Friday, February 26, 2016

Stalled Bicol airport project may affect administration bets --Salceda

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said on Wednesday the administration candidates might suffer in the upcoming May elections in Bicol, mainly due to the stalled completion of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay.

“Blame (Transportation Secretary Joseph) Abaya for the loss of the administration candidates,” Salceda said, pointing out that the international airport should have been completed and made operational this year, given the project timeline.

He feared that administration candidates would experience the anger of Bicolano voters, specifically the Albayanos, who are dismayed by the slow pace of the implementation of the airport project by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

In an interview, Salceda said he was disappointed with the agency's delay in the implementation of the BIA despite the readiness of funds to carry it out.

Earlier, the Albay chief executive expressed dismay over the statement of Transportation Secretary Abaya blaming the losing bidders for the delays in government flagship projects, like airports and seaports.

In a letter to Abaya on Feb. 1, Salceda urged the DOTC chief to speed up the award of the contract for the Phase 2A of the BIA, covering the construction of land side facilities which was bid out on Dec. 8 last year.

“The biggest losers here are the Bicolanos and they are really sour at the additional two-year delay in an already-delayed project,” he said.

Salceda lamented the slow implementation of the project after the DOTC disqualified a winning bidder and is set to hold another bidding that would further delay the project.

By declaring a failed bidding, DOTC’s Bids and Awards Committee found a convenient excuse to conduct another bidding.

“This would further delay – by at least one year – the actual construction of the long-awaited BIA. All our best laid-out plans for tourism development will suffer as a consequence,” Salceda stressed.

He urged Abaya to personally look into the project bidding to ensure that the transaction is above board.

“I don’t want to think that there are favored contractors in the DOTC because this doesn’t speak well of the administration’s 'Daang Matuwid' (straight path) mantra," the Liberal Party Albay leader added.

He said Albayanos are appealing for the immediate implementation of the international airport, as he understands that the project is not the only major infrastructure project suffering from unjustified delays.

"Our people deserve better,” he said.

Salceda said the airport is a Public-Private Partnership project and was allocated the amount of Php2.2 billion for the construction of runway, apron and taxiway which are now being implemented.

The government has already poured in some Php1.6 billion since 2009 for the construction of the SLIA (Southern Luzon International Airport).

The funds were released in three tranches: Php300 million in 2009 and another Php300 million in 2010 for concrete road construction and site development.

The Php970-million funding released in 2012 was spent for the construction of a 2.1-kilometer runway according to international standards.

Salceda, however, said the scope of work was only confined to the air side while the structures at the land side area of the proposed airport is still being worked out.

He said the project, once finished, will not only totally address the technical limitations of the existing Legazpi Airport due to the frequent flight cancellations but will also provide a safer air transportation to the growing number of passengers owing to the booming tourism industry in the area.

Businessmen are becoming impatient over the delay in the construction of the BIA in Daraga, Albay.

“We are missing out on opportunities, especially tourist arrivals, as the Southern Luzon International Airport will reduce transportation costs and travel time,” Salceda said of the delay.

The governor sees the generation of 1.5 million tourists coming to Bicol by 2017 once the international airport has been completed.

While there are several airports north of Manila like the Clark International Airport and the Laoag International Airport, Salceda said, there is none in the southern part of Manila.

The BIA would be a viable market and serve as alternate gateway to Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao, especially in times of extreme weather disturbances in these areas.

It lies in a 148-hectare area with 2,100-meter runway strip, to be equipped with night landing capability and takeoff facilities, control tower, passenger and cargo terminal, car park, fire station, and other modern facilities. (By Mar S. Arguelles, PNA)

Confirmed: Newcastle disease outbreak in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY—The Albay Provincial Veterinary Service has urged poultry owners to vaccinate their animals against Newcastle disease.

This after an outbreak of the disease known locally as "rabya" was confirmed in Albay.
Newcastle disease, Provincial Veterinarian Florencio Adonay said, is caused by a virus that proliferates when birds are stressed by changing climate.

In Albay, this was likely triggered by the Typhoon Nona in December and the onslaught of El Nino.
To avert the spread of the fatal disease, poultry, including chickens, turkey, and geese, must be vaccinated against the virus, Adonay stressed.

It had been reported that around a million chickens in Luzon succumbed to the disease between October to December 2015.

Earlier, the Department of Agriculture announced that it is already providing free vaccinations against the virus.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM

Oplan Galugad yields drugs, weapons in Naga City jail

NAGA CITY— Several improvised weapons made out of forks, spoons and broken mirrors were confiscated from inmates of the Naga City District Jail at Barangay Del Rosario in an implementation of Oplan Galugad earlier today.

Also confiscated was a packet of a substance believed to be the prohibited drug methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Oplan Galugad was led by City District Jail Warden Milton Placencia, members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

It is a proactive approach to preempt any occurrence of criminal activity that may be executed by criminal elements, the PNP said.

The operation was carried out after the Department of Justice issued a directive to inspect the real condition of jail cells and confiscate weapons such as those repeatedly found at the National Bilibid Prison.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mount Bulusan spews ash

Mount Bulusan
Photo: Rachelle Anne Lucena Miranda via Sorsogon PDRRMO

Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon spewed a 500-meter-high grayish ash column, which drifted towards villages in the town of Juban and Irosin, at about 5:01 p.m. Monday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanolgy and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said the volcano exhibited two successive minor explosions that produced a grayish ash plume, followed by a steam and ash plume, which was 500 meters high, that drifted towards the west side of the volcano.

Laguerta said the eruption was a “phreatic” type as indicated by the two steam-driven explosions that took place.

The eruption consisted of two earthquakes, followed by rock-fracturing events a few second later by an explosion-type earthquake that lasted for about four minutes and 20 seconds.

Prior to the low-energy ash and steam ejection on Monday afternoon, Phivolcs seismic instruments detected no volcanic earthquake, although increased seismicity was recorded over the weekend.

In a phone interview, Laguerta said the easterly wind that prevailed triggered the ash fall to drift to the villages of Cogon and Bulos in Irosin town and Puting Sapa and Sangkayon in Juban town -- areas located at the west side of the volcano.

The Phivolcs will examine on Tuesday the extent of ashfall that drifted towards the villages in Juban and Irosin towns.

Laguerta said the phreatic explosion might have been produced by hydrothermal fluid or steam.

He said the steam pressurization underneath the volcano edifice might have triggered the movements in the local earthquake faults, saying further that “it needs to be thoroughly evaluated.”

The Phivolcs official said it needs further close monitoring because the volcano, although still in restive state, did not show signs of magma movements signified by volcanic tremors or ground deformation.

Laguerta said Mt. Bulusan remained in a restive mode following series of eruptions that have taken place since June last year.

Alert Level 1 remains in effect and the Phivolcs warned the villagers not to venture in the 4-km Permanent Danger Zone due to sudden phreatic explosions.

It also told civil aviation authorities to advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any sudden phreatic eruption can be hazardous to an aircraft and its passengers. (PNA)

Youth urged to venture into farming

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala

“When I became the agri secretary in 2010, the average farmer age is 57 years old. But with the various interventions provided by the government—more specifically farm mechanization—there are more young farmers now,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said.

The agri chief who recently led two farmers’ forum in CARAGA region, said, “The youth are encouraged to venture into farming with the realization that it’s now fun to farm.”

During the event, Alcala, turned-over agri-implements amounting to P144 million to the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte.

In both occasions, the Agri chief turned over a mini 4WD tractor, rice reaper, floating tillers, pump and engine sets, hand tractors, and composting facilities to more than 10 farmers and irrigators' associations.

Alcala also turned over certificates of funds for the construction of farm-to-market roads in Kitcharao, Tubay and RTR, in Agusan del Norte.

“We will continue to deliver to you high-impact projects, that will benefit you for a long time,” he continued, stressing that the present administration will continue to implement projects that would provide maximum benefits to the Filipino farmers.

Apart from these, the Philippine Rural Development Project also issued during the event, a No Objection Letter (NOL) or notice to proceed for the FMR projects located at Nasipit and Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, Sison, and Malimono, Surigao del Norte.

Alcala urged the youth to take agri-related courses in line with the government’s efforts to produce new breed of farmers.

“And so I request the regional office to evaluate and screen students who are interested to take agri courses,” he said adding that the DA will provide scholarship grants. “We will be more than happy to shoulder not only the tuition fees of these deserving students but also their other school expenses.” (DA)

Bicolano is DSWD national awardee

A Bicolano from Mobo, Masbate received a national award for the 2nd Bayani Ka! Awards last February 9 in Manila.

Abello Frias of Brgy. Dacu Abello is a community volunteer in Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), a poverty reduction program of the government under DSWD, for almost seven years.

He was hailed as the national winner for the 2nd Bayani Ka! Awards for Luzon cluster because he encouraged his neighbors to participate in all community activities being conducted under Kalahi-CIDSS despite of resistance among his neighbors onset of the program.

His heroic deed in 2012 made him an exemplary volunteer. Two days before the deadline of submission of their documents needed for the construction of their health center being proposed for funding in Kalahi-CIDSS, he forced his way into a storm (Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2 was raised) late in the evening to get their lot document notarized in Masbate City, even if he was suffering from a flu. It took him about two hours to get to town from a 30-minute ride because the way was already flooded.

“Ok lang na ako ang mabasa huwag lang ang mga dockumento. Prinotektahan ko ang papeles. (I don’t mind myself getting drenched, but not the documents. I protected the papers from getting wet),” he said.

Kalahi-CIDSS annually conducts the Bayani Ka! Awards to acknowledge the hard work being put by the local, everyday heroes who put their own communities (“bayan”) before their own selves (“I”).

They are the new generation of champions who will help in the advocacy of making community-driven development (CDD) a reality.

The winners of the “BayanI Ka!” awards will serve as the spokespersons of the program in their respective arenas. As such, the nominees must be willing and able to serve as program advocates in various program events and activities.

The other community volunteers recognized during the awarding ceremony were Mary Fe Antones from La Libertad, Negros Oriental for Visayas, and Marcelo Gusanan from Barangay Eday in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat , who was recognized as Best Community Volunteer in the 2nd “Bayani Ka!” Awards.

Frias was also invited to speak during special gatherings and press conferences of DSWD to share his personal experience in Kalahi-CIDSS.

In addition to the health center constructed through Kalahi-CIDSS, Dacu finished the concreting of their pathways and will also receive funds for their seawall.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Masbate candidates to ink peace accord

MASBATE CITY—Local candidates in Masbate agreed to sign a peace covenant for a safe and free election during a dialogue with officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Masbate City, a PNP official said.

The peace pact signing among the local candidates from gubernatorial, congressional and mayoral posts as well as the AFP, PNP and Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be held on Feb. 26, according to Police Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, spokesperson of the Regional Special Police Operation Task Group (RSPOTG) Masbate.

Expected to witness the covenant signing are Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez and AFP Southern Luzon (Solcom) commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
As this developed, Gomez said in a phone interview that the RSPOTG will intensify its campaign against loose firearms, with a directive to the 21 town chiefs of police to confiscate at least two undocumented firearms in every village under their jurisdiction.

There are 550 villages in the island-province of Masbate.

Gomez said at least 20 firearms have been seized since the RSOTG started operations last Feb. 3.
He further said they are keeping track of two private armed groups hired by local politicians in the second district of the province, which covers the towns of Cataingan, Balud, Esperanza, Cawayan and Mandaon.

Joint police and military units in Masbate also launched on Tuesday the Safe and Fair Elections (SAFE) drive aimed to address security concerns for a peaceful election during the upcoming May 9 national and local polls.

During the Tuesday dialogue, among the security concerns that were brought out was that only authorized personnel from the AFP and PNP will give security to a candidate and no private bodyguards will be allowed to be assigned to a candidate.

Visaya said the Solcom will be strict in the assignment of military personnel to be used as security personnel of a political candidate.

“Every soldier must at all times be on a non-partisan stance,” the Solcom chief said as he also assured participants of the dialogue that the command will use all its resources to ensure that the May polls in the province would be peaceful and orderly.

Attending the Tuesday dialogue were Masbate Gov. Vincent Revil, former governor Antonio Kho and his wife Rep. Olga Kho of the 2nd District, town mayors Narciso Bravo of San Fernando, Natividad Revil of Milagros and Romeo Dela Rosa of Baleno.

Visaya and Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, reactivated the Joint Masbate Task Force to be headed by Police Senior Supt. Lito Pitallano and Army Col. Samuel Felipe.

It is a three-cornered fight for the gubernatorial post in Masbate — expelled Masbate Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Antonio Kho and Bravo, who is running under the National Unity Party (NUP).(PNA)

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