Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Aurora Coco plantation burned by NPA rebels in 2009 now in full bloom

DINALUNGAN, Aurora, March 2, 2011-In May 2009, a 20-man band of suspected communist New People’s Army rebels stormed the 133 hectare Aurora Province Coconut Development Center (APCDC) in Barangay Dibaraybay  here destroyed facilities and equipments then chopped and burned several young coconut seedlings.

To the surprise of officials of the APCDC, who launched the project 16 months earlier, the incident turned out to be a “blessing in disguise.” The seedlings only grew further and developed into mature seedlings.

Today, the center which is projected to become the breeding ground of quality seed nuts for Luzon is now home to the best coconut varieties. Among them are embryo-cultured Macapuno, Tacunan Dwarf, Catigan Dwarf, Synvar, Baybay Tall, San Ramon Tall and Open Pollinated Variety-Baler. A total of 15,553 coco seedlings have been planted at a 98.7 hectare area of the APCDC in Dibaraybay, some three kilometers from the town proper.

Dennis Calub, regional director for Regions 1, 2, 3 and 4-B of the Philippine Coconut Authority, and project director of the APCDC said that the center - a brainchild of Sen. Edgardo Angara, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo - is projected to grow up to 1.7 million coconuts and develop 1.34 million plantable seedlings by 2018.

“By 2018, with this much production, we can plant coconuts in an average of 13,400 hectares per year,” he said, adding that it is enough to supply the demand of the Northern Luzon region.

The APCDC was first set up in this fourth-class town with the ceremonial planting on January 5, 2008. It was formally established on October 2, 2008 following the signing of the memorandum of agreement among the implementing agencies namely the PCA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the provincial government of Aurora and the municipal government of Dinalungan.

Philiandro Garcia, center operations manager, said that the project was envisioned to be the center for coconut research, development and extension similar to the seed farm in Carmen, North Cotabato where two million coconuts were planted to  some 26,000 hectares of plantation.

Calub stressed that the center’s 6-point mission include promotion and development of a sustainable and globally competitive coconut industry through researches, delivery of extension services and enterprise development for farmers, and commercial production of quality planting materials of high-yielding coconut varieties.

It will showcase the various integrated coconut-based farming and processing technologies for increased productivity and profitability; provision of appropriate training and technical support for farmers to improve their skills and access to capital and markets.

The center is also intended to revive the coconut industry and to contribute to the overall efforts to attain food security.             

A total of 12 high-quality coconut varieties will be developed in the center where a two-hectare nursery for good quality seedlings and mother palms is being maintained. The project will be implemented over a period of 25 years.

Calub said that for the first five years of its operations, the center is projected to spend P215.88 million, of which P78 million has so far been released. The project’s funding was sourced from the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act through the countrywide development funds of Senator Angara.

Last January 22, some P10.5 million worth of facilities were inaugurated at the center, including the P5-million, two-story administration building, perimeter fence, the 1.7-kilometer access road and a 30,000-liter capacity elevated water tank. The administration building houses a library, training center cum dormitory and a laboratory for production of embryo-cultured Makapuno.

Calub said that at the project site, they have also implemented inter-cropping by planting various crops such as malungggay, banana, sweet potato, okra, corn, pineapple, palay, gabi and coffee beans at a 13-hectare area of the coconut plantation.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who was briefed by Calub on the progress of the project, said high-value crops can also be grown in the project site. He pledged to provide funding for the setting up of a 20 to 30-hectare high-value crop plantation.

Dinalungan Mayor Tito Tubigan said that the project has also provided alternative source of livelihood to 86 residents of Dibaraybay, each of whom receives a daily pay of Php213.

Calub said that the May 2009 incident when the rebels burned the plantation could have been the turning point for the project. “It was one of the project’s biggest setbacks. But somehow, it also turned out as a blessing because the chopped tree trunks grew bigger and better,” he said.

Curiously, the incident also signaled the beginning of the end of the underground movement in the province. Residents protested the incident, resulting in a series of concerted actions which culminated in the declaration of the entire province as insurgency-free nine months later. (Jason de Asis)

Aurora solon files bill for the inclusion of entrepreneurship as separate subject in secondary

BALER, Aurora, March 2, 2011-Aurora Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has filed house bill No. 269 that requires the inclusion of entrepreneurship as a separate subject in the high school curriculum where it should be taught in the senior year of both public and private secondary school nationwide.

Angara explained that the Philippine education system produces graduates who fall into the labor market every year and as the number of graduates increase, the number of unemployed countrymen who search for job continue to rise, saying that about 5.5 million Filipinos are unemployed and 3.9 million are underemployed according to statistics.

Angara furthered that the problem of unemployment and underemployment may be remedied if schools can produce graduates who are job creators rather than job seekers. Students need to be taught to face the world with dreams of entrepreneurial success; thus, the solon filed the said bill to deal with the following entrepreneurial matters on management, fund sourcing, program accreditation and requirements, and contemporary entrepreneurial practices.

“The subject will also cover the values and skills-formation aspects of the making of an entrepreneur,” Angara said, adding that the proposed measure mandates the Education secretary to designate a Head Subject Specialist from the Bureau of Secondary Education who shall be the lead person in coordinating all activities necessary for the development and implementation of the subject, making sure that it is attuned to the current policy of industrialization and global competitiveness.

The Aurora solon is hoping that the passage of the bill will lead young Filipinos to have vigor, competitive energy and creativity for small and medium enterprises in advance economies that may push the country’s own economic growth and development. (Jason de Asis)

Phl should move on to pluck out OFWs in Libya-Escudero

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 1, 2011-Senator Chiz Escudero,  chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights urged the government to move on that no single Filipino should be left behind in Libya to pluck out all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) trapped in the political and social turmoil in the North African country.

Escudero said that it is the government’s duty to look after the welfare of every single Filipino who are in troubled in Libya which has been reached and assigned for pick-up and evacuation, adding that the evacuation program adopted by the government should be a one-size-fits-all design to ensure their safety. "This should be the policy we ought to be adopting where the situation in Libya is a powder keg waiting to explode full blown,” he said.

“The political tension there will be exacerbated by the social and ethnic problems among almost 81 tribes vying for domination. Blended together, this unrest will blow in the face of everyone in the Libyan territory," Escudero said.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recorded that there are 26,000 Filipinos working and living in Libya, saying that only 13,000 may be likely evacuated by the government. The 13,000 were reached through the efforts of the Philippine embassy there and others find ways to contact the personnel of the foreign mission on their own.

He said that a big number of Filipinos remained trapped in areas near the Libyan capital of Tripoli. In Al Kufrah alone, 100 OFWs were abandoned by their Korean employers and have been pleading for help in light of the sporadic shots and explosions being heard from surrounding areas.

The government has chartered planes from the Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways where each flight to Manila costs P13 million and can accommodate 200 to 300 people per flight. The government is allocating P100 million contingency fund for the Libya situation where he called on key agencies concerned to cut all bureaucratic red tapes in the release of the OFW standby fund which is meant for situations such as this in Libya.

Escudero said that all mechanisms, legal, financial, physical to afford protection for OFWs should be interfaced with all efforts from all fronts. They are our modern heroes who keep our economy afloat. The government should protect them from threats and dangers anywhere and no stone should be left unturned in terms of getting them out of harm's way, if our OFWs get the perception of being neglected, they might become ambassadors of ill-will rather than goodwill in foreign lands.

Meanwhile, DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya reported that there were 2,000 OFWs from Libya who returned now in the country. He said that they are targeting to bring the remaining thousand Filipinos in Libya until Saturday by using ship that can accommodate 1,725 people, airplanes and other vehicles.

Today, the DFA is expecting 50 OFWs to come in the country and 32 OFWs tomorrow. (Jason de Asis)

1991 local gov’t. code must be amended for PENRO’s appointment

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 1, 2011-Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., who chair the Senate committee on local government yesterday said that there is a need to amend provisions of the 1991 Local Government Code by mandatory appointment of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The Senator said that the DENR officers in the province are the representatives of the national agency and bring down to the provincial level the programs and policies of the DENR where the PENRO will take those programs and policies and apply them in their assigned provinces.

Sen. Bongbong explained that each PENRO is specific to its respective province since the needs and concerns of every province are slightly or totally different from one another. In contrast, the national policies and programs expressed through the DENR are constant throughout the whole country.

He added that the DENR’s function is to formulate and implement national programs and policies while PENRO would translate it into local projects and strategies that would fit into the varying needs and situations of each community, saying that they need one another, and he thinks that is the way it should be handled.

Referred to the committee on local government, by making the appointment of PENRO mandatory instead of optional Senate Bill introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, seeks to amend Section 463, Chapter 2, Title Four, Book III of Republic Act No. 7160.

The PENRO should be responsible for ensuring that forest lands in every province are protected from wanton and illegal cutting of logs, Senate Bill 2274 directed the government to protect and preserve precious forest reserves to avoid destructive flooding in the future. (Jason de Asis)


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