Hesitant Sagada and Besao folks still wary on wind farm

>> Sunday, March 31, 2013


HAPPY WEEKEND
Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE - Vice Mayor Harry Baliaga of Besao has this to say about the proposed windfarm atop the Langsayan- Pilaw ridge between Besao and Sagada towns.  The people should know disadvantages because what proponent Philcarbon is saying is all about the good wind mills supposedly bring, he said. He added that most people  in his hometown share the same sentiment.  

The top question that people from Besao and Sagada  ask and want to know the answer they shall be fully satisfied of, is the effect of windmills on springs and the watershed. And for a wind farm which has not  yet been erected on  any  watershed in the country apart from windmills getting  protested in other countries proposed for construction on a watershed, this exploratory  Sagada-Besao windfarm project continues to receive questions from residents.

Since day one when Philcarbon went about proposing a wind farm to the people of  Sagada during the consultation May last year in  Bangaan barangay, effect on springs  where sources  domestic water  and irrigation for  ricefields and gardens  is their major  concern.  The question remains unanswered and people are still asking, with some already set in saying No to a project saying they don’t want the watershed disturbed. Period.

Poblacion Patay resident Henry Yamashita who owns a lot where finds a spring  sourced by  a number   of  households  in Dagdag and  Patay  for their  domestic and irrigation water  says he does not  like the watershed disturbed as he does not like the springs disturbed. The spring where water gushes from a rock supplies a number of residents of barangays   Patay and nearby Dagdag. 

While that is so, community  leader and former high school teacher Soledad Belingon  emphasized in a recent  consultation that the  public  should know the  advantages and the disadvantages of the  proposed  windfarm to  aid them in decision making  whether to give their consent or not to the  building of the windfarm.

Manila-based Philcarbon plans to build a 15 megawatt farm atop the Pilaw-Langsayan ridge. Ten wind turbine posts are projected to be installed along this ridge covering a 648 hectare windfarm project approved by the Department of Energy.  The ridge locates a critical watershed where finds springs that supply hundreds of residents of northern and central Sagada and adjacent barangays of northern and central Besao of precious water for domestic, commercial and agricultural use.

The May consultation last year was emphatic about the need for a study on the environmental effects of the wind farm. The public awaits presentation of a study still not made public by Philcarbon.

A second general assembly is yet to be scheduled by the communities affected following the first general assembly conducted February this year with the validation of results of an earlier field-based investigation. The presentation asked more questions- effects of vibrations of windmills on water systems and effect of noise the turbine propellers generate.   

Philcarbon plans  to build the wind farm by 2014. 

Present during the May consultation, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Manuel Pogeyed with masteral thesis  on the customary batangan system of forest protection is emphatic about Philcarbon taking note of local particularities in their proposed project.      

Sagada is a basically an agricultural town visited by some 30,000 to some 50,000 tourists a year to include domestic visitors who conduct their seminars and conferences here. Visitors make use of some waters sourced from springs cradled by the Pilaw-Langsayan watershed with at least  five major inns and restaurants in Poblacion and Dagdag accessing their water here.

People  here while they engage in the tourism business also tend to their  rice fields and  gardens along with the doing of cultural practices revolving around  continuity of water, abundant growth of  riceplants, and good harvest.

A hundred and more households from  Dagdag and Patay barangays make use of water  sourced from the Pilaw-Langsayan serving as the mother watershed cradling water springs located in different nearby areas. 

Too, water from the Pilaw-Langsayan watershed and its adjacent areas forms part of the Chico River fed by tributaries Balas-iyan and Amlusong rivers.the Chico river in turn  irrigates  ricefields located along the course of the river to name  Sabangan, Bontoc, Sadanga, Tinglayan and Tabuk of Kalinga all the way to the rice producing provinces of Isabela and Cagayan.   

Other households source their water from nearby springs coming from adjacent Datakan, Ampakaw, and watersheds cradling the Boasaw waters where now is a source of an unrealized  P36 million government project bidded out December 2011 not having reached households of the water- needy Poblacion yet.  Time check, it’s now April of 2013.      

The fate of these rivers and waters for domestic, commercial and agricultural use hangs unanswered whether the installation of wind turbines shall affect water systems.                                                                                                                                                                       

Shall the 80 meter tall turbines with a five meter depth underground on   a 20 x 20 meter footing concreted area disturb water systems of the watershed? 

Forester Pogeyed says aquifers are located in different underground areas of the watershed. He said there is a need for hydrology tests to determine critical and non-critical areas of water points.

Bumasang in an earlier interview said Philcarbon shall make sure wind farm structures shall not hit water systems.  

A watershed being critical is by principle not supposed to be disturbed much as it is critical. This is an elementary tenet of watershed protection.  

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) recognizes this and specially provide in its guidelines on free prior and informed consent (FPIC) activities do not include protected and critical areas such as watersheds.

Indigenous peoples  have their distinct cultural practices revolving on their  ways of life specially agricultural in nature, one  important  resource of which is the  watershed where sources  water for their  irrigation and  domestic use while believing  that spirits of nature and Kabunian  keep  water and forest life  sustained for community use.   

Disturbing a critical watershed is what a windfarm does in order to operate successfully. Aside from tons of cement and other materials poured in a 400 square meter foundation per  turbine, cutting of trees is logically necessary to freely accommodate whirring rotor blades 80  meters  in diameter, and  building of an access road including downgrading some slopes to accommodate infrastructure.

Besides, hydraulic fluids necessary for turbine operations pose pollutant-threats to existing water sources. Is this clean energy?   

Sacrificing the fate of a critical watershed and limited water sources for energy is a dangerous and risky gamble forwarded by Poblacion residents here who does not like the construction of the windfarm.  

Four megawatts of energy is all that Mountain Province need. The newly approved Napua-Sabangan mini hydro dam is designed to produce 15 megawatts of electricity three times the current peak demand of Mountain Province. Why the need for a Sagada-Besao windfarm, ask signatories in a petition signed by townspeople of Dagdag and Poblacion Sagada.

Tourist guide Ben Calpi says Sagada is already accessing electricity from MOPRECO. What is the extra energy for? 

Philcarbon chairman Engr  Rufino Bumasang said energy generated from the windfarm is designed to be sold and fed to the national electrical grid.  And do household consumers expect lessened electrical costs? As  mentioned by  Philcarbon president Ruth Owen during the May consultation, electricity rates shall not decrease. Generation costs definitely shall increase energy costs.   

Though Mountain Province electric cooperative (MOPRECO) general manager Jude Domoguen said feeding directly to MOPRECO lines can make electricity costs for consumers cheaper.  The community may negotiate with Philcarbon to effect this, he said. And will the community negotiate for cheaper costs? And would Philcarbon accede to  lessened electric costs  apart from negotiated share of the community from  carbon credits if ever,  which in the  first place is  a major reason why energy companies  get into this renewable energy business.     

Renewable energy in the name of clean energy is the name of the energy business today. Thanks to environmentalists and the Kyoto protocol!  With carbon credits bought at some yearly carbon revenue of 15,000 to 20,000  European euro per megawatt of installed  wind energy, renewable energy is a real enticing business.
Renewable energy is not any different from business as usual.

Carbon –emitting companies and nations shall continue to emit their carbon pollutants and  buy offsetting carbon credits mostly from  developing countries with vast untapped natural resources  potential to be industrially transformed to ‘clean energy’ .

Turbine and wind farm equipment shall be purchased from Europe particularly Germany and Denmark, shipping business shall contract transport wind mill equipment to the Third world. Financing banks shall continue to reap in interest rates along with other conditionalities.  

It’s another business for transporting vehicles to carry this heavy material all the way from foreign lands to Philippine shores to the mountain or beach sites of where the wind farm shall find reality, and it’s another contract for turbine installation in the wind farm site itself. It’s another business if a company shall broker the FPIC it has gained from a community to another financially capable energy company. Or it may continue on financing and managing its energy business initiatives. 

And to make renewable energy business sleek and smooth in the Philippines,  the Renewable Energy Act  of  2008 provides for feed- in tariff with standard rates shall be shouldered by the consumer public to ensure income for the  investing company, income tax holidays, duty free holidays, and tax-free carbon credits plus income from power generation charges shall be assured of renewable energy companies investing with the Philippine government.  It’s a holiday!

And what else does national law provide? A mere 1% royalty for host barangays of Sagada and Besao who shall share 40%  share of Local government units from the 1% royalty  and the national government getting 60%.  

And meantime, what does the host community get in return if the windfarm finds reality? Apart from a measly 1% royalty fee, and increased electricity rates, the community shall finds trees wiped off from its watershed, its water systems disturbed and springs threatened of whether or not  water shall still gush forth.

Otherwise, some may still be thinking of negotiating for build-operate–transfer schemes. How fair is fair? The question of pitting nature vs business cum development gets tricky.  The question of keeping traditional and sustained ways of life get threatened over dazzling promises of money and infrastructure. How much of money and infrastructure does the community need. Are you ready for the change and the backlash of nature and disintegrated cultural and once harmonious systems. Nature has a trade off and it’s a choice communities come to intelligently decide.   

Otherwise, keep the watershed is blowing in the wind.

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Sustainability of database, communications systems


 PUNCHLINE
Ike Seneres

On the upside, I have built many database and communications systems for several government agencies. On the downside however, most of these systems are gone by now, after becoming victims to the change of administrations, and the unavailability of budget supports. This seems to be the problem when it comes to personal computers that are purchased by government agencies. Without provisions for maintenance and repair, many of these computers just end up being useless, in effect thrown to a category referred to in government jargon as “unserviceable”.

It would actually be inaccurate to say that there is no budget, because all government agencies have a provision for “maintenance and other operating expenses” (MOOE). The problem is, this budget is seldom used for what it is intended to be. It could therefore be said that what is lacking is not the money, but a culture of maintenance that is not there, even if it is supposed to be there. To some extent however, it could be said that the main cause of the problem is the lack of trained and capable personnel who could do the professional maintenance work from within these agencies.

Generally speaking, hardware and software assets are easier to acquire because anyone could just buy these. What are more difficult to acquire are the people, the manpower base that is needed to keep the systems running in good order and condition. This is easier said than done, because the more skilful these people are, the more expensive they are, and are harder to get. The irony here is that the better they are, the more attractive they become to the private sector. To some extent, it could even be said that if they are really that good, they would already be pirated by the private companies and they would no longer be in the government agencies. Of course, the circumstances would vary from one agency to another.

Very good or not so good however, most maintenance people in the government agencies are good enough to train, and they become better if they are trained very well. While this appears to be a chicken and the egg situation, there is actually a way out, and the way out is good training. Why am I talking about computers when in fact I am talking about the work of the government agencies? My answer goes back to my opening statement that I have built many database and communications systems for government agencies in the past, but few have survived the test of time, hence there is no permanence. Why are database and communications systems so important, that’s because most of what the government agencies do today are backed up by these two assets.
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There is a big difference between systems based computing and web based computing. The good news is, web based computing is less expensive, and is easier to maintain and sustain. To add to the good news, many companies all over the world have invested (or may have over invested) in cloud based infrastructure; the backend that supports web based computing. Even if you are not yet familiar with cloud computing, you might as well know that you are already using it (or you are already being served by it), as you connect to the internet, and as you use your mobile phones.

To some extent, it could be said that technology has actually turned full circle, as it moved from the old client-server architecture that used dumb terminals connected to mainframes to the present cloud based architecture that uses remote servers and browser-based devices. This might be too technical for most people to understand, but what is important is for everyone to know that government agencies could now maintain and sustain their database and communications systems without buying their own servers and without hiring too many technical people for maintenance tasks.

There is an old saying in the digital work that in the end, content is going to be king. That is actually a comparative statement, because it refers to the relative importance of content, compared to both the hardware and the software. While I do not argue against this old saying, I want to add that manpower is important too, because in effect it is the kingmaker. Even if database and communications functions are now easier because of cloud computing, our government agencies would still need well trained manpower to administer the content.

Almost everyone is now on Facebook, and it is the king of the moment. While it is good for government agencies to have their own group pages in the popular social networking sites, nothing beats the advantage of having their own social networking site that is linked to their own agency website. The challenge nowadays is to maintain a website that is good not only for posting information, but also for offering online transactions. In other words, government agencies should now level up towards having dynamic sites that are transactional, not just static sites that are informative.

For feedback, email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639083159262


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Escudero: Sale of Baguio watersheds due to agencies



BAGUIO CITY – The issuance of land titles by different government agencies has led to conflict among lot claimants like in the case of watersheds in this summer capital which are now being openly sold.  

Sen, Chiz Escudero bared this saying vital government properties titled by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples particularly those within watersheds in the city for example have added to the conflict.

The city government sought to stop the sale of lands within watersheds to no avail as claimants said they were the real owners of these properties since they have NCIP titles.

Escudero said this could not have happened if there was only one government land titling office. “As of this time we have different government offices which are issuing land titles: the NCIP, courts, the Department of Agrarian Reform among others.”

He added if reelected, he would work to make government come up with only one office which would issue land titles nationwide.

The issue cropped up during a forum with local media at El Cieleto Hotel Thursday where he showed up with senatorial candidate Grace Poe.

His girlfriend Heart Evangelista was nowhere in sight.      

Baguio officials earlier said “unscrupulous individuals” are now selling watersheds to buyers and have entered and introduced improvements on them to the detriment of the city.

Vice mayor Daniel Farinas said this was alarming and the city government had to do something legally during an executive-legislative meeting recently at city hall.
           
Earlier, the Court of Appeals in a decision denied the petition of the Office of the Solicitor General for the nullification of Original Certificates of ancestral Land titles (CALT’s) issued by the NCIP over prime lots within Forbes Park and Wright Park.
           
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the cases were not yet over and motions for reconsideration on the CA’s decision have been filed.
           
The city government has brought to the attention of the Task Force for Baguio and Boracay composed of top officials, concerns regarding issuances of Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALT’s) over parks and watersheds of the city.
           
The move was for the task force to understand the alarming environmental impact it poses to Baguio if forest reserves within the city continue to be titled to private individuals.
           
Officials said these recent developments will cause problems for the city and will have great impact on remaining forest and watershed cover.
           
Mayor Domogan said sale of lands within Forbes Park reservation and Wright Park remain invalid and illegal even as the CA dismissed the petition for nullification of titles over the said public properties filed by the Office of the Solicitor-general.
            
The local chief executive said the CA decision did not attain finality because the Solicitor-General already filed a motion for reconsideration questioning dismissal of the petition on technicality.
            
“The public must be warned not to be enticed to buy lands within the Forbes Park reservation and the Wright Park area since the sale of the lands remain illegal considering that the areas are the city’s only remaining forested areas that must be preserved and protected,” Domogan said.

He cited the decision of the NCIP favoring the ancestral claim of the heirs of Lauro Carantes over a 23-hectare portion of Forbes Park and the claim of Josephin Abanag over Wright Park that includes the site of the Philippine Information Agency in the Cordillera and some golf holes of the Baguio Country Club are highly irregular.

According to him, the city government has still a chance to question the merit of the case before the Supreme Court if the CA decides to uphold its earlier decision dismissing the petition to nullify the aforesaid ancestral titles considering that there are numerous SC rulings that cited that merits of cases must not be compromised by mere technicalities.

While it is true that Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act recognizes the charter of the city, Domogan said IPRA also recognizes ancestral land claims that were previously recognized by administrative bodies and the courts pursuant to Section 78 of the said law which took effect in November of 1997.

However, Domogan raised the question whether or not the ancestral claims of the heirs of Carantes over a portion of Forbes Park and the ancestral claims of Abanag over Wright Park were previously recognized by the courts or administrative bodies prior to effectivity of IPRA.

Domogan also questioned the procedure adopted by the NCIP in granting the ancestral claims of the heirs of Luaro Carantes over a portion of Forbes Park and Abanag over Wright Park considering that the recognition of the ancestral land claims grossly violated the outlined procedures, particularly the delisting of the parks and reservations. – Alfred Dizon

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Pastor slain in front of wife



LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte  – Motorcycle-riding men shot dead a pastor of the Church of Christ and coordinator of the Kabagis party-list group in front of his wife and a fellow pastor here Thursday morning.

Police said the bullet hit the jaw of Pastor Macario CampaƱano, 40, and exited through his head.

CampaƱano’s wife Mina said she had no idea of who could have plotted her husband’s killing, although she added he had campaigned hard for certain politicians.

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No charges to be filed: Guns, bullets seized from 2 mayoralty bets



By Erwin G. Beleo

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union – Joint operatives found high-powered guns and ammunitions from two mayoralty candidates in Marcos, Ilocos Norte in separate implementation of search warrants on Tuesday. 

Reports reaching this Camp showed that the police found at least nine assorted firearms such as shotguns, long rifles and a .45 caliber pistol from the home of re-electionist Mayor Salvado Pillos of the Lakas-NUCD.

“Except for two firearms which bore minor discrepancies, all guns were licensed. Mayor Pillos has agreed to deposit those not covered by proper licenses to the Marcos police station,” said Senior Supt. Gerardo Ratuita, Ilocos Norte police director.

Ilocos Norte policemen and elements of the Regional Intelligence Division here also found a licensed 9mm pistol and two magazines for a .45 caliber pistol from the house of mayoralty candidate Arsenio Agustin who is running under the Nationalista Party ticket of Gov. Imee Marcos.

Ratuita said police took Agustin’s gun for further verification because its license is under the name of his nephew Rodolfo Lobo Agustin.

He said no charges will be filed against the candidates.

The police had placed Marcos an area of concern for the May elections following the murder of mayoralty candidate Alfred Arce and the failed assassination attempt on Pillos. Both incidents took place separately in February.

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Kalinga to deal with road way problems



By Peter A. Balocnit

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- The provincial government has formed a committee to deal on road right-of-way (RROW) problems now causing delay on road improvement projects. 

Gov. Jocel Baac, told a media forum an executive order will be issued to form the committee composed of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Provincial Engineering Office, National Irrigation Administration, Provincial Legal office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Land Transportation Office, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Provincial Assessor’s Office, Tabuk city local government unit, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. 

Natividad Sugguiyao, provincial NCIP officer, was named chairman of the committee tasked to act with dispatch on RROW problems so that development could be smoothly carried including routes of drainage canals in Bulanao area and Avocado creek in Dagupan, both of this city. 

He urged committee members to dialogue with RROW encroachers and to recommend solutions. 

The creation of the RROW committee was prompted by the delayed construction of a six-lane road in Bulanao when RROW encroachers secured a temporary restraining order from the court allegedly on the environment effects of the project. – PIA, Kalinga  

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Illegal miners tunneling Banaue Rice Terraces



BAGUIO CITY – Illegal mining activities in four sites at the Banaue Rice Terraces were discovered by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau despite denials by Ifugao officials.

Engineer George Baywong, MGB-Cordillera supervising science research specialist has found that Poblacion, Nompolia, Baang and Wangwang sites at the more than 2,000-year-old heritage sites in Banaue are being mined by locals illegally.

Earlier, Ifugao officials denied reports of mining activities along the World Heritage Site in Ifugao.

Earlier, mining permits were denied by the MGB on at least two firms- Shipside Inc. and the Horizon Resources Corp.– because their applications were lacking in consent from local residents.

However, the same firms asked government to think twice about their applications at the midst of mining operations in the area.

MGB accounts for 106 small scale mining groups in the highland Cordillera.

Most are not covered by mining permits.

He said Abra has 14 groups while Apayao has 10, Kalinga with eight, Mt. Province with four, Ifugao with three and Benguet with 67 groups.

Most of the groups in Benguet province are operating illegally in Itogon.

The MGB said the town, a site of an ongoing gold rush, is most problematic in terms of small scale mining operations. 

MGB claims miners insist on their illegal activities despite orders from government to halt these.

Such a gold rush now, Baywong explains, is being driven by the present high command of gold in the market reaching P2,000 plus per gram.

Gold was earlier pegged only at P300 per gram.

The poverty situation, Baywong admits, forces miners to persist on their activities even without permits and the government’s current ban in zones identified as perilous and tourist areas.

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Dad dies protecting son from gunman



By Franco G. Regala

 SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga -- A father sacrificed his own life to shield his son from his predator.

Last March 1, the blissful relationship of the Sarzuela family was shattered when a lone gunman ended the life of its patriarch at around 11:30 in the evening in front of the victim’s home at Phase 3, St. Jude Village, Barangay San Agustin this city.

Police investigation disclosed that the 54 year old Sarzuela had tried to rescue his 27-year old son, Hener, from his assailant who reportedly poked a gun at his son’s head while arguing outside their home.

The attacker was identified as Emilio Avenido, 52, from Brgy Magliman, was allegedly armed with a .22 cal revolver when he went to the victim’s place and confronted Hener.

Mindful of the situation, the older Sarzuela who was then inside the house reportedly armed himself with a bolo and confronted the suspect telling him to lower his gun.

The attacker, however, fired shots at Nerio “several times.’’

Police said that Hener’s father had fought back and even hacked the suspect that eventually forced the latter to drop his gun on the ground.

Nerio was brought to San Fernando hospital for treatment but was pronounced dead by Dr. Genesis Ipac at about 1:30 am on April 1.

Initial investigation showed that suspect Avenido had fled the scene while Nerio was being rushed to the hospital.

But a follow-up operation conducted by operatives from City of San Fernando Police Station resulted in the arrest of Avenido who was seeking prophylaxis for his wounds at Jose B. Lingad hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Police authorities said it already filed appropriate charges against the suspect. The recovered firearm will also be brought to PNP RCLO-3 in Camp Olivas, Pampanga for further investigation. 

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Vizcaya Congress race pits ex-allies, now rivals



BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya  – The congressional race here is heating up and Cagayan Valley’s most closely watched fight as the main protagonist aims for an unprecedented 29th year in Congress while his rival seeks to become the first congresswoman of the province.

Rep. Carlos Padilla and three-term Gov. Luisa Cuaresma used to be political allies for more than two decades but have turned bitter rivals in the race for the province’s lone congressional seat.

Both have yet to be defeated in the local political arena.  

Cuaresma, who bids to extend her winning streak in elections since she joined politics in 1988, is out to end Padilla’s nearly three-decade of congressional dominance here.

Cuaresma, 57, rose to political stardom following the kidnap-slay of her husband, then Bambang town mayor Benjamin Cuaresma Jr., in 1987. 

The killing of Cuaresma’s husband generated a public outcry, catapulting her to Bambang’s mayorship and allowing her to serve for three successive terms before being elected vice governor for two terms.

She was first elected governor in 2004, making her the second elected woman governor of the province after the late Natalia Dumlao.           

She and her gubernatorial bet, three-term Vice Gov. Jose Gambito, recently joined the United Nationalist Alliance, formalizing their separation from the Padillas, their allies since the 1980s. 

Padilla, 68, held the congressional post here for over two decades now.

He served as mayor of the then still undivided Dupax town before winning a seat in the interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, courtesy of the then ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan of then President Ferdinand Marcos.           

From thereon, Padilla, provincial chairman of the Nacionalista Party, was elected congressman from 1987 to 1992, 1995 to 2004, and 2007 to the present. He lost in his senatorial bids in 1992 and 2004. 

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710 studes work under SPES in Mt. Province



By Andrew B. Doga-ong

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- About 710 students and out- of -school youth in the province will be employed this summer under the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

DOLE provincial head Samuel Lasdacan said Public Employment Service officers in municipalities are now screening student applicants based on pre-employment documents for their employment this April.

Lasdacan said their office is now strictly requiring student-applicants to submit complete pre-employment documents not only to determine if they are qualified to the program but also to hasten the release of their wages later on.

The SPES, a yearly job generation program of the government, is intended to help poor but deserving students to pursue their studies by providing them employment during vacation to augment their tuition fees for the coming school year.

Qualified in the program are high school, college and vocational students and out of school youth ages 15-25 who intend to enroll in the following school year.

Based on the approved SPES allocation for the province, DOLE has allotted P1,143,446.08 as its 40 percent counterpart for the salaries of the students while the different local government units and some private establishment employers have a total pledge of commitment of P1,715,169.00 which represents their 60 percent counterpart.

This year, the eastern municipality of Natonin will employ the most number of 192 students followed by the office of the provincial governor with 150 students. The office of the vice governor will also hire 50 students.

The local government unit of Bauko will employ 96 students, Sabangan – 40; Bontoc – 26; Tadian – 25; Sagada – 25; Besao – 25; Sadanga – 24, and Barlig – 20.

Four private participating employers namely the Xijen College of Mt. Province, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines, Samoki Valley Inn and Restaurant and CYD Enterprise will employ a total of 33 students.

Lasdacan explained that the SPES students after getting the 60 percent of their salaries from their employers, have to get payrolls as basis for the preparation of the remaining 40 percent wage from DOLE which will be given in the form of checks when they present or show proof of enrollment for the school year. 

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Binay awards LGUs for land use programs



Vice President Jejomar C. Binay Wednesday awarded 172 local government units in Northern Luzon for completing the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) training on formulation and updating of their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs).

Ten LGUs received gold award for having CLUPs and Zoning Ordinances approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Ten and 47 got silver and bronze, respectively, for drafting their CLUPs and Zoning Ordinances, and processing them for approval.

Some 105 LGUs, on the other hand, obtained Certificates of Completion for finishing the four planning modules on drafting CLUPs and zoning ordinances.

“Nais naming bigyan ng parangal ang 172 lokal na pamahalaan dito sa Region 1, Region 2 at Cordillera Administrative Region na nagsikap at nagpakahirap makatapos sa training na isinagawa ng HLURB sa CLUP formulation o updating,” Binay said.

“Special mention ang ating sampung gold awardees. Ibig sabihin ng gold, hindi lang nila nagawa ang CLUP, naipasa na rin ito ng kanilang mga Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” he added.

Those who received gold award included La Paz and Arrubia in Abra; Sta. Cruz, Sugpon, and Vigan City in Ilocos Sur; Binalonan and Dasol in Pangasinan; and Angadanan, San Manuel and San Mateo in Isabela.

HLURB, per Binay’s instruction, launched a CLUP Zero Backlog Project in 2012 which aimed to provide technical assistance to LGUs in CLUP formulation and updating. 

The Vice President stressed the need for LGUs to have their CLUPs, calling it the “beginning of your road map towards growth and development.”

“Isang paalala ang CLUP na ang lupa ay isang mahalagang resource dahil ito ay limitado. Kailangang pag-isipang mabuti kung paano ninyo ito gagamitin kasabay ng pangangalaga ninyo dito,” Binay said.
However, he noted that LGUs should reinforce their CLUPs with Zoning Ordinances that will ensure the implementation of the land use plans.

“Kahit na may CLUP kayo, kung hindi naman ninyo ito susundin sa implementasyon ng inyong mga programa, at papayagan ninyong magtayo ng kung anu-anong proyekto kahit saan ang iba’t ibang sektor at kumpanya, balewala rin po ito. You will defeat your very own purpose,” Binay warned.

“Katulad po ng ating mga graduates, kung hindi naman po nila gagamitin ang kanilang mga pinag-aralan, wala rin po silang mararating. Ito ang hamon sa atin sa araw na ito: ang maayos at matagumpay na pagpapatupad ng inyong CLUP at Zoning Ordinances tungo sa kaunlaran ng inyong bayan,” he added.

As of writing, 680 out of 1,132 LGUs, which had no CLUP or had outdated land use plans, have completed the different training modules of HLURB, and 551 of have already formulated their CLUPs.

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Mushroom project up folk’s income



ITOGON, Benguet -- Peter Pablito, an operator of a small-scale mining tunnel in Barangay Ucab here has doubled his family’s income after venturing into mushroom production introduced by the management of Benguet Corp., the country’s oldest mining company.

In an interview, Pablito bared that the income he is generating from what he first thought to be just a “sideline” is about equal now with what he is deriving from his main livelihood small-scale mining, considering how thriving the industry of mining is at present.

Pablito related that after finishing their training sometime July last year, he applied what he learned, starting with 800 fruiting bags that he prepared in an enclosed structure beside his house. Two months after, he started selling his produce.

Though what he is harvesting is still modest in volume, he was able to network with his trainer, who is supplying him with additional mushroom starters, which made him sell an average of 400 kilos a month.

Buoyed by this development and the potential for an even bigger profit, he is now targeting more areas in his backyard from which to propagate mushrooms which he will sell to interested buyers from other barangays of the mineral-rich town.

Pablito is just one among the local residents who put into good use the mushroom growing livelihood training that they received from Benguet Corporation which is inclined to provide alternative sources of livelihood for villagers within its host and neighboring communities.

“We are happy to have an added source of income for my family aside from our being involved in small-scale mining,” Pablito said.

He added he is earning substantial income of around P40,000 from his earlier P20,000 monthly income while working as a small scale mining alone.

A women’s group in Poblacion, Itogon, which is part of the first batch who took advantage of the free training, continue to sustain and expand their commercial production for almost two years now and are now contributing to the stability of supply of mushroom in the different parts of the province.

All of the program beneficiaries underwent hands-on training at the mining company’s Mushroom House and an educational tour/farm visit to the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija, which specializes on mushroom production.

Benguet Corp, through its social development and management program, has made mushroom growing the main focus of its livelihood initiative for its host and neighboring communities over the past several years thereby helping sustain descent sources of livelihood for the villagers.

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Ilocos waters free of oil spill by Holy Week




San Fernando city, La Union –The Philippine Coast Guard assured residents and beachgoers that the shorelines of the Ilocos region would be oil sludge-free before the Holy Week. 

“What can be seen are mere oil spots and stains on rocks and corals,” said Capt. Pablo Gonzales Jr., PCG commander for northwestern Luzon.

Gonzales said volunteers as well as personnel from both government and non-government organizations are working together to remove the oil sludge along the shorelines of La Union to Ilocos Norte.

He said affected villagers also teamed up with personnel of the Office of Civil Defense and police and naval forces in Ilocos and concerned local government units in the massive cleanup.

The oil spill was blamed on a Myanmar vessel that sank off  Bolinao town in Pangasinan last Feb. 17.

It has affected the coastal villages of Narvacan and Santiago towns in Ilocos Sur and Paoay, Ilocos Norte.


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Oysters down 4 in Ilocos Norte



LAOAG CITY  – Raw oysters locally known as tirem downed a family of three and their neighbor here in Barangay Caaoacan March 16.

Authorities said Carmelia Paulino, 48, her daughter Cecil Macaganda and son-in-law Benjie Macaganda, and neighbor Anabelle Ansagay suffered stomach pains, nausea and vomiting after eating the oysters they had bought from a vendor in Ilocos Sur.

It is the third suspected food poisoning case in Ilocos Norte since last month.

Last week, 60 Laguna barangay officials on an educational tour were rushed to the hospital after taking breakfast in a local hotel.

In San Nicolas town, 11 firemen were downed after eating stale fish in their headquarters last Feb. 10.

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Katribu assails lifting of mining moratorium



Indigenous peoples' partylist Katribu assailed the lifting of the moratorium on new mining applications, announced by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau last week.

According to Leo Jasareno, the moratorium on new mining applications was lifted  March 18.

The partylist group scoffed the MGB moratorium, claiming that communities was “pretentious and a populist maneuvering.”

“In one sense, this declaration of a moratorium lifting is a waste of energy for the MGB,” Kakay Tolentino, KATRIBU Partylist Secretary General claimed. “Yet this action remains deeply deplorable.”

"Indigenous peoples are embattled by the incursion of mining corporations in their ancestral territories as it is. The moratorium did not ease off the threat to dislocate communities, nor did it stop the violations of our rights. But this lifting will further embolden mining corporations to force their way in our communities,” Kakay Tolentino, KATRIBU Partylist Secretary General said. “Amid the killings and other atrocities committed against our people, this action of the MGB is like a warrant that violations of our rights is endorsed by the government.”

The MGB issued a ban on new mining applications on January 2011, after the industry garnered flak from environmental groups and human rights organizations.

“Mining corporation have been reeling in the good favor of this administration. It has awarded SMI-Xstrata an ECC, and allowed the reopening of Philex Mining Corporation. These corporations are human rights abusers and environmental violators yet are favored by the administration--Aquino has finally dropped the act. No more pretending that its is protecting the environment, patrimony, and people,” declared Tolentino.

The partylist group formerly condemned the the issuing of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to Xstrata earlier this year. The mining giant and military personnel at their payroll is held responsible by human rights organizations for the massacre of an indigenous Blaan family. Philex, on the other hand, was allowed to temporarily operate after it spilled 20 million metric tons of mine waste to tributaries in Benguet and Pangasinan.

The partylist group finds the timing of these ‘favors’ to mining corporations as suspicious. “It’s no secret that mining corporations are backdoor financiers of candidates. The Aquino administration must be desperate to rake in cash with their recent dealings in the mining sector. Of course, their candidates might be piling up cash to pay up for those campaign TV ads,” Tolentino chided.

KATRIBU Partylist called for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995, and the revocation of EO 79 enacted last year.

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