NEA Beneco ‘takeover’ divides pols, MCOs

>> Monday, January 23, 2023

Interim Board selection hit

BAGUIO CITY – The “takeover” of the Benguet Electric Cooperative by the National Electrification Administration on Jan. 11 has created disunity among member-consumer-owners of the power firm and government officials.
    MCOs questioned assumption of an interim board saying it should have been MCOs who should have been allowed to ecide on the matter.
    Some government officials in Baguio and Benguet holding political posts also had different takes on the matter.
    Others said they disapproved of the NEA “takeover,” and called for reinstatement of the board of directors dubbed “Magnificent 7,”considering they were already “reinstated” by MCOs in general assembly last year.
    They also called for immediate reinstatement of general manager engineer Melchor Licoben who was suspended by NEA for 45 days.  
    But others said this was an opportunity to make the power coop more transparent and efficient.  
    A source said the Baguio City Council was not consulted prior to the “takeover.”
    Same case with Benguet provincial government officials, other sources said.
    This, as Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said “everything is going back to normal with the interim board of which members represent the different sectors of the Baguio and Benguet communities.”
    The mayor urged “some politicians unceremoniously dipping their fingers in the Beneco issue to stop sowing intrigues and telling lies to push their ulterior motives, political and otherwise.
    “It is not helping.  Besides Baguio and Benguet people can solve their issues on their own so better leave us be,” the mayor said.
     The mayor commended Licoben “for being a true gentleman and professional.”
    He assured Licoben of the local government’s continued support when he applies anew for the general manager post.  
    Licoben continues to enjoy overwhelming backing from other local government units, member-consumers organizations and civil society organizations.
    Members of Beneco Employees Union (BELU) and Beneco Supervisors Association (BSA) meanwhile said they have mixed feelings about the NEA “takeover.”
    Select members, along with MCO representatives were reportedly summoned to the NEA headquarters in Manila earlier.
    When the Beneco board of directors aligned with Licoben learned about it and tried to join the meeting, they were reportedly shoed away.
    Following this, NEA took over Beneco.
    On “takeover” day, Mayor Magalong, along with SWAT police reportedly went around 7:30 a.m. to the Beneco main headquarters in South Drive.
    A few moments later, NEA Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda and some new faces reportedly joined them.
    One reportedly told Licoben, “Puede kang magfile ng kaso, pero isipin mo din, gobyerno ang kinakalaban mo dito (You can file a case, but bear in mind, it will be government you will be fighting.”
    Until now, MCOs for and against the takeover are still taking potshots at each other over the issue on social media, observers said.      
    This, as members of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club and independent media urged the new Beneco management to allow them to attend meetings, particularly those by the interim board for transparency and so the public will know what is happening in Beneco, considering they are also MCOs or paying power consumers.
    This, after the NEA fired lawyer Ana Maria Paz Rafael as so-called Beneco general manager and dissolved its board of directors.
    NEA officials said they wanted to restore normalcy in the cooperative wracked with controversy on who should sit as the GM ever since the NEA appointed Rafael as GM.
    But despite this, MCOS supported Licoben who had been running Beneco until the NEA “takeover.” 
    Led by Almeda, the NEA served on Rafael a copy of NEA resolution 2023-02 dated Jan. 10, 2022 that ruled     Rafael failed to meet key performance standards for Beneco that resulted to the cooperative’s regression from a category Triple A to a category B electric cooperative.
    The order of dismissal said Rafael’s probationary appointment was being recalled and revoked effective immediately to foster industrial peace.
    In a separate ruling, the NEA also found the board directors liable for three counts of administrative offenses one of which merited the penalty of removal from office.
    Dismissed were board directors Esteban Somngi, Mike Maspil, Robert Valentin, Josephine Tuling, Jeffred Acop, Peter Busaing, Jonathan Obar (who allied with Melchor Licoben as GM) and Rocky Aliping, Enrique Moresto, James Aclopen and Luke Gomeyac (who allied with Rafael as GM).
    The NEA barred them to run as directors in the future saying their liability disqualified them from any intent to reclaim their seats. 
    Licoben, who the board unanimously named and appointed as GM in April, 2020, was suspended for “non-compliance to NEA rules.”
    The NEA designated Ramel Rifani, network services department manager, as acting GM for six months.
    Rifani is now working with a five man multi-sectoral task force the NEA formed to perform functions of the board of directors in the interim and to whom Almeda gave the order to call for district elections within six months.
    The task force who took their oath last week, is chaired by Steve Cating (business sector) while other members are George Dumawing (customer/professional sector), Rodolfo de Guia (religious sector), Elma Donaal (academe/education sector), and Joaquin Geronimo Depalog Jr. (agriculture sector).
    The NEA’s decision is expected to court a slew of court cases,
    Rafael assailed the NEA for firing her, saying her inability to make a turn-around for Beneco’s operations was caused by NEA’s failure to turn over Beneco premises to her leadership.
    In a post, she said that she will explore legal remedies, claiming the bases to unseat her were skewed and whimsical.
    The directors allied with Licoben, meanwhile, were readying their petition to be filed before the Court of Appeals.
    Jefferd Monang, BELU president, said while the employees welcomed Rafael’s dismissal, but they felt sad that Licoben was suspended in his capacity as assistant general manager and will return in the same capacity after serving the suspension.
    Almeda told the employees that Licoben’s appointment as GM by the board in 2020 did not complete the process that must follow such appointment that’s why he was still recognized in his former position as assistant GM.  
    “Rafael is out and we are thankful for that,” Monang said. “But we do hope that the NEA will still confirm GM Licoben as our GM since the recruitment process that resulted to Rafael being named as GM clearly breached NEA’s rules of GM selection,” he said.
Edison de Guzman, BSA president, said that the NEA must consider the decision of the member consumer owners during the annual general membership assembly in 2021 and 2022 that affirmed the choice of Licoben as GM. 
Almeda said he understood the sentiments and overwhelming support given to Licoben but said NEA had to step in to solve the GM fiasco and allow Beneco to recoup its standing as a Triple A electric cooperative.
The NEA chief added Licoben can reapply as GM once the NEA announces the opening of the vacancy for the position.
Asked if Rafael can still apply, Almeda said any person has the right to apply. “But this time, we will ensure the procedure of recruitment and qualifications for the position will be observed to the letter,” he said. -- AD 


Folks question 50 has. Sto. Tomas trash site

Urdaneta ESL eyed for Baguio’s garbage 

BAGUIO CITY – Residents at the surveyed a 50-hectare area within the Sto. Tomas Proper for construction of the city’s centralized materials recovery facility (MRF) questioned the project due to perceived pollution it will being among others.
    However, survey papers are still pending before the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources due to issues raised by residents in the area, according to the city government’s General Services Office.
    With the demand for cost reduction on waste management, the City Government of Baguio is anticipating resumption of operations of the Urdaneta engineered sanitary landfill after its rehabilitation is completed.
     In a forum with the Baguio City Council Jan. 16, City GSO chief Eugene Buyucan said the city government will go back to hauling the city’s residual waste to the Urdaneta ESL once the cease and desist order by the Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) is lifted. 
    After the Urdaneta ESL was ordered closed in 2021 by DENR-EMB due to several violations, the city government partnered with Metro Clark Waste Management for the disposal of the city’s garbage to the company’s ESL located in Clark Special Economic Zone, Capas, Tarlac. 
    Buyucan said the city government’s total annual cost in utilizing the Metro Clark ESL is P141,335,300 while the estimated total annual cost should the city transfer back to Urdaneta ESL is P96,188,450 with a difference of P45,146,850.
    With an actual budget for 2023 in the amount of P130 million for hauling of the city’s garbage to the sanitary landfill, the city government will save around P33.8 million once it goes back to using the Urdaneta landfill.
    The transfer to Urdaneta ESL is one of the waste management initiatives by the General Services Office this 2023.
    These initiatives were presented to the city council during forum Jan. 16 in response to the city council’s request for updates on the plans and programs of the office in reducing expenses related to waste management. 
    According to Buyucan, the city government generated savings worth P19 million in 2022 from the sale of recyclable essegregated from solid waste.
    He added the proposed construction of a centralized mechanized materials recovery facility (MRF) in the city will also help reduce the amount of garbage hauled out by Baguio, reducing the city’s expenses on waste management with projected total savings of P13 million per year.
    Buyucan said the city government will soon conduct a feasibility study for privatization and one-time collection of the city’s garbage from source to landfill.
    The goal of the study is to find out if the privatization of the city’s solid waste management is more viable and efficient than the current system. 
    In an earlier interview, Buyucan said the proposal may result in cost reduction and may bring about increased efficiency.
    The GSO chief said their office had surveyed a 50-hectare area within the Sto. Tomas Proper for construction of the city’s centralized MRF, however, survey papers are still pending before the DENR due to the concerns raised by residents at the site.
    Councilor Michael Lawana cited need to acquire the said lot urgently, so the city government can start construction of said facility.
    He added construction of the city’s own solid waste management plant will help solve the city’s problems on the disposal of solid waste and will serve as the city’s safety net in case nearby ESLs shut down.
    Councilor Jose Molintas broached the idea of pursuing initiatives promoting the concept of “zero waste” in the communities.
    Joining the forum via teleconference, City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Pena cited prospect of putting up waste-to-energy plant for the city first introduced in 2021 by the executive department. – With a report from Jordan Habbiling


Benguet asks DENR anew to allow small-scale mining ops

By Liza Agoot 

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The provincial government is hopeful that small-scale mining activities in the province would be allowed again pending the approval of Minahang Bayan applications.
    "Our constituents are living through mining, many relying on it for survival which makes it impossible to stop them from operating while the Minahang Bayan applications are pending and being processed," Vice Governor Ericson Felipe said in an interview on Tuesday.
    Felipe cited dilemma of the mining associations in obtaining a Minahang Bayan declaration, which he said is tedious and complicated.
    He added the provincial government, in several resolutions, requested the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to streamline the requirements that was identified as the reason for the delay in obtaining a Minahang Bayan declaration.
    Following the issuance of the declaration, a small-scale mining contract that will allow the association to afford the Minahang Bayan the authority to utilize the same to extract minerals is also required.
    In 2018, the DENR issued a cease and desist order (CDO) for all small-scale mining operations in Benguet and the whole of Cordillera following the massive landslide in a mining community in the town of Itogon that claimed the lives of about a hundred persons.
"Our people engaged in small-scale mining are in a sad plight with their operation being simply tolerated because of the absence of legal status in operation and have to survive thru mining as a livelihood. We hope that the DENR will reconsider soon," he added.
Felipe said aside from agriculture, small-scale mining is also a top source of income and job generator in Benguet. -- PNA


Cagayan police chief, 18 file courtesy resignations

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- The Cagayan Valley acting regional police director and 18 police colonels submitted their courtesy resignation to show their support for the government's call to weed out misfits in the institution.
    Acting regional director Brig. Gen. Percival Rumbaoa said he and 18 colonels, all provincial police heads and division chiefs, filed their courtesy resignation and submitted themselves to investigation process that will be initiated by a five-member committee.
    Rumbaoa said he was confident that no one among the higher ranks or among the rank and file is involved in the illegal drug trade.
    The move came after they heeded the call of Interior Secretary Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos Jr. to submit their courtesy resignation.
    The regional police head said the action will pave the way for all police officials with the ranks of colonels and generals under the regional command to clear their names and prove that they are supporting the internal cleansing program and transformation of the police organization.
    "We supported the move and the appeal of the secretary of DILG to render a courtesy resignation. All of us in PRO2 starting from me down to other colonels signed our respective courtesy resignation and sent it to Camp Crame," he said, bucking any protests from police officials.
    Despite their courtesy resignation, police officials continued to perform their tasks and their day-to-day duties were not hampered, he added.
    "It should not be the cause of dysfunction and demoralization among police officers," he added.
    Rumbaoa said that random drug testing have been implemented covering police members.


Man shot dead in heated LU argument

By Mar T. Supnad

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — A heated argument between two individuals in Barangay Poro here led to the death of a 29-year-old bachelor who reportedly provoked his neighbor to a fight.

Reports said the victim identified as Kevin Amigo died while being treated in the hospital after he was shot by the suspect identified as Alberto Noble, who was apprehended by responding police officers after the shooting incident.


Milisyang Bayan members yield in Mt Province

By Freddie Lazaro

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Two former members of the Milisyang Bayan (MB) surrendered to the military in this province Jan. 14.
    Lt. Col. Marcelo F. Valdez Jr., commander of the Army 69th Infantry (Cougar) Battalion, said alias “Jake” and “Roger” yielded one improvised rifle, single shot (caliber 7.62mm) with one magazine and five bullets, and one M1 Carbine rifle with one magazine and 10 ammunition.
    Maj. Gen. Andrew D. Costelo, commander of the Army 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division based in Fort Magsaysay,    Nueva Ecija, welcomed their decision to surrender.
    Costelo assured them of assistance under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
    “Your voluntary surrender is an opportunity for you to make a fresh start this year, make use of it for you and your family to have peace of mind. Supporting the wrong group like the CTG would only lead to misfortunes,” said Costelo.
    The surrenderees belonged to the dismantled Komiteng Larangang Guerrilla Marco and Platoon Reynold, KomProb Isabela.


Panagbenga fest back February; events set

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Benjamin Magalong said on Monday that the Panagbenga Festival in this summer capital is set this coming February after a long hiatus.
    Speaking in a public forum, Magalong added it will be beneficial to their economy and tourism since Baguio businessmen, vendors and marketplaces will gain from it; however, the local government will encounter traffic congestion.
    "We will coordinate with the Philippine National Police and our health and emergency services so we can be sure that the celebration will be safe, secure and orderly," Magalong said.
    "Traffic congestions also cause irritability among the local population, but you cannot stop tourists from visiting," he added.
    The festival, held annually in February, was founded as a homage to the city's flowers and as a means to recover from the destruction caused by the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
    The event includes floats covered largely in flowers and street dancing performed by dancers dressed in flower-inspired costumes.
    Magalong warned the public, particularly tourists attending the event, to be cautious of rental home scammers who have some postings on Facebook, as well as people using his surname to engage in fraudulent activities.
    "There are many scammers, but we continue to notify the public and we continue to give advisories that they should carefully look at Facebook posts," Magalong said.
    "Check only legitimate websites such as and Airbnb for places to stay," he added.
    The festival will take place from February 1 to March 5, 2023, with the theme "A Renaissance of Wonder and Beauty."


Baguio restos told: Inform customers on service charge

BAGUIO CITY --The City Council has passed a resolution urging restaurants and other food establishments in the city to post a notice indicating they are charging service fees to customers.
    The resolution stated the notice should be written in bold letters printed on a sign board that is large enough to catch the attention of the diners. The notice should be posted in a conspicuous place within the premises of the establishment.
    A service charge is an amount added to a bill for any work or service rendered. It is paid by the customer directly to the company/establishment and not to the crew/staff.
    Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, main author of the resolution, said that collecting a service charge and adding it to the bill without prior notice is an “unfair” practice, thus the need to correct it. 
    Tabanda said many diners in restaurants and other similar establishments serving food are “dismayed” to find out that a service fee has been added to their bill as there was no prior notice given by the management.
    “Charging an additional amount for services rendered brings disappointment to the diners especially if the amount is being added [to the bill] without prior notice,” Tabanda stated.
    In her resolution, Tabanda cited Republic Act No. 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines of 1991. She said this law was enacted to protect the rights and interest of the consumers and to prevent deceptive and unfair acts of unscrupulous business owners.
    She also noted that Republic Act No. 11360 (An Act providing that service charges collected by hotels, restaurants and similar establishments be distributed in full to all covered employees) mandates all establishments collecting service charge to all employees to distribute all service charges to all employees except those in managerial positions.
She claimed that there is no law specifying a minimum or maximum amount of the percentage of service charges.
The resolution has been transmitted to the City Mayor’s Office to be signed by the chief executive.
Copies of the signed resolution shall be widely distributed for the information and appropriate action of all stakeholders concerned. -Jordan G. Habbiling






20 CL female activists leave armed struggle

By Liezle Basa Inigo

NUEVA ECIJA – Twenty female activists formally withdrew their support to the women peasant sector under the Alyansa ng Magbubukid Sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) in Nueva Ecija province and expressed their support to the government.
    A report from the office of Colonel Richard Caballero, acting provincial director, Nueva Ecija Police Provincial Office, said the 20 activists decided to leave the armed struggle for good following negotiation initiated by Philippine National Police stations and Philippine Army’s 703rd Brigade.
    Authorities conducted a Special Intelligence Operation on Tuesday, Jan. 17, in Barangay Pias, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija that led these activists, including a 50-year-old female resident of Barangay Pias, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, to leave their armed struggle and instead support the government.
    This 50-year old activist was also a member of the militant group under the Underground Mass Organization or UGMO.
    She surrendered a Cal.38 revolver with three rounds of ammunition.
    The former activists are now undergoing debriefing at the 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company.
    Meanwhile, an Internal Security Operation (ISO) by the same units in Barangay Balaring, General Natividad, Nueva Ecija resulted in the recovery of a 40mm rifle grenade, two 40mm M203, short magazine of M16 rifle and 15 rounds of ammunition for cal. 5.56mm.
The operation was based on the revelation of a certain Ka Nestor, a former rebel who voluntarily surrendered to 1st PMFC on Jan. 11.
The war materials are now under the custody of 1st PMFC.



18 wanted persons nabbed in Cordi

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – A total of 18 wanted persons were arrested in Cordillera Jan. 8 to 14.
    Based on the records from the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division, for the week, Baguio City Police Station  recorded highest number of arrests with 10 followed by Benguet Police Provincial Office with five and Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra PPOs with one arrest each.
    During same period, 60 municipalities in Cordillera and four police stations of the Baguio City Police Office recorded zero crime incidents. In Abra, 23 out of 27 municipalities posted no crime incidents.
    In Benguet, seven out of 11 towns recorded zero crime.
    In Mt. Province & Ifugao, nine municipalities recorded zero crime incidents, six towns in Kalinga, and the whole province of Apayao.
    In Baguio City, Camdas Police Station 2, Loakan Police Station 4, Aurora Hill Police Station 6, and Kennon Road Police Station 8 recorded zero crime incidents out of 10 police stations in Baguio City, the regional police information office reported

2 minors held In Kalinga for MJ transport

LUBUAGAN, Kalinga -- Two students, both minors, were arrested after attempting to transport more than P68,400 worth of marijuana through a police checkpoint here Barangay Dangoy on Jan. 8.
    A report submitted to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Gen. Mafelino Bazar said the students, both 17, were residents of Tabuk City.
    Same report, said the two minors were initially arrested by police for trying to evade a checkpoint in Barangay Dangoy.
    Dried marijuana leaves and stalks weighing around 570 grams worth P68,400 were confiscated from the suspects.
    Inventory of seized items was done onsite in the presence of the arrested suspects. It was witnessed by Lubuagan Councilor Simi Colayot and Jannete Alagaoo, a media representative.
    The arrested suspects and seized were brought to Kalinga Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit for documentation and disposition.
    Charges for the violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 were filed against the two minors.

4 nabbed for illegal drugs; 
P128-K arijuana burned
CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- Four “drug personalities” are now facing charges for illegal drugs after they were arrested Jan. 16. Police report submitted to Cordillera police director Mafelino A. Bazar identified suspects as Sebastien Roy Kamura, 21; Franz Luis Chan,19; Marissa Basiagon Agnaya, 42 and Jayson Batog Aga-id, 26.
    In Baguio City, Kamura and Chan were arrested by the joint operatives of the City Drug Enforcement Unit and Kennon Road Police Station after they sold a sachet of suspected “shabu” weighing around 1.25 grams worth P8,500.
    In Kalinga, Agnaya and Aga-id were arrested by elements of Tabuk City Police Station and Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit after search warrant was implemented in one of the suspect's residence where a sachet of suspected shabu weighing around 0.50 grams worth P3,400 and a bottle of marijuana oil weighing 60 ml valued at P3,000.
    The suspects and confiscated items were brought to custody of  respective operating units for documentation and proper disposition.
    In Benguet, Kibungan town police and Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit conducted a marijuana eradication operation in Sitio Bowa, Barangay in the town’s Poblacion wherein 640 fully-grown marijuana plants worth 128,000 were discovered. All marijuana plants were uprooted and burned on-site while an investigation is ongoing to identify the possible cultivators, the regional police information office said in a report.

Farmer’s body with hack wounds found 
in Ilocos cornfield

By Freddie Lazaro

CAMP JUAN, Ilocos Norte — The cadaver of a farmer with hack wounds in the different parts of his body was found lying at a cornfield in Barangay Sta. Rita, Paoay, Ilocos Norte on Monday, Jan 16.
    Police identified the victim as Clemente Saculpo Cochapi, 48, of Barangay 6, Sta. Rita, Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
    The victim was reportedly hacked and stabbed by an unidentified assailant while he was tending his corn farm.
    Investigation of the incident is still ongoing.

2 senior high students stabbed in Isabela

By Liezle Basa Inigo

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela – Two Senior High School students were injured when a fellow student stabbed them in front of the Cauayan City National High School main campus on Monday, Jan. 16.
    Police said the 13-year-old suspect was waiting for a tricycle outside the school when the two victims aged 16 and 15 mauled him.
    The suspect drew a bladed weapon from his bag and stabbed the victims.
    Concerned citizens and teachers tried to pacify them.
    Police took the suspect into custody while the victims were taken to the Cauayan District Hospital.
    Brig. Gen. Percival Rumbaoa, Police Regional Office 2 director, ordered a thorough investigation of the incident and deployment of policemen in the school for security.



Tourists using fake PWD IDs; establishments warned

BAGUIO CITY -- The Persons with Disability Affairs Office under the City Mayor’s Office urged establishments here to be vigilant against individuals using fake identification cards as person with disability (PWD) to avail discounts.
    The precaution was issued after an establishment in the city complained of a group of tourists from Manila where eight out of the 13 individuals presented PWD IDs upon availing of services during the recent holiday season.
    It was later found out that all eight PWD IDs used in Baguio City were not registered or fake upon verification with the supposedly issuing local government unit.
    Samuel Aquino, PDAO supervising officer told commercial establishments to take precautionary measures by taking a photo or photocopying the PWD IDs and verify with issuing LGUs as documentary basis for possible actions in the future.
    Aquino said there were incidences of attempted renewal of PWD ID in Baguio but there no record found in the PDAO registry thus, rendering the IDs as fake.
    The PDAO flagged names of the four persons who attempted to acquire a PWD ID by renewing a counterfeit card.
    “We were able to detect that the PWD IDs they presented were not legitimately-issued by the office based on the logo while the identification numbers reflected in the cards were inconsistent with the PDAO registry,” Samuel said.
    As of Jan. 3, 2023 there are 4,563 validated PWDs in Baguio City per PDAO registry.
    PWD IDs are valid for five years beginning last year based on Administrative Order No. 01-2021 issued by the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA).
To verify authenticity of PWD IDs, Aquino advised establishments to directly coordinate with the issuing LGUs reflected in the cards.
For Baguio City, the telephone number is 442-7228 or message the PDAO Baguio Facebook Page at – JMPS








3 nabbed in Baguio, Benguet; P2.8-M shabu, marijuana seized

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- Three “drug personalities” were nabbed Jan. 8 to 14 with two in Baguio and one in Benguet.
    The police Regional Operations Division Benguet Police Provincial Office said arrested in the province were Nehemias Bangonan, 27 and Julius Bongyo while.
    Jake Trude Cacdac, 18 was arrested in Baguio City.
    The weeklong anti-illegal drugs operations resulted in seizure of 0.10 grams of shabu and 24,000 grams of marijuana leaves and fruiting tops all valued at P 2,880,680.
    All arrested suspects are now facing charges for violating Republic Act. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the regional police information office said


Bambang launches 15 modern PUVs, terminal

BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya -- Fifteen more modernized public utility vehicles (PUVs) were launched Jan. 13 here at the Pick and Save Commercial Center in Bambang.
    The launch was in line with the Public Utility Modernization Program  of the Dept. of Transportation and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley).
    LTFRB Region 2 Director Edward Cabase said the modernized jeepney fleet is operated by the Vizcaya Santiago Cordon Transport Cooperative (Viscon).
    Cabase, along with the PUVMP team and Viscon, led the blessing and launching ceremony of the modernized PUV fleet, which will ply the Santa Fe-Solano-Santa Fe route.
    Bambang Mayor Benjamin "Jamie" Cuaresma 3rd was also present during the launching.
    The modernized PUV Class 2 unit features Euro-4 engines, a 20-seat capacity with accessories such as dashcams, closed-circuit television, speed limiters, an automatic fare collection system, and Wi-Fi.
    Also witnessing the activity were Chief Transportation Development Officer Geraldine Callangan; Jinky Zipagan, LTFRB Region 2 legal officer; Regional Director Franco Bawang Jr. of the Cooperative Development Authority in Region 2; Noel Napoleon, Land Bank representative; sales manager Allan Concigo of Durabuilt; and Viscon chairman Jesus Bugayong.
    During the event, Viscon was also awarded the Certificate of Public Convenience from LTFRB Region 2 authorizing it to transport passengers on the route they have applied for.
    Cabase said there will be more modernized PUVs to be launched in various places in the region under the PUVMP. They aim to provide modern, comfortable and safe public transportation in the country.
    Meanwhile, Cuaresma said the activity included the formal opening of the Pick and Save Terminal as the official terminal in Bambang.
    He also clarified that the Bambang Integrated Transport Terminal (BITT) has temporarily used a parcel of land adjacent to the Nueva Vizcaya State University.
    "This was because of the strict restrictions being imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic," Cuaresma explained.
    He said due to several requests for a more accessible terminal along the national highway "we sought the guidance, comments and recommendations of the LTFRB in Region 2."
    Cuaresma also cited guidelines stated in the LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2017-030 or the Guidelines for Off-Street Terminal Operations under Department Order 2017-11, otherwise known as the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.
    He said one of the guidelines on the specific location is that the terminal should be 100 meters away from any institutional establishments such as schools and hospitals to safeguard against noise and pollution.
    With this, Cuaresma said the memorandum of agreement which pertains to the "temporary" establishment and operation of the BITT in Barangay Calaocan which is beside Nueva Vizcaya State University has been terminated.


DILG to LGUs: Regulate prices at tourist spots

Local government units (LGUs) have been ordered to impose price controls at tourist destinations following complaints of overpricing in Bohol last year among other tourist sites nationwide.
    Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. reminded local chief executives of their duty to control the prices of basic commodities in areas frequented by foreign and local tourists.
    Abalos said under Memorandum Circular 2023-002 of the Dept. of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the local price coordinating councils (LPCCs) in LGUs are mandated to exercise their functions and protect visitors.
    He said governors and mayors should mobilize their LPCCs to ensure that commodities sold in their jurisdictions carry the average prevailing prices.
    Abalos said the LGUs should also monitor abnormal price increases in their respective localities.
    The order came following reports from the Dept. of Tourism that food prices on Virgin Island in Panglao, Bohol were excessive.


5 kids hurt in car-motorcycle Cordon crash

CORDON, Isabela — Five children were injured, two of them in critical condition due to head injuries, after a car hit the motorcycle they were riding on Tuesday in this town.
    The police said a 12-year-old boy was driving the motorcycle, which carried four children aged 5, 8, 9, and 10 as back riders.
    Initial investigation showed that the motorcycle was crossing the road on its way to Malapat Elementary School when bumped by a sport utility vehicle driven by Cesar Lim, 53, a retired government worker in Santiago City.
    The collision threw the children from their motorcycle, causing injuries. They were taken to the Southern Isabela Medical Center in Santiago for treatment.
    The police said Lim surrendered to the authorities and face a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple physical injuries.


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