Doctors: ‘Ivermectin effective vs Covid-19;’ FDA opposes use

>> Monday, December 6, 2021

Baguio City Council probes efficacy 

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- The Food and Drug Administration and Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) opposed the use of an FDA-approved antiparasitic drug called ivermectin as oral treatment for Covid-19 patients in the city.
    This, even as some Manila-based doctors testified to its efficacy against Covid-19, saying they healed hundreds of their patients with ivermectin during the city council session here on Nov. 29. 
    Councilor Benny Bomogao, in his resolution, invited representatives of the FDA and BGHMC to the city council’s regular session to inquire whether the drug can be prescribed to individuals infected with the virus.
    Gomel Gabuna, operating officer of FDA North Luzon, strongly warned against the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid-19 outside of a clinical trial.
    Gabuna said the FDA prohibits use of ivermectin as a cure for Covid-19 on since there is not enough scientific data to prove the drug’s efficacy and safety when used for said purpose.
    “The FDA has approved the use of ivermectin but not for ingestion. It is only for topical purposes to treat parasites and skin diseases. There are no standards yet prescribing how it will be used as an oral medicine by humans,” he said.
    The FDA official warned there might be adverse effects of the drug when its consumption is unsupervised.
    He urged medical practitioners prescribing ivermectin to Covid-19 patients to obtain a compassionate special permit (CSP) from the FDA.
    A CSP is granted to physicians or hospitals for the use of investigational drugs that are not yet registered or in the process of registration here in the country for treating serious illnesses.
    The CSP holder must take full responsibility for the use of the requested drug.
    According to FDA guidelines, the CSP does not assure the product’s safety, efficacy, and quality.
    He warned the city council of legal implications of allowing the use of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment in the city without compelling medical practitioners or institutions who wish to prescribe or dispense ivermectin to obtain a CSP. 
    “If medical doctors are indiscriminately allowed by the city government to prescribe ivermectin, there is a possibility that any unscrupulous individual can easily claim that the death of a certain patient was caused by the use of ivermectin. The city government will open itself to lawsuits if it will allow the use of this untested drug,” the FDA official said. 
    He said despite advisories issued and several operations conducted against sale and distribution of ivermectin, the drug is still available in the market.
    Meanwhile, Dr. Bernard Demot, an infectious disease specialist at the BGHMC, told the council that the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, along with other medical associations in the country, does not recommend the use of the anti-parasitic drug to cure and prevent Covid-19 due to lack of enough scientific evidence.
    But he added a study on the efficacy of ivermectin as a Covid-19 cure is already being undertaken by the Dept. of Science and Technology (DOST) in quarantine centers of Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines Diliman, and Makati Science High School.
    He said it would be prudent for physicians to await results of the study.
    The country should continue focusing on the proven and recommended measures against Covid-19, the infectious disease specialist said.
    “We have to intensify the vaccination roll-out, strengthen the public’s adherence to minimum health standards, and strengthen the healthcare capacity of the city, so that we can avoid severe cases in times of surges,” he said.
    As opposed to the use of dexamethasone, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and baricitinib which underwent rigorous scientific processes and were approved by medical associations, there is no substantial and compelling empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of ivermectin in treating and preventing Covid-19, he said, thus he cannot recommend it. 
    Dr. Samantha Bartolo, another infectious disease specialist at BGHMC, cited the Ivermectin Treatment Efficacy in Covid-19 (ITEC) study recently done in Malaysia.
    The study showed there was no benefit in the use of ivermectin as Covid-19 treatment and that it may cause diarrhea.
    “As physicians, we follow the principle ‘Do not harm.’ Therefore, we will not advocate its use until there is further evidence,” Bartolo said.
    Two of the most prominent ivermectin advocates in the country also attended the council forum as resource speakers. 
    Dr. Allan Landrito, a medical officer in the City Health Department of Muntinlupa, said aside from having anti-parasitic properties, ivermectin is also an effective anti-viral drug.
    Citing studies conducted worldwide, Landrito said ivermectin improves the condition of severe Covid-19 cases by 96%.
    In his own study with 1,273 subjects, he concluded that ivermectin as a Covid-19 oral treatment is 95% effective.
Demot urged Landrito to publish his study so that other medical authorities could critique it.
    Asked if he is a CSP holder, Landrito replied, “After I get my certificate of product registration which I am currently applying for, why would I apply for a CSP? I will have to pay P500 for each patient and fill in a lot of forms which I have no time to do since I am seeing thousands of patients.” 
    “We are in an emergency situation. I have to give ivermectin to my patients right away,” he added.
    The Muntinlupa doctor said the country cannot afford to wait for the results of the clinical trial being undertaken by the DOST.
    “By the time the results are out, many people will have already died. Without their approval, we are prescribing ivermectin and are saving lives,” he said.
    Dr. Jose Oclarit, a scientist and professor in the scientific community, criticized mainstream doctors for dismissing the claim that ivermectin is anti-viral in nature and can “destroy the spike protein and viral material that causes Covid-19 infection.”
    “From the time I first encountered ivermectin, I have had more than a hundred patients that recovered from the Covid-19 infection by taking ivermectin coupled with Vitamin D3 at a rate of 5,000 units per day, Vitamin C at a rate of 12,000 mg per day, and zinc,” Oclarit said.
    In his final word, Gabuna said the FDA, as the concerned regulatory agency, cannot leave it to the discretion of citizens to decide whether or not to accept ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment, stating possibilities of adverse effects and drug misuse. 
He said sale and distribution of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment is illegal.
    After hearing both sides, the council decided to refer the matter to the Sanggunian’s committee on health and sanitation, ecology and environmental protection to be further studied in aid of legislation.

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Gatchalian to NEA: Status quo on Beneco tiff; Senate probe on

BAGUIO CITY -- SEN. Sherwin Gatchalian urged the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to observe status quo in operations of Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) under the leadership of its board-appointed general manager.
    "We've known Beneco as a perfectly managed cooperative. My only interest being your chairman of the Senate Energy Committee is the stability and reliability of power supply in Baguio and the whole Benguet province," Gatchalian said in a recent consultative meeting with Beneco officials in this summer capital.
    "I'll bring your request for a status quo of the situation. That's the best for now," he added, while assuring the conduct of a Senate probe into the issue confronting Beneco and NEA stemming from the leadership row in the electric utility.
    Gatchalian earlier filed a resolution in the Senate calling for a full-blown inquiry into the management standoff between NEA and Beneco following reports that the electric distribution utility has been experiencing problems in bank transactions as some accredited banks do not acknowledge the signature of engineer Melchor Licoben, the general manager endorsed by the Beneco board.
    "My basic principle is that the locals will always know best and the boards, whether it's a cooperative board or Sangguniang board, they're empowered to choose the best people for themselves. Huwag na dapat makialam 'yung tagalabas dahil magugulo lalo eh. Hindi naman nila alam yung patakbo ng mga kooperatiba (Outsiders should not interfere because this will only exacerbate the problem since they are not in the know on the operations of the cooperatives)," Gatchalian said.
    A string of cases had been filed before the courts including graft charges against the NEA board of administrators for endorsing former Presidential Communications Assistant secretary, lawyer Ana Marie Rafael, to the Beneco board of directors as new general manager instead of Licoben.
    "Habang nakabinbin ang mga kaso, hinihiling natin sa bawat panig na huwag gumawa ng mga hakbang na makakaapekto sa pagbibigay serbisyo sa mga konsyumer kagaya ng kung sino ang dapat kilalanin na maningil ng kanilang electric bills. Naaantala rin ang pagbabayad sa power suppliers ng Beneco dahil sa ilang problema sa transaksyon sa bangko (While the case is pending court, we are asking both sides not to make any step that will affect the provision of service to the consumers such as who should be the authorized to collect payment for their electric bills. Payment to power suppliers of Beneco are being delayed due to some problems in the transaction with the banks)," the senator said."Ang mga ganitong mga kaganapan ay maaaring magbunsod ng pagkagambala sa operasyon ng Beneco at ang mga konsyumer ang magdurusa. Hindi dapat maipit sa usapin ang publiko (This kind of activities may hamper the operations of Beneco to the detriment of the consumers. The public should not be trapped in this issue)."
    Beneco officials have urged power users to pay directly at their offices and outlets after some banks recently froze Beneco accounts owing to the management tiff.
    Licoben and the power cooperative’s board of directors aired this appeal after NEA appointees reportedly convinced some banks they were the “legitimate” signatories of the Beneco accounts.     
    Banks which “froze” Beneco accounts included Development Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), LandBank, Rang-ay and MetroBank.
    The Philippine National Bank Branch here along Session Road reportedly released a total of P2.6 million to the NEA appointees including a Beneco director who was kicked out of office during a recent general assembly of member-consumer-owners for having sided, along with three other Beneco directors, with NEA appointees.
    Licoben had issued directives urging power consumers to pay directly at Beneco offices like at their main office in South Drive, sub-offices at Maharlika, Bonuan, km 4 in La Trinidad, Buguias and collection centers in Benguet towns.
Beneco officials said the power cooperative needed funds to pay power suppliers like the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines considering said banks froze accounts. 
    NEA appointees included Rafael and lawyer Omar Mayo, who was designated Beneco project supervisor by NEA.
Beneco member-consumer-owners said the NEA cannot appoint GMs of electric cooperatives basing from NEA rules itself.
They said only board of directors of electric cooperatives like Beneco can appoint their GM.
    The Beneco had filed a case with the Court of Appeals regarding the issue but the court has yet to issue a ruling.
Rafael is reportedly now holding office at a hotel called Lafayette along military Cutoff.
It was here where a prosecutor was allegedly seen having a meal with companions.
    Cases filed by Beneco against government appointees and minions were later reportedly dismissed at the prosecutor’s office.         
    This, as Licoben holds office at the electric cooperative’s main office here in South Drive.
    He had been directing its daily operations after that 2-day takeover by Mayo who was designated project supervisor of Beneco by the NEA.
    Licoben resumed work at the Beneco main headquarters after it was retaken by MCOs and Beneco employees.
Mayo was declared persona non grata by the Baguio City Council and Benguet Sangguniang Panlalawigan over the Beneco mess
    The Benguet SP also declared Rafael PNG.  
    The Beneco board of directors is composed of board president lawyer Esteban Somngi, Mike W. Maspil, Peter Bosaing, Josephine Tuling, Fr. Jonathan C. Obar, Robert L. Valentin and Jeffred Acop.
    “Dismissed” during a general membership meeting by member-consumer-owners were directors Luke Gomeyac, Enrique Moresto, James Aclopen and Rocky Aliping for siding with NEA appointees. 
 

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Beneco: Pay power bills at coop offices, not banks

>> Sunday, December 5, 2021

NEA appointees dig in, hold office at posh hotel 


BAGUIO CITY – Benguet Electric Cooperative officials urged power users to pay directly at their offices and outlets after some banks recently froze Beneco accounts.
    Beneco general manager Melchor Licoben and the power cooperative’s board of directors aired this appeal after appointees of the National Electrification Agency reportedly convinced some banks they were the “legitimate” signatories of the Beneco accounts.     
    Banks which “froze” Beneco accounts included Development Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), LandBank, Rang-ay and MetroBank.
    The Philippine National Bank Branch here along Session Road reportedly released a total of P2.6 million to the NEA appointees including a Beneco director who was kicked out of office during a recent general assembly of member-consumer-owners for having sided, along with three other Beneco directors, with NEA appointees.
    Licoben had issued directives urging power consumers to pay directly at Beneco offices like at their main office in South Drive, sub-offices at Maharlika, Bonuan, km 4 in La Trinidad, Buguias and collection centers in Benguet towns.
    Beneco officials said the power cooperative needed funds to pay power suppliers like the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines considering said banks froze accounts.  
    NEA appointees included lawyer Ana Marie Rafael, former Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office who is insisting she is the legitimate Beneco general manager claiming she was appointed by the NEA board of administrators and lawyer Omar Mayo, who was designated Beneco project supervisor by NEA.
    Beneco member-consumer-owners said the NEA cannot appoint GMs of electric cooperatives basing from NEA rules itself.
    They said only board of directors of electric cooperatives like Beneco can appoint their GM.
    The Beneco had filed a case with the Court of Appeals regarding the issue but the court has yet to issue a ruling.
    The Beneco controversy, which pitted people and institutions against each other may take some weeks after the May elections next year to be resolved when President Duterte is out of office, party-list sources like Philreca said.   
    Reports said government and power brokers in the industry were out to totally control management of electric cooperatives like Beneco and privatize these before the President’s term will end.
    Rafael is reportedly now holding office at a hotel called Lafayette along military Cutoff after MCOs criticized YMCA management for letting Rafael and her group hold office at the Christian facility with rent of P5,000 a day.
    It was here where a prosecutor was allegedly seen having a meal with companions.
    Cases filed by Beneco against government appointees and minions were later reportedly dismissed.         
    This, as Licoben, who was appointed by the Beneco Board as GM holds office at the electric cooperative’s main office here in South Drive.
    He had been directing its daily operations after that 2-day takeover by Mayo who was designated project supervisor of Beneco by the NEA.
    Licoben resumed work at the Beneco main headquarters after it was retaken by MCOs and Beneco employees.
    Since then, Mayo, Rafael and their companions have reportedly been releasing reports about Beneco operations allegedly basing from announcements made by Licoben from South Drive.
MCOs are questioning “jobs” and legitimacy of Mayo and Rafael.
    They said on Facebook both and four Beneco directors who sided with them should not use Beneco money to pay their salaries or use these for expenses as these are owned by MCOs.
    Mayo was declared persona non grata by the Baguio City Council and Benguet Sangguniang Panlalawigan over the Beneco mess
    The Benguet SP also declared Rafael PNG.  
    The Beneco board of directors is composed of board president lawyer Esteban Somngi, Mike W. Maspil, Peter Bosaing, Josephine Tuling, Fr. Jonathan C. Obar, Robert L. Valentin and Jeffred Acop.
    “Dismissed” during a general membership meeting by member-consumer-owners were directors Luke Gomeyac, Enrique Moresto, James Aclopen and Rocky Aliping for siding with NEA appointees. 

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š¯—§ransport groups reject road routes; hearing set


By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- Several transport groups sought an audience with the City Council saying they opposed changes in public transport routes in the city with passage of an ordinance putting into place the city’s “local public transport route plan” (LPTRP).
    The LPTRP will be the absolute blueprint of the road network and details of the required mode and number of PUV units to serve the city.
    It will be basis for effective delivery of public land transport service in the city.
    Adaption of the LPTRP into an ordinance shall pave the way for consolidation of numerous and replicated routes of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) into a few 28 rationalized routes with six additional development routes, leading to a more systematic management and monitoring by the concerned government agencies.
    Lourdes Alcantara, representative of jeepney associations plying PNR, Gabriela Silang, Military Cut-off, Dagsian, Hillside, and Greenwater, said the merging of their routes into one rationalized route will reduce number of units to only 45 which is greatly disproportionate to number of commuters in said places.
    “Kung magme-merge po kami ng rota, hindi po kaya ng 45 units ang anim na barangays lalo na kapag bumalik na po tayo sa normal,” Alcantara said.
    According to the associations’ petition paper, the merging of short trip lines will also decrease the income of concerned transport groups.
    The proposed LPTRP also intends to change the endpoint of the Gabriela Silang-Greenwater-Military Cut-off line.
Currently, the endpoint is located at Perfecto Street and shall be transferred to Diego Silang Street.
    This, according to the associations, will inconvenience passengers carrying heavy load going to the public market and grocery stores, especially senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs), as Perfecto Street is closer to those destinations than Diego Silang Street.
    The associations said inclusion of UP Drive, T. Kalaw and Session Road Extension into the routes of the Trancoville and Aurora Hill lines under the proposed LPTRP will reduce the number of passengers of their short trip lines, the association said.
    Transport groups plying in Maria Basa, Navy Base, Liteng, and Tip Top also opposed the proposed LPTRP on grounds they are already plying  these areas and do not want competition with other transport groups and
the proposed route of the Trancoville District Line will include Governor Pack Road-UP Drive- T. Kalaw St.- Session Rd.     Extension- North Drive- Leonard Wood Rd.- General Luna Road- Bonifacio Street- Rimando Rd.- Manuel Roxas Rd. This will “greatly contribute to the underlying traffic already experienced in these areas.”
    The Scout Barrio John Hay United Operator Driver’s Association, Inc. opposed inclusion of Governor Pack Road to UP Drive into the route of the Trancoville and Aurora Hill lines, saying they will incur daily losses upon the implementation of the LPTRP come January 2022.
    Meanwhile, Happy Hallow-Kadaclan Transport Cooperative stated in their position paper that they reject merging of their route with the route of Kias jeepneys and appealed for status quo.
    “The Kias line has a number of jeepneys that is enough to supply public transportation in the areas that it covers. In that case, merging the route of Happy Hallow-Kadaclan with that of Kias will make an oversupply of public transportation while there is delay for the commuters to ride a jeepney and arrive at their destinations considering that the Happy Hallow jeepneys need to go to Kias before going to Kadaclan Village then to Happy Hallow,” the position paper read.
    On Nov. 5, the city council conducted a public consultation regarding the proposed LPTRP.
    However, transport associations said most of them were not able to attend, thus, were unaware of the content of the proposed LPTRP.
    Members of the city council’s committee on public utilities transport and traffic legislation said they will again hold another public consultation to gather more comments and recommendations from transport sector and riding public.
    Councilor Benny Bomogao and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the city council with concerned offices will come up with a win-win revision of the LPTRP, incorporating viable suggestions of transport groups.

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Gov’t settling kinks with Lias tribe on P2-B road to link Kalinga, MP, Ifugao

By Dionie Chungalan

BARLIG, Mountain Province – Kinks are being ironed out between the government and tribal folks of this town for construction of a road linking Tanudan, Kalinga and the tourist town of Banaue in Ifugao which pass through their ancestral domain here.
    Although they earlier opposed it, some Lias Tribe members here reportedly were amenable to give their free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) to the multi-million project in a meeting here in July 9, 2020.
    But Lias folks opposed the project in a second meeting here Sept. 18 that year. The Department of Public Works and Highways had a budget of P1,978,99 for initial construction of the 25-km road.
    Of this length, 18 km passes through Lias ancestral domain.
    That time, the Lias Tribe opposed continuation of the project citing environmental degradation to their vast forest of wildlife and their safety saying unwanted settlers and illegal loggers would be encroaching over their ancestral lands.
    But in a recent gathering, pros and cons were reportedly considered with some folks saying development has socio-economic advantages but there are also disadvantages.
    Lawyer Wilson Kalangeg, provincial director of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said issues “will be dealt with accordingly” when a memorandum of agreement between the DPWH and Lias Tribe will be promulgated by his office.
    “Rights of the minority who are land owners affected by the construction (of the road) with majority users shall be recognized, respected and upheld based on Republic Act  8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997) to be reflected on the MOA to secure agreed conditions, solutions and assurance to eliminate future conflicts.”
    Three alternative road routes were earlier presented.
    First was that the road at Upper Agogo be continued.
    It was also proposed that the road would pass at kiosk site.
    Another alternative was for the road to pass Lias Proper from Kabawa Bridge following flow of the river.
    The council of elders urged a survey among all households saying this should be with knowledge and concurrence of Lias folks residing outside Barlig like Baguio and Manila within three weeks.
    From these road options, it will be determined where the road project would commence.
    It was agreed a final confrontation among NCIP staff, DPWH-MP District 2 headed by engineer Rustom Martinez, Barlig mayor Clark Ngaya, tribal heads and local folk will be scheduled.
After this, the FPIC and MOA will drafted for finalization.
It was learned a yearly regular allotment of P10 million will be released by DPW until the national road is completed.

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12 ‘tourists’ nabbed for P984-K marijuana in Sadanga, Mt Prov

SADANGA, Mountain Province -- Twelve drug suspects posing as tourists were arrested for trying to transport 8.2 kilos of marijuana bricks with an estimated street value of P984,000 here on Nov. 21.
    The suspects were apprehended in Sitio Ampawilen in Barangay Poblacion, a common route to the lowlands for tourists coming from the hinterlands of Kalinga, according to agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency based in Cordillera.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee identified the  arrested drug suspects as Micheal Angelo M. Navarro, 29; Julius Cyrel F. Balonso, 19; Jolin Christian F. Balonso, 23; Lyka Joy P. Oprin, 26; Renz Manuel B. Periera, 24; Reina P. Perez, 33; Albert T. Lopez, 29; Robin Mar H. Sarmiento, 40; Pearl R. Tanedo, 23; Ella Mae J. Domingo, 22; Charwin J. Santiago, 36; and Kennedy A. Mensah,18.
    Lee said Sadanga police received a report from a concerned citizen about a vehicle described as a white Grandia GL van boarded by 12 individuals: eight males and four females, suspected to be transporting illegal drugs.
    Police manning quarantine control points in the area immediately checked vehicles coming from Kalinga.
    In Sitio Ampiwalen, cops flagged down a white Grandia GL van and found two backpacks in the back compartment of the vehicle containing eight marijuana bricks weighing 8.2 kilograms.
    Inventory of the seized items was witnessed by Prosecutor Godaliva Calaowa Golda, mayor Gabino Ganggangan, kagawads Pascual Pagcaan and Dawing Chopchopen of Brgy Poblacion and media representative Novy Afidchao.
    The suspects and confiscated items were taken under custody of Sadanga police while a case for violation of Republic Act 9165 or  Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 was prepared for filing against the suspects.

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Laoag jabs minors vs Covid


LAOAG CITY—This capital city of Ilocos Norte Laoag started the Covid-19 vaccination drive on Nov. 19 among minors who are 12 to 17 years old, the city government announced.
    At least 300 children belonging to the age group and have comorbidities are targeted for pilot implementation of the pediatric vaccination.
    Minors were earlier asked to register with their village captains as the city would be implementing a “no walk-in” policy at its vaccination sites.
    The city government had recently announced that 70 percent or 51,897 of its target eligible population had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 41,952 individuals had been fully vaccinated.
    Last week, the city had allowed a walk-in policy for the general adult population at its mega vaccination center at the Divine Word College of Laoag to propel its vaccination drive.
    Ilocos Norte rolled out its adolescent vaccination drive on Oct. 29 at the state-run Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital in Batac City.
    The hospital intended to inoculate 200 minors a day.
    Latest data from the hospital showed that at least 3,549 teens had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital.

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Baguio wins int’l award for smoke- free program

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY copped an international award for its smoke-free programs.
    The city government through the Smoke-Free Baguio Task Force (SFTF) received the Healthy Cities Award from the World Health Organization (WHO) under the category of “Sharing Clean Air: Committed to multi-sectoral implementation of smoke-free laws.”
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Coun. Joel Alangsab and members of the SFTF accepted the award during the virtual WHO awards ceremony as part of the 9th Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities (AFHC) held Nov. 5.
    The city was cited for best practices and innovations it adapted and implemented in the community to promote and protect the health of its urban population amid the challenges of the pandemic.
    The awards program by the AFHC WHO-Western Pacific Region Office has been done since 2004 and every two years thereafter “to encourage cities in the Western Pacific Region to continue to innovate and demonstrate effective and efficient ways of promoting health and urban populations.”
    The task force led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Councilor Joel Alangsab in his capacity as the city council committee on health chair said the city will “continue to uphold its advocacy until the last cigarette is put off in the City of Pines.”
    The city’s smoke-free advocacy is anchored on ordinance no. 34 -2017 or smoke-free ordinance which prohibits the use, sale, distribution and advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products with corresponding penalties imposed.
    To ensure strict implementation of the ordinance, the task force was created which spearheaded the implementation of other smoke-free programs like the continuous information-education-communication (IEC) campaign to educate the residents; conduct of regular compliance monitoring of residents and establishments in the barangays;  provision of assistance to smokers willing to quit under smoke cessation program; and training of enforcers in the barangays level to augment manpower implementing the ordinance.
    The task force said through the ordinance, the city “has successfully upheld the protection and promotion of the right to health of the people of Baguio.”
    “The city has significantly shrunk the areas where people are allowed to smoke and has limited access to tobacco products especially in public areas of the city.  Testimonies have been accruing from successful quitters.  Barangay officials and residents have been empowered to further fight for this advocacy,” the task force said.
 

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9 more Ilocos schools may join in-person classes


SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- Nine other schools in Ilocos region have been nominated by the Dept. of Education for inclusion in the ongoing pilot run of limited face-to-face classes.
    DepEd regional director Tolentino Aquino said he endorsed nine schools in Ilocos Sur.
    He said local government and barangay officials, where the nine schools are located, have agreed to the holding of in-person classes.
    Ten public schools and a private school in the region were included in the pilot run of face-to-face classes, which started on Nov. 15.
    Aquino said the biggest class has only 12 students to ensure physical distancing is observed.

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P60-M drainage to curb Strawberry Farm floods

By Liza Agoot  

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The municipal government sees an end to the flooding problem that besets the strawberry farm here, with the completion of a P60 million drainage project. 
    Mayor Romeo Salda said according to the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the project would be completed before the end of the second quarter in 2022. 
    The project involves installation of 200 meters of pipes that will drain the water from the strawberry farm, locally known as "swamp", which has become a persistent problem every rainy season. 
    Salda said the project was a result of a feasibility study conducted by Hedcor, Inc., a subsidiary of the Aboitiz Group, which operates several mini- and micro-hydroelectric power plants in Northern Luzon, mostly in Cordillera. 
    "It was supposed to be Hedcor that will fund the project but when we presented it, but the DPWH adapted the project and allotted funds for its implementation," he said. 
    Salda shared that water from the Bolo Creek, which traverses the strawberry farm and drains into the Gayasi Creek, is overpowered by the larger volume of water coming from the Balili River. 
    "The water is pushed back to Bolo Creek that causes flood at the strawberry farm," he said in Ilocano. "The drainage project will address the flooding. It is currently being implemented." 
    The strawberry farm is a wide flat area at the town's center. Owned by Benguet State University, it has become a popular destination for tourists who could pick the strawberries themselves and pay for them at the end of their visit. -- PNA 
 

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Tourists may visit Sagada again soon

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Missing the cool weather and charming sights of Sagada?
    Heads up: this rustic town may soon open its doors to visitors again.
    Sagada’s Municipal Tourism office announced the launch of Umali Kayo, the town’s online tourist registration portal, where visitors will need to register before making plans to visit the area.
    “Umali kayo” is a local expression that translates to “welcome,” or “come.”
    Sagada remains closed to tourists, but the municipal tourism office has released the following guidelines in advance for guests making plans to visit their community:
    A negative RT-PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival
    Vaccination card indicating the tourist has been fully vaccinated
    Umali Kayo tourism portal registration, as confirmed by the municipal tourism office
    A minimum 1-night stay in Sagada in a DOT-accredited and LGU-certified accommodation establishment
    Confirmed tourists must travel in a private or personal vehicle.
    While Umali Kayo is not accepting registrations yet, tourists who sign up on their tourism portal must wait for their registration to be approved by their office once the local government officially reopens to tourism, Sagada’s tourism office said.
    Additional guidelines will be provided upon the official announcement of reopening.
    Loved by backpackers for its nature-filled sights, Sagada rose to popularity as a tourist destination after being featured in the 2014 Antoinette Jadaone-directed hit “That Thing Called Tadhana,” starring Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman.

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Baguio City Council ok’s ‘no registration plate, no travel’ law

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGJUIO CITY -- The City Council recently enacted an ordinance imposing a ‘No Registration Plate, No Travel’ policy for all motorists in the city. 
    The ordinance was approved on third and final reading during the regular session last Monday and will be transmitted to the City Mayor’s Office for approval before it will be implemented. 
    Under the ordinance, owners of motor vehicles without registration plates attached either on the front or rear bumper or both, or motor vehicles using registration plates other than that issued exclusively for the vehicle shall be prohibited to ply the roads of the city.
    This policy shall not apply when the registration plate was detached due to apprehension for a traffic violation, provided that the driver must show to the apprehending officer the temporary operator’s permit or the traffic citation ticket issued within 72 hours from apprehension. 
    According to the ordinance, owners of motor vehicles without available registration plates issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) must attach to their vehicles conduction stickers, MV file number or improvised registration plate as permitted by the LTO.
    The ordinance stipulated government employees including those in the law enforcement using government or private vehicles shall not be exempted.
    Rebuilt or locally assembled vehicles for dropping with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) shall be allowed to travel only for the purpose of registration, inspection and/or obtaining clearances but with the attached notice “For registration” or “For dropping” placed visibly on any surface of the vehicle. 
    A motorist driving a vehicle without a registration plate, conduction sticker, MV file number, or temporary registration plate on the front or rear bumper shall be fined P2,000.00.
    Motorists driving a motor vehicle with a different registration plate, conduction sticker, MV file number, or temporary registration plate other than that issued exclusively for the vehicle by the LTO shall be fined P5,000.
    The driver’s license shall be confiscated and a traffic citation ticket shall be issued.
    If the driver has no license, the vehicle shall be impounded temporarily until settlement of all the violations applicable and shall likewise be subject to an impounding fee under the towing ordinance of the city.
    As per records of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, there is no existing city ordinance yet that penalizes motorists whose traveling vehicles have no registration plates attached. 
    Councilor Benny Bomogao, one of the proponents, said their committee decided to propose the “No Plate, Number No Travel” Ordinance to authorize city police to apprehend motorists not complying with this policy. 
    Ordinance 7-1984 (All ordinance adopting Comprehensive Transportation and Traffic Regulations for the City of Baguio) has been further amended recently.
    All penalties of all road violations identified in Ordinance 7-1984 have been increased by virtue of the recently approved amendatory ordinance (Ordinance 75-2019). 
    Bomogao said failure to attach registration plates is not included in the list of road violations provided for by the Comprehensive Transportation and Traffic Regulations for the City of Baguio, thus the passage of the “No Registration Plate, No Travel” Ordinance.
 

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Benguet bars may open depending on town LGUs

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Gov. Melchor Diclas said Wednesday it will be up to local government units in the province if they want bars and entertainment houses to operate amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
    He said as far as he was concerned, bars and entertainment houses can now operate following the implementation of Alert Level 2 in the province in accordance with the pronouncement of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease.
    Operation of entertainment establishments, he added, still depend on the decision of respective LGUs of the 13 municipalities in the province.
    Diclas said LGUs have the authority to do so because they know the actual situation of their municipalities.
    One of requisites for said establishments to operate was that all their staff or personnel should have been fully vaccinated.
    Customers who will enter their premises should also be required to present proof of full vaccination to ensure safety of everyone.
    As of Nov. 23, the epidemic risk level of the 13 municipalities of Benguet was low.
    This, as the number of Benguet residents being vaccinated was increasing.
 

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Baguio council okays taxpayers’ amnesty on fines over unpaid dues

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- The City Council has recently approved on final reading an ordinance granting an amnesty or relief to taxpayers for their penalties, fines, and charges for unpaid dues for the year 2021.
    The ordinance was forwarded to the City Mayor’s Office to be approved by the chief executive before it takes effect.
    The amnesty shall apply to all taxpayers who were not able to pay their dues up to 2021 on their scheduled payment period.     Taxpayers, through this ordinance, shall be allowed to settle their dues until the last working day of 2021. 
    According to the ordinance, the penalties shall be computed from the time they became due if they were not settled within the prescribed period.
    The ordinance stated City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias recommended the enactment of an amnesty in response to the predicament and appeal of Baguio taxpayers to keep them afloat.  
    The ordinance said the city government recognizes clamor of citizens and the business sector they are affected by the financial crisis brought about by the Covid-10 pandemic. 
    In 2020, the city council also enacted a similar tax relief ordinance for affected business establishments operating during the quarantine period.
 

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31 Tadian rebels withdraw support to CPP-NPA-NDF

TADIAN, Mountain Province -- A total of 31 persons identified as communist supporters withdrew their support to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and pledged allegiance to the government in a simple ceremony here at Barangay Duagan on Nov. 19.
    The ceremony was facilitated by Mountain Province Police Provincial Office, Regional Mobile Force Battalion 15, Regional Intelligence Unit 14 and Philippine Army. 
    The former communist supporters took their pledge of allegiance to the government officiated by Mayor Johnson W. Balaoas witnessed by town and barangay officials including faculty and staff of Duagan Elementary School. 
    Before this, police and military officials held negotiations with the communist supporters.
    Balaoas, in his speech said the communist groups were earlier declared persona non grata in their community. 
    He urged his constituents to report illegal activities happening in their midst.
    Lt. Col. William B. Willie, police deputy provincial director for operations cited importance of preventive measures so that the community will not be lured by advocacies of communist groups.
    He urged local folks to persuade their acquaintances who were already recruited by the communist groups to return to the folds of the law.

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