Saturday, August 13, 2011

Eels devastate rice fields in Nueva Ecija

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija, August 14, 2011-The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) reported that rice farmers in this city have been complaining over eels that have penetrated their farmlands, burrowing in their fields which depleted their supply of irrigation water due to seepage and affecting nutrient and weed management.

The rice paddy eel, known scientifically as Monopretus albus and locally as igat, palos, or kiwit, is a nocturnal fish that feeds on fishes, crustaceans, and other invertebrates and can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, and drains.

PhilRice crop specialists Leonardo V. Marquez and Fe A. dela Peña said that the eels are wreaking havoc on rice paddies in this city, affecting farmers’ productivity due to water seepage.

They revealed that the eel has evolved as the latest rice pest as it bores holes near dikes, in the process letting the water seep in through these holes which are connected to the holes in adjacent field.

Farmer Adriano Comilang Sr. said that to survive dry conditions, eels burrowed holes as deep as 1.5 meters in his farm during the dry season.

But PhilRice said eels not only attack during the dry season as reports of eel infestation have also been uncovered in Isabela and Negros this wet season.

Comilang lamented that irrigating his field had been less effective as the water collected in his field spills over to the neighboring farm. “With the holes made by eels, my field gets drained, while my adjacent farm is filled with water,” he said.

PhilRice researchers said fields should not be drained nor flooded as water is critical in nutrient uptake of plants and weed control. Right amount of water supply ensures good crop establishment, seedling vigor, normal crop growth, development, and yield, it said.

Comilang said he uses electric traps or covers holes to cushion the presence of eels in his farms.  

Another farmer, Gregorio Gaspuz rebuilds dikes in another area or pours molluscides into holes to force the eels out. He also tried continuous irrigation to prevent his field from drying.

The two farmers, however, said that the practices are tedious as eels burrow and reproduce so fast.

“We are planning to conduct a study on the management of rice paddy eels as a long-term solution to the eel infestation,” Marquez and dela Peña said. (Jason de Asis)

Umali-2,000 college students to lose scholarships if Cabanatuan City becomes HUC

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, August 14, 2011-In the recent media briefings at the white house, old capitol, third district Representative Czarina “Cherry” Umali yesterday said that there are more than 2,000 college students of the provincial government and the third district congressional office who would lose their scholarships if this city officially gets converted into a highly urbanized city (HUC).

“Among the 6,000 scholars here in the province, 2,000 of them will lose their scholarship privileges, once this city becomes HUC. This city will become autonomous and the province and the district won’t be able to help the people of Cabanatuan anymore. That’s a consequence, these guys would lose their scholarship,” Umali warned.

Umali revealed that P42 million is being spent annually by the provincial government and the third district congressional office for the scholars or an average of P7,000 yearly for each scholar, saying that the majority of these scholars are enrolled at the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) while the others are in University of the Philippines and Baguio City state colleges and universities.

Cong. Cherry Umali.
The lawmaker stressed that the people of the city are better off if they get assistance not only from the city government but also from the provincial leadership. “I would still prefer that two hands are extending assistance instead of withholding one hand and let the other do the helping,” she said.

“There is no clear guarantee that this city would flourish economically once it becomes HUC as claimed by its proponents. “What is it in the HUC that is worth all these troubles?,” she asked, citing Cebu City and Santiago City in Isabela which manifested that they don’t want HUC anymore.      

Earlier, Governor Aurelio “Oyie” Matias Umali warned that the province, which is one of the few provinces in the country belonging to the so-called “billionaires’ club” as it receives at least P1 billion worth of internal revenue allotment (IRA) shares from the national government, stands to lose a whopping P125 million of its IRA if the HUC conversion succeeds.

He said that for sure, Nueva Ecija will be at the losing end if Cabanatuan becomes HUC because the province will have a drastically reduced IRA, explaining that the land area and population of the province - which are used as basis in IRA computation - would shrink.

“The sad part of the story is that this P125 million that will be cut from the IRA of the province will not go to Cabanatuan but will flow back to the national government which will then re-distribute it to the 79 provinces,” he said.          “If the fund will go to Cabanatuan it is okay. But the fact is, it will not,” he said.

The governor also said that Nueva Ecija has done much to come to the aid of Cabanatuan as gleaned from the provision of P103 million worth of infrastructure projects by the provincial government from 2007 to 2010, not to mention health services, education among others.

Umali said that there is no denying that Cabanatuan is getting its fair share of support from the provincial government. And that is why I am against the HUC because it would prevent us from further extending support to the city. (Jason de Asis)

Nueva Ecija seeks bond with Korean firm for P30-M mango processing plant

Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali.

SAN LEONARDO, Nueva Ecija, August 13, 2011-The provincial government is eyeing a tie-up with a Korean food processing company for the establishment of a P30-million mango processing plant here in line with its goal of turning the province into a food basket in Luzon.

Governor Aurelio “Oyie” Matias Umali revealed that a 1,000-square meter mango processing facility is now fine-tuning partnership with Drupe International, Inc., saying that the partnership, which is in line with the public private partnership (PPP) scheme being espoused by the Aquino administration, will harness the province’s potentials as a major mango-producing area.

“The province now ranks first in Luzon in terms of mango production with vast tracts of mango plantations in this town and the municipalities of General Tinio, Jaen and Talavera,” he said.

“With this partnership with Drupe, we expect mango production in Nueva Ecija - already tops in Luzon - to further increase and pump-prime the agricultural economy of the province as the number one (1) undisputed mango-producing-products in the country,” he added.

Umali furthered that he assigned Board Member Romanito Juatco to manage the proposed processing plant, saying that the province’s mango production is so enormous that during peak harvest, it produces 62 million kilos of mango of which 58 percent is exported to Cebu province.

Juatco said that the governor wants the province to process its own mango products through a partnership with Drupe.

Drupe has a 2,000-square meter plant inside the Philexcel Business Park at the Clark Freeport Zone. The five-year-old firm, which started as Welsum Foodtech, Inc. on January 25, 2006, is known as the first innovative company which developed and created a new market for frozen fruits on stick in the world.

Equipped with modern, hygienic production and quality control facility that conforms to international standards, Drupe has a capability to freeze fruits that maintain their freshness and sensory properties of the original fruits up to two years using the latest cryogenic freezing technology.

Cryogenic freezing is an advanced, accelerated form of blasting freezing in which individual food products are exposed to sprays of liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide at a temperature of -196 degrees Celcius or colder. This allows formation of small ice crystals inside the cell of the products, maintaining their freshness unlike slow freezing which can damage products because the process produces large crystals that pierce and damage cell walls.   

Eui Kwon Chung of Drupe said the key benefits of the firm’s frozen products are that they offer cheap alternative to costly importation of ripe fruits, easy alternative to fresh fruits preparation, ensure off-season availability and in-season quality and offer fresh alternative to traditional food preservation methods.        

Its wide range of products – from mangoes, pineapple, banana cavendish, strawberry, papaya, melon cantaloupe, avocado, rambutan, custard apple (atis), sapodilla (chico) fruits yogurt – to vegetables such as okra, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and radish - are mostly exported to developed foreign markets such as Asia (Japan and China), Europe (France) and North America and other non-tropical countries.           

Juatco said that a new corporation to be named Newco will be organized with initial capitalization of P10 million with par value of P1 per share under the Terms of Reference for the proposed joint venture between Drupe and the provincial government.

The Newco will be composed of seven (7) board of directors. Four (4) from Drupe and three (3) from the provincial government which will buy-in 49 percent of interest in the firm’s 4.9 million shares out of the 10 million authorized shares of stock.

The provincial government will also pay upon execution of the agreement 20 percent of the amount due held in trust with the 80 percent to be paid after 60 days, inclusive of the 45-day due diligence period to ascertain the values of assets, goodwill, proprietary rights as well as liabilities and commitments.

Juatco said Newco will embark on the processing and marketing of mango, papaya, pineapple and banana although more products will be added based on market demand. Newco will accept processing of products for clients other than the provincial government although the latter will be given utmost priority for its manufacturing requirements to maximize profits.

Drupe will provide technical personnel to operate the factory, oversee its daily operations, engage in product research and development and develop local and international markets under the agreement.

The provincial government will provide adequate and sufficient supply and quality of raw materials for processing and ensure competitive pricing aside from remittances. (Jason de Asis)

Angaras’ annointed “Bihasa” as Baler mayor in 2013

Sitting in his office: Baler vice mayor Pilot Bihasa.
BALER, Aurora, August 13, 2011-The undisputed political kingpins of the province have named the incumbent vice mayor as their anointed candidate for mayor in 2013 in this capitol town of the province.

Vice Mayor Nelianto “Pilot” Bihasa, 51 years old, a well known and trusted ally of the Angaras will be the standard-bearer of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) in place of outgoing three-term Mayor Arthur J. Angara who is allegedly eyeing the governorship in 2013.

Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Mayor Angara and Rommel Angara – the governor’s nephew – manifested their full support to Bihasa as their mayoral bid in the midst of rumors that Arthur’s daughter, incumbent Councilor and ex-officio Board Member Karen Angara-Ularan is also seeking the mayorship.

Sources said that recently, Bihasa met senator Angara and he was given assurance of the clan’s all-out support.

Bihasa said that he was definitely running for mayor if the Angaras would support him and it was a big blessing for him this 2013.

“We have not yet completed our line-up for the 2013 polls,” he said, saying that his endorsement would be formally announced after the celebration of this town’s fiesta within the month.

Also being floated as potential candidates for mayor are former three-term governor Edgardo “Eddie” L. Ong, former mayor Emil Etcubanez and retired police general Francisco Zubia Jr., aside from Bihasa and Angara-Ularan.

Ong, who lost to Angara-Castillo in the 2004 gubernatorial elections, has hinted of a political comeback, saying public service runs in his blood. The former governor, incidentally, is a wedding godfather of Bihasa.  

In 1995, Bihasa started his political career when he ran for councilor and placed third. He ran for reelection in 1998 and emerged as no. 1 vote-getter.

In 2004, he ran for vice mayor and defeated the then-incumbent Nandy Ferraren, son of former Department of the Interior and Local Governments regional director for National Capital Region and Central Luzon Rodolfo Ferraren.

He ran unopposed for reelection in 2007 and trounced by 2,500 votes Councilor Edith Buluag in last year’s vice mayoral race.

Bihasa is a graduate of bachelor of science in marine transport at the Philippine Merchant Marine School in Quiapo and is the chairman of the town’s motorized tricycle franchising and regulatory board.

The board successfully issued 2,230 motorized tricycle operators’ permit, thus, legitimizing the operations of tricycle drivers plying the town’s route.

The municipal council also passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Angara to enter into an agreement with the DILG for the implementation of a public transport assistance program wherein 1,171 tricycle drivers were granted cash assistance under Bihasa’s leadership. (Jason de Asis)        

Solon bypassed by her partymates in Cabanatuan’s HUC bid

Cong. Czarina Umali.

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, August 13, 2011-Third district Representative Czarina Umali yesterday revealed that she was bypassed by her own partymates in the Unang Sigaw Partido ng Pagbabago party where Mayor Julius Cezar Vergara and the Sangguniang Panlunsod (SP), chaired by Vice Mayor Jolly Garcia failed to exercise proper courtesy by passing a resolution without even consulting her by the city government and the SP where they passed a twin resolution asking President Aquino to issue a proclamation declaring this city as a highly urbanized city (HUC).

“As their partymates and their representative in Congress, Mayor Vergara, Vice Mayor Garcia and the rest of the city councilors should consult me first on their plan for the HUC but they did not observe protocol and instead they completely ignored me,” Umali said, commenting on the HUC resolution which was passed unanimously by 11 pro-Vergara councilors and a resolution requesting her to sponsor a bill in the House of Representatives creating a lone congressional district for the city.

The passage of the twin resolutions came almost a year after the Umalis and Vergara parted ways over the HUC issue which the former vehemently opposed. Umali’s husband, Governor Aurelio Umali said that Cabanatuan is not yet ready and ill-prepared to become HUC, adding that its conversion would cripple the delivery of basic services of the provincial government in this city.

Vergara argued that the city’s HUC conversion is long overdue, saying its progress could not take off while under the provincial government.

Congresswoman Umali also disclosed that over a month since the resolution for lone congressional district was passed, the  resolution and the accompanying documents, such as the certifications of the national statistics office and the city treasurer’s office regarding the population and income requirements for lone congressional districts have yet to be forwarded to her office.

“How could I act on it when the resolution and the documents were not forwarded by them?,” she asked, explaining that while the HUC resolution was passed on July 11, the minutes of the session were only approved on July 25 but this has yet to be transmitted to the Office of the President because Vergara’s signature in the resolution is still lacking. She said the mayor was still abroad and has not reported for work although he was supposed to come home last August 5.

“We should remember that the HUC resolution and that for a creation of the lone congressional district will still have to pass the scrutiny of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for review and approval,” she said.   

It is the second attempt to convert the city into HUC. In 1995, Vergara’s predecessor, then-mayor Manolette Liwag pushed for HUC conversion which was subsequently supported by then-President Fidel Ramos but failed due to the opposition made by the Josons. (Jason de Asis)


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