Friday, February 18, 2011

Baler “KINAGUNASAN-a festival of hope, a celebration of life” launch today

BALER, Aurora, February 18, 2011-The first launching of “Kinagunasan-a festival of hope, a celebration of life will be graced today by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Mayor Arthur J. Angara to commemorate the significance of it in the Philippine history which will be held at the provincial Capitol in this town as part of the 32nd foundation anniversary of Aurora.

Angara was once UP president and has authored and sponsored several landmark laws for the culture and the arts, said that way back December 27, 1735 at two o’clock before the sun ups a phenomenal tidal wave washed away the old town of Baler. A tide rose at such a velocity that within a few hours even the terrain where the town existed had also disappeared.

Fray Jose de San Rafael, OFM, the parish priest of Casiguran was on vacation in Baler when the event happened and he was among the survivors who made their way up the hill of Point Baja by swimming.

He narrated that about two o’clock in the morning of December 27, 1735, the sacristan major of the convent called his attention to the rising tidal wave engulfing the town. It was a weird occurrence for there was no sign or manifestation of impending bad weather. The previous night was clear and starry. Neither were the towns of Casiguran, the mission of Dipaculao and the hamlet of Dingalan were affected regardless of the fact that these places were located along the same shorelines.

The old folks referred to the devastated town as the KINAGUNASAN. Those who survived the catastrophic event fled and took refuge at Mt. Castillo, a neighboring hill now called Ermita.

Since the coming of the group of Fray Blas Palomino, OFM, in 1609 to the event of the Tromba Marina in 1735, there was an interval of one hundred twenty six (126) years. The records on Tromba Marina mentioned a number of families survived foremost of which were the Angara, Bihasa, Bitong, Carrasco, Ferreras, Lumasac and Poblete clans.  Because of their harrowing experience, the Bitong’s went to settle in San Jose (now Maria Aurora) and the Bihasa’s went to “Inategan”, today San Luis.

The Lumasac’s  remained in Baler and the Bitong’s traced their roots from the Ilongots, the Bihasa’s from the Aetas while the Angara’s were believed to be migrants who came alone with the Franciscan missionaries from the neighboring provinces.

Post Tromba Marina resident were either brought by the Spaniards as convent boys or menials and others were migrants from the neighboring towns of Palanan, Casiguran, Infanta and Pantabangan. They either came by the sea or by following the trails used by the Dumagats and the Spanish friars from Nueva Ecija and Quezon by way of Palanan, Polilio and Infanta.

Fray Manuel de Olivencia, OFM established the mission of San Jose de Casecnan now known as the town of Maria Aurora in 1753. It was a settlement at the junction of several rivers inhabited mostly by Elongots Casecnan to the Ilongots (now referred to as Bugkalots) meant the place where the rivers meet. The natives found their settlements by the rivers for transport and trading purposes.

The mission of Dipaculao in Ditale and the mission of San Jose de Casecnan were two (2) Ilongot communities. The Ilongots established their territorial jurisdiction in the hinterlands and the mountains and let the Dumagats reigned along the coastal areas.

After the devastation, a new town was resurrected on a hilly terrain west of Baler Bay. The previous site of the town that was wiped out by the devastating tidal wave was renamed “Kinagunasan” (washed out). Except for the memories and legend that it has left behind, the destruction of the old town still remains a mystery to this day.

This historical event became the inspiration of the Angaras to translate and interpret the occurrence into artistic dance and movements and into powerful sound and music, the chaos, violence, merrymaking, struggles, entertainment and everyday activities of the townsfolk.

Angara, who is a native of this town wanted to reflect how the survivors struggled and rise in unity and cooperation to rebuild of what remained of the KINAGUNASAN, saying that this is only the beginning for the Aurorans to keep it alive and make sure that the tradition will continue to the succeeding generations.

Aurora Provincial Tourism Officer Michael Palispis said that this year’s commemorative rites carry as its theme “Broadening Aurora’s Competitiveness in the global economy” celebrating its 32nd Aurora Day foundation  anniversary, informing the whole world of the identity of this town identity through “Kinagunasan”.

Palispis said that Baler town, located 232 kilometers north of Manila on the shore of a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean is rich in cultural heritage not only as Quezon’s birthplace but also for being the last bastion of Spanish forces during the Spanish Revolution.

The old Kinagunasan (township) was wiped out when a “tsunami” struck on December 27, 1735, killing 500 families. Only five families survived, including the Angaras.

Several stories account for the origin of the name Baler, the most popular of which was believed to have come from the word “Balod,” a large Paloma Montes (mountain dove) that abounded in the place.

Baler, to historians, was a place where pigeons came home to roost or a place to come home to. And that no matter where Balerianos go in their search for glory and fortune, they would always hope of coming back.

From a depressed town, Baler has flourished into a progressive municipality housing a public market, a fish port, sports complex, people’s center, a P130-million integrated rice processing complex among other facilities. (Jason de Asis)

Philhealth bankrupt issue is impossible-Recto

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, February 18, 2011-Sen. Ralph G. Recto, Senate ways and means chair, yesterday said that with retained earnings of Php110 billion from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will fall to the ground as professed by the treasury department of the agency, it is impossible that it would go bankrupt, saying that “Malaking kalokohan ‘yan na malulugi sila.”

He said that the company took to task the management of the PhilHealth for feeding disinformation that it would go bankrupt if its retained earnings would be allocated to addressing the healthcare infrastructure shortage in the country, stressing that PhilHealth is even about to commit a great disservice by increasing the premiums paid by members while clutching eagle-like to its “retained earnings.”

Recto said that to expand coverage and subsidize low-income poor workers they will increase the members’ contributions when they have more than enough funds.

“PhilHealth could even keep its closely guarded retained earnings and not allocate it to plug the deficit in healthcare infrastructure as long the funds would be used to increase the benefits of members,” he said, adding that we can’t be instantly charitable (to the poor members) when you don’t want to open your retained earnings for a noble purpose like reducing the shortage in healthcare infrastructure like barangay clinics and hospitals, which would benefit a great deal of people.

PhilHealth Senior Treasury Manager Evangeline Racelis in a recent Senate hearing said that the agency would practically burn to the ground if the proposed measure of Recto is enacted into law.

Recto’s bill, Senate Bill 2653, seeks to earmark one-half of PhilHealth’s retained earnings or reserve funds to the health department’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).

“The 2011 national budget DOH’s funding for HFEP is only at P7.143 billion, but it said it needs more or less double or triple the amount to wipe out the backlog,” Recto said, adding that HFEP aimed to enhance the capacity of primary healthcare facilities such as barangay health stations, rural health centers and government hospitals, which is at the frontlines of the public healthcare system.

During previous budget hearings in the Senate, Recto said that it was no less than the top officials of PhilHealth who claimed that the state agency has retained earnings of about P110 billion, saying that now is the time to tap these funds and put them to better use.

“The DOH and PhilHealth should complement each other in improving the delivery of healthcare services to the people,” he said.

PhilHealth has a total of 21.65 million registered members, the bulk of which come from the private sector (7.41 million) as of June 2010 where their contributions range from P50 for those receiving P4,999.99 and below and as much as P375 for those receiving P 30,000 and above.

As proposed by the DOH, the contributions will be increased to 3.5 percent of the members’ salaries from the current 2.5 percent. (Jason de Asis)

Agriculture Secretary Alcala rallies support for NIA chief Nangel

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, February 18, 2011-In the midst of the reports that National Irrigation Administration chief Antonio Nangel is set to be replaced, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday manifested his full trust and confidence to Nangel, adding that President Aquino is a proven supporter of certified performers in his Cabinet as he squelched speculations Nangel, who was appointed last September, is on the way out.

“Palagay ko hindi nila gustong alisin ‘yung nagtatrabaho (I think they would never remove someone who is performing),” he said, referring to Nangel as top-level officials and employees of NIA cheered the NIA head on.

Earlier published reports said Nangel, a Novo Ecijano, is going to be replaced with two contenders being considered for the post. One of those seeking the post is a certain Dr. Rafael Apostol.

Alcala said that the reports are largely unfounded and baseless, saying these reports should not be dignified by the DA family and the public. “Ang galing naman nila, mas nauna pa silang nakaalam kaysa sa akin (They must have good intelligence they even knew it ahead of me),” he said of those behind the ouster move.

DA Undersecretary for administration and finance Antonio Fleta said that while Apostol may be qualified for the post, Nangel brings to the job his excellent track record as a public servant. “Moreover, he demonstrated his ability for teamwork and adherence to the new thrusts and objective set by this Department in line with the President’s program of governance.

He added that performance-wise, Nangel’s replacement “is not propitious at this time, given the fact that he is not only fully qualified for the job but also responding well to the problems besetting said agency.”

“So far, he has earned the implicit trust and confidence of this Office (DA),” he said.

Before he was named  to head NIA, Nangel was thrice conferred number one (1) regional manager of the year award for steering the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems as the country’s largest national irrigation systems to success in the implementation of its projects.

Alcala said Nangel is a hands-on performer who goes out to the field to keep in touch with farmers, irrigators and stakeholders, particularly in Mindanao.

Senior deputy administrator Antonio Galvez, one of the top contenders for the NIA post prior to Nangel’s appointment said he is for the latter’s retention. “I’m behind him all the way,” he said.

Officials of the NIA’s Association of Regional Directors and Project Managers also backed up Nangel, saying not one among their 32 members is dissatisfied with Nangel’s performance.

Vicente Galvez, ARDOMA president and NIA regional director for Cagayan Valley, said if reports Nangel would be replaced were true, these would be a terrible mistake.

“Baka naman nagkakamali sila? Napakaganda ng performance e bakit tatanggalin? (They may be committing a big mistake? He’s performing well so why replace?),” he said.

He said Nangel’s competence and qualifications are beyond question and any move to replace him would be unjustified.

Nangel said he was flattered by the expression of support from Alcala and the DA family, saying it would spur him to carry on the NIA’s mandate of providing irrigation service to farmlands all over the country for the benefit of farmers. (Jason de Asis)

Alcala blasts IRRI for attacks on government rice self-sufficiency program

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, February 18, 2011-Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday slammed the International Rice Research Institute for doubting over the Aquino government’s rice self-sufficiency target of attaining an importation free status in 2013, saying that the international agency has confined its operations only in its headquarters in Los Banos,  Laguna and does not have a grasp of the overall rice production situation in the country.

In a recent press conference following the inauguration of the brand-new P22.5-million Benigno Aquino Sr. farmers’ training center at the National Irrigation Administration-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems compound here yesterday morning, Alcala said the IRRI does not know the reality on the ground with regards to the country’s rice situation its so-called experts do not go on the field unlike the government’s technicians.

Alcala was accompanied here by National Irrigation Administration chief Antonio Nangel, NIA senior deputy administrator Antonio Galvez, Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali and the various regional directors and projects managers of the agency. 

“They (IRRI experts) just stay in Los Banos. They don’t go around the country to get the actual situation,” he said. He noted that during the recent floods that hit Mindanao, fieldmen from the Department of Agriculture visited the calamity-hit island but the IRRI people refused to go.

“They are afraid to go there because of the floods,” he said.

Alcala made his statements after the IRRI described as “somewhat ambitious” the government’s 2013 target.

Dr. Achim Dobermman, IRRI deputy director for research noted that the government’s rice target will be difficult to achieve during the next three years because of extreme weather conditions brought by climate change.

Alcala said that the Aquino administration is focused on various programs and policies unlike past administrations which only concentrated on a single program. “In the past, if the program is on seeds, they only focused on seeds. In our case, we focus on post harvest facilities, irrigation among others,” he said.

He said the government is determined to attain its objectives by 2013 even with the Doubting Thomases who expressed reservations over the plan. “My friends in Congress have been telling me not to give a self-imposed deadline on rice self-sufficiency but we are determined to meet our targets,” he said.

Lawyer Ronilo Beronio, executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, told Alcala that the institute has a new in-bred variety, 222 which yields seven tons per hectare, nearly double the current average of 3.8 tons per hectare.

Alcala said if the variety is used by farmers and yields five tons per hectare, then the government no longer needs to import rice in the future.

He also called on regional directors of NIA to closely coordinate with the irrigators’ associations in delivering frontline services to farmers towards the goal of attaining rice self-sufficiency. (Jason de Asis)


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