) have 76 to 79 students, a far cry from the ideal ratio of 45 students per classroom.

“The national average class size in Philippine secondary schools is 56 students per classroom and can be considered overcrowded when compared to Malaysia’s 34, South Korea’s 35.1 and Thailand’s 41.5,” Trillanes furthered, citing that the case of Batasan National High School, which has three shifts of classes daily and where some students go to school as early as 5:30 in the morning and will go home as late as 7:20 in the evening.

He asked that if we implement DepEd’s K + 12 system, are we going to add a fourth shift and require our students to wake up earlier, say at 3:00 a.m. or maybe go home at midnight? Are we going to pack our students even more tightly with 150 students per class?

“The program would entail additional costs not only to the government but most especially to the parents. Parents who are barely able to make both ends meet. The same parents who must now bear the burden of the rising cost not only of education but of almost everything else from food to utilities and from gasoline to LPG,” Trillanes said.

“Under the present basic education system, the  K+12 program would only result to more dropouts, noting that for every 100 students who enter Grade 1, only 43 manage to finish high school and only 14 graduate from college,” Trillanes revealed.

Trillanes said that the dropout rate would further increase if the government extended the 10-year basic education by two more years, where he debunked DepEd’s claim that the program would improve the quality of basic education and address youth unemployment.

Former Education Deputy Minister Abraham Felipe and Dr. Carolina Porio recent study showed that there is no correlation between the number of years of basic education and the overall quality of education.

Trillanes mentioned the case of students from Singapore who performed best in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from among 50 countries which have the same length of high school cycle as the Philippines, saying that the countries that have longer high school cycles such as South Africa, Chile, Palestine, Morocco and Saudi Arabia belong to the group that have low-performing high school students.

Trillanes asked that if thousands upon thousands of college degree holders now cannot find employment, what makes the DepEd believe that they can solve our unemployment problem by producing ‘employable’ high school graduates?

“Parents have sacrificed much so that their children would finish even high school only, why there is a need for the additional two years for the elementary and for the secondary where in fact there is no clear manifestation that the country will benefit from the proposed educational program,” the young senator said. (Jason de Asis)

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