Monday, September 30, 2013

Luisita farmers receive land titles

TARLAC CITY-An early Monday light to moderate rains failed to dampen the enthusiasm of 84-year old Benigna Escaño-Mañalac of barangay Pando in Concepcion town as she welcomed a historic week.
Accompanied by her children and on wheelchair, she patiently waited at the village-covered court for the prize she had won in a raffle more than a month ago.
It’s neither cash nor any appliance. It’s the title of her individual lot within Hacienda Luisita, which she and hundreds of others in ten barangays of Tarlac province had been fighting to have for almost three decades.
Escaño-Mañalac and around 600 of her neighbors where the first batch of farmer-beneficiaries of the vast sugar estate to receive the certified true copies of their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
“Finally its ours. I never expected to see it happen in my lifetime. I thank President Benigno Aquino III for fulfilling his promise,” Escaño-Mañalac said in Kapampangan as she receives her CLOA from Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes.
Her family received a total of seven CLOAs as her children also became laborers of the Hacienda.
“We intend to plant in our lands. We need the support of the government for the start-up. I hope they will be able to help us,” she shared.
Luisita is composed of the villages of Cut-Cut, Bantog, Balete, Asturias, Lourdes, and Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City; Parang, Pando, and Mabilog in Concepcion; and Motrico in La Paz.
DAR has identified more than 6,000 farmworkers who are qualified to become agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Each one shall own farm lot with an area of 6,600 square meters from the total area of 4,099 hectares up for distribution.
“Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, beneficiaries will have to pay their awarded land for a period of 30 years. In the case of Luisita, beneficiaries will pay P730 per year or P61 per month for the first three years; P1, 410 per year or P118 per month for the 4th and 5th year; and P2, 770 per year or P230 per month from the 6th to the 30th year,” Delos Reyes disclosed.
As to why the farm lots were determined through a raffle, Delos Reyes explained, “the Hacienda is a plantation wherein the workers here in 1989 are farm workers. This means that they have no specific farming areas. As such, draw lot is the fairest way to distribute the land.”
The awarding of copies of CLOA for other claimants are scheduled on October 1 for Motrico, October 2 for Lourdes, October 8 for Parang, October 9 for Mabilog, October 10 for Bantog, October 15 for Cutcut, October 16 for Asturias, October 17 for Balete, and October 18 for Mapalacsiao. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jinggoy to PNoy: ‘Protect Filipinas in Kuwait; hear deployment halt calls’

MANILA-President Benigno Aquino III must beef up protection for Filipinas hired as household service workers (HSWs) in Kuwait amid the growing calls to suspend their deployment in that country due to rising incidents of rape and other abuses against them.
This was aired by Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada as he expressed alarm over the situation, noting some of the reported cases such as:
- “Teresa,” 40 years old, from Davao City, raped repeatedly by Kuwaiti employer and his three sons in Jahra City in 2012;
- “Mely,” raped four times by employer in Mishref District (2012);
- “E.S.,” 34, from Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, repeatedly beaten by employer with wooden sticks and metal rods (2012);
- “Marissa,” 27 year-old from T’Boli, South Cotabato, raped and stabbed several times by a Kuwaiti policeman in South Surra (2012); and
- Adelyn Sumin-ao, from Kibawe, Bukidnon, beaten by employer resulting to her death (2011).
Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment and Human Resources Development, lamented, “The incidents of rape and other forms of abuse against Filipina HSWs in Kuwait continue to pile up, and these are only some of those reported. I believe there are many more of such instances, though not reported and documented.”
“Worse, our kababayans in Kuwait feel that the Philippine government is not implementing concrete and effective measures to prevent and stop these assaults, thus, their calls for a moratorium on deployment of HSWs to that country,” he added.
The senator cited the petition for the moratorium signed by at least 10,000 OFWs and submitted to the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. The group Mga Oragon sa Kuwait which spearheaded the petition said the moratorium should be imposed and maintained until and unless the HSWs’ safety and welfare shall have been guaranteed.
Noting the disappointment of those bringing their problems to the Embassy’s attention, the group also mentioned in the petition the “sex-for-flight scandal” against foreign service personnel. Estrada spearheaded the Senate investigation into the scandal.
Based on statistics, Kuwait ranks third among the top OFW destination countries, hosting around 180,000 Filipinos, some 80,000 of whom are HSWs.
Jinggoy said, “There are many concerns surrounding this issue: those of the HSWs and the other OFWs needing their jobs, our country’s economy and our political and diplomatic standing vis-à-vis Kuwait and other OFW destination countries. But the safety of any one Filipina or Filipino is of paramount concern, way above all considerations.”
He thus seconded the OFWs’ call and echoed this to President Aquino: ‘Ensure complete protection for Filipino workers, especially the household service workers who are considered the most vulnerable and defenseless against abuse.’

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Civil Defense official calls on CL LCEs within the Pampanga River Basin for joint efforts on disaster mitigation and prevention, preparedness

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga-Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Deputy Executive Administrator Romeo Fajardo called on mayors in Central Luzon, specifically those within the Pampanga River Basin, to allot a portion of their Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF) for convergence of calamity mitigation and prevention and preparedness efforts.
In a message during the 1st Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (RDRRM) Summit, Fajardo stressed that “LDRRMF maybe small, but if contiguous towns and cities would apply holistic approach instead of doing it on their own that would make a big difference,”
Section 21 of Republic Act 10121 provides that the LDRRMF amounting to not less than five percent of the estimated revenue from regular resources shall be set aside to support disaster risk management such as, but not limited to the pre-disaster preparedness programs including training, purchase of disaster response and rescue equipment, supplies and medicines; for post-disaster activities; and payment of premiums on calamity insurance.
It shall cover 30 percent lump-sum allocation for Quick Response Fund and 70 percent allocation for disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and recovery.
The Pampanga River Basin traverses the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija.
Close to 300 officials and employees from local government units as well as national government agencies in Central Luzon joined the inaugural RDRRM Summit.
“The September 23-24 event was meant to come up with a comprehensive and standard understanding of DRRM roles and responsibilities of local chief executives (LCEs) for the effective and efficient delivery of government services,” Regional DRRM Council chairperson and OCD Regional Director Josefina Timoteo explained.
“At the end of the summit, LCEs must be able to identify and highlight their roles and responsibilities in DRRM; learn from experiences of selected local DRRM Councils and identify challenges; demonstrate knowledge in DRRM planning, tools, and protocols; and define mechanisms to achieve transparency and accountability of DRRM resources,” Timoteo added.
The two-day activity featured lectures on Weather Projection for Central Luzon and Early Warning System; Geo-Hazard Maps on Rain-induced Landslides and Floods, Earthquakes, Tsunami, and Volcanic Eruptions; Project NOAH; Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation and DRR into Comprehensive Land Use Plan; Utilization of Local DRRM Fund; Awareness Program for Communication Electronics and Information System; Incident Command System; Institutionalization of Local DRRM Office; and RDRRM Plan Template.
There was likewise a sharing of best practices among multi-awarded local DRRM Councils of Bulacan, Olongapo, and Barangay Sta. Rita of Olongapo.
The occasion was highlighted by the conferment of honors to the 2013 Regional Gawad Kalasag and Declaration of Commitment and Panunumpa ng Lokal na Konseho ng DRRM.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Palayan City bags four Regional Gawad KALASAG honors

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga-Palayan City hugged the limelight during the recent Regional Gawad KALASAG awarding ceremony after it bagged four honors.
Its local government was named Best City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) Independent and Component City category for continually achieving excellence in mobilizing stakeholders to pursue commendable disaster risk reduction and management program.
“As shown by financial records, Palayan CDRRMC has properly allocated its Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund to pre-disaster activities such as acquiring the necessary equipment to beef up preparedness and response capacities. The city has likewise generously extended assistance to other disaster-stricken local government units (LGUs) in the region,” Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Regional Director and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair Josefina Timoteo said.
Meanwhile, Popolon was conferred with the Best Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee-Urban category for demonstrating sincerity and resolute commitment in equipping its leaders and people with knowledge, skills, and attitude in managing disaster risks- from understanding hazards and exposure to risks and vulnerabilities to internalizing roles and responsibilities particularly in managing disaster situations.
“Popolon’s efficiency and effectiveness in managing an evacuation center as shown vividly during a simulation drill likewise reflects its willingness to learn and share lessons and experiences with neighboring villages,” Timoteo underscored.
Moreover, Palayan City National High School was bestowed with the Best Public School in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management- Urban category accolade for the second straight year for still being an exemplary demonstration of a systematic and orderly standard emergency mechanism, mainstreaming and sustaining best practices on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and providing assistance to the community during calamities.
Palayan City Rescue Volunteers for the Community (RVC 1016 Rescue), on the other hand, took home the Best in Government Emergency Response Management-Basic Search and Rescue category for being a benchmark in the field of search and rescue and conduct of disaster preparedness capacity building activities such as first aid, basic/advanced life support, fire rescue, high-angle rescue, swift-water rescue, confined space rescue, underwater search and rescue, and vehicle extrication.
KALASAG, which stands for KAlamidad at Sakuna LAbanan, SAriling Galing ang Kaligtasan, was conceived to encourage participation of various stakeholders in crafting and implementing Disaster Risk Reduction and Management programs aimed at protecting or shielding high risk communities against hazards.
Apart from Palayan, other winners were Bulacan as Best Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) for third straight year, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Fire Rescue as Best in Government Emergency Response Management-Urban Search and Rescue, San Fernando as 2nd Best City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council-Independent and Component City category, San Fernando Rescue Unit as 2ndBest in Government Emergency Response Management-Basic Search and Rescue category, and Tarlac Disaster Assitance and Rescue Team as 3rd Best in Government Emergency Response Management-Basic Search and Rescue category.
Special citations were also handed out to Palayan CDRRM Office head Dudley Romero and former Pampanga PDRRM Office chief Lulu Alingcastre during an hour-long ceremony that was graced by OCD Deputy Executive Administrator Romeo Fajardo. It served as among the highlights of the inaugural Central Luzon RDRRM Summit for Local Chief Executives.
A selection committee composed of representatives from OCD, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine Information Agency, Philippine Red Cross, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Philippine National Police picked the regional honorees, which are automatically Central Luzon’s bets to the national competition.
National awardees shall be announced on October, in time for the observance of ASEAN Day for Disaster Management and the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
Last year, two of Central Luzon’s nominees won- Sta. Rita in Olongapo City as Best Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee-Urban category, and Bulacan as Best PDRRMC. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recto: ‘Stronger’ Habagat rains spell more woes for Metro’s anti-flood efforts

MANILA-The government should seriously take into consideration the increasing amount of rainfall being poured by monsoon rains when it crafts its over-all master plan on flood management in the National Capital Region.

This is according to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, as he is set to question officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) when the Senate commences hearing today on Resolution No. 6 he filed in July.

“Reports indicate that the Habagat rains last August – as affected by typhoon Maring – dumped more rainwater than it did in 2012. It was also stronger than Ondoy,” Recto said.

“If this is true, then we should be bracing for heavier rains that will bring more rainwater and increase flooding in Metro Manila. The government should take note of this when it identifies projects under its anti-flood master plan.”

His resolution calls for an inquiry into the viability of the approved P351-billion over-all master plan on flood management Metro Manila, which he described as by far the most ambitious and expensive flood control program ever conceived by the national government.

The Senate Committee on Public Works will be hearing Resolution No. 6 jointly with the Committee on Finance.

Recto said the recent onslaught of the Habagat in August proved that the government has yet to put in place an effective anti-flood mechanism as flood waters continue to debilitate almost the whole of Metro Manila.

“If I recall correctly, classes in all levels in Metro Manila were suspended for almost a week. Local governments were forced to cancel work and operations. And tens of thousands of families were evacuated due to flooding,” he said.

“With this in mind, we should be thoroughly scrutinizing how the government intends to spend P351 billion in taxpayers’ money in addressing the flood problem in Metro Manila.”

According to Project Noah of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), rainfall amount for this August Habagat was at 600 millimeters in 24 hours, while Ondoy dumped only 455 millimeters in 2009 and the Habagat in August 2012 dumped only around 472 millimeters of rainfall.

He also took note of the recent monsoon rains that ravaged parts of Luzon this week.

“Although it did not affect Metro Manila in the same scale, look what it did to Olongapo City and some towns of Zambales. Should we wait for that to happen here in Metro Manila or any part of the country as well?” Recto lamented.

He also mentioned the flashfloods in June of this year which virtually crippled Metro Manila, submerging major roadways, clogged waterways, rendered intersections impassable and virtually paralyzed public transport, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

In the resolution, Recto explained that the P351-billion flood control master plan, which took 22 years to make, was approved by the national government last year. Its implementation will be spearheaded by the DPWH.

The long-term plan, he added, would cover the infrastructure needs of 11 flood-prone areas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and would see completion by 2035.

Recto said an initial seed money of P5 billion will bankroll the most urgent needs in terms of spending for the improvement of floodways and drainage systems and river capacities in Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III), and CALABARZON (Region IV-A).

Legarda to DA, NFA: Address High Rice Prices, Ease Burden on Poor

MANILA-In the wake of assurances from the Department of Agriculture (DA) that rice prices would stabilize after the country’s lean season and statements from the National Food Authority (NFA) that its inventories this year were greater than those in 2012, Senator Loren Legarda called on the DA and NFA to explain why rice prices have yet to drop to pre-lean season levels.

“Last week NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag said, and I quote, ‘the NFA inventory is bigger this year compared to the same period last year, and so we don’t foresee any shortage.’ But I have yet to see the positive impact of this on rice prices,” said Legarda, who had earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 233, which paved the way for the Senate inquiry into the rice situation of the country.

At the hearing, Legarda had asked officials of the DA and NFA “bakit talaga despite the buffer stock, despite na mas maliit ngayon iyong epekto sa climate change sa bigas, ay tumataas ang presyo.” (“Why despite the buffer stock, why despite the fact that the decreased impact of climate change on rice this year, prices are still going up.”)

2013 rice prices significantly higher than last year

Legarda said that according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the retail prices for regular-milled and well-milled rice are almost four pesos higher than last year. Regular-milled rice cost 32.4 pesos last year; this year it costs 36.1 pesos. Well milled-rice in 2012 was 35.6 pesos; today it costs 39.2 pesos.”

“If you look at the trend last year, the retail prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice slightly peaked during the lean season, as expected, then normalized. This year, not only have the price hikes during the lean season been significantly higher, they have also failed to normalize at the expected time,” explained Legarda.

In 2012, retail prices of regular and well-milled rice remained relatively stable, according to data from the BAS website. In the lean months and months preceding and following the lean months (between June and September 2012), the retail prices of regular-milled rice ranged from a low of 32.2 pesos per kilo in June to a high of 32.5 pesos in August. In the same period, well-milled rice cost as low as 35.3 pesos in June and was highest at 35.7 pesos in August.

Legarda said that 2013 was a different story.

“The rice prices this year are a cause for concern,” said the lawmaker.

“This year, the prices really shot up; between June and September, we experienced an almost four-peso jump in the retail prices of regular and well-milled rice.”

“For many of our people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, every peso counts. Every peso added to the cost of our staple food is an additional burden they should not have to bear,” lamented the senator.

Legarda added that rice prices continued to belie DA and NFA claims of adequate rice supplies.

“If there are adequate supplies of rice, our markets should feel it, rice prices should go down. The best proof of supplies of rice is its price. Until these remain at its present levels, we must continue to ask the DA and NFA to act, and act now.”

Legarda Congratulates German Chancellor Merkel for Successful Re-election

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel on her successful bid for a third term as head of government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“I warmly congratulate Chancellor Angela Merkel for her re-election. This historic victory shows the Germans’ trust in their incumbent leader to advance the causes and address the concerns of the nation and its people. As a leader of a powerful nation, other countries, including the Philippines, also hope that she will continue to champion vital global issues,” said Legarda.

The Senator also expressed optimism that Merkel’s third term will be even more productive and beneficial not only for Germans but also for the whole world.  

“We all should take inspiration from the efforts of Chancellor Merkel in pushing Germany toward a post-carbon future. Her leadership has steered Germany toward a cleaner energy pathway and countries should learn from its wide range of experiences in clean energy development and use,” the Senator said. She expressed concern that while the Philippines has passed a renewable energy law in 2008, there remains numerous stumbling blocks that prevent the country from realizing the benefits from its renewable energy potential of as much as 176,000MW.

She noted Germany’s vital role, under the leadership of Merkel, in addressing various issues confronting Europe today.  These issues include rebuilding the foundations of the euro, bailouts for failing economies, or debt write-downs for struggling euro area members, the creation of a banking union, among others.

“I trust that in the next four years, Chancellor Merkel will strengthen auspicious efforts to manage the eurozone crisis while championing sustainable development,” the Senator stressed. “As the head of the most powerful economy in Europe, she has an important role in shepherding the revival of Europe,” the Senator added.

The Senator expressed hope that development cooperation between Germany and the Philippines will be further expanded to support the country’s peace development, conflict prevention, environmental initiatives, as well as cultural diplomacy.  “Continued cooperation in renewable energy development in our country will hopefully continue as there is much to learn from Germany’s experiences. With 60 years of bilateral ties, we hope to strengthen this relationship not only in economic terms but also in deepening our cultural bond,” said Legarda.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Releases should be subjected to line-item budgeting in GAA Recto: Use Malampaya fund for power rates reduction, AFP modernization

MANILA-Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto has filed two separate measures seeking to make use of the Malampaya funds for the reduction of power rates and to speed up the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The two bills, Recto said, also mandate increased transparency and accountability on the use of the gas project funds by requiring that the disbursements be subjected to line-item budgeting in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“The utilization of the Malampaya Fund is currently not under scrutiny in the budget process. This is why I proposed to make use of the fund for two purposes and incorporate them in the GAA,” he said.

“I offer three choices here: we can either use it to reduce power rates or spend it to modernize our AFP, or do both.”

In Senate Bill No. 465, Recto said the Malampaya funds should be used to reduce power rates by using it to pay for the debts of the National Power Corporation (NPC) that are currently being passed on to power consumers.

In particular, he proposed to allocate the net national government share from the Malampaya Project to pay the NPC’s Stranded Contract Costs (SCC) and Stranded Debts portion of the Universal Charge (UC).

Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), a UC will be imposed on all electricity end-users to cover payment of NPC’s stranded debt and stranded contract costs, he added.

“Instead of using Malampaya Fund to finance non-energy related programs and projects of national government agencies, the said Fund would now directly benefit power consumers,” Recto explained.

If enacted, he said that the proposal would provide timely and substantial relief to power consumers in the light of the February decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to set the UC for the recovery of NPC’s SCC at PhP0.1938/kWh, which became effective in March.

In Senate Bill No. 466, the Batangas lawmaker proposed to channel a portion of the proceeds of the Malampaya fund to finance the AFP modernizatiolln program in order to enhance the country’s capabilities in addressing internal and external security challenges.

“The emergence of internal and external security threats has been putting the capabilities of our armed forces to the test. As we stagger to protect our borders in international territorial disputes, our forces struggle to address internal security threats that continue to persist,” Recto said.

He said it was necessary to bolster funding support for the AFP as required under Republic Act No. 7898, otherwise known as the “AFP Modernization Act”, as amended by Republic Act  No. 10349, establishing the “Revised AFP Modernization Program.”

He recognized the “slow pace” in implementing the AFP modernization program due to the lack of funds coming from the national government.

“While the law provides for a ceiling for annual appropriations for the program, in reality, only a small fraction of it was provided,” Recto said.

“This bill seeks to include the Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project as one of the fund sources for the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund. Under this proposed law, thirty percent (30%) of the annual net government share from the Malampaya proceeds will be earmarked for the implementation of the revised AFP modernization program,” Recto explained.

According to latest data, the MNGP has an aggregate government share amounting to P136.5 billion as of June 30, 2013.

“Such amount can be tapped to substantially support the P75 Billion funding requirements of the AFP modernization program, for the acquisition of 39 projects intended to boost the armed forces’ capabilities in the next five years, which includes acquisition of communications equipment, lead-in fighter trainer jets, closed air support aircraft, long-range patrol aircraft, radar systems and engineering equipment, among others,” he stated.

In fact, he added, President Aquino himself recognized the MNGP as a source of fund for efforts to modernize the AFP when he authorized the release of P5.32 billion from Malampaya funds to reinforce the AFP’s territorial defense capabilities, including the purchase of a USS Hamilton-class cutter for the Philippine Navy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seat of Ecija capital undergoes major face-lift

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – The seat of the city government in this provincial capital is undergoing a major face-lift under the fledgling administration of neophyte Mayor Rianne Cuevas who – barely two months in office – has undertaken drastic political and administrative reforms.

          The makeover of this city, Cuevas explained, is intended to claim for it a rightful place among the emerging modern urbanizing areas in the province.

          For a start, the City Hall is being renovated to make it more elegant and attractive to local constituents and visitors.

Cuevas has hired as her consultant architect Margie Angeles for the physical makeover of the City Hall which – at present – appears dry and an “eyesore” because of its dark-blue colors.

          Angeles is the same architect who exquisitely designed the renovation of the new Gapan City Hall during the administration of former mayor Christian Tinio. Before it was renovated, the Gapan City Hall was also far from  attractive.

          Angeles said the city hall is now being repainted with a kaleidoscope of colors ranging from a stone beige, chocolate brown, white, mocha and cream color scheme that creates a modern distinction.

“These are neutral colors personally chosen by the mayor herself,” she said, adding these are intended to make the City Hall cozy and a homey, conducive workplace for personnel complete with a garden landscape.

At the façade, stainless steel bold letters emphasizing the city as the “Capital of Nueva Ecija” will be installed. 

The renovated City Hall, once completed, would provide a breath-taking, relaxing and rejuvenating atmosphere from the hustle and bustle of daily city living.

          The existing two-story City Hall building, which stands in a two-hectare complex in Barangay Singalat, was constructed through a P50-million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines in 1998. The main building was designed by architect Reynaldo Flores.

          This city was created as the new capital of Nueva Ecija on June 19,1965 by virtue of Republic Act 4475 signed by then-President Diosdado Macapagal. It first rose to prominence when it hosted the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines in 1969 at its campsite, attended by thousands of scouts from Asia-Pacific countries. 

          The campsite is considered the BSP’s largest regional campsite where the Josefa Llanes Escoda national training center is also housed.

          Cuevas said that as part of the administrative reforms she is currently implementing, she has ordered dismantled curtains hanging in each of the offices at City Hall. That way, she explained, visitors and Palayanos can easily peep from outside and see people inside the mayor’s office and the various offices.

          “This will show to the people that we are transparent, that we are not hiding anything and that they are welcome to enter our offices,” she said.
Cuevas has expressed optimism that the city – which also hosts the headquarters of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division at the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation - would eventually evolve into one of the urbanized cities in the province and in Central Luzon. (Manny Galvez)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Southwest monsoon induced-intense rains claim 16 lives in Zambales

IBA, Zambales-Intense rains brought by the southwest monsoon since Sunday have claimed 16 lives and left five missing in the province of Zambales.

According to the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC), there are nine dead in barangay Wawan Due and six in barangay San Isidro, both in Subic town due to landslides.

Confirmed dead due to landslides in San Isidro are Gabby Bueno, Jenalyn Bueno, John Clifford Bueno, Shanly Bueno, Pananing Bueno, and Merlyn Ednalaguim.

Moreover, Hermenegilda Escobar, 67, of Gordon Heights in Olongapo City died of drowning due to strong current of water.

“We have four confirmed missing, a family, in barangay Aglao in San Marcelino town due to landslides. They are Suzette Flores, Christian Flores, Christine Flores, and April Flores. Retrieval operation is still ongoing as we speak,” RDRRMC Chair Josefina Timoteo confirmed Monday evening.

“The family’s father, Joseph Flores, has been recovered alive from the landslide site and is now undergoing medical treatment at the San Marcelino District Hospital,” Timoteo added.

There is also one unidentified missing in Wawan Due village. Retrieval operations in the area are likewise ongoing.
Meanwhile, seven villages in Olongapo City are submerged with 3-4 feet flood waters.

These are Sta. Rita, Old Cabalan, East Bajac-bajac, East Tapinac, New Cabalan, New Kalalake, and Barreto.

“Rest assured that after the retrieval operations, we will shift our focus to providing relief and financial assistance to affected families,” Timoteo underscored. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Legarda Celebrates Greatness of Philippine Weaving Culture in Hibla

MANILA-A row of weaving looms, a line of photographs of indigenous peoples in traditional garments, and a display of tropical fabrics from Senator Loren Legarda’s collection are among the highlights of the expanded exhibition, Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles, the country’s first permanent textile gallery.

Legarda, patron of the gallery, led the inauguration of the expanded exhibition last September 20 at the Museum of the Filipino People in Manila.

“I am happy to launch the expanded textile gallery, which is now bigger, better, and with more items in display. It includes more traditional garments made from indigenous fiber and weaving looms from several weaving communities, revealing more about our rich weaving culture,” she said.

“But one museum cannot hold a nation’s overflowing cultural richness. This is only a portion of a vast collection made by our ancestors, scattered all over the nation and seen even in other countries. In fact, when I visited the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, I discovered that Dr. Jose Rizal and I have something in common—the love for Philippine tropical fabrics,” said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities.

Coinciding with the launch, Legarda turned over to the National Museum photographs of Rizal’s textile collection, which is in the care of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.

“As other nations undertake efforts to preserve cultural items from our country, like the Rizal textile collection, I hope that Filipinos will also see the significance of this heritage,” Legarda stressed.

“The Hibla ng Lahing Filipino is not only an effort to celebrate indigenous artistry through textiles and provide more Filipinos the opportunity to discover priceless information about our heritage, but an attempt to bring the challenge of nurturing our weaving traditions into the national stage, to a wider audience,” she added.

Legarda is the author of Republic Act 9242, the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law of 2004, which mandates the use of indigenous fibers for the official uniforms of government officials and employees, with the objective of strengthening the local fiber industry.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rechannel PDAF to overcrowded PGH, PCMC public hospitals

MANILA-The health sector should be the major recipient of rechanneled Priority Development Assistance Fund, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said today.    

Recto said PDAF should be “reinvented as a cure for the sick and a medicine for the ailing.”

Specifically, Recto wants a large chunk of the soon-to-be-abolished PDAF to pay for “the chemotherapy of cancer patients, the dialysis of persons suffering from kidney failure, and heart bypass operations.”

“These are all expensive procedures beyond the reach of ordinary people.  As a result, people do die from cancer, but secondary only to poverty,” Recto said.

Although at present, lawmakers funnel their PDAF allocations to individual patients in selected hospitals, “these are on a retail basis,” Recto said.  “What is needed is the wholesale augmentation of the budget of government hospitals.”

He cited tertiary hospitals like the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and specialty medical centers like the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) which are sieged by patients daily as “worthy recipients of the rechanneled PDAF.”

Recto said Congress can raise the budgets of these hospitals and “treat such move as a collective, block allocation by all congressmen and all senators.”

“For example, Congress can increase the budget of the PGH by P1 billion, thus increasing by 50 percent its proposed operating budget for 2014,” Recto said.  “Or it can uniformly add P200 million each to the 14 regional hospitals.”

Among public hospitals in need of budgetary augmentation, according to Recto, are the four specialty hospitals clustered in Quezon City - the Lung, Kidney, Heart and Children’s Centers.

He described as measly the P173 million proposed 2014 subsidy for the Lung Center of the Philippines; the P189 million for the National Kidney and Transplant Institute; the P345 million for the Philippine Children’s Medical Center; and the P372 million for the Philippine Heart Center.

PCMC has reportedly been served a notice to vacate a portion of its property which has been sold by the National Housing Authority to a third party.  “Prior to this eviction notice, the PCMC already needed more funds to treat poor kids, especially those battling cancer,” Recto said.

In the case of the NKTI, Recto said 10,000 Filipinos are diagnosed each year with end-stage renal diseases but less than ten percent have the means to sustain dialysis or pay for a transplant.

An epidemic of heart diseases is also taking its toll on the PHC, Recto said. In 2010, 101,000 Filipinos succumbed to cardio-vascular ailments.

“The question is, can we use pork to treat heart disease? The answer is yes.”

Recto said that based on the national budget, government annual per capita spending on health will only be P998 in 2014.

“From whatever angle you see it, it needs to be increased. And the ready reinforcement is provided by the PDAF,” he said.    

Recto said a “reconstituted PDAF” can also be used to increase the P4.3 billion that will be set aside next year for the purchase of new hospital equipment.

“It can also be used to increase the drug and vaccine procurement budget of P10.2 billion for 2014,” Recto said. 


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