IMPROVEMENT OF CASTILLA SEAPORT TO BEGIN SOON
CASTILLA, Sorsogon — Local government officials here remain optimistic that improvements for the Castilla All-Weather Seaport (CAWS) will push through within this year that will make the seaport a world-class marine transport facility capable of accommodating both domestic and international sea vessels.
Adams N. Manatlao, municipal administrator here, bared the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had earlier allocated some P25 million to be implemented by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for the improvement of the seaport, specifically for the extension of the wharf and construction of another docking area.
“The project implementation has not materialized up to this date, due to some legal impediments over a portion of lot covered by the seaport site, which is now pending with the Court of Appeals,” he said.
He stressed the municipal government, however, has already taken certain moves to resolve the issue through a compromise agreement with the lot owner.
“We are positively looking forward that everything will turn out favorably so that the seaport can already be of use for the public’s advantage,” he averred.
He also related that last May this year, in one of the Sangguniang Bayan regular sessions, they had already given the Regional Head for Operations of the PPA the assurance that legal matters obstructing the project implementation are now being handled properly.
“In return, PPA also informed us that necessary preparations for the project implementation are also being undertaken and will immediately start the improvements the moment everything is cleared,” he said.
Aside from the allocation from DBM, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has also included the seaport here as one among its pump-priming projects, appropriating an additional of P150-M for other needed improvements and construction of the new access road suited for heavy loads between the port area and the Maharlika Highway.
The seaport covering 60-meter of the proposed wharf is a municipal seaport constructed manually by local laborers for P6-M taken from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) savings of the municipal government, under the administration of then mayor now vice governor Renato Laurinaria.
Meanwhile, Laurinaria said that the site of the port covering a 10-has area acquired by the municipal government is ideal for an international seaport that could accommodate large cargo vessel and serve as a roll-on-roll-off (RORO) facility for the government’s nautical highway program.
“It is also envisioned to serve as center of maritime transportation for Bicol given its location that cuts short by over six hours cruising time between Manila or other major ports across the country and the cities of Legazpi and Tabaco, both in Albay, where the existing international seaports in the region are located,” he said.
“It is an all weather seaport because it is shielded from strong typhoons by high mountains,” he added. (BARecebido, PIA Sorsogon)
FUNDS RELEASED TO SPEED UP LAND ACQUISITION FOR BICOL AIRPORT
LEGAZPI CITY — The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has transferred to the Albay Provincial Government P85 million to pay for the 140-hectare prime land straddling the areas of Daraga and Camalig town to be developed for the Bicol International Airport.
DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza recently turned-over to Albay Governor Joey Salceda the funds for the purchase of the new airport site.
DOTC officials and Albay local officials, including Camalig mayor Irwin Baldo and Daraga mayor Cicero Triumfante, and officials of the five barangays on the actual site of the proposed airport witnessed the turn-over ceremony.
Mendoza said construction works on the proposed airport are expected to start shortly and set its completion within 30 months or two and a half years.
Salceda conceptualized the idea of the Bicol International Airport and has since pursuing the construction of the new airport in Albay province to fast track and catapult the region’s economic development.
He said the proposed airport and its facilities will answer the need for a modern airport in Southern Luzon that will cater to more business activities in the area and conveniently links Bicol to the rest of the country and the world.
He added the air transport facility would further improve the performance of the region in tourism arrivals, employment generation and business investment.
The Bicol International Airport easily qualifies as among the biggest and most ambitious government projects in the Bicol Region to date, with prospects of even greater returns on investment. (MALoterte, PIA V)
FARM AND FISHERY SECTOR,NO. 1 JOB CREATOR IN THE COUNTRY
LEGAZPI CITY — Almost half a million jobs were generated from the farm and fishery sector this year, making it the top job generator for the first quarter of 2009, according to Presidential Economic Adviser and Albay Governor Joey Salceda.
Salceda on Tuesday said that based on data of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, employment in the farm and fisheries sector as of April 2009 was estimated at 12.318 million, which is higher by 3.47 percent compared to 11.905 million for the same period last year.
“Philippine agriculture created more jobs than the trade sector, which only ranked second with 345,000 jobs,” he added.
He said “this proves that the Arroyo government’s decision to reverse 30 years of official neglect of the agriculture sector through sustained, higher public investments is now reaping positive results.”
The government has also increased spending for agriculture, focusing on irrigation and other rural infrastructure which already yielded positive results with the increased of palay rice production by 5.1 percent or double its average growth a year ago.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has also fast tracked rehabilitation and restoration work of irrigation system that has allowed farmers to plant an additional 69,000 hectares of farmland or 5.7 percent more than last year.
The administration of President Arroyo has increased spending on agriculture, P25.36 billion in 2007, P35.39 billion in 2008 and P46.86 billion this year.
Salceda further recommended to the government to pour more “stimulus funds” into the country’s agriculture, particularly into irrigation, to sustain the sector’s resilience and its status as a primary growth driver even in the midst of a global financial contagion.
“Without the agriculture growth contribution, GDP [gross domestic product] would have been sub-zero. Despite the obvious odds, its 2.1-percent increase in gross value added may not be stellar but it was the highest among the sectors which best proves the logic of government budgetary stimulus, specifically to the Department of Agriculture,’’ he said.
He added that the Department of Agriculture’s policies in the last two years have enabled the agriculture sector, which accounts for 20 percent of the economy, to remain resilient while every other sector had gone into a slump.
From 2001, the start of the Arroyo presidency, to the present, the government was able to generate a total of 8.95 million jobs in the private sector and at least 12 million jobs were created through government projects, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). (PIA V Release)
PHILHEALTH TARGETS UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IN BICOL BY OCTOBER 2009
LEGAZPI CITY — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) regional office here has set a target to universally cover at least 85 percent of the population of Bicol region with health insurance protection they deserve.
Orlando Iñigo, Jr., PhilHealth Bicol regional vice president, stated the agency is geared towards ensuring all Bicolanos be covered by social health insurance in accordance with the principles of universality and compulsory coverage as mandated by RA 7875 or The National Health Insurance Act of 1995 and RA 9241.
Iñigo said “this tall order is now what PhilHealth is hoping to accomplish on its way to the agency’s 15th year anniversary in 2010.”
He added PhilHealth Bicol recognizes its vital role in accomplishing the agency’s mandate, organizing its marketing team ready to speed up enrollment, and a manpower pool that will efficiently deliver public service.
He said the PhilHealth Bicol is equipped with all its armors driven towards universal coverage.
Iñigo further related Albay province as of April 30 this year has a total number of 281,258 enrolled members, including employees from the government and private sectors, to PhilHealth’s programs such as Sponsored Program, Individually Paying Program, Lifetime Member Program and the Overseas Workers Program.
“This figure is actually 138.3 per cent of the total baseline set for the province’s enrolment,” he said.
Records also show Sorsogon province follows the uptrend to universal coverage is covering a total number of 101,016 members for all the programs, that is, 92.1 per cent of the 109,656 potential members in the province.
Meanwhile, the island province of Catanduanes already covers around 90 per cent of its population with social health insurance, ensuring 32,123 Catandungeños and their dependents.
On the other hand, Camarines Norte has an enrollment that covers 78 per cent of its population which is translated as 68,185 members plus their dependents who can enjoy the PhilHealth benefits.
Camarines Sur was able to cover 51.4 per cent of their population which is only 148,879 out of the 289,701 identified potential members of PhilHealth.
Due to limiting factors, particularly geographical in nature, the province of Masbate only has 43,529 members or only 34.8 per cent of its people are covered by PhilHealth.
Iñigo noted “with this statistics at hand, truly there are still areas for collaboration as we seek more partnerships with out stakeholders in the implementation of our programs.” He said the Sponsored Program, which is considered as the heart of the NHIP, continues to seek for alliances as PhilHealth recognizes the need to extend its services to the marginalized sector of our society.
“On this note, we at PhilHealth Bicol would like to exert all possible means to ensure that the sustainable, affordable and progressive health care service that Bicolanos deserve is delivered,” he stressed.
The PhilHealth Bicol chief is also appealing to all local chief executives across the region to enroll every household, particularly the underprivileged, to the health care program.
“Let us uplift the value of social solidarity through the NHIP as the means for the healthy to pay for the care of the sick and for those can afford medical care to subsidize those who cannot,” he said.
“We strengthen more our linkages with our partners and we are optimistic that soon enough there will be no more Bicolanos who will pose in despair for financial difficulties in seeking health care services,” he added.
“For all throughout, PhilHealth will be your partner in health. With this let me state, “Ako, PhilHealth member na, ikaw?” he concluded. (PhilHealth V/PIA)
TRAINING ON BASIC FIRST-AID FOR DOLE V EMPLOYEES
LEGAZPI CITY — Regional and provincial officials and employees of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol went through a training-seminar on first-aid administration last July 17, in time for the observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month this July.
“You can never know when accident will happen, it’s better to be prepared than to be caught off-guard,” DOLE Bicol director Ernesto C. Bihis observed.
The Philippine National Red Cross, led by Peter Andrew Balmaceda and Jasper Navarro, facilitated the one-day training-seminar held at the conference room of the DOLE regional office.
The participants were trained on the basic principles of first-aid, common ‘emergencies’ and ‘types of wounds’ needing first-aid attention and actual practical test on bandaging.
“Actually it’s not just a regular seminar; the participants were given written and practical tests. Passers were formally recognized by the red cross as accredited first-aiders,” Bihis stressed.
The employees who underwent the training are expected to share their knowledge during DOLE-Bicol led seminars on workplace safety and health. (RPEscalante, DOLE V/PIA)
NUTRICOMNET-DOST HOLDS COOKFEST ON MALUNGGAY RECIPES
LEGAZPI CITY — The Nutrition Communication Network (NUTRICOMNET), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Bicol and the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), spearheads the Malunggay Recipes Regional Cookfest on Thursday (July 23) at the LCC Event Center here.
The cooking contest highlights the celebrations of the National Nutrition Month this July and the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) on this third week of the same month.
Elementary pupils, who qualified from 13 school divisions–six provinces and seven cities in the region, are expected to participate in this regional competition.
Malunggay recipes featured in this competition will be developed and printed into pamphlets and brochures to be distributed to nutritionally-depressed barangays in the region.
Winning entries could also have potentials for technology adoption either for home or school use or enterprise development.
Based on the guidelines of the contest, all contestants are required to submit a certification of enrolment for the present school year from the school principal. There will only be one contestant per division.
Contestants are required to bring their own contest supplies, materials, ingredients, tools and equipment. They should be at the venue 20 minutes before the contest in their official school uniform with ID. Only the contestants, board of judges and contest administrators are allowed inside the cookfest area.
The recipe to be prepared either original or an innovation of an existing recipe is for a snack – easy to prepare, low cost, nutritious and can be sold in school canteens. It should yield 10 servings with nutrition contribution of 200 calories for the snack and two tablespoons powder for the drink.
The name of the recipe, its general description and process flow should be printed in a whole cartolina with black print to be displayed in a designated area. A copy of the entire recipe is required to be submitted at 1:00 p.m., July 23, 2009 before the contest proper to the NUTRICOMNET Secretariat.
This must consist of the ingredients, procedure, estimated total nutrient content, number of servings, total preparation/cooking time, estimated total cost based on prevailing supermarket price in Legazpi City, and estimated cost per serving. Props are not allowed during the presentation of the finished product.
Criteria in the selection of the regional winners consist of the following: Nutritive Value – 30%; Cost of Recipe per serving – 20%; Time of Preparation – 10%; Neatness and Orderliness – 10%; Proper Use of Utensils/Tools/Implements – 10%; Appearance of Food – 10%; and Palatability – 10%, a total of 100%. Major cash and consolation prizes, and plaques/certificates await the winners and non-winners, and their coaches. Judging in this contest is final and irrevocable.
NUTRICOMNET’s full support and participation in this regional endeavor will go a long way in its efforts to improve the nutritional status of schoolchildren in the region.
Contestants are advised to contact NUTRICOMNET through Ms. Shirley B. Borja, Chair, Core Group at DepEd Region V (821-1143) or Dr. Pilita O. Lucena, DOST V at (052) 821-7930 for any other details regarding this contest. (POLucena, DOST V/PIA)
SONA TO FOCUS ON PGMA ACCOMPLISHMENTS
MANILA— President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will highlight the achievements of her administration and the status of the government’s projects and programs in her upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the opening of the Joint Congress on July 27.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in a press briefing today that President Arroyo will dwell on how her administration has given “too much attention to the overall welfare of the Filipinos.”
He explained that President Arroyo will try to highlight the accomplishments of the major projects she initiated since 2001.
Ermita cited the BEAT THE ODDS program of the government which the Chief Executive will most likely tackle on Monday’s SONA.
BEAT THE ODDS is an acronym for the government’s priority project which stands for: Balance budget, Education for all, Automated elections, Transportation and digital infrastructure, Terminate hostilities with the MILF and NPA, Heal the wounds of EDSA’s I, II and III, Electricity and water for all, Opportunities for livelihood and ten million jobs, Decongestion of Metro Manila, and Develop Subic and Clark.
President Arroyo, Ermita added, may also report the developments on the Super Region concept, the development in Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon and the other parts of the country.
Ermita reiterated that this is President Arroyo’s last SONA and she wants to inform the Filipino people on the accomplishments of her administration and the status of the projects and programs that she initiated for the welfare of the citizens. (PIA V Release)
DOH TO RECOMMEND PRICE CEILING ON 6 TO 7 ESSENTIAL DRUGS
MANILA -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to sign an executive order imposing the maximum price ceiling on six to seven essential drugs not included in the list voluntarily recommended by pharmaceutical firms for price slashing.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a press briefing today that the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) has already submitted a letter of undertaking voluntarily trimming down prices of some 14 to 15 essential drugs by at least 50 percent.
The drug firms, he said, offered to reduce the prices of six to seven essential medicines to only 30 to 35 percent. These include anti-hypertensive, anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetes, two anti-infective and anti-cancer drugs.
Duque said that they are now carefully reviewing the proposals and will submit the recommendation to the President not later than Wednesday this week.
He said the forthcoming executive order will take effect on Aug. 15 and include only the six to seven essential drugs.
The proposals received by the government came from 11 members of PHAP and two drug companies that are not members of the association.
Duque explained that some of the pharmaceutical companies that do not carry the 21 essential drugs also offered price reduction to 12 more products.
The Health Secretary pointed out that he does not accept the explanation of drug companies which failed to voluntarily slash the prices of the six to seven essential drugs that further reductioncould “eat up their profits.”
He said these drug firms have already generated hefty profits from these medicines. (PIA V Release)
CCM ASKS SC TO STOP COMELEC FROM PAYING P4B TO CONSORTIUM FOR POLL AUTOMATION
MANILA -- The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) on Monday filed a "very urgent motion" before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from paying an initial amount of P4 billion to Smartmatic-Total Information Management consortium for the automation of the 2010 polls.
The group asked the High Court to stay the initial payment to the consortium pending their (CCM) petition questioning the validity of the P7.2-billion poll automation contract entered into by the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.
Under the contract, Smartmatic-TIM may collect from the Comelec up to P4 billion out of the P7.194-billion contract prior to its delivery of the 80,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (POCS) machines to be used for the May 10, 2010 national and local elections.
The consortium has promised to deliver the first batch of the 80,200 machines in November this year.
In their motion to stay the first payment of fees to Smartmatic-TIM Corporation, the petitioners said that such payment could cause irreparable injury not only to them but to the Filipino people as well in case "payment is made and the contract is declared invalid."
The CCM claimed the contract is "frontloaded" and that "an obvious proof of this is that the delivery of the 80,200 machines will only require payment of 35 percent of the budget, when in the original Comelec budget the rental of equipment is 72.5 percent of the totalbudget."
"Thus, such terms of the contract patently disadvantageous to the people justify the immediate issuance by this Honorable Court of an order staying the expenditure of public funds in the contract to automate the country's election system awarded to the Smartmatic-TIM joint venture," the CCM said.
The CCM cited the MegaPacific contract which was nullified by the SC, wherein the Comelec spent P3.9 million in storage fees each year for automated counting machines (ACMs) not used due to violations of the law.
"The instant petition involves an even bigger contract. Petitioners respectfully argue that the lessons of the MegaPacifc deal should not be lost on this Honorable Court. The payment could well be made with no tangible deliveries. And if this Honorable Court nullifies the contract, Respondent Comelec will have already paid for something that it cannot use later," the petitioners said.
"At least, in the MegaPacific deal, the machines had actually been delivered," the CCM argued.
In the Comelec-Smartmatic- TIM deal, P2.8 billion of the P7.194-billion contract price will have to be paid by Comelec before the machines could be delivered.
Aside from this, the Comelec is also required to pay a "project initialization setup" or 10 percent of the contract cost equivalent to P719 million.
This means, following the schedule of payments by December 2009, the Comelec shall have already paid P4.135 billion or 57 percent of the contract price, the petitioners said.
The High Court scheduled the CCM motion for oral argument on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 2 p.m.
The CCM earlier asked the SC to stop the signing of the contract between Comelec, Smartmatic International Inc. and its local partner Total Information Management (TIM).
They also asked that the contract be declared void for alleged violation of several provisions of the law.
In their 49-page petition, the CCM cited violations of the provisions of Republic Act 9369, otherwise known as the Poll Automation Law of 2007, saying that the Comelec failed to conduct any pilot testing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines by Smartmatic-TIM, which is arequirement under RA 9369.
They noted that Section 5 of RA 9369 mandates that for the regular and national elections, the automated election system shall be used in at least two highly-urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to be chosen by the Comelec. (PIA V Release)
DBP LOAN JUMPSTARTS MISSIONARY ROUTE IN LUZON
MANILA — State-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Northeastern Luzon Pacific Coastal Service, Inc. (NLPCSI) signed recently a P64.7 million loan agreement to finance the acquisition of two ferry vessels that will ply the missionary route in northeastern Luzon.
The ferry vessels will serve the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Aurora, providing an affordable, reliable and convenient mode of transportation to move passengers, agricultural and marine products from coastal towns to mainland markets.
DBP president & chief executive officer Reynaldo G. David said the initiative is in line with DBP’s flagship project, the Sustainable Logistics Development Program (SLDP) and supports the national government’s Strong Republic Nautical Highway.
He added that the opening of a missionary route will improve economic conditions and harness the tourism potential of northeastern Luzon, subsequently generating more employment opportunities for residents of coastal towns in the area.
NLPCSI president and chief executive officer Sec. Jose Mari Ponce, who is also administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority(CEZA) said the initiative will link two economic zones --the Aurora Economic Zone and the Cagayan Free Port.
He expressed optimism that the initiative will boost economic activity in the three provinces.
Isabela Governor Ma. Gracia Padaca, on the other hand, said the project will also help in promoting eco-tourism in the area while supporting the campaign against logging activities in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The project supports the Road Roll-on Roll-off Terminal System which is one of the three components of DBP’s Sustainable Logistics Development Program (SLDP). This is an investment financing facility for a comprehensive and integrated transportation system as well as related infrastructure and support services.
The other components are the bulk grains highway which facilitates the transport of corn from Mindanao to Northern Luzon, while the cold chain highway is aimed at re-engineering the logistics system for perishables.Founded in 2003, NLPCSI was formed by the provinces of Aurora, Isabela, and Cagayan, and the CEZA to establish a RORO system along the northeastern coast of Luzon. (PIA V Release)
EO ON DRUG PRICE CEILING TO TAKE EFFECT AUG 15
MANILA — Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita confirmed on wednesday that an executive order for the imposition of maximum drug price ceilings on several essential drugs may be signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before she leaves for the United States late this month.
The EO, he said, will take effect on August 15.
Ermita said the report from the Department of Health will be the basis of the draft executive order that they will submit to President Arroyo “to implement the intent and spirit of the Cheap Medicines Act.”
“You can be sure that the President will take a final decisive action on that matter that would be advantageous and beneficial to the majority of our people. You can be sure of that,” Ermita told Malacanang reporters in a press briefing.
In a letter submitted to the Office of the President, the health department disclosed that they have finalized the review and validation of the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) letter of undertaking where prices of 16 drugs were voluntarily reduced by 50 percent while five other were non-compliant.
Among the 16 preparations that complied were medications to treat hypertension, diabetes, common infections, amoebiasis and some cancers like leukemia.
The five others that did not voluntarily comply with the 50 percent price cut will be recommended for the imposition of the maximum drug retail price through an executive order to be signed by the President.
However, pharmaceutical companies have added 22 molecules (or 31 products) that will have voluntary price cuts from 10 to 50 percent. These medications will treat diseases such as goiter, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, arthritis, fungal infections, diabetes, among others.
President Arroyo last year signed into law RA 9502, or the Universally Accessible, Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008. Under the law, any individual or organization listed with the Bureau of Food and Drugs may import medicines and sell them at affordable prices to the public. (PIA V Release)