Jai-alai gets permits in 23 Pangasinan towns: Jueteng on in almost all north Luzon provinces

>> Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BAGUIO CITY – Despite the “one-strike” policy of the Philippine National Police, jueteng has now returned in almost all provinces of northern Luzon.

The “one-trike” policy stipulates that any police chief where jueteng operates could be relieved immediately from his post.

This time, religious and cause-oriented groups said the policy is a joke as no police chief had been
fired when the illegal numbers game is full-blast in almost all provinces of the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Central Luzon regions.

Religious leaders like former Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz were vocal in saying that if police authorities and local government officials don’t allow jueteng in their turf, the illegal numbers game cannot operate.

But they, said, payolas are hard to resist if these run to thousands or millions of pesos.

In Baguio City, jueteng bet collectors are still openly defying an order of Mayor Mauricio Domogan to stop rampant operations here.

But sources said in some barangays like Guisad and Pinsao where local officials don’t allow it, jueteng is not operational unlike Sanitary Camp, Trancoville and other barangays where bet collectors openly collect along waiting sheds, sari-sari stores, or jeep terminals.

This, as the illegal numbers game is also full-blast in the nearby Benguet towns of La Trinidad, Tublay, Itogon, Tuba, Mankayan and Buguias.

A certain alias Boy Rusco is reportedly now behind the renewed jueteng operations in Baguio, La Trinidad, Tublay, Itogon and Tuba where collections are done while draws are conducted in La Trinidad.

Domogan had issued a memorandum to city police director David Lacdan, Department of Interior and Local Government Director Evelyn Trinidad and Public Order and Safety Division chief Fernando Moyaen to intensify campaign to curb the illegal numbers game.

But still, according to informants, those involved in jueteng are just laughing this out even if some kubradors were reportedly caught by police, charged and bailed out.

Sources said it is now a wonder why members of Task Force Jupiter, which was formed by Domogan to go after jueteng had not been doing their jobs of arresting bet collectors or operators.

Members of the task force include agencies which Domogan earlier issued the anti-gambling memorandum.

“Please be reminded of our previous agreement that station commanders will be relieved from their current positions once it will be confirmed that jueteng collections and draws are being done within your areas of jurisdiction,” he said.

In Pangasinan, at least 23 towns of the province are now operating jai-alai but the provincial police director said it is not being used as front for jueteng.

Senior Supt. Rosueto Ricaforte, Pangasinan police director, Thursday said he got reports three days earlier that the mayors of 23 towns have issued permits for jai-alai operations.

Ricaforte, however, said Gov. Amado Espino Jr. had nothing to do with the jai-alai operations, adding that an operator only needs to secure a mayor’s permit.

In the capital town of Lingayen alone, there are three jai-alai betting stations, he said.
Espino earlier said he had no hand in jai-alai operations in the province, explaining, too, that the mayors were the ones responsible for issuing permits.

Ricaforte belied claims that jai-alai was just being used as front for jueteng.

“You know, jai-alai is a legal online game. We checked that when they started. We found out that they have all the legal documents to operate,” he said.

As such, he said they could not do anything as they are only after jueteng, an illegal numbers game.

He added that jai-alai bet collectors wear uniforms and identification cards.

Ricaforte also denied that Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. is operating illegally in Pangasinan as its operations are supposedly confined to the Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA), saying he has read a court order stating otherwise.

Secretary Antonio Villar Jr., chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board who hails from Pangasinan, warned mayors who granted permits to Meridien that they face serious trouble for doing so.

Villar said it is pathetic that some mayors are in a hurry to welcome jai-alai operations in their jurisdiction allegedly in exchange for a considerable amount.

“They should have waited for the Loterya ng Bayan being readied by the national government to replace jueteng soon where the government and the people would benefit through the sharing scheme to be adopted,” he said.

He said it is illegal for Meridien to operate outside CEZA, based on reports he has gathered.

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Cagayan girl escapes captors

By Charlie Lagasca

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan – Police have confirmed that a 12-year-old girl snatched by van-riding men here last April 6 managed to escape from a safehouse.

The incident reportedly took place barely a week after a 16-year-old high school student was also seized by a group of men on board a white van in Amulung, Cagayan.

The girl though was able to wrestle herself free from her kidnappers.

“We have already set up checkpoints in the province although we have yet to come up with confirmation about these reports of children being abducted,” said Senior Supt. Mao Aplasca, Cagayan police director.

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Huge pay hike for Benguet power coop officials hit

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Protests are still rising over the proposed 82 percent salary hike of managers of the Benguet Electric Cooperative which services both Baguio City and Benguet province.

Rank-and-file employees of Beneco and Baguio City councilors also denounced the pay hike, which comes four years after the employee car plan controversy that hounded the electric cooperative.

The National Association of Electric Consumers for Reform lodged a protest, too, against the salary increase for Beneco managers.

Nasecore said the Beneco board recommended to the National Electrification Administration board the 82 percent salary increase for the managers of its different departments.

Beneco has seven department managers who each currently receives a monthly pay of P55,000, which Nasecore said is already P20,000 higher than the salary grade 20 level of government workers.

Lawyer Delmar Carino, Beneco human relations manager, though said the proposed pay hike still needs the approval of the NEA.

Former Beneco general manager Gerry Evangelista said members of the electric cooperative must take a look at how Beneco officials are spending money. Earlier, Beneco was criticized for purchasing a 1.2-hectare property for P128 million at the so-called millionaires’ row on South Drive, where it intended to built its headquarters.

City Councilor Fred Bagbagen accused Beneco and its board of directors of spending “with impunity and without fear of being questioned.”

“The board (of directors) treats Beneco coffers as if it is their own private funds,” Bagbagen said.

Beneco’s controversial purchase though was approved by the general assembly in the last quarter of 2010.

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NPA: Seven soldier slain in Tubo, Abra encounter

By Charlie Lagasca
TUBO, Abra – Not one but seven soldiers had been killed in six days of skirmishes between government troops and the New People’s Army rebels here earlier this month.
    
The NPA’s Agustin Begnalen Command based in northwestern Cordillera claimed this April 11, disputing the Army’s assertion that it only suffered a lone fatality in said encounters in Abra’s remote mountain villages from March 28 to April 2.

“The NPA commemorated its 42nd anniversary in Tubo (Abra) by launching these tactical offensives,” said Ka Diego Wadagan, spokesperson of the Abra-based NPA command, in an e-mailed statement to media.

However, the Isabela-based Army’s 5th Infantry Division, whose jurisdiction included Abra and the rest of north Luzon, belied the NPA claim.

“There is no truth to that claim. Why will we hide something if that is really what happened? I can vouch that only one soldier had been killed there during the period,” said Col. Loreto Magundayao, chief of the 5th ID’s civil military operations battalion.

 Magundayao identified the fatality as Private First Class Arnel Daracan of the 50th Infantry Battalion.

 The NPA said encounters with 50th IB troops all took place in Tubo town’s remote areas, which broke out on March 28, which was the eve of the NPA’s 42nd anniversary, and lasted until April 2.

 “In the series of four firefights, our guerillas maintained the initiative. The 50th IB suffered a minimum of seven killed in action, three wounded in action and two damaged helicopters. There were no casualties on our side,” Wadagan said.

 The Army’s biggest setback during the encounters, the NPA claimed, took place in sitio Beew while they were moving toward an abandoned communist camp in sitio Beew on April 1.

 “Though the Army was superior in firepower, five of their soldiers were killed while one was wounded in that encounter,” Wadagan claimed.

These encounters, the NPA said, came as the military was also beefing up its forces in the area to secure the national government’s various mining projects there amid the residents’ opposition to their operations.

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Bongbong mum on Australian half-sister

By Charlie Lagasca

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya– Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. neither confirmed nor denied reports about his supposed Australian half-sister who was said to have been dropped from an Australian home makeover show for being the daughter of the late strongman.

“We have been hearing those rumors for more than 20 years now,” was all the senator, son and namesake of the late President Marcos, could say about his supposed half-sister, Analisa Josefa Hegyesi, a 40-year-old interior designer.

The young Marcos was in this Ilocano-dominated landlocked province Friday as keynote speaker in the 20th commencement exercises of the Programming Language Technique College Inc.

Hegyesi’s mother, former Playboy model Evelin Hegyesi, reportedly had an affair with the former strongman in the 1970s when she was 19 years old.

The young Hegyesi carried the second name Josefa, which is the first name of Marcos’ mother.

Last month, Hegyesi, who reports said was born in 1971, told the Australian media that she had been removed from the reality show “The Renovators” after she revealed being Marcos’ daughter following months of rigid auditions.

The show’s producers denied this.

In an earlier report, Bombo Radyo Laoag City quoted Sen. Marcos’ eldest sister, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, as saying that rumors have been circulating for years about their father’s other children.

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Engine trouble eyed in plane crash

BAGUIO CITY -- The twin-engine Piper Aztec that crashed in Camp John Hay here April 10 could have experienced engine trouble right after take-off because it had difficulty gaining altitude, plunging into a wooded area of the former American recreational base and killing two of the six persons on board.

The pilot, Col. Reynaldo Garcia, did not even have the time to call the Loakan Control tower to report his condition, according to aviation sources.

Garcia and Vanessa Cabiso were airlifted to St. Luke’s hospital in Taguig City Monday morning for confinement.

Ereneo Yabot was reportedly in critical condition and recuperating in Baguio Medical Center with Josephine Miranda.

Another passenger, Grace Alvarez, expired at 6:45 p.m. April 10 and Mon Haranas was pronounced dead upon arrival at the BMC.

The Civil Aviation Authority is now transcribing the tape recorder of the airport control tower at Loakan to find any hint as to the airplane’s last moment before it went down, according to CAAP Director General Ramon Gutierrez.

The CAAP officially reported Monday two persons died in the crash while the four remaining survivors were at the Baguio General Hospital in stable condition.

Yabot, according to CAAP, remained a serious case.

Cabiso reportedly suffered fractures at the back and collarbone, while Garcia suffered burns in various parts of the body.
Based on the report by Loakan Airport officer-in-charge, Capt. Egon Nile Jordan, Gutierrez said that the twin-engine airplane took off at 2:45 p.m. Sunday on runway 27 bound for Plaridel Airport in Bulacan.

The traffic controller on duty (Loakan), in his report to CAAP, said that the airplane was observed not gaining altitude and remained at the treetop level over Camp John Hay.

Three minutes after take-off, the plane vanished from the controller’s sight.

“Very shortly thereafter, air traffic controller on duty saw smoke coming from Camp John Hay area and alerted the crash and fire rescue unit and other related agencies,” the report said.

At 2:55 p.m., the control tower received a telephone call from an unknown informant that an airplane had crashed at the wooded portion of the camp. The air controller dispatched a fire truck and members of the rescue team to the crash site.

Gutierrez said Jordan personally checked the status of the passengers at the two hospitals and later informed members of their respective families.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) on Monday started probing the cause of the crash.

Police Senior Insp. Ruben Porte, station chief of a precinct of the Baguio City Police Office) within the area, said the CAA initially inspected the wreckage of the plane at the crash site in a forested area of Camp John Hay.

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11 Ilocos Sur mayors endorse Ryan Singson to replace brod

VIGAN CITY -- Eleven mayors of the first congressional district of Ilocos Sur have endorsed the candidacy of this city’s Vice Mayor Ryan Singson to replace his older brother former congressman Ronald Singson, who was forced to resign after being convicted of drug trafficking in Hong Kong.

The 30-year-old Ryan Singson will run under Bileg, the local party of Lakas, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson said.

“I cannot do anything. He is the one being endorsed by the mayors and barangay leaders,” Gov. Singson said.

He said the endorsement prompted him to allow his youngest son to run for congressman in the special election to be held on May 28.

Ryan Singson ran and won unopposed as Vigan City vice mayor in last year’s polls.

“Even local opponents in Vigan have expressed support for Ryan,” Gov. Singson said.

He said formal proclamation will follow once the campaign period starts.

He added that Ronald Singson is likely to be freed in January 2012 for good behavior after serving half of his 18-month jail term.

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Singer, 2 men nabbed in shabu buy-bust operations

BAGUIO CITY -- Three shabu pushers a bar singer and two men were arrested by regional agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in here two separate buy-bust operations April 7.

Carmina Dizon Atienza, 21, of Angeles City was nabbed at around 3:30 p.m. near the Solibao Restaurant at Burnham Park.

Atienza reportedly sold one sachet of shabu, containing two grams to PDEA agents who posed as buyers.

Atienza claimed she got the shabu from a supplier in Pampanga.

Meanwhile, Alexander Tagano Pido, 27, of Tubod, Lanao Del Norte and resident of Quezon Hill here and Al Mala Macabalang, 21, of Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur and resident of San Luis Village here were apprehended at Malcolm Square at about 5:45 p.m. after they sold a sachet of .09 gram of shabu to a PDEA agent.

Rolls of aluminum foil, used in sniffing shabu, were seized by the operatives from Pido.
Pido had been previously implicated in murder and robbery cases, while Macabalang had been involved in a theft case, the PDEA said.

They pointed to a drug group in Baguio as their source.

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Singer, 2 men nabbed in shabu buy-bust operations

BAGUIO CITY -- Three shabu pushers a bar singer and two men were arrested by regional agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in here two separate buy-bust operations April 7.

Carmina Dizon Atienza, 21, of Angeles City was nabbed at around 3:30 p.m. near the Solibao Restaurant at Burnham Park.

Atienza reportedly sold one sachet of shabu, containing two grams to PDEA agents who posed as buyers.

Atienza claimed she got the shabu from a supplier in Pampanga.

Meanwhile, Alexander Tagano Pido, 27, of Tubod, Lanao Del Norte and resident of Quezon Hill here and Al Mala Macabalang, 21, of Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur and resident of San Luis Village here were apprehended at Malcolm Square at about 5:45 p.m. after they sold a sachet of .09 gram of shabu to a PDEA agent.

Rolls of aluminum foil, used in sniffing shabu, were seized by the operatives from Pido.
Pido had been previously implicated in murder and robbery cases, while Macabalang had been involved in a theft case, the PDEA said.

They pointed to a drug group in Baguio as their source.

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Nature’s events in Asia benefit Philippines: DA

By Dexter A. See

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The radiation crisis in Japan and the bird flu infestation in South Korea have been beneficial to the growth of the country’s agriculture sector because of growing demand for locally-produced agricultural crops, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said here Wednesday.

Alcala took the chance of having a dialogue with agriculture stakeholders here following has visit to the different agriculture areas to check on the status of their production.

He said the radiation crisis in Japan which has greatly affected the products coming from the said country has seen the surge in the demand for local agricultural crops from other neighboring countries thereby giving a brighter chance for the locally grown crops to shine in the international market.

Alcala said because of the bird flu infestation in South Korea, the Korean government even went to the extent of borrowing anti-bird flu vaccines from the Philippines which they readily acceded considering that the two countries have good diplomatic relations.

The DA official told agriculture stakeholders the country is now exporting a substantial volume of agricultural crops to numerous countries due to the problems being encountered by Japan and South Korea, thus, there is no way why the Philippine government will import such crops from other parts of the global village.

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Cordillera autonomy bid not a lost cause says Palace aide

By Dexter A. See

BONTOC, Mountain Province – A senior Palace official here said the third attempt of the Cordillera to attain autonomous status is not a lost cause considering support shown by sectors on self-governance.

Cesar Tulyao, head of the Northern Luzon cluster of the Presidential Management Staff, who graced the second quarter meeting of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera here, said it is not fair to compare the Cordillera to the current state of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao because of the two contrasting cultures of the said regions.

According to him, self-rule will be an avenue to chart the own direction of the Cordillera without significant interventions from the national government because Cordillerans will be allowed to practice what they believe is appropriate to develop the region into a well oiled machinery capable of uplifting the living condition of the people and moving them out from the shackles of poverty.

In 2006, the RDC made autonomy an agenda to hasten development of rural communities while allowing the region to have greater control of its resources in order to bring progress to the grassroots level.

Tulyao urged Cordillerans to grab the opportunity given to them by the Constitution to achieve an autonomous status and utilize the same as an effective and efficient tool towards development and improving the lives of the people in the remote communities.

The RDC is currently awaiting the final draft of the proposed autonomy law being crafted by the Third autonomy Drafting Committee (TADC) chaired by Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan prior to the conduct of consultations with Cordillera congressmen and other interested lawmakers who are willing to sponsor the filing of the proposed bill in Congress.

Tulyao told Cordillerans the freedom to be autonomous is a privilege granted to them by the Philippine Constitution, thus, they must take it seriously, grab the rare opportunity and use it to the region’s advantage for the benefit of the present and future generation of Cordillerans who want to live in a developed society.

Considering that the Palace made an earlier statement that the ARMM experience is a failed experience in terms of achieving autonomous status, the PMS official cited the Cordillera should be differently treated because of their contrasting cultures coupled with the peaceful scenario in the region compared to the ARMM.

Section 15-21 of the 1987 Constitution mandates the establishment of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera in recognition of the national government’s negligence to our the necessary support to chart the region’s development which is supposed to be at par with the development of other regions in the country.

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Seven P’sinan awardees cited

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Seven outstanding Pangasinenses who have excelled in their respective fields and brought pride to the province were honored as the 2011 ASNA awardees in a ceremony at the Sison Auditorium as one of the highlights of Pangasinan Day last April 5.

Leading the awardees were former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and National Artist Salvador Bernal who got the Balitok Awards for global leadership and theater design, respectively.

The other awardees were former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani for foreign service; Alma Quintans-Kern, international community leadership; engineer Marcelo Casillan Jr., community service; director Joyce Bernal, arts and culture (film); and Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, humanitarian and military leadership.

Gov. Amado Espino Jr. lauded the awardees for being a “cut above the rest,” saying their achievements should inspire every Pangasinense.

“Asna” is the ancient term for “asin” or salt, where the province derived its name. -- EV

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Seven P’sinan awardees cited

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Seven outstanding Pangasinenses who have excelled in their respective fields and brought pride to the province were honored as the 2011 ASNA awardees in a ceremony at the Sison Auditorium as one of the highlights of Pangasinan Day last April 5.

Leading the awardees were former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and National Artist Salvador Bernal who got the Balitok Awards for global leadership and theater design, respectively.

The other awardees were former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani for foreign service; Alma Quintans-Kern, international community leadership; engineer Marcelo Casillan Jr., community service; director Joyce Bernal, arts and culture (film); and Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, humanitarian and military leadership.

Gov. Amado Espino Jr. lauded the awardees for being a “cut above the rest,” saying their achievements should inspire every Pangasinense.

“Asna” is the ancient term for “asin” or salt, where the province derived its name. -- EV

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P1.3-M Tuba veggie tramline inaugurated

ByAdam Borja


TUBA, Benguet -- The days of manually hauling vegetables and fruits through the rugged mountainous terrains of Benguet will soon be over with the inauguration of a P1.3 million agricultural tramline system at sitio Bawek, Twin Peaks here.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala on Wednesday led the turnover of the tramline system designed to service 25 hectares of snap beans, garden peas, ginger, yam, sweet potatoes, bananas and mangoes.

It will benefit 23 farmers who manually haul their produce through four kilometers of mountain trails that normally take them two to three hours of walking time, or hire carriers at P2.00 per kilogram of their products to the nearest junction along historic Kennon Road.

With the bi-cable tramline system in place, a maximum of two tons of produce may be hauled per hour, or a 350-kilogram load per pass, in an area spanning 452 meters across steep ravines and dense vegetation.

The tramline system at Bawek-Twin Peaks barangay was started in Oct. 2010 and completed on Dec. 26.

It was funded by the Department of Agriculture’s attached agency, the Philippine Center for Post harvest Development and Mechanization formerly the Bureau of Post harvest and Extension.

Implemented by the local government under Gov. Nestor Fongwan through the Provincial Engineering Office, the project is targeted for replication in different areas all over the province, Fongwan said. The turnover of the facility to the Bawek Twin Peaks Farmers Association was also witnessed by Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan.

For his part, Secretary Alcala ordered the DA regional office under newly-installed Regional Director Marilyn V. Sta. Catalina to further study the project for possible expansion and to find out about its impact on farmers in the area.

Alcala expressed all-out support to Benguet farmers and farmers’ cooperatives, reiterating the Department’s thrust of transparency and restoring public trust in government.

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Gov’t to study PLDT, Digitel merger impact

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – President Aquino Wednesday expressed concern over the possible impact of the merger of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) and Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) on consumers.

Aquino said the government would have to study the effect of the merger of the two telecommunication giants on the consumers.

“That is currently being studied. There are allegations, among them from Globe (Telecoms) and of course, we want to ensure that there is a level playing field,” Aquino told reporters after witnessing the annual Balikatan military exercises between the Philippines and the United States troops here.

Aquino said there is a need to study the merger, particularly the technical aspects.

“I have to admit I am not an expert on these things so it is being studied by people more competent than I as far as the technical aspects are concerned,” Aquino said.

“We will be sitting down soon with the economic team, with the DOJ (Department of Justice), with the technical people of NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) and as of now, we are reviewing the merger of Sun (owned by Digitel) and Smart (owned by PLDT).”

Aquino said he could not make any conclusions regarding the merger.

“It’s difficult to conclude because we’re studying it right now but I am concerned enough to warrant a study,” he said.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said economic managers also raised their concerns over the possible impact of the merger “on the consumers, on prices of the service that consumers pay for their cellphone service.”

“There have been concerns about the impact that it will have on the structure, on the market whether that will become more or less free, there are those kinds of discussions within the economic cluster,” Carandang said.

He said the government has submitted for priority the anti-trust bill before the Legislative-Economic Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

He said the anti-trust bill aims to regulate the ability of the company to engage in monopoly practices.

“I am not saying there was an anti-trust action here. All I’m saying is that the anti-trust legislation that we submitted to Congress may be the framework by which large mergers and acquisitions like this that have a market impact can be considered,” Carandang said.

Carandang added he was not sure what Malacañang could do at this point without an anti-trust law.

“We’re not sure right now what the possible impact would be. There are those saying that the prices of cellphone service might go up but there is no definite conclusion yet,” Carandang said.

He said the Department of Trade is also studying the impact of the merger.

“At this point we’re not in a position to intervene,” Carandang said.

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Bocap, policeman shot dead in Vigan gun duel

By Mar T. Supnad


VIGAN CITY – A barangay captain and an active policeman were both killed April 11 in what the police called a gun duel before terrified employees near the capitol building here.

Senior Supt. Eduardo Dopale, Ilocos Sur police director, reported that barangay captain Willie Terrago of Daclapan, Cabugao town and SPO1 Rommel Rebuldela, detailed with the Ilocos Sur police office, were both killed from multiple gunshot wounds.

According to Dopale, the barangay captain and the policeman were seen at the provincial capitol building when suddenly shots rang out, instantly killing both.

A woman employee of the Vigan City Hall identified as Anabel Tabaniag was also hit by stray bullet but was reportedly out of danger.

Dopale said that the policeman was armed with Cal. 45 while the barangay captain’s unidentified bodyguard was also armed with M16 armalite rifle.

There were reports that the victims were shot by men riding in tandem but this was clarified by Dopale who said that there was a shootout between the two victims.

“We are still in the process of investigating on how the shooting incident happened,” said Dopale in an interview.

The barangay captain’s bodyguard escaped immediately and is now the subject of manhunt by the police.

Newsmen based here also expressed surprise how the bodyguard of the barangay captain possessed a high caliber gun and brought it inside the capitol building without being questioned.

Following this, the Vigan police chief was relieved from his post Tuesday following the shooting.

Senior Supt. Eduardo Dopale, Ilocos Sur police director, carried out the order of Chief Supt. Franklin Bucayu, Region 1 police director, against Vigan police chief Supt. Elpidio Nartates and installed Chief Insp. Ernesto Navarro as officer-in-charge.

Investigation showed Terrago, was at the capitol compound while Rebuldela had just arrived there to check the schedule of a court hearing when there was a burst of gunfire at around 1 p.m. April 11.

Moments later, Terrago and Rebuldela were seen lying on the ground with multiple bullet wounds.

They were rushed to nearby hospitals but were declared dead on arrival.

A stray bullet hit city hall employee Annabel Almachar, 38.

Scene of the crime operatives recovered empty shells from M-16 and Cal.45 at the scene of the shooting.

Earlier reports said gunmen reportedly escaped on board a red Toyota Revo without license plates.

Bucayu said Nartates was relieved from his post for failing to implement the police integrated patrol system, particularly at the provincial capitol.

“If policemen were patrolling the area, the incident could have been prevented or the suspects would have been arrested if there is immediate response from the police in the area,” Bucayu said.

He said investigators are now looking into politics or personal grudge as possible motive behind the twin killings.

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Baguio cabbies want P15 hike

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – Taxi operators and drivers in this mountain resort city urged the Department of Transportation and Communication and Land Transportation Franchising and regulatory Board to approve their request for a P15 hike in the current flag-down rate of P25.

The appeal was made by taxi operators and drivers following the series of oil price increases which has depleted their income.

At present, the flag-down rate for taxi units in Baguio is still P25 for the first 300 meters and P1.50 for every 200 meters which has been implemented since the middle of 2000 and was never increased despite the series of fuel price hikes over the past several years.

What complicated the situation for local taxi drivers was the conflicting petitions for fare increases submitted by their organization and some individual taxi operators.

Earlier, the Samahan ng mga Taxi sa Cordillera filed a petition for a P40 flag down rate; P2 charge for the succeeding 150 meters; and P2 for every 1 minute and 30 seconds waiting time rate.

However, another petition was submitted by a different group sought a P40 flag down rate for the first 500 meters and P1.50 for the succeeding 150 meters.

The conflicting petitions prompted the DOTC-Cordillera to defer the supposed granting of provisionary taxi fare hike after the agency received a separate petition strongly opposing the P40 flag down rate.

Taxi operators and drivers in the city argued it is unfair for the LTFRB to exclude Baguio for its decision to grant the P40 flag down rate in Metro Manila and other parts of the country when prices of fuel and spare parts in the city were much higher as compared to prices in nearby urban areas in the lowlands and the National Capital Region.

Based on a comparative analysis on the pump prices of fuel products, three major fuel refilling stations in the city charge unleaded gasoline at P61 per liter and diesel at P47 per liter when the prices in Manila are P54 and 40, respectively.

Due to the huge disparity in the prices of oil in the city and Metro Manila, the city government demanded the conduct of an investigation on the reasons behind the big difference in the prices of fuel but their efforts seem to be in vain as the Department of Energy (DoE) seems to be mum on the matter.

From the usual P300 to P500 take home pay after a 16- or 24-hour duty, taxi drivers complained that due to the skyrocketing prices of fuel, they are now bringing home more or less P150 per shift which is not enough to sustain the living condition of their families in the highly urbanized city.

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PBA player brod nabbed; P200,000 marijuana burned

BAGUIO CITY-- Edward Mendoza Jarencio, who identified himself as a brother of Alfredo “Pido” Jarencio, a former player of the Philippine Basketball Association and now coach of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers basketball team, was caught red-handed with marijuana in a buy-bust operation by anti-drug agents here April 7.

Jarencio allegedly sold 80.50 grams of dried marijuana leaves to an agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency–Cordillera in a buy-bust operation around 11:45 p.m. near his boarding house here at Lourdes Subdivision, Baguio City.

He said he had just come from his work shift as chef at the Session Delights here along Session Road.

When frisked, he yielded an additional 18.20 grams of the dangerous drug and a rolled aluminum foil containing the same.

The nabbed dried marijuana from Jarencio was valued at P2,467.50.

Meanwhile, the PDEA’s Benguet special enforcement team and Kibungan municipal Police Station destroyed around 1,000 full-gown marijuana plants, valued at P200,000 in an eradication operation at Sitio Bileng, Sagpat, Kibungan, Benguet last April 6.

The marijuana plantation, concealed by sayote and banana plantations, is about an hour, uphill and downhill walk from the nearest area that can be reached by a vehicle.

Earlier, 5,500 full-grown marijuana plants and 2,400 marijuana seedlings were uprooted and burned at Bagu, Bakun, Benguet by operatives of PDEA, Benguet provincial public safety company and Bakun town police.

The seized marijuana last March 23 was valued at P1,196,000.

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Gov urges fast Angat Dam rehabilitation

MALOLOS CITY — Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado Thursday urged concerted and immediate action among concerned government agencies and stakeholders to rehabilitate the 40-year-old Angat Dam.

“Not tomorrow or some other day, but now,” said Sy-Alvarado as he related how a recent meeting with the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System, National Power Corporation and other stakeholders saw the need for a concrete plan of action to rehabilitate the dam.

“Sa Ipo Dam, mahigit 50 porsiyento o katumbas ng 3,000 ektarya ng mga puno ang pinutol, sa Angat Dam naman ay mahigit 20 porsiyento o katumbas ng 11,000 ektarya, dalawang beses na malaki sa watershed. That is the reason why Angat Dam and Ipo Dam are silted, dahil sinisipsip na yung tubig ng siltation, bumababa ‘yung tubig”, said Alvarado.

The suggestion was brought about by reports regarding the crack found in Angat Dam that may cause the same tragedy that Japan and New Zealand had experienced if ever the dam will be hit by a strong earthquake.

However, continuous monitoring and studies are being made to prevent this from happening and to find ways to safely and effectively rehabilitate Angat Dam.

Alvarado said, concerned agencies should not only prioritize the people of Manila but also the residents of Bulacan and Pampanga whose lives and properties will be directly affected if a strong earthquake strikes the dam.

He added that having a sustainable plan will help solve the deforestation near the dam that causes siltation as well as the removal of mud.

On the other hand, MWSS Administrator Gerry Baldo said they are presently conducting a study with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology headed by Rene Solidum, regarding the technical aspect and immediate actions to execute in case an earthquake hits the dam.

Alvarado also suggested that there must be equal sharing of water rights in Angat Dam, wherein at present, 97 percent of water from the said dam is being supplied to Metro Manila while it is stated in the Local Government Code Article 10 Section 7 that local governments shall be entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, in the manner provided by law, including sharing the same with the inhabitants

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Mt Province boosts OFW aid program

By Dexter A. See


BONTOC, Mountain Province — The provincial government recently strengthened its overseas Filipino workers assistance program to address the unemployment problem in the province while helping repatriated OFWs in strife-torn Libya and other parts of the Middle East.

Gov. Leonard Mayaen and executive assistant for social services Cynthia Taguiba led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially start the program during the first day of the week-long celebration of the 44th Mt. Province foundation anniversary.

Mayaen said he wants to assure that returning OFWs will be given the opportunity to have decent sources of livelihood for their families while they are again seeking for other overseas employment.

The program, with a funding of P3 million, will provide loan assistance to those contracted natives of the province to work overseas but need money to pay their placement and other legal fees that will guarantee them descent jobs which they could avail and help in improving the status of their families.

The OFW assistance program, one of the present administration’s program to address the mounting unemployment, would specifically help jobseekers find employment overseas but initial assistance will be given them to sustain their living as they are awaiting job orders.

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Quarrying in P’sinan town hit; viaduct urged

ROSALES, Pangasinan — Farmers and the Rural folks here have appealed to the provincial government to intervene and stop the ongoing quarrying and landfilling activities purportedly designed for an 8-km section of the proposed Tarlac-Pangasinal-La Union Expressway citing anti-flood and environmental reasons.

Gov Amado T. Espino Jr., was urged last week to stop quarrying and land filling works.

They said "what we need is a viaduct, not a dike road which would cause, not prevent flooding in our town during rainy days."

The farmers said Espino had already directed his assistant former Mayor Ramon Morden to inspect the area.

At press time, the quarrying and land filling stopped, delighting the farmers, adding "we hope it will be permanent and give way to the construction of a viaduct which right-thinking engineers recommend."

The landfilling was meant to build a dike-road as part of the ongoing construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.

This project, the Northern Luzon Expressway would shorten travel time between the Northern provinces and Manila.

One of the good projects started by the past administration, the NLEX-TPLEX is being continued by the Aquino administration.

The higher authorities at the DPWH and DOTC in charge of the project were also informed on the concern of the farmers where more than l,000 residents signed the letter.

In their letter, the signatories "residing in l9 barangays of Rosales appeal to your good office to investigate and stop immediately the ongoing land filling activities by Nepomoceno Trucking Company."

The letter added that the land filling is "with the knowledge of local officials ... in clear violation of what the residents have proposed, which is a viaduct for the TPLEX."

The complainants said Espino was angry at the reported land filling activities and ordered his staff to stop it.

Part of the quarrying, the letter said, has reached foot of Balungao mountain near a National Park and "very near a live volcano, which could erupt once disturbed. This is serious and frightening".

The landfilling already covered a sizable portion of the proposed 8-km section of the TPLEX in Rosales," the letter added.

Residents here are constantly besieged by fears of floods because of their harrowing experience during the last flood brought by Typhoon Pepeng. The floods reached the rooftops killing two people.

They also lamented that the contractors provided only three small culverst between l00 meters to serve as outlets "not enough to hold volumes of water."

They said it would normally three to five days for floodwaters to recede, adding the situation, if not checked, would be much worse during floods. -- LBI

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Kabayan ‘Bendiyan’ festival set April

KABAYAN, Benguet -- This municipality known in international tourism as unique place of centuries-old mummies will celebrate "Bendiyan" eco-tourism festival starting April 28 as the world celebrates "Earth Day".

This was learned from municipal councilor Dorothy Sental, also chair of the council committee on tourism, who said that the initial activity of the festival will be an organized mountain climbing at Mount Pulag here.

The mountain is the second highest in the country and had been one of the favorite mountain climbing sites in Luzon.

Sental said the town's eco-tourism was instrumental in the furtherance of programs on environmental protection as well as added revenues for the municipality.

She said the festival will also have other highlights like agro-fair, cultural festivals and the promotion of the town's unique tea called "Gipa" as well as brewed coffee.

Records show that this town which is one of the oldest municipalities in the old Mountain Province had been among those visited by foreign tourists especially those from Europe.

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Mt Prov execs forge solution to stop Chico River pollution

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The provincial government and the municipal government of this capital town recently agreed on a solution to stop unabated dumping of waste by local residents along the Chico River which earned the ire of people living downstream, particularly those in Kalinga province the past decades.

Gov. Leonard Mayaen informed delegates of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera during its recent second quarter meeting that the local governments have already crafted a solution to the supposed pollution of the Chico River to make the river system a source of marine life for local consumption.

Among the strategies adopted by the provincial and municipal governments include the purchase of a huge property within the town which will serve as its permanent dumpsite as well as the adoption of the 10-year provincial solid waste management plan to serve as the guidepost of all municipal governments in addressing the solid waste disposal problems in their respective places pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Earlier, the provincial government of Kalinga had been pestering the RDC-Cordillera the past years to force Bontoc and the provincial government solve dumping of waste along the Chico River which has resulted to the depletion of the fishes being raised in the river system.

However, Mayaen said the report that there are no longer fishes grown along the river is not true, citing that various species can still be found in some portions of the river but the pollution caused by the dumping of waste by local residents living along its banks still continues amidst the repeated warnings for them not to do so.

Based on Mayaen’s report to the RDC, the municipal government of Bontoc will shoulder the multi-million expenses to be utilized in putting up the landfill facility while the provincial government will take charge of constructing the access road leading to the garbage disposal site, thus, people will no longer have the reasons to dump their waste on the waters of the river.

Eighty percent of the whole stretch of the Chico River is located within the territorial jurisdiction of Kalinga while 20 percent is hosted by Mountain province where its headwaters like the Mount Data National Park among others are located.

Aside from the initiatives taken by the Mountain province local governments to solve the pollution of the Chico river, a substantial loan amounting to over $20 million from the Asian Development Bank ADB is also awaiting release after being endorsed by the RDC to bankroll the implementation of the integrated environment and natural resources management program in order to sustain its purpose as the major supplier of water which is used for domestic, agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes by lowland communities.

With the upcoming implementation of necessary interventions to address the solid disposal on the river, Mayaen is confident that people of Kalinga will no longer accuse Mountain province of polluting the river and its rich resource.

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P400-M veggie trading post to rise in Trinidad

By Adam Borja

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday and witnessed the ceremonial launching of a P400-million worth modern agricultural trading center here in Barangay Betag.

Dubbed the most modern trading post in the country, the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center situated in four-hectares of the former La Trinidad strawberry fields owned by the Benguet State University, will play a vital pilot role in the country’s integrated supply chain being pushed by the Department of Agriculture.

The new vegetable trading post will house spot trading areas, warehousing and cold storage, commercial areas like cafeterias, lounges, dormitories, banks and cooperative offices, parking, administrative offices, and other ancillary support facilities.

Its trading facilities are aimed at increasing vegetable farmers’ income while protecting them from market price fluctuations, and contribute to decongestion of the booming municipality considered to be the Salad Bowl of the Philippines.

Its production facilities encourage minimum processing of vegetable products with the use of modern cold storage technologies but also provide for further processing to meet export demands and handling of excess produce and spoilage.

Full processing in the new trading post will result in the production of starch, chips, strings, and pastes, while minimal processing will cover cleaning, sorting, slicing and packing.

A study conducted by the Development Academy of the Philippines revealed that the old La Trinidad vegetable trading post established in 1984 has proven to be inadequate, contributes to traffic congestion, and is only 70 percent effective as it leads to 30 percent waste.

The new and expanded trading post will serve over 1,000 highland farmers selling vegetables, root crops, and fruits.

Alcala said the project will be funded jointly by the national government, in partnership with the local government unit under Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and Rep. Ronald Cosalan, and La Trinidad Mayor Greg Abalos, with a sharing scheme with foreign investors.

He said a Korean business group has already committed to spend US $2.5 million for the processing plant of the new vegetable trading post.

He added profits of the services in the facility will be shared among the local government, the national government, Benguet State University, farmers’ cooperatives, and the investors.

Alcala also cited role of farmers and their cooperatives in the success of the undertaking.

He also ceremonially turned over around P600,000 to the local government of Benguet representing the first tranche of payments to affected strawberry farmers, saying they can still continue their farming activities despite on-going construction.

BSU President Rogelio Colting admitted they are still looking for a feasible relocation site for affected strawberry farmers but said impact of the project to the province’s strawberry production will be minimal.

Gov. Fongwan said production of strawberries, the municipality’s One-Town-One-Product item, will be affected in the short term, but said development entails some form of sacrifice from affected stakeholders.

He cited the feasibility of relocating strawberry farmers to Shilan, La Trinidad, but also cited need to experiment with better strawberry varieties if the goal was to supply a year-long demand.

Alcala revealed the DA plans to establish similar trading posts in Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Visayas, Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, and Iloilo.

These trading posts, he said, will be complementary to each other and shall work in an integrated system for food security purposes and to prepare the country for the impending negative impacts of the World Trade Organization-Americas Free Trade Area (WTO-AFTA) agreements by 2015.

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Gov’t workers banned from drinking liquor; face dismissal

BAGUIO CITY -- The Civil Service Commission has issued Memorandum Circular No. 4, s. 2011 prescribing guidelines on the prohibition on the consumption of alcoholic beverages among government officials and employees nationwide.

As a rule, the consumption of alcoholic beverages such as, but not limited to, malt beverages, wine and intoxicating liquor, in the workplace among government officials and employees during office hours is prohibited.

Fernando M. Porio, CSC Cordillera regional director said consumption of alcoholic beverages may be allowed during programs and rituals such as ceremonial toasts and observance/honoring of local customs and traditions.

This may be done only after prior permission from the head of office. In the event that an untoward incident happens as a result of such consumption, both the head of office and the concerned official or employee may be held liable.

Porio said in such instances, the alcoholic beverages to be used should be limited to malt beverages and wine. The consumption of alcoholic beverages shall not be to such extent that the concerned official or employee will be intoxicated.

A person is intoxicated when one’s mental faculties are impaired thereby losing control over his behavior or actions.

Officials and employees who consume intoxicating liquor and other alcoholic beverages during office hours outside the instances where consumption is allowed, as well as those reporting for work while under the influence of alcohol, shall be held liable for simple misconduct and shall be imposed penalties of suspension for one to six months for the first offense and dismissal for the second offense.

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Global City to rise at former Clark air base

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – A budget airline would soon operate out of Clark, the former US air base that would soon host a “Global City,” President Aquino said.

The envisioned Global City would include a state-of–the-art hospital, Aquino said Wednesday in a dialogue with soldiers presently conducting military exercises here.

The President told the soldiers they should keep their faith and loyalty to the government as their efforts and sacrifices were not going to waste.

Aquino held the dialogue after witnessing the Balikatan military exercises here between the Philippines and the United States.

He told them that his administration would need stability and not adventurism so reforms and developments would continue.

Aquino encouraged the soldiers to speak up and share their thoughts.

He said the airline, which he refused to name, would start operations in August, but would begin flights in December.

It was the same airline that boosted tourism in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, he added.

Aquino recently issued two executive orders to pave the way for pocket open skies policy to bring much-needed tourists to the Philippines.

He said a much larger tourism industry would be good for the economy.

The Philippines generated 3.5 million from three million tourists last year.

He was confident that this would increase significantly with the government’s efforts, Aquino said.

It would be President Aquino himself who will deliver the good news directly to the people.

After witnessing the Balikatan 2011 at Fort Magsaysay yesterday morning, he found comfort in the company of tricycle drivers and local officials in Mandaluyong later in the afternoon, where he turned over 20 electric tricycle units.

The crowd turnout seemed to belie the lower survey approval ratings he has been getting, he said.

“It seems like in Mandaluyong it (survey rating) has been increasing but maybe they just don’t see it,” he added.

He was seated beside Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, whose constituents Aquino said kept faith in democracy even during martial law.

Before ending his speech, Aquino could not help but again take a swipe at mainstream media, whom he accused of highlighting negative news. So that now he has decided to become the bearer of good tidings himself.

Aquino explained what Environment Secretary Ramon Paje had informed him, that pollution in Metro Manila has tremendously improved – from a worst 166 micrograms cubic meter in June 2010 (based on a normal 90 figure) to a mere 120 last February.

This is what he called “total suspended particulates,” or the normal level of air that people breathe, based on international standards.

Aquino said it has been a very significant improvement from 166 to 120 micrograms cubic meter, in a matter of eight months.

He highlighted the importance of e-trikes which is a substitute for gasoline-fed motorcycles, especially at this time when unrest in the oil-producing countries in the Middle East and North Africa has not yet settled down.

Abalos said these e-trikes only need P45 for a three-hour charging of batteries, compared to the P250 gasoline consumption (fuel cost) for an eight-hour drive of a regular tricycle, and which is much more advantageous because of its 24-hour usability.

The cost of boundary alone for drivers is already P150 a day, which only means that if e-trikes will be plying the routes in cities and municipalities, then drivers will have a bigger take home or net pay.

On a computation of P250 daily (P7,500 monthly, P90,000 yearly) fuel cost on regular tricycles, e-trikes that cost P45 daily (P1,350 monthly, P16,200 a year) will be able to save as much as P205 per day, P6,150 a month or a total of P73,800 per year.

E-trikes donor is the Asian Development Bank, the operator is the local government unit in Mandaluyong City and the beneficiaries are the drivers.

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Stiff fines for businesses without permit sought

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – A stiffer fine was sought here to penalize businessmen who continue to operate their enterprise without the necessary business permit.

Councilor Philian Louise Weygan-Allan proposed an ordinance amending existing tax measures to impose a P5,000 fine on business establishments that will operate for more than a year without securing a mayor’s permit.

As proposed, the penalty can be levied after an investigation conducted by the city treasurer’s office and the concerned barangay.

In her proposed Tax Ordinance No. 15-2001, Weygan sought to amend section 3, section 2 of Tax Ordinance No. 2004-01 entitled “An Ordinance Providing a Set of Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration, Appraisal, Assessment, Levy and Collection of Realty Taxes, Business Taxes, Permit Fees, Building and Lot Rentals in the City of Baguio and such other Fees and Charges Therefore Pursuant to the Provisions of the Local Government Code 1991.”

Tax Ordinance 2004-01 amended certain provision of Tax Ordinance No. 2000-001 including Section 3, Section 2 F), Chapter I. Title I of Tax Ordinance Numbered 2000-001.

Under said measure, the city imposes a penalty of P1,000 fine or imprisonment against businesses operating without permits for not more than six months.

But Weygan said that the City Treasury Office observed that despite the P1,000 fine, many businessmen continue to operate without the permit for more than a year, thus, the need to impose a stiffer penalty.

Weygan’s proposal has been approved on first reading and will be deliberated on by the city council on second reading after publication.

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Sidelined call center worker needs help

By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- Janice Himmoldang is 31, single, and a college graduate working as a call center agent but had to stop recently to go under the knife for breast cancer.

Financially drained by the costs of surgery and hospitalization, she appealed last week for support to sustain her medication while temporarily working as a helper in a “wagwag” (hand-me-down clothing) store in Baguio.

She wants to resume call center work as her family “is economically insufficient”, noted social worker social welfare assistant Feverly Dionesio of the municipal social welfare and development office of Tuba, Benguet.

“(Her) father works as a laborer in their place while (her) mother is not capable to work because she is recovering from her stroke,” Dionesio said.

Until her illness was diagnosed, Janice’s call center pay helped cover the school fees of her brother Israel, 24 and in third year college, and the needs of her three year old niece, a special child.

In a way she feels lucky, as her doctors did not advise chemotherapy after the mastectomy last March 11. She, however, has to take in anti-cancer drugs for sometime.

Janice, who lives at Km. 6, Asin Rd., Tuba, Benguet, can be contacted at cellphone number 09079784854.-RD.

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‘Gunman’ charged in Macasaet murder case

BAGUIO CITY – A complaint was filed at the Regional Trial Court here last week against the alleged gunman in the March 3 killing of Lt Col Ferdinand Macasaet y Topacio, a member of the Philippine Air Force who was assigned as head of Air Warfare Division of the Philippine Military Academy.

Task Force Macasaet conducted investigation which eventually led to the identification of the suspect whose identity was requested that it be withheld pending his arrest.

The victim’s wife, Melissa Macasaet lodged her complaint against the gunman for a case of murder as principal by direct participation on April 7, 2011.

The victim was on his way home driving his SUV Montero with Plate No. NHQ 513 when he was gunned down at Pinesville Subdivision at Fort Del Pilar.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at PMA hospital by his attending physician.

Witnesses have identified the lone gunman (identity withheld pending ongoing investigation) through a mug file as the person whom they have seen in the vicinity a few days before the incident and the same person they saw walking away from the crime scene after the shooting incident.

A computer imaging sketch was created by SOCO based on the description of the witnesses.

A background investigation of the gunman revealed that he has a pending warrant of arrest for a murder case filed by National Bureau of Investigation-Cordillera last 2009 at Regional Trial Court Branch 4 in Baguio and was also involved in another shooting incident (murder) at La Trinidad, Benguet last December 2010.

Cross matching of recovered fired empty shells (cal .45) at the scene at La Trinidad incident matched the empty shells recovered at the crime scene at Hilltop Market, Baguio City wherein a retired Philippine National Police personnel was also gunned down.

Operatives are convinced that the gunman was a hired killer considering his involvement in a series of killings.

The Task Force is still waiting for the issuance of arrest warrant by the concerned court in order to neutralize the suspect while they continue conducting a rigid investigation to establish the motive and identify personalities behind the incident which they believe only the gunman can divulge once arrested.

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Three Jap students chosen Baguio lucky foreign visitors

BAGUIO CITY -- Three Japanese nationals who arrived in the city recently to take a crash course in English are this summer’ Baguio Lucky Foreign Visitors.

The quest winners were Mari Akari, 24, a nurse-graduate from Kyoto University of Medicine; Arnai Reisa, 20, a freshman coed at the Yonsie University and TatsuoNakai, 29, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the Meiji University, all from Japan.

The lucky visitors were all enrolled at the Pines International Academy along Naguilian Road. Akagi and Reisa are taking a monthlong English course while Nakai will undergo a four-month English class.

The two ladies said they selected to study in the city because of its very comfortable weather and that it is a very safe place.

On the other hand, Nakai said, he chose to be here because “he knew about the Japanese sister cities of Baguio and that he would like to communicate and relate with Filipinos and Korean students.”

The annual “Quest for the Baguio Lucky Foreign Visitors” is an international tourism project of the National Correspondents Club of Baguio (NCCB) in partnership with SUMVAC Baguio City

Its main goal, according to program chairman Nars Padilla and co-chair veteran mediaman Gerry Evangelista, Sr. is to foster closer friendship and understanding and respect for governments and culture.

“It is also our meager way of helping popularize our beautiful city as a major tourist destination particularly in the Asian Region.”

Like in the past years, the foreign guests will be accorded a four-day “grand mabuhay reception.”

Starting on April 20, the day starts with a courtesy call on City Mayor Mauricio Domogan at his City Hall office at 10 a.m.

The visit will highlight with sashing rites and the presentation of the city’s symbolic key of friendship by the City Executive who will also welcome the trio from the Land of the Rising Sun.

For at least four days, the lucky ones will be billeted at the majestic Pinesview Hotel, courtesy of engineer Roemo Aquino and wife -- owner-proprietor of the business establishment.

Their schedule of activities included sightseeing tours to places of interest: the famed Philippine Military Academy at Fort del Pilar, a foot tour of the city public market and a visit to La Trinidad, Benguet, among others.

A courtesy call on the municipal and provincial office led by mayor Greg Abalos and Gov. Nestor Fongwan is part of their itinerary.

Several social functions are also on the fore to provide avenues for fellowship and to make new acquaintances. A welcome dinner on the first day and a farewell dinner on the last day of their reception sked are also in place by the program benefactors.

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Stop harassment of health workers

EDITORIAL

There is an alarming rise of harassment against health workers in the Cordillera if not in northern Luzon allegedly by armed State minions particularly the army and paramilitary forces and this must be stopped.

This was known in known in a forum sponsored by the nongovernment Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) in partnership with the University of the Philippines-Baguio Student Council and UP Kasarian Gender Studies Program last week at the UP.

Among others, Rosalinda Suyam of Chestcore claimed during the forum she has been a victim of harassment since 2007. Citing her experience in Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga, she said they have been subjected to interrogation by the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who implied that they were members of the New People’s Army despite them showing official documents regarding their activity.

Recently, Chestcore staff Milagros K. Ao-wat got a text message in her cell phone saying “Gusto mo bang sa kutson o sa malamig na lupa. Sabagay kads andyan naman sina Charlie, Daniel, liyap at marami pa. Tsek tsek tsek!”

Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga, in a statement of solidarity read in the program affirmed the relevance of Chestcore’s work saying “State officials should be ashamed. They have not been able to ensure that government health services reach our mountain communities. And they persecute the people who have filled this gap! If the state cannot help us citizens to survive, then it should at least stop threatening our survival.”

Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, a midwife of the Council for Health Development and one of the Morong 43, who came in behalf of the group to attest to the realities of such harassments through their experience in the hands of the military, stated their freedom was not the end of their fight. “Those behind our illegal arrest and detention must be held accountable so that this won’t happen anymore, not only to community health workers, but to any Filipino,” she said, citing the legal case they filed against then Pres. Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo and other state officials responsible for violating their rights.

Dr. Erlinda Palaganas, one of the Chestcore’s board of directors said even with P-Noy’s administration and with the AFP’s new Internal Peace Security Plan Oplan Bayanihan, the safety of development workers and community leaders is not guaranteed.

In sponsoring the activity, Chestcore said it is an integral part of their service to expose and denounce the human rights violations they are being subjected to, along with the many communities they serve because they fear that the continuing harassments will lead to the further deterioration of the people’s health situation.

Key Chestcore partners who gave support to the institution included the Mobile Nursing Clinic of Saint Louis University School of Nursing; Association of Cordillera Medical Students; Cordillera People’s Alliance; Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera; Cordillera Women's Education, Action and Resource Center; Cordillera Human Rights Alliance; Hustisya and Karapatan. The Kilusang Mayo Uno also passed a resolution in support of community health workers during their recently held national congress in Baguio City.

During the forum, Chestcore was also given support by the Association of Women Religious of Baguio-Benguet and Tanggol Bayi. In thanking all of these groups, Chestcore executive director Mia Liguigan, said that they are determined to continue this campaign and render health services even in the midst of harassment.

Government workers of institutions like the AFP should stop these harassment against health workers now.

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Beneco salary raise, Kapangan hall blues

BEHIND THE SCENES
Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – I have some friends working with the Benguet Electric Coop. who are now silently at odds over a proposal of management to increase the salaries of department managers to P100,000 per month.

The rank and file is smarting over the proposed increase saying if salaries of department heads would be increased that much, then their salaries should also be commensurately upped. They said they are the ones doing the dirty work while the managers are just signing papers.

Protagonists within management said the increase was justifiable considering that the power firm is one of the best performing power firms nationwide in terms of profits. Justifiable or not, the proposed increase (pasensya kayon kakadwa dita Beneco), is not the way to endear management to member-consumers.

This, considering that the latter are the ones faithfully paying their monthly bills. Their lines are even cut anytime by inconsiderate workers who don’t ask the owner of the establishment or residence to shut off their appliances first since their line would be disconnected. They enter private properties without asking permission and disconnect at will.

I was a victim of these workers who I learned later were contracted by the Beneco on a job-out basis. I must admit we forgot to pay our electric bills on time and it was okay with me if they cut the line but they should have informed me first. What happened was since I didn’t save the articles I was editing, my work of two hours disappeared into thin air. I had to do it all over again.

Now, back to the proposed salaries. At the risk of being called a kill joy by our friends in the Beneco, it is suggested that this be put in the freezer until this is discussed in a general assembly.

If majority of consumers approve of it, then by all means, implement it. But if not, then the suggestion should be sent back to the proponents to discuss it over some spirits at a watering hole along Session Road in Baguio.

Come to think of it, the proposed salary of P100,000 per month per department manager is even higher than the salary of the president of this Banana Republic.

I guess, sensitivity to growing opposition to the pay raise should be considered. The National Association of Electric Consumers for Reform is opposing the plan saying the current monthly salary of a Beneco department head which is P55,000 is much higher than salaries of career executive government workers.

According to the Nasecore, the P55,000 is actually P20,000 higher than the salary grade of ranking government employees.

A Beneco department head said the proposed pay raise was justified as they had proposed this already to the National Electrification Agency.

Those who signed the Nasecore resolution opposing the pay raise were chairperson Emerita Fuerte, vice chairperson Catalino Panganiban and board members Peter Dumaguing, Marcelo Abela and Bial Palaez.

Copies of the Nasecore resolution were also furnished to the Department of Energy, Cooperative Development Authority, Energy Regulation Authority and Benguet Provincial Board.
***
Over in Kabayan, Benguet, the white elephant that is supposed to be the kabayan municipal hall is still there, a testament to graft and corruption perpetrated by government officials.

This is the sentiment of local folk who said they have been planning to complain about it for many years until they saw a picture of the ugly edifice on the front page of the Northern Philippine Times three weeks ago.

The still unfinished building, according to an informant, was reportedly the “milking cow” of the past two administrations as local officials, including the Commission on Audit were party to misuse of public funds in its implementation.

The contractor was reportedly able to get the full payment for the building even if it was unfinished. An investigation by concerned agencies on the matter is in order. According to the locals, the eyesore had always ticked at their conscience since they were not able to do something about it and those involved in the anomaly have ignored their verbal complaints.

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Interview with Mikey

PERRYSCOPE
By Perry Diaz

My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec interviewed ex-prez Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s son, Congressman Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo. The interview went like this:
James: Good afternoon, Congressman Arroyo.
Mikey: Good afternoon, din, James. Just call me Mikey. No need for formalities.
James: Okay, Mikey. First of all, I want to thank you for granting me this interview.
Mikey: Don’t thank me; thank God I did it. So, what do you want to know? You want to hear all the tsismis about Penoy? Did you hear that his gf dumped him and now he’s lumiligaw to a girl he met in Singapore during his state visit there?
James: I lost track of his girlfriends. Talagang chickboy siya. He he he…
Mikey: Chickboy? Aba, when it comes to chicks, I’m better than Penoy.
James: Hey, you remind me of the movie, “Mikey Blue Eyes.” Have you seen it?
Mikey: Yes, I saw it. But it’s “Mickey Blue Eyes,” not Mikey…
James: Mickey it is then, Mikey. By the way, I heard some people were calling you “Mikey Doe Eyes.” Have you heard about that?
Mikey: “Mikey Doe Eyes”? What the heck does that mean?
James: Well, “Doe” is like the “Do Re Mi” song in the “Sound of Music” movie, which goes: “Doe, a deer, a female deer…”
Mikey: Stop! Look, I’m not a female deer or doe, got that?
James: Got it! But they say that you have doe eyes. He he he…
Mikey: Who told you that? Ang mga walang hiya!
James: Okay, okay, let’s change the subject. Hmm…. Here’s a good one. A lot of people were wondering why you were chosen to represent in Congress the “Ang Galing Pinoy” party-list, which represents the marginalized group of tricycle drivers and security guards. What qualifies you to represent them?
Mikey: That’s easy. I’m very, very qualified to represent them cuz I’ve been driving a tricycle since I was three years old!
James: Huh? How is that?
Mikey: Well, my mommy gave me a tricycle for my birthday gift when I was three years old. And I still have it. Every now and then, I’d go to Luneta and drive it around the grandstand at night. It’s fun driving a tricycle. You should try it. He he he…
James: You mean to say you’ve never outgrown it? Why don’t you buy a Porsche sports car just like P-Noy.
Mike: Peeeeeenoy! Grrr… Don’ you mention his name again! Never again! Grrr…
James: Oops! Did I touch a raw nerve? I’m sorry. What happened?
Mikey: That Penoy has the nerve to file tax evasion charges against my wife and me to the tune of P73.85 million! Can you believe that?
James: Whoa! That’s a lot of moolah, Mikey! You can buy a Lamborghini with that!
Mikey: Heck, I’d rather buy another mansion in California.
James: Oh, really? You like California, ha?
Mikey: I love California! That’s why I’ve been buying property there. I want to live there when I retire. There are lots of blond chicks over there. He he he…
James: Oh, really? Tell me more about it.
Mikey: You should invest there, too, James. You can buy homes at 25 cents to the dollar. Very cheap! Baratilyo talaga!
James: Oh, really? How many homes have you bought so far?
Mikey: Heck, I’ve lost track. More than you could think of, amigo.
James: Mikey, how can you buy properties in California with your congressman’s salary?
Mikey: My mommy taught me all the tricks. He he he…
James: Oh, like skimming off the top of your pork?
Mikey: You’re a naughty boy, James. Hey, do you think I’d just skim the fat off the top?
James: Oh, I see. You mean, why not take the whole pork, ha?
Mikey: Attaboy, James! You’re catching up fast!
James: Hey, didn’t your mommy get a huge pork this year? I heard something like P2 billion. Is that true?
Mikey: To be exact, it’s two point two billion pesos!
James: And I suppose she also…
Mikey: She’s an expert… and she’s very good at what she does, James! Got it?
James: Yeah, I got it, Mikey, and I’m sick to the stomach! I’m going to puke… terrible!
Mikey: Sorry, I upset you, James. Hoy! What’s that you’re holding?
James: Oh, this is nothing.
Mikey: It’s a tape recorder!!! You’re taping our conversation! You son of…
James: Yep, it’s all recorded and I’m going to turn this over to the Bureau of Internal Revenue! You’re corrupt! You’ll be “Caponized” for tax evasion just like what happened to Al Capone. Ha ha ha…
Mikey: Walang hiya!
(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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A Sagada peacemaker’s continuing pursuit

By Ramon Dacawi


SAGADA, Mountain Province -- While he is usually called to play a crucial role early in the process, Jaime “Tigan-o” Dugao hardly figures in news about a peace pact restored or a truce forged to allow amicable settlement of a clan, inter-village or tribal dispute in these Cordillera uplands.

Understandably so. After all, Tigan-o and other traditional peacemakers are not the party to conflicts they are asked to help resolve, sometimes with extreme urgency, by one or both of the protagonists, their relatives and villages.

After all, while the actual signing of the truce or settlement caps the process, it’s not the defining moment. The breakthrough, which must be worked on early on, comes when the aggrieved party accepts the peacemaker’s white flag, partly out of trust in the latter’s integrity and fair-mindedness. A truce defuses tension, averts escalation of violence in the case of grave criminal acts like murder, and allows talks towards peaceful settlement.

At a chance meeting with friends from Baguio during the recent Lang-ay festival in Bontoc, Mt. Province, Tigan-o, a 62-year old father of six, broke into an almost toothless smile when asked how and why he got himself into the thick of things.

He recalled having been initially asked to settle differences between individuals and then to resolve lot boundary conflicts. His successes at brokering began to pile up until he was asked to convince villagers on the warpath over a killing to change course and accept his truce offering, traditionally a metal item such as a machete.

In one attempt, he said it took almost a day before a village agreed to negotiate. His party had traveled for hours to reach the village.

“We were famished but couldn’t ask to be fed until they would accept our token for truce,” he recalled. “It was four o’clock in the afternoon when they did,” he added, grinning again.

“In this, you learn the virtue of patience, to keep quiet and to listen…and know when to speak,” he said over coffee at the second-floor veranda of the Churya-a Inn as the Lang-ay cultural parade moved on through Bontoc’s main street below .

“We always believe they (feuding parties) know the solution if only they would go back to it,” he stressed.

Still, why agree to mediate and withstand the stress of it all?

“Kasla ragsak nga ag-pacify (It’s like joy to pacify),” he answered with the tact and restraint of a seasoned peace broker.

Tigan-o was into it even before his three-term service (from 2002 to 2010) as punong barangay of Amkileng, Sagada town where he also served as municipal councilor representing the barangays.

His group’s biggest breakthrough came in the 1990s, after a slow and painstaking groundwork for the restoration of peace and quiet in Sagada. The result was the establishment of a Peace Zone that now serves as a model for adjoining towns, other localities in the country and even in other countries.

Sagada then was besieged by armed encounters between government soldiers and New People’s Army rebels. With civilians being caught in the crossfire and residents unable to work and till their farms, the people made clear their position for demilitarization of Sagada to top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA.”

In numerous dialogues with both sides, Tigan-o, then Sagada vice-mayor Thomas Killip, then parish priest and now Bishop Alex Wandag, Fr. Peter Alangui, Dr. Andrew Tauli and others tried to sink in the message: Please wage your firefights outside of Sagada.

“The Peace Zone effectively set in concrete terms the supremacy of civilian rule, upheld and upgraded the rules of engagement and fleshed out the meaning of self-rule or autonomy,” then Presidential Assistant Killip pointed out last year. “The Peace Zone was the people’s collective act of self-determination.”

“The AFP saw it as a ploy of the NPA to gain foothold in Sagada, while the NPA suspected it as an AFP strategy to pit the civilian population against them,” Killip explained.

“We were consistent in our position from the start that demilitarization from both side was the will of the civilian population,” Tigan-o said. “Both sides swore to serve the people and we said we were and are the people.”

The breakthrough, Tigan-o, pointed out, came when then Senator Rodolfo Biazon recognized the wisdom of it all, leading to its approval in principle by then President Fidel Ramos.

Sagada’s quest for peace led to the establishment of a cluster zone of peace also covering the towns of Besao, Bontoc and Sadanga, initially chaired by the late Catholic Bishop Cornelio Wigwigan and then former Bontoc mayor Alfonso Kiat-ong.

Aside from preventing armed encounters between government and rebel forces, the peace zone cluster, Killip said in April last year, had mediated 17 village and tribal conflicts. These include the rift in 2009 between Data, Sabangan, Mt. Province and Taccong, Sagada on one hand, and Tulgao, Tinglayan, Kalinga on the other, over the murder of a Tulgao-based businessman.

“Their names were not in the papers but those who actually brokered the peace were there from the start, from the crucial moment of having to hold on to a fragile status quo to prevent further bloodshed and give them the time needed to set into motion the peace talks,” Killip stressed.

Among others, he cited Tigan-o, saying “it was he who saw through the negotiations until the last ritual that sealed the restoration of the peace pact among the communities”.

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Tabuk is a city three times over

LETTERS FROM THE AGNO
March L. Fianza

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- I have not heard from my friend ex-mayor Camilo Lammawin of Tabuk, but I am very sure he is the happiest among the happy because of the good news about the Supreme Court finally declaring his municipality a city.

Who can beat that? Tabuk is a city three times over. First, it became a city after more than 17,000 of its constituents on June 23, 2007 ratified RA 9404, the law which “converted the Municipality of Tabuk into a component city of Kalinga Province.”

But in November 2008, all the justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared Republic Act 9404 unconstitutional, reverting Tabuk to its former status as a municipality.

Tabuk did not let this pass as it immediately filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, on December 22, 2009, the SC acted on the motion for reconsideration and reversed its ruling that returned the status of Tabuk to municipality. So for the second time, Tabuk became a city.

But, in August 2010, the SC restored its 2008 decision making Tabuk a municipality again, voting 7-6, with two justices abstaining in the voting, and again declaring as unconstitutional RA 9404, the law that converted Tabuk to a city.

Now for the third time on February 15, 2011, Tabuk was again declared as a city as the SC upheld for the third time its cityhood.

On April 12, 2011, the SC on session here reaffirmed its Feb. 15 resolution upholding the constitutionality of the cityhood law for Tabuk. In fact, 15 other municipalities were granted cityhood status just like Tabuk.

With the SC decision, at least 122 city mayors expressed disappointment saying that the 16 municipalities that were granted cityhood “failed to meet the requirements.”

The 122 cities feared that the 16 new cities could reduce their Internal Revenue Allotment share from the national government.

Prior to cityhood, a municipality must at least have an annual income of P100 million, but apparently, this was not considered in the SC decision.

And so, as last remedy or at least to get back at the SC justices who voted in favor of the 16 new cities, 122 members of the League of Cities of the Philippines are thinking of filing an impeachment complaint with Congress against them.

I agree, declaring Tabuk as a city is long-overdue. No need to mention names but truth is that I have seen cities in the country that are not fit to be declared as cities. Their roads are so narrow as compared to Tabuk that has maintained its road width.

Some LGUs who brag about their cityhood status do not even have their own public markets, abattoirs or slaughterhouses. No movie houses, too and no tertiary level schools. Yet their cityhood laws were ratified.

And sooner or later, any municipality would earn enough to raise an income that would be greater than what is required in becoming a city. I think, the 122 LCP members have no right to complain and do not have any authority to stop others from dreaming and becoming what they want to be.
***
After writing last week about some experiences on the way to Lang-ay and back, those who joined me on that trip charged me guilty of being unfair for not mentioning everything. To satisfy them I now write a “post Lang-ay diary.”


I begin by identifying the guys who rode with me. They were Ramon “Mondacs” Dacawi, Joseph “Panic” Zambrano, Romy “bagman 2b” Gonzales, Edong “Retired” Carta, Jonathan “Baac” Llanes, Reggie “Panic 2” Kawis and Swanny “Polytechnic” Dicang.

On the way home to Baguio-Benguet, we stopped for dinner at the Mt. Data Hotel. I noticed that the hotel has always been cold since the “Sipat” on September 13, 1986 between the revolutionary government of Cory and the so-called liberation army that operated in some provinces of the Cordillera.

Although the food, courtesy of PIA Dir. Helen R. Tibaldo, was good, the park around the hotel was cold that I thought it was just the best place for honeymooners.

A few days after arrival in Baguio, Joseph texted me to go get my etag (dried pork meat) that was MP Gov. Mayaen’s pahabol gift to us. Salamat Gov.

The following day, I went to get the etag and jokingly texted Joseph “apay ngay bimassit? Dwa kilo met ti inpaw-it da?

On the same day, I opened my email and found a letter waiting for me. It was actually a comment on my article about the orange colored core shelter houses for relocatees from calamities that hit Mt. Province in 2009. The letter was from Gabriel Moguet of Sabangan.

According to him, the core houses were “funded by the DSWD Central Office and the Local government Unit of Sabangan…”

On the orange color of the core houses, Gabriel said, it is the official color of the LGU of Sabangan, thus the relocation houses were painted as such. What I thought was that “the paint color orange was the only contribution DPWH could provide for the relocation houses.”

Gabriel also clarified that “the core shelter houses was constructed because of the unstable land at Barangays Bao-angan and Bun-ayan” in Sabangan.

Speaking of relocation houses, Benguet had the most casualties when typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng visited. Sito Little Kibungan in Brgy. Puguis, La Trinidad, was erased from the map as continuous rains caused a big landslide there.

Benguet State U in the early part of 2010 segregated a portion of its “ancestral” lands for the construction of relocation houses. The issue was even used and abused for the election campaign of an incumbent mayor.

Where are the relocation core houses that were promised? Now, it is clear. They were just plain campaign promises. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com

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Poverty and starvation

BANTAY GOBYERNO
Ike Señeres

We should all be shocked to learn that 25% of Filipinos are “experiencing hunger”, and 50% consider themselves to be poor, not just President Noynoy Aquino. Thanks to the Social Weather Station (SWS), this grim reality is now known to all of us, and we should all do something about it.

According to economist Mr. Butch Valdez, “hunger” is actually a mild term to use, because the more accurate term is “starvation”. I recently interviewed Mr. Valdez and Dr. Ernie Gonzales in my TV show, and both of them said that not unless we change the economic policies that are now in place in our country, the poverty and hunger problems here will worsen, possibly even destroying our entire country in the years to come.

Reacting to their statements, I asked them why is it that our government and our people are not yet seriously alarmed about the situation, considering that it appears to have already reached a very critical stage. I then offered the explanation that perhaps the reason why we are not yet alarmed, is because people are not yet dying in the streets, unlike what has happened in India.

It was Dr. Gonzales who explained that in our culture, we still manage to take care of the sick and the dying in our homes, and that is why we do not see people dying in the streets. His explanation is acceptable, but if that is the case, we should still find out how many people are dying because of poverty and hunger, directly or indirectly. If we have to require our hospitals and our funeral parlors to do that, we must do so, because we need the data to be able to guide our policy actions.

I am not an economist myself, but I would venture to offer an explanation that we still do not see people dying in the streets, because the problem of homelessness here has not yet worsened as it has in India. What I mean however is that people here still manage to have a place to stay even if it is just a shanty. If however we strictly define the standards for decent habitable homes, these shanty dwellers would all technically become “homeless”, even if they have places to stay.

One does not have to be an economist to understand that the problem of hunger is directly related to the problem of poverty, and the problem of homelessness is directly related to both also. During the interview, Mr. Valdez said that we should not be surprised if the poor people will die as they do, because they have nothing to eat, and when they are hungry, they get sick, and when they get sick, they have no means to get medical attention, so they die.

To that, I will add that if they are homeless, there is a higher probability that they will get sick, because they are not protected from the elements.

Three Filipinos are executed in China, and we are all scandalized. The fact is, about three thousand poor people die here every day according to Mr. Valdez, and we are not scandalized. I understand that there are many economic policies that need to be changed in order to solve the problem of poverty related deaths, but first of all, it has to change with our change of values, about what we consider to be important, and what is not.

Of course it is important for us to plan a good future for our people, but first things first, we must first deal with the present triple problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness. The first order of business is to declare a national state of emergency to address the problem of hunger. We are preparing for the eventuality that people could die in case of an earthquake, but we are not doing enough to deal with the present reality of hunger.

The best place to start is at the barangay level, where serious and real poverty mapping should be done immediately, leading to a database that should include data about poverty, hunger, sickness and homelessness. These are the four data sets that should always be gathered together, not one at a time. Everyone should get involved in this exercise, and anyone who needs help in putting up a database should let me know, because I can help.

It is not yet in our national consciousness, but it is now about time for local government units (LGUs) to put up homeless shelters. We are all aware of the existence of street children, but the fact is, there are street families already if we just bother to look. It goes without saying that street families are in effect homeless, but we should also include in that category all families that are staying in shanties, because in effect, they do not have real homes.

For my part, I will assign myself the homework of organizing a food bank starting in Metro Manila, so that food companies and restaurants could donate their surplus foodstuffs to these homeless shelters in exchange for tax credits.

Tune in to KA IKING LIVE! 6 to 7pm Thursdays in Global News Network (GNN), Channel 8 in Destiny Cable. Email iseneres@yahoo.com or text to +639997333011. Visit www.senseneres.blogspot.com. Join Coffee Clutch Fridays

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Lang-ay fest also a showcase of products

HAPPY WEEKEND
By Gina Dizon

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Processed items made from the province’s agricultural products including peanut brittle, potato chips, etag (smoked/salted meat), abaca baskets, and lang-ay wines displayed economic potential during the recently held 7th Lang-ay Festival and 44rth Foundation Day of Mountain Province last April 4-8, 2011.

The products were displayed in booths made of indigenous materials representing the province’s municipalities. Conducted by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, the structures were judged for displaying the best agri-industrial booth as to completeness of display, quality of products, product promotion , and sustainability.

The display of Tadian municipality bagged 1st place having contained all the product items - grains, root crops, vegetables, fruits, fishery, animals, recycled materials, processed food, industrial items, and organic inputs.

Among its special products, Tadian displayed its organic heirloom rice ‘balatinaw’. Agnes Cadiogan, Tadian’s municipal agriculturist said, the Revitalize Indigenous Cordilleran Entrepreneurs Inc. (RICE) a partner of US Based Eighth Wonder, purchases heirloom rice grown from the barangays of Bantey, Tadian Poblacion, Lubon and and Masla.

Tadian is a 4th class municipality with a partially urban category noted by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

The neighboring vegetable producing town of Bauko got 2nd place with its consistent display of products during the four day- festival. Bauko is specially noted for its Lang-ay wines having pioneered in producing the fruit wines. Lang-ay wines reached its popularity and orders having already been taken from business entrepreneurs from the capital city of Manila.

Bauko specially featured its fading clay pots made in Bila barangay. Caroline Benbenen, Bauko’s municipal agriculturist said the age-old traditional industry is being revitalized. The 4rth class municipality is the most heavily populated with 29 thousand residents as of 2007.

The3rd place for best agri-industrial booth was taken by the tourist town of Sagada with its neat display of coffee Arabica and etag (smoked meat). Etag was especially featured during the municipality’s fiesta celebration dubbed Etag Festival February this year. Sagada also promoted the popular Sagada oranges and squash noodles. Partially-urban Sagada is categorized as a 5th class municipality.

Other municipalities got consolacion prizes.

The eastern town of Barlig specially focused display of its woven rattan products like the traditional sangi (back pack), and rattan-made jar. Barlig is also known for its heirloom rice purchased by RICE Inc.

The far-flung town of Sadanga is noted for its legumes and peanuts. Beans come in all kinds- white beans, red beans, batong (black beans), kardis, and cow peas, kidney beans which go best with inasin or etag when cooked. Processed peanut products include brittle and salted or sweetened peanuts. Municipal agriculturist Lucia Fumakchong said Sadanga’s processed products are sold in the Mountain Province Display Center.

Sadanga is also noted for its heirloom rice called kotinaw and gumiki. RICE Inc purchases organic kotinaw and gumiki varieties from Sadanga farmers and exports these to the US.

Also, Sadanga with its prolific growth of sugarcane plants is noted for its popular fyayash (sugarcane wine). Adolf Ganggangan, Sadanga- based Kalahi staff, says at least 80% of the locally made fyayash is purchased by kakailyan based in Baguio.

Besao had its muscovado neatly displayed along with mountain tea and balatinaw. Muscovado is Besao’s One Town One Product (OTOP). Too, 5t h class Sabangan shows processed potato chips and neatly packaged coffee and fruit wines specially produced by Maggon Rural Improvement Club (RIC).

Sabangan town is popular for covering Mt. Kalawitan within its territory. Mt Kalawitan is a thickly forested mossy jungle housing rich flora and fauna including leeches, wild cats, wild pigs and bids of different species. The watershed cradles waters cascading down the headwaters of the mighty Chico River downwards to the lowlands in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.

Fourth class Natonin municipality is especially famous for its abaca products. Natonin’s abaka growers and producers belonging to Arang Multipurpose Cooperative were especially supported by Fiber Industrial Development Authority (FIDA) , the Department of Trade and Idustry (DTI) and the Central Cordillera Agricultural Program (CECAP).

Bontoc is known for its patopat (glutinuous rice wrapped in banana leaves), popularly sold in Bontoc’s bus terminals. It specially displayed its processed vinegar made from banana peelings. Bontoc, the capital town of the province is a 2nd class partial urban municipality with a vibrant source of income sourced from business taxes.

The yearly Lang-ay Festival is a potential source of income for the province’s entrepreneurs and farmers. Gina Peter, an entrepreneur who annually displays woven products from Paracelis said there have been few sales in this year’s festival.
n
Mountain Province has risen to a 4rth class province from being 5th class for a long time, and graduated from being one of the 20 poverty stricken provinces in the latter years.

The offices- Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region, Cordillera Highland Agriculture Resource Management Project and the Montanosa Research and Development Office and Office of the Provincial Agriculturist judged booth entries of participating municipalities.

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