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)


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