Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Albay bishop opposes casino plan
By Rey M. Nasol

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- Invoking public morals, the Diocese of Legazpi supported the move of a multisectoral coalition in Albay to oppose the operation of a casino within the entertainment, food, and shopping complex here known as the Embarcadero de Legazpi.

In a press conference over the weekend, Legazpi Bishop Lucilo Quiambao said he would not allow a gambling den to rise within the so-called "lifestyle mall" envisioned to house as well a P1.8-billion Information Technology Park.

Sitting on 2.6 hectares of reclaimed land, the complex, which overlooks the Albay Gulf, was designed by Australian engineers and inspired by the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California.

The letter signed by the multisectoral coalition led by Quiambao stated that "gambling is not a solution to our economic problems. We are for progress but we can achieve it through means that are proactive and do not destroy the moral fiber of our community."

The statement added that "gambling even damages the economy by wasting man hours and materials on activities that do not produce goods and services, which are required to satisfy basic human needs."

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal has been asked by the coalition to disapprove the proposed casino project while public officials were reminded to uphold public morals while promoting progress.

Legazpi’s Sangguniang Panglunsod (city council), through a majority vote of nine councilors, had passed a resolution which posed no objection to the operation of the controversial casino.

Last week, the city government of Legazpi conducted a public forum to consult various stakeholders on the proposed casino operation, a first in Bicol.

The opposing multisectoral group, however, complained that many of the concerned stakeholders were not consulted during the initial public hearing here.

They said the city government should push for other alternatives to promote economic growth such as tourism, sports development and livelihood program, food production, shelter and education.

Ironically, the Legazpi bishop was among those behind the group that pushed for the construction of the Embarcadero as it would help provide jobs and uplift the socio-economic status of the people in the Bicol Region.

The Albay Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Inc. and the Legazpi City Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed their support to the planned casino operation, saying that it would help shore up the economy and the city's tourism industry.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 19, 2009

Livelihood keeps farmers coming back to danger zones
By Rey M. Nasol

GUINOBATAN, Albay – Farmers tending their crops near the danger zones can’t easily give up their source of livelihood amidst the confusing state of unrest of Mayon Volcano as reported by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Gemma Orcena, a market vendor here said that her commodities are harvested from Barangay Mabalod, a village along the slope of Mayon Volcano some 8 kilometers away from the crater. “If we will leave our farms, our crops might be stolen and we would lose our livelihood and it would be very difficult unless an alert level 3 is raised where assistance from the government or other donors would start to compensate for our sources of income,” Orcena explained.

Orcena said that her family tends to their crop which is within the 7 kilometer extended danger zone which is some 30 minutes walking distance from their village there on the slope of Mayon.

In Camalig town, Mayor Carlos Baldo also told reporters in a brief discussion over the weekend that it is true that even in the villages within the Camalig area, there are farmers who won’t just easily give up farming and assured that they are given warnings and are encouraged to be very vigilant and constantly heed warnings from the disaster officials through the mass media.

Joey Manzilla, a 37 year old farmer of Barangay Sua, Camalig town said his farm is near the boundary of Miisi and Anoling, both within the 6-kilometer permanent danger zones “Because there is apparently no signs of immediate eruption, I see to it that I have a new set of batteries in my transistor radio and listen to the news all throughout the farming hour which we usually spend early morning until around 10 am and in the afternoon from 3 pm till dusk,” he said.

Manzilla said his livelihood is helping him send his two sons to the elementary school and give his family ample income for food and other needs. “Based on previous eruptions, we don’t keep a hard head heeding the warning especially when an evacuation is ordered because we are assured of relief assistance during stay at the evacuation centers while those earlier residing in Miisi and anoling were transferred to their relocation site at Barangay Tagaytay and our village (Sua) is outside the danger zones.

Another resident from Barangay Miisi who sought not to be named said “We are very used to the abnormalities of Mayon and we are confident of the disaster officials warning us and constant vigilance is our strategy for our lives and limited stay at our farms save us from hunger.”

Mayon is under alert level 2 for more than one month since July 3 which means the condition is alarming although no definite prediction as to when it will blow its top.

Governor Joey Salceda reiterated the warning that the 6-kilometer permanent danger zones and the 7-kilometer extended danger zones are hazardous to lives in case of an eruption based on the recommendation from the Phivolcs.

Bid for wage increase pushed in Bicol
By Rey M. Nasol

LEGAZPI CITY -- Hot debates for the long awaited increase in the minimum wage rates are still being conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Bicol and the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productiveity Board (RTWPB).

Bicol RTWPB chairman and concurrent DOLE-Bicol regional director Ernesto Bihis said “Series of wage consultation conferences in provinces of Masbate, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Albay are being undertaken to determine whether or not an increase is due this year.”

“We conduct this wage hearings yearly to assess if a wage increase is necessary or if the existing wage order will stand,” Bihis explained.

Workers here are speculating of the amount that may be added in the increase but the DOLE & RTWPB will remain silent until the study is finished.

DOLE Asst. Reg. Dir. Irma S. Valiente ensured Bicolanos that deliberations on the issue of wage increase is the priority of DOLE and its Wage Board.

Valiente added that this is not an easy matter and should be studied thoroughly since the fate of the workers will depend on these talks.

“We would like to let the public know that this is not a simple job and a lot of factors must be considered.

“The matter of wage increase entails a delicate balancing act of weighing the needs of workers against the employer’s capacity/ability to pay,” Valiente added.

Scientists fear collapse of Mayon crater
By Rey M. Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon

LEGAZPI CITY—Scientists fear a collapse of a portion of Mount Mayon’s crater, which holds an estimated 200,000 cubic feet of rocks, could cascade hazardous materials toward a barangay lying in the southeast sector of the volcano even without a major eruption.

Eduardo Laguerta, resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said Thursday that residents and farmers in Barangay Buyuan in this city could be put to danger once this part of the crater collapses.

He said that during the past 24-hour observation period on Thursday, there has been a resurgence of volcanic quakes from an apparent lull during the past few days. The number of quakes increased to 20 on Thursday compared to four recorded on Wednesday.

“There were 20 volcanic quakes and 14 of them are of low frequency characterizing the presence of magma and the high frequency quakes that tell us of possible small rock collapses or the degassing process,” he added.

He explained that the presence of magmatic movement toward the crater could cause a sideward force that would trigger the collapse of this portion of the crater.

The seismic data obtained from Mayon has been accompanied by intensified crater glow and sulfur dioxide emission measured at 210 tons per day on Thursday. Emissions were recorded at 287 tons per day on Wednesday.

Result of the latest ground and aerial surveys showed there is still cause to maintain the alert level 2 status.

“Definitely there is no chance to lower the alert status to level 1 because Mayon is in a very abnormal condition and the crater glow manifests not just convective heat from the gases from beneath but heat from magma that is moving upwards,” said Laguerta.

Alert level 2 means a state of unrest that could lead to ash explosions or eventually to hazardous magmatic eruption.

The Phivolcs strongly recommends that the 6-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the 7-km Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeast flank of the volcano are off-limits due to the threat from sudden explosions and rockfalls from the upper slopes.

Active river channels and those areas perennially identified as lahar prone in the southeast sector should also be avoided especially during bad weather conditions or when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall, added the bulletin from Phivolcs.

Climate change awareness pushed for LGU development plans
By Rey M. Nasol

LEGAZPI CITY – The spreading of awareness on climate change issues are now being pushed down the local levels to mitigate its impact and incorporate this important issue into development planning efforts in Albay province.

“A worksop is going on here until Thursday which focuses on climate proofing the development plans of partner local government units to come up with a preliminary analysis of climate change risks as well as initial adaptation strategies to adjust the local plans,” Manuel Rangasa, Project director of the Center for Initiatives on Climate Change Adaptation (CIRCA) in Albay said.

Albay governor Joey Salceda also told media here that the technical planning of LGUs on climate check platforms should focus on adaptation and mitigation in the community and in homes. “There is a need to translate the burst cliate change into technical and technology and people to respond. As early as possible all planning officers must be knowledgeable on these issues so that they can give proper advice on the matter.”

The governor said that climate change the biggest obstacle in the attainment of the Medium Development Goal (MDG) and needs prompt action by stakeholders.

The Climate Check for Local Platforms being held from Aug. 18 to 19 at the PDCC conference hall with officials of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from Germany is a program developed that can be modified for partners to integrate climate change aspects in their works.

“Representatives from the 15 towns and 3 cities of Albay are expected to become aware of the issues in relation to their respective localities and be able to understand concepts on proofing mechanisms and its tools as well as to develop ideas of how to apply climate proofing tools to their work reality,” said Ilona Porsche, environment and climate change technical advisor of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

On the other hand, Jojo Elvira said that the climate change has taken its toll to the agriculture sector with its big blow on crops and even on livestock which has not fuly recovered since Reming in 2006.

Elvira explained in a press conference Monday afternoon that Agriculture is the main industry in Albay, which produces such crops as coconut, rice, sugar and abaca. “The effects of climate change can drastically affect our local farmers if the issue would not be addressed promptly particularly on its impact to agriculture.”

Handicrafts is the major source of income to rural communities which contributes fairly large share in the small-scale industries of the province. Forestry and papermaking are another source of livelihood.

The manufacture of abaca products such as Manila Hemp, hats, bags, mats and slippers is one of the main sources of income in the rural areas. Fishing is also done along both shores of the province. Tourism, primarily because of Mayon Volcano, also draws income for Albay. “You see the climate change as a very wide effect to our province and that includes infrastructures that need to adapt to new designs that would withstand stronger typhoons and calamities. But the most directly hit by calamities is the agriculture,” Elvira explained.

Elvira particularly cited the case of swine production in Albay that has no longer been able to recover yet since Reming. “Another hindrance is the swine flu that has driven the fear among farmers to pursue their businesses,” he said adding that the Albay Agriculture Rehabilitation Task Force is doing measures to help the farmers cope with their problems.

Elvira said that his office will slate a National Livestock Summit in albay Astrodome on September 16 to 18 “there is a need to address issues such as food security, intersectoral linkages, international trade, emerging diseases, animal welfare, rural development, research and Biotechnology that is why we are pushing for the summit.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

These boys are assured they could go on with their past times along the break-water near the Legazpi City Pier site even as high rise buildings for the Lifestyle Mall (Embarcadero de Legazpi) emerge at the nearby foot of the Kapuntukan Hill.

Roderick Mendoza, of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) unwraps one of the Basic Life Support Kits given to 56 barangays around Mayon Volcano together with other emergency equipment and mountain bikes in preparation for possible evacuation of some 127,000 residents in case of an eruption.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) has provided two mountain bikes for each of the 56 villages around Mayon Volcano’s hazard zones. Mr. Abundio Nuñez Jr. poses with them before the turnover ceremonies last Tuesday.

EMBARCADERO:Home of a lifestyle mall by the sea, the Embarcadero de Legazpi sits on top of solid foundation along the reclaimed portion of the Legazpi City Port area beside the Kapuntukan Hill known as ‘Sleeping Lion’. This area comes alive especially at night with bars, restaurants, shopping centers, celebration hall and other amenities inspired by the Fisherman’s Wharf of California.


LCWD to desalinate seawater for homes

LEGAZPI CITY - The city government of Legazpi is planning to boost its water supply by tapping another raw source aside from the Yawa River.

"The residents of Legazpi had suffered months, if not years of inadequate supply of potable water which prompted the local government unit to look for alternative sources for the growing demand," Engineer Rafael A. Villar said.

Villar said that the plan which is now at the committee on laws and rules of the Sangguniang Panlungaod chaired by City Councilor Alfredo A. Garbin, requests a passage of a resolution authorizing Mayor Noel E. Rosal to apply for and or avail of he Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) grant facility for a Seawater Desalination Plant Project with an estimated cost of some US$5 million.

Villar, spokesman of the Albay Consumers Association (Alconas) who was also invited by Garbin to the committee hearing Tuesday said the city said that Legazpi water consumers have been dependent on the natural springs along the slopes of Mayon Volcano particularly at Barangay Buyuan and Mabinit but have earlier been provided with purified tap water from the Yawa River by the Phil Hydro systems and the Legazpi City Water District (LCWD).

The said planned project although not yet clear which country will provide grant through the ODA will get water from the sea to be desalinated and purified and introduced into the existing LCWD pipelines to meet the demand of the consumers.

Villar said he would insist on proposing to the city to avail of the desalination technology which could maximize the by-products of the process such as the collection of salt, and electricity that might be produced in the process of steam and condensation stage. "There are four methods of water desalination plants that I know and these are 1) Electrodialysis 2) Vacuum Freezing 3) Flash Distillation and 4) Reverse Osmosis. And whichever they employ, must maximize the byproducts and resources," Villar said.

Phivolcs urges creation of Mayon watch volunteer groups

SCIENTISTS urge disaster councils to be on close watch and warn tourists to keep away from the Mayon Resthouse Resort in Tabaco City and the Lava Front, both within the danger zones, as Mayon volcano's signs of abnormal seismicity may lead to an explosive eruptions similar to that in previous eruptions.

Renato Solidum, Philippine Institute of Volcano and Seismology (Phivolcs) director on Tuesday came here and asked disaster authorities to strictly enforce their respective disaster preparedness plan in view of the complex abnormal condition of the volcano.

Solidum, also urged disaster authorities to organize a volunteer observer's network to be composed of ordinary residents and even the media practitioners designed to give information to Phivolcs concerning unusual occurrences in their respective areas related to the seismic abnormality of the volcano.

He said the community observation network would supplement the agency's seismic instruments put up to monitor Mayon volcano's condition with what is considered as physical observations

"Community observation reports such as animal behaviors, drying of wells, unusual sounds, increase in ground temperature would help the agency in assessing the seismic condition of the volcano," Solidum said.

Solidum who personally assessed the preparedness plan of the Phivolcs in relative to the Mount Mayon's restiveness said four Seismograph instruments, a Correlation Spectrometer (COSPEC), Global Positioning Satellites (GPS), Precise Leveling survey including visual observation instruments and the Fly Spectrometer are at work in harmony with each others to adequately provide scientific measurements of the activities of Mayon.

But he said the residents' physical observations are also essential and helpful just the same.

The Mayon Volcano crater taken by Roderick Mendoza during the first aerial survey sometime in July, this year that confirmed the need to raise the alert level 2.

He said these instruments would predict volcanic eruptions by recording earthquakes on the geological aspect, measuring Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions on the geochemical aspect, as well as ground deformation for the Geodetic aspect and other precursors.

Solidum urged disaster authorities to be on full alert and be prepared for the complex condition with a possibility for an explosive eruptions manifested by previous eruptions.

Although tourism is inevitable, Solidum suggested to Tabaco City Mayon Krisel Lagman-Luistro that it is best to designate a temporary viewing deck for tourists from a safer distance as the Mayon Resthouse is very near the crater and poses great hazards. "It is even more beautiful to view Mayon from a distance because you would have a full view of it rather than when you are up there," Solidum said.

Solidum citing previous eruptions records said in 1814 and 1897 Mayon volcano exhibited a Plinian eruption (the most violent type such as that of Pinatubo in 1991) that buried the Cagsawa church in Camalig town, 1984 had a Strombolian eruption displayed by lava flow followed later by ash explosion; 1993 was a steam driven explosion that triggered a crater collapsed in the southeastern part of the crater that killed close to a hundred villagers farming at the slopes the volcano.

In 2001, the volcano exhibited a moderate eruption while in 2006 was a Strombolian type of eruption where it exhibited a lava flow that cascaded 6.2 kilometers down the Mabinit channel.

As masbate sleeps one ‘purok’ is born

MASBATE CITY-Every time Masbateños rise to a new day, there are 23 more of them, the equivalent of a new purok.

Each time a month ends, there are 713 more Masbateños, the equivalent of a new barangay.

And each time a new budget of the provincial government of Masbate is approved every year, 8,556 more people are counting on getting something from it.

By the time Governor Elisa Kho finishes his three-year term next year, another 7,843 Masbateños will have been added to around 780,000 constituents today, the equivalent of more than half of the population of the municipality of Batuan.

This is the speed by which the province's population-768,939 as counted in the 2007 census-is growing, posing a heavy burden on government.

With more than one baby being born every hour, the local governments-including one city, 20 towns and 550 barangays-should be racing against time to be able to provide the social services required by its growing constituency.

Surveys have shown that most of the province's residents rely on the government for health, education and security because they cannot afford private services.

The province's dependency ratio shows that one Masbateño is providing for four others, a burden that many poor people are unable to take up and eventually pass on to local governments.

Cash subsidies

There was no available data on how much the provincial government and its counterparts in the lower government units are spending for the social service requirements of every Masbateño.

The national government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, has been providing monthly cash subsidies to at least 33,000 households in Masbate.

Missing LGU support

A recent United Nations-sponsored study reported that Masbate has conditions already approximating those in impoverished, often famine-stricken African countries.

In view of the UN report, two questions beg for answers: Will Masbateño families have enough means to feed their children and provide for their development as productive adults? Will the LGUs' social system for delivering health, nutrition and education become more efficient and faster than the additional children they will need to serve?

LGUs that have been failing low-income families by not helping them to plan their size, which drives them into poverty, ought to answer the questions. (EADelgado, PIA Masbate)

Stakeholders review Abaca Dev’t Program

VIRAC, Catanduanes -- The Catanduanes Unlad Abaca (CUA) Program, a joint of project of the Provincial Government of Catanduanes, Catanduanes State Colleges (CSC), Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) and the Department of Science and Technology, sponsored an in-house research and development review recently and covered ten (10) completed and on-going research projects.

The panel, composed of Dr. Elena de los Santos of the Bicol Integrated Research Council, Catanduanes Colleges President Ephraim Antonio Garcia, DOST Provincial Director Jimmy Cabrera and PPDO planning and evaluation officer Romeo Aquino, reviewed the presentation of the researchers at the CSC Little Theater last July 22, 2009.
The CUA program was launched to address the challenges and concerns in an effort to bring about sustainability and stability of the abaca industry in Catanduanes. It has four major concerns: rehabilitation and densitification, production and mechanization, research and development and monitoring of evaluation.

It was funded for the period 2008-2010 a total project cost of P16.3 million. It also seeks to increase abaca production in the province through improved farming and techniques ensuring the province's dominance in abaca industry in the country. (EABagadiong, PIA Catanduanes)

7 vie for Friendly Schools Search

SEVEN educational institutions in Bicol are competing for the National Search for Sustainable and Eco Friendly Schools, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol Tuesday said.

The national search is a joint activity of the DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Edeucation (CHED), and Smart Communication.

Gibert Gonzales, EMB regional director, said based on the selection criteria set by contest regional evaluators, the schools qualified to vie for the search are: Catanduanes State College in Virac, Catanduanes;

The Partido State University in Goa town; Camarines Sur State Agricultural College in Pili; Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City, all in Camarines Sur;

The Cawayan Exterior Elementary School in Masbate; the San Lorenzo National High School in Tabaco City and the Sunshine International School in this city.

Gonzales said the regional evaluation of outstanding eco-friendly schools from elementary to tertiary levels will select winners according to their physical accomplished projects committed on pro-environmental advocacy.

Evaluators would select among the qualifiers three of the regions finest schools exemplifying sustainable and eco-friendly programs which will represent Bicol to the National Search on November this year.

All winning regional entries will receive cash prizes and plaques of recognition for outstanding environmental friendly and sustainable programs and will qualify to the national search this November.

For the national level prizes include College, High School and Elementary levels: P50,000 for 1st Prize, P40,000-2nd Prize, P30,000-3rd Prize and plaques of recognition. (MSA)

Nutrition Day celebration held at Barangay Binitayan, Daraga, Albay with the theme "Wastong Nutrition Kailangan: Lifestyle Disease Iwasan" was held on July 31. In photo are pupils including Audi Jay Ante, his classmates and teacher Orly Marigondon.