More money for LGUs next year, but then …

>> Thursday, September 23, 2021


Under a 2018 Supreme Court order, local governments will get a bigger portion of national revenue next year, boosting their share in the proposed 2022 budget to more than one-fifth, or some P1.1 trillion ($22 billion). This year they got 18.7% of the budget, or P844.6 billion.
    But as much as P155 billion, or 70% of the additional funds earmarked for localities may end up unused, the World Bank estimates. Even now, local governments fail to spend half of the funds they’ve set aside for roads, bridges and other capital outlays due to weak planning, lack of skilled personnel and procurement bottlenecks. And any unspent funds from the tax share would remain in the local accounts, according to the budget department.
    Philippine cities and towns are set to get more money from the central government next year, but analysts say many likely won’t be able to spend it, throwing up another obstacle to the economy’s fragile recovery. 
    Piles of unused public funds are perhaps the last thing the Philippine economy needs. It’s already expected to be among the slowest in Asia to recover from the pandemic, and the country’s economic managers see output returning to its pre-pandemic level only by the end of 2022 or early 2023. 
    The bigger budget shares comes after the Supreme Court ruled local governments are entitled to a share in all national taxes including customs duties, not just collections by the tax agency. Although the shift aims to improve delivery of basic services, it “could have a negative effect on growth” due to the risk of greater underspending, said Manila-based World Bank economist Kevin Cruz.  
    Confronted with rising debt, the central government specified duties that local leaders should take on using the bigger revenue share, including critical health care and smaller infrastructure projects like irrigation, roads and school buildings.


Cordillera artists


Alfred P. Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province – The Cordillera had produced and been home to artists, musicians and writers.  In this rustic town alone, foreign and local artists have set up residence since the 1960’s. The towering journalist and Cordillera historian William Henry Scott had settled here at the Mission Compound since the 1950’s and did his finest work until his death a few years back.   
    We were fortunate to have hobnobbed with some of them. Just to mention a few, there was this drummer of the Men at Work band from Australia who stayed here and taught kids how to play the musical instrument. If you know the song, “Who can it be now,” chances are, you are my age.
One time, we had a bonfire near the Boys Dorm with two German musicians who visited in the early 80’s. Everyone was amazed at how they played rock songs using two acoustic guitars with tuning only they knew. In the group were two male Israelis, somebody from Africa, a Japanese and at least four Caucasian women making one remark, the group was the United Nations.
    The night could have gone on perfectly, except for one of the locals pestering the Israelis to ask the Germans how they felt about World War 2. Despite our brains addled with gin, it was good somebody still retained his sanity to ask the troublemaker to shut up or he will throw him down the mountain.  
    Many have come and gone, the likes of painter Aster Tecson (God bless his soul) and many more like the group Asin who held concerts here. In recent years, Gary Valenciano, Freddie Aguilar, Noel Cabangon and others held what they called a “concert among the clouds” at Barangay Suyo near the Blue Mountain and Sumaguing Cave.
These kinds of people are what maybe this troubled world needs. They go about their way without thinking how to derail others but to contribute to civilization. That is why, it is nice to know that over the years, some locals from the Cordillera have also excelled in such fields like the likes of sketch artist Jordan Mangusan,  Roland Bay-an and musicians like international recording artist and Baguio Boy Tito Mina of “Ikaw pa rin” fame who now resides in the Netherlands with his Caucasian wife.  
Alan del Rosario is another Baguio Boy who composed the popular song “Sagada.” In the early 80’s. My neighbor in the opposite page March Fianza says Alan was able to get the “feel” of Sagada with that song.
    There are many others but latest is another world-class endeavor by Cordillerans.
After its world premiere at the Cinemalaya 2021 Indie Nation Shorts Section, Abrenian Heritage Film Festival 2021, “Salidumay” has been selected to participate in the 11th International Film Festival Manhattan in New York City.
    Cordilleran actress Mai Fanglayan leads “Salidumay,” a short film by Dexter Macaraeg, for the weeklong Sine Abreño, which ended on Sept. 12 in a virtual celebration of the Film Industry Month via Zoom.
    Mai portrays Ayo, a Tingguian with mixed Ibaloi blood from Abra, who goes on her first date ever at a Korean restaurant.
Franz (Kenneth Jhayve Bautista), a former seminarian who grew up in Abra but moved to Baguio City, can’t seem to find love through dating apps, and decides to use his culture’s methods to arrange a marriage.
    Their differences lead to a small collision of expectation and perspectives, but what it opens up in the tension offers a glimmer of hope for the would-be couple.
Actor and model Kenneth Jhayve Bautista portrays Mai’s love interest, supported by Janet Mondata, Julius Legoen Lumiqued, Seth Wayne, Blas Chacapna, Austin Docyogen, Eric Kelly, and Janet Tayab Soriano.
    Vicky Macay and Lilian Ocan Siapol Castro are introduced as Ibaloi grandmothers, with special participation by Director Emmanuel Dela Cruz and theater actor Onyl Torres.
    The Salidumay creative team includes Director of Photography and Editor Shem Padua and Assistant Director Jonnie Lyn Dasalla; Cameras: Romnick Bayeng, JC Patnao; Makeup Artist: Ellen Castro Herrera; Production Manager: Melinda Ocan Castro; Producer: Janet Tayab Soriano; and theme song by Sherylene Bagayao from Sallapadan, Abra.


The decline of American hegemony


Perry Diaz

Twenty years after September 11, 2001, Americans and the rest of the free world remember the events that transpired on that day.  Three passenger airplanes were hijacked by Middle Eastern men and two were directed to hit the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York, the third was directed at the Pentagon, and the fourth, which was initially directed to hit the White House or Congress but several passengers wrestled with the hijackers to steer the plane away from their target.   The plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and all the passengers, hijackers, and the crew members perished when the plane crashed. 
    On that fateful morning – at around 6:30 AM Pacific time -- I was watching the news on CNN when the program was interrupted to make an announcement – breaking news!  
    The live news showed two airplanes within minutes of each other crashed into the Twin Towers, which caused the skyscrapers to burst into flames.  I was stunned!  I rubbed my eyes to see if my eyesight was okay.  I blinked and rubbed them again.  It was real.  Still in disbelief, I changed the channel to MSNBC and ergo! the same thing was happening.  The Twin Towers were on fire and people were jumping out of the window to their deaths about 100 floors above the ground.  
Some were holding hands as if it would save them.  But then I realized that they were holding hands in a final gesture of intimacy and strength.
     A few minutes later the buildings started to crumble floor by floor.  The sight was eerie.  Horrible.  I’ll never forget the sight until now – 20 years later.  It is still vivid in my memory.  The dust from the fallen buildings created huge clouds of smoke and the people – those who managed to evade the falling debris -- were running away, covered with dust and ashes.  People were crying.  Their faces were in extreme anguish.  
    They found solace in holding each other’s hands as if it matters.  But as someone once said, “It does matter.”  Yes, there is something special about holding hands with another human being.  This alchemy of two hands touching has so deeply captured man’s collective imagination – from the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, which depicted God’s hand touching an angel’s hand to the lyrics of the Beatles’ “I wanna hold your hand.” (Source: Michal Rzepecki, Huffington Post, “The Science Behind The Profound Power of Holding Hands”)
    There you go.  Now, this explains the sights of people holding hands when threatened or when they jump out of buildings.  It gives them strength and the will power to survive even when they face imminent death.
Significance of 9/11
As we celebrate two decades since 9/11, it reminds us of the significance of that eventful day.  And nothing makes it more significant than when President Joe   Biden ordered the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan.  Just ten days short of 20 years, Biden ordered the immediate withdrawal for the wrong reasons.  He said that it’s time to withdraw from Afghanistan since his goals have been reached, which was to defeat al-Qaeda and the terrorist groups but not to build the Afghan nation.  
He declared, “The war in Afghanistan is now over.” He argued that it was "past time to end the forever wars, which have cost us untold blood and treasure."  But critics — and even some Biden allies — questioned whether the "forever wars" are truly over. Biden may have shrunk the wars, they said, but he had not ended them.  As it is evident now, al-Qaeda was never defeated.  They just retreated but still have the means to terrorize.
    In an effort to placate his European allies, Biden said, "We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries.  We just don't need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what's called 'over the horizon' capabilities."  So now, he’ll send the air force, navy, and the marines over the horizon to continue the war on terror.  Didn’t he just fool us when he withdrew US forces from Afghanistan only to send them to fight the terrorists somewhere in the future? 
    Meanwhile, his withdrawal plan turned out to be chaotic, disorganized, and haphazardly executed.  He withdrew the forces too soon and left behind thousands of Afghans who were employed as interpreters.  Right now, the Taliban was hunting those left behind.  They live on borrowed time, moving from one place to another.
Exit America, enter China
With the departure of American forces from Afghanistan, it created a power vacuum.  And guess who is stepping in to fill the vacuum?  The People’s Republic of China!  Chinese President Xi Jinping is probably laughing and rolling now that he can provide the Taliban an offer they cannot refuse.
    Surmise it to say, China is drooling over Afghanistan’s $3 trillion mineral reserves, which by the way includes lithium, used in the manufacture of batteries.  Thus would be a boon to the electric car manufacturing industry in which China is putting a lot of money into it.
    Information from the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that Afghanistan may hold unexplored mineral reserves worth as much as $1 trillion, and the government of Afghanistan estimated the figure at as high as $3 trillion, according to an article posted in 2012 by the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC.  It’s not surprising then that the Taliban recently announced that China would be their “main partner” in rebuilding Afghanistan.
    In 2010, the New York Times quoted an internal Pentagon memo saying that Afghanistan may become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” But with the current state of mining in Afghanistan, it might take five years to start exploring for lithium.  But China is good in long-term play on the best of days.  But now that the Taliban is in control, it’s more of a long-term play for Chinese interests.  Beyond five years, it’s likely that Afghanistan will become a major exporter of lithium.
    The end of the US occupation of Afghanistan would usher in a new era.  It’s too bad that Biden surrendered American hegemony over Afghanistan.  The Taliban had been tamed.  They signed a peace treaty with Trump, which Biden would have inherited.  And with $85 billion in US war machines, helicopters, aircraft, and ammunition left by the withdrawing American forces, the Afghan army would be armed to the teeth. 
    The US lost big time in Afghanistan and it will bite the US in years to come.  As America leaves Afghanistan, the decline of American hegemony has begun.
    It’s interesting to note that Sen. Lindsey Graham told a stunned BBC reporter last September 7 “the US would reenter Afghanistan to stop al-Qaeda from growing.”  The shocked BBC reporter asked Graham “if he really believed that?”  “We’ll have to,” Graham said. “Because the threat will be so large.”
Here we go again!


Dissecting NEA


David March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- Should the National Electrification Administration under Presidential Decree 269 think with a corporate mind? This question was posed in an article that was written by none other but my cousin Abello Kollin Fernando, Ph.D., a professor of economics, rural development, management and development of cooperatives which is the hottest and electrifying issue today, considering the disturbance at the Benguet Electric Cooperative compound.
    I give a “thumbs up” to the insights cited by Insan Bello in his article which I am sharing with our readers in this opinion space. Dr. Fernando had organized and trained cooperatives for the last 30 years and presently heads the CCDC Credit Cooperative as board chair and I am confident that many would agree with him after reading his article.
For lack of space, I edited portions of it. Here it goes:
    I would like to look at the issue of the endorsement of the General Manager of Beneco from a corporate management perspective and set aside politics. 
    Electric cooperatives are highly technical. The nature of this industry is in the distribution of electricity which requires 24-hour services to cater to the needs of consumer-members. Therefore, management skills are not enough to run this field, as it should be coupled with high technical skills with lengthy experience in electric distribution.
    In the recruitment, screening alone in the corporate world, documents submitted by the applicants must be complete. If one applicant did not submit the pertinent documents to prove that he or she is worth to be recruited, the application is set aside or disqualified outright and other applications with complete documents are continued to be processed.
    This was where the NEA’s Board of Administrators (BOA) committed an error. Considering that the needed document is the 5-year experience of working in a successful electric cooperative, (watch the Baguio City Council, this was a question by Hon. Councilor Lulu Tabanda) this should have been given big points and importance since we are screening for general manager (GM) for an electric cooperative. This requirement is very crucial because the life of the EC depends on the experience of an applicant.
    Set aside recommendations from politicians and high-ranking officials. This reminded me of one who just passed the Electrical Board Exam in the late 1950s. As a young engineer, he immediately filed an application to the National Power Corporation with the ongoing construction of Ambuclao Dam in Bokod. He submitted his documents but during the screening and processing of his papers, the manager noticed one document – an endorsement coming from someone.
    Take note that most of the managers at that time were Americans. The American manager said: “Why do you need an endorsement? Is he a labor lawyer? Why? Can you not stand on your own?” To further explain that, you have to stand on your own and present yourself based on your qualifications.
    After all, the one that endorses you is not the one who will work in the company. What I’m saying is, this should be the mindset of every HRD, or for that matter, the NEA-BOA in the processing of the application and disqualify outright the other applicants with incomplete documents and not to be influenced by anybody.
    Emotional Intelligence (EQ). One factor that caught my attention is the result of their emotional intelligence exams. What is EQ? Why is it important in management? Why is it important in the recruitment, selection, and hiring of applicants? Emotional intelligence or EI/EQ is the ability to “understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you,” according to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist renowned as the Godfather of EQ.
    Why is EQ important? It is important because leaders should work well with others. The EQ can foster individual, team and organizational success. When we are in touch with our emotions we have a choice. We are able to take control of our emotions and our actions, rather than letting our emotions control us. Furthermore, Daniel Goleman emphasizes that 80%-90% of the competencies that differentiate top performers are in the domain of emotional intelligence.
    To sum it up: IQ + EQ = Success. A corporate man will give emphasis on this because he wants success. What is glaring is the recommendation from the University of the Philippines (UP) experts that one candidate is not recommended for GM. If only the NEA-BOA are corporate people, the one that passed the EQ exam should have been the basis for the endorsement of the most qualified applicant. What is the point of taking an examination if you will just set aside and base your endorsement on the final interview?
    Interview as I said, is subjective because the questions asked by the different members of the NEA-BOA vary, so that they require different answers, while the examination is objective because your score is your score. In fact, most of their answers might be opinions or ideas that are not substantiated by way of research or study. Examination, coupled with experience is still the best way to measure the total package of the applicant.
    The final interview may just be a confirmation of who will be endorsed and tell honestly to the other applicant that s/he did not make it based on their initial interview, qualification, performance, experience, and the result of their examination. If the NEA-BOA has a corporate mind, the right choice for Beneco GM is Engr. Melchor S. Licoben.
It's time to abolish NEA, if not, change the members of the NEA-BOA to corporate people who have extensive knowledge and experience about industry operation so they can endorse the most qualified and competent applicants for GMs in any EC. - Abello K. Fernando 


Baguio Covid-19 deaths now 1 to 2 deaths per day


Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- The city management committee (MANCOM) led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong in its recent weekly meeting tackled Covid-19 developments and countermeasures being carried out to address the current spike in cases believed to be caused by the Delta variant.
    City Health Services Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo reported that the number of active cases has doubled in the last two weeks with an average of 1-2 deaths per day.
    The city posted a single day high number of cases at 205 last Sept. 5.  Its highest on record was 227 logged on April 2, 2021.
    Positivity rate hiked in the last four weeks from 7.4 percent in the first week of August to 14.04 percent in the first week of this month.  In the past two weeks, it was pegged at 15.77 percent.
    The city's risk classification has been elevated to Alert Level 4 or high to critical level because of its increased Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR), Two-Week Growth Rate (TWGR) and Critical Care Utilization Rate (CCUR).
Mayor Magalong said this was not surprising as they had anticipated the surge to happen because of the Delta variant.
     As a response, the city is carrying out the following measures:
    *Addressing the overwhelmed health care system by increasing and upgrading stepdown and isolation facilities, allowing home isolation for specific patients and augmenting manpower of hospitals;
    *Continuing active case detection.  Barangay Health Emergency Teams (BHERTs) to locate and monitor symptomatic patients;
    *Continuing genome sequencing and securing samples from priority areas;
    *Sustaining aggressive community testing and antigen testing in areas with Delta cases. The average daily tests done for the last two weeks was 679.  It has done a total of 239,354 tests and has tested 150,074 individuals or 40.07 percent of the population.
    The city also set up fixed testing sites at the Baguio Convention Center and the different district health centers exclusively for close contacts of positive cases, whether symptomatic or not.  Those who have access to private vehicles can drive by to have themselves tested.  But home swab tests will continue to be done for close contacts who have mobility issues or have no access to private transport.
    *Sustaining quality of treatment by immediately adding or converting ICU beds and equipment and prioritizing active cases. Hospitals in the city have stopped accepting non-Covid-19 and elective surgery cases and expressed willingness to expand if not for lack of manpower.  The city stepped in by hiring 30 nurses to be assigned to them.
    City also upgraded its stepdown facilities to accommodate moderate but stable patients.  It had sought the assistance of the Baguio-Benguet Medical Society and other specialty groups to help in the management of patients.
    *On its vaccination efforts, the city is now working on reprioritizing vaccine deployment to hasten vaccination in areas with increasing cases.
    As a proactive measure against the Delta variant, the city readied a contingency plan using the Dept. of Health's Four-Door Strategy where controls are put into place at the point of origin through travel bans and restrictions; at points of entry through screening, quarantine and testing; at points of care by implementing the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate strategy; and management of an epidemic surge through strict community health protocols.
More than 160 contact tracers underwent training last Sept. 8 to enhance their skills and capacity amid the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the city.
    Mayor Magalong emphasized the need for contact tracers to step up and respond to the call for more efficient and effective contact tracing efforts to help save lives amid the raging pandemic.
    The participants were the 70 newly hired and rehired contact tracers from the Dept. of Interior and Local Government and augmentation personnel from the Baguio City Police Office, Philippine Military Academy and partner business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.
    The training consisted of three modules facilitated by members of the city’s lead contact tracing teams.
    Module 1 facilitated by City Epidemiologist Dr. Donna Panes of the City Health Services Office centered on the rudiments of the Covid-19 while module 2 dealt on the retooled contact tracing system as discussed by data analyst Mischelle Junio.
    Module 3 tackled the contact tracing processes as follows: legal aspects of contact tracing by City Mayor’s Office Executive Asst. IV Althea Alberto; Case Investigation Form by Medical Technologist II Ruby Magsino of the CHSO; the contact tracing process flow; EndCov Tracker and Analytical Tools by data analysts Jefferson Damoslog and Shanry Roberts; isolation process by Dr. Alice Torres of CHSO and decontamination and management of the dead.


What should we eat to avoid heart disease?


Victor Romulo Gallardo Dumaguing, MD

Plant-based foods should dominate heart healthy diets, according to a paper published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1 This comprehensive review of research on food and heart disease provides updated evidence on how much, and how often, each item can be safely consumed.
    “There is no indication that any food is poison in terms of cardiovascular risk. It’s a matter of quantity and frequency of consumption,” said study author Professor Gabriele Riccardi of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. “A mistake we made in the past was to consider one dietary component the enemy and the only thing we had to change. Instead, we need to look at diets as a whole and if we reduce the amount of one food, it is important to choose a healthy replacement.”
    Overall for healthy adults, low consumption of salt and foods of animal origin, and increased intake of plant-based foods – including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts – are linked with reduced risk of atherosclerosis. The same applies to replacing butter and other animal fats with non-tropical vegetable fats such as olive oil.
    New evidence differentiates processed and red meat – both associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease – from poultry, which shows no relationship at moderate intakes (up to three servings of 100 g per week). Red meat (i.e. beef, pork, lamb) should be limited to two servings of 100 g per week, and processed meat (i.e. bacon, sausages, salami) limited to occasional use.
    Legumes (up to four servings of 180 g per week) are the recommended protein replacement for red meat. Moderate fish consumption (two to four servings of 150 g per week) is also supported by the latest evidence for prevention of heart disease, although there might be sustainability concerns. Poultry may be a suitable protein alternative to red meat, but in moderate amounts.
    As for fruits and vegetables, given their strong association with a lower risk of atherosclerosis, daily consumption should be increased to as much as 400 g for each. Regarding nuts, a handful (around 30 g) per day is recommended.
    For the healthy population, recent evidence does not support a requirement to use low-fat, instead of full-fat, dairy products to prevent heart disease. Rather, both full-fat and low-fat dairy products, in moderate amounts and in the context of a balanced diet, are not associated with increased risk.
    “Small quantities of cheese (three servings of 50 g per week) and regular yogurt consumption (200 g per day) are even linked with a protective effect due to the fact that they are fermented,” said Professor Riccardi. “We now understand that gut bacteria play a major role in influencing cardiovascular risk. Fermented dairy products contain good bacteria which promote health.”
    With respect to cereals, novel advice is given according to the glycaemic index (GI), where high GI foods raise blood sugar more quickly than low GI foods. High GI foods (i.e. white bread, white rice) are associated with an elevated atherosclerosis risk; therefore, consumption should be limited to two servings per week and they should otherwise be replaced with whole grain foods (i.e. bread, rice, oat, barley) and low GI foods (i.e. pasta, parboiled rice, corn tortilla).
    As for beverages, coffee and tea (up to three cups daily) are associated with reduced cardiovascular risk.
    Soft drinks, including low-calorie options, are linked with higher risk and should be replaced with water except on limited occasions. Moderate alcohol consumption (wine: up to two glasses per day in men and one glass in women; or one can of beer) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease compared to higher amounts or abstinence. But Professor Riccardi said: “Considering the overall impact of alcohol on health, this evidence should be interpreted as the maximal allowed intake rather than a recommended amount.” 
    Regarding chocolate, the available evidence allows up to 10 g of DARK chocolate per day. The authors state that “for this amount of consumption the beneficial effects exceed the risk of weight gain and its related harmful consequences on cardiovascular health”.
    Professor Riccardi noted that eating should be enjoyable to motivate healthy people to make long-term changes. He said: “We need to rediscover culinary traditions such as the Mediterranean diet which has delicious recipes using beans, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.” Bon apetit!
    Next Week: Is One Coffee Better than the Others?


Taking advantage of our sorrows


Fr. Roy Cimagala

SINCE sorrows are unavoidable in our life, we should know how to deal with it properly, even taking advantage of it, for it indeed can help us attain our ultimate goal in life, which is our own salvation, our own redemption.
    In this we have to look closely at Christ who shows us the way of how to handle our sorrows. And greatly helping us in this regard is the Blessed Virgin who is our Mother and who is regarded also as Our Lady of Sorrows, whose memorial we celebrate on September 15. She shows us how to grieve and to deal with all sorts of suffering in our life.
    We have to learn how to handle these predicaments. And the first thing to do is to develop a spiritual attitude and supernatural outlook in life, based on our faith in God that has to grow stronger everyday. That faith, of course, has to give rise to hope and be nourished by charity.
    These are the most important aspects or dimensions in our life, and we should try our best that we become adept in handling them. They are the ones that give life and meaning to all the other aspects in our life—personal, family, social, professional, etc.
    The celebration of the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows again brings to our mind the phenomenon of our suffering, pains and sorrows in life. What’s distinctive of this celebration is that it reminds us that all these worldly sorrows have a religious foundation, have a relation to God.
    Our predicament today is that our attitude towards this unavoidable element in our life is taken out of its fundamental context of faith and religion. We just look at it in a purely human and natural way. We just look for the human and natural causes as well as for their human and natural solutions or remedies.
    I think this is wrong, or at least, is quite handicapped. We would not be fathoming enough the enormity and richness of the nature and purpose of our sorrows in life if we fail to bring in the basic inputs of our Christian faith.
    Thus, we often exaggerate or worsen our sufferings, as we fail to know their ultimate whys and wherefores. Thus, we often would not know how to suffer them, since we merely rely on our physical, emotional or psychological stamina, or some external material resources like drugs. The spiritual and supernatural way is not resorted to.
    Worse, we often don’t realize that our pains and sorrows in life, irrespective of their causes and effects, are a rich material for our final redemption. In fact, many people’s idea of redemption is strictly earth and time-bound. Nothing spiritual or supernatural about it! Hardly any reference to our sin is done.
    It would be good if we adapt the attitude of our Lady of Sorrows towards our problems in life. Certainly, meditating on the passion and death of Christ in a regular way would help a lot in developing that attitude.
    That attitude brings our understanding and experience of sorrow to another level—deeper, more comprehensive, more integrated.
    For example, it helps us mediate the complicated interplay of the requirements of truth and freedom, and of charity, patience, mercy on the one hand, and as strict a justice on the other, etc.
    With faith and with our Lady of Sorrows we can take advantage of sorrows so that through them we can gain eternal life.


Breaking Point

by Klaus Döring

I got my first breaking point as a German expatriate in the Philippines as a result of culture shocks. This was a long time ago and very much different from today's situation.  Meanwhile I have been living here smooth and sound for several years.
    Time changed. We all continue to suffer from the previous pandemic and the restrictions in our daily lives. Many friends, colleagues and neighbors I talked with are reaching the breaking point.
    They are  experiencing mood changes. Indeed, the emotional effects of stress can have a serious impact on your day-to-day mood and mental health. Firstly, you may find that you’re feeling more irritated or pessimistic than usual. This mood change can then begin to affect your motivation to work, socialise with your loved ones or complete the things on your to-do list. If left unchecked, these feelings can threaten to completely overwhelm you, leaving you feeling apathetic, depressed, frustrated, panicky or trapped.
    Many are having trouble sleeping. If you’re going through a stressful period in your life, you may have noticed just how difficult it can be to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. For instance, you may find it hard to fall or stay asleep at night. You may also have trouble getting up in the morning. A lack of proper sleep can leave you exhausted during the day which often leads to increased caffeine consumption which further exacerbates the issue. If left unmanaged, you may start feeling like you never have the energy for anything and soon reach an emotional breaking point.
    A lot of people around me can’t seem to focus or concentrate properly. If you’re battling to concentrate, keep focused or remember certain things, this is a good indication that you’re feeling the effects of anxiety. These changes in thinking and memory (also known as “brain fog”) can occur when you’re trying to manage several stressful situations at once, which can make you confused and forgetful. These situations may include demanding jobs or emotionally-taxing tasks. Unregulated emotional exhaustion can really impact your attention, executive functioning (organising and planning), and memory.
    A lot of people are expressing  difficulty with personal relationships. You’ll often notice emotional exhaustion from prolonged stress manifesting in your relationship and your capacity to connect with your family on a meaningful emotional level. You may find yourself picking fights over small things, feeling angry at or unsatisfied with your partner or being overly judgemental. Tension in your close relationships can cause you to feel anxious, detached, and withdrawn which can make it difficult to ask for emotional support when you need it or be there for those you love.
    Low self-esteem is being reported a lot these days. If lately you’ve found your mind overwhelmed with negative thoughts, you’ve probably also noticed their impact on how you view yourself. Perhaps you’re feeling more cynical and hopeless than usual? Or maybe you’ve lacked confidence in situations where you would normally speak up. At times, you may even have found yourself wondering if what you’re doing even matters anymore. It is important to recognise these changes. If left unchecked, these feelings may progress into symptoms of depression.
    To stay in balance you need to turn these behaviors around. The smallest changes make a difference, but pay attention to changes that aren't so small, like getting enough sleep (without drugs), dealing with your anger and anxiety before they erupt, moving around during the day, making time to play, eating sensibly and simply being with yourself.
    Especially during the pandemic, I learned that prevention is the best medicine. Reaching your breaking point means that you've crossed into the red zone, from which it's hard to return. You won't get to your red zone if you apply the habits of self-care I've just listed. The choice is really yours. Medical research has abundantly validated that being in balance is the healthiest way to live. Spend the next two weeks getting back into balance. You'll be amazed and pleased with the results. I adopted a certain "Bahala-na"-emotion especially when it comes to "bad news". I enjoy playing my piano and listening to wonderful relaxing music. I enjoy staying together with my family. I talked to God... . or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit my or .


Sept 19-25, 2021, Northern Philippine Times

>> Monday, September 20, 2021




Cordillera active Covid- 19 cases breach 6K-mark

By Liza Agoot

BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera Administrative Region active Covid-19 cases breached the 6,000-mark after 733 new infections were reported on Friday.
    The Dept. of Health Cordillera said this was alarming, saying the region has 6,089 active cases with 670 from Abra; 1,092 from Apayao; 1,922 from Baguio City; 1,169 from Benguet; 367 from Ifugao; 663 from Kalinga; and 206 from Mountain Province.
Aside from the 733 new Covid-19 cases, the region also recorded 185 recoveries on the same day.
    The spike in cases in the region was noted after reports of several patients found to be infected with the Covid-19 Delta variant, which is more highly transmissible.
As of Sept. 5, the DOH-CAR recorded 25 Delta variant cases in the region. The last eight cases were recorded on Aug. 28.
    On Aug. 10, the region's active cases were only 1,374 which doubled in more than 15 days with a total of 2,860 active cases on Aug. 26.
    The number of active cases has placed the region's health care utilization rate (HCUR) at critical risk with an average of 90.83 percent.
    Based on the DOH data, of the 6,089 active cases, 2,652 are asymptomatic; 3,115 with mild symptoms; 186 are moderate; six severe; 44 critical, and 86 are for verification.
    Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, assistant regional director of the DOH-CAR and the spokesperson of the agency, reiterated her call for the public to strictly observe the minimum public health standards and to get the Covid-19 jab.
    She advised the residents to stay home and to continue observing safety precautions even in their homes with clustering of cases being recorded among family and household members. -- PNA


Baguio Council offices closed; 12 get Covid-19

VACCINATION QUEUE. Residents wait for their turn to get their Covid-19 shot at a vaccination site in Baguio City in this undated photo. Mayor Benjamin Magalong said about 70 or 80 percent of the city's eligible population are expected to be vaccinated by yearend. PNA file photo

BAGUIO CITY – All offices of the city councilors, the session hall, and some support offices of the City Council were placed under a four-day lockdown starting Tuesday, after 12 personnel contracted Covid-19.“I ordered a lockdown until Friday to give way to disinfection of the offices,” 
    Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said Tuesday.Olowan said closed offices have adapted alternative work arrangements for their personnel while some offices have maintained a skeleton workforce to ensure continued operations.
    Personnel is on a work from home arrangement so they are expected to have an output even if they are not at City Hall,” he said.
    Olowan said the disinfection will last until the weekend and they hope to resume the session of the legislative branch on Sept. 20.
    But it will depend on the situation. We will see,” he said.
    Olowan, meanwhile, said offices of the councilors that logged Covid-19 infections will remain on lockdown for 14 days while offices without cases will physically open on Sept. 20.
    He said the council has been maintaining a workforce capacity of 30 percent to avoid congestion in offices. -- Liza Agoot/PNA


Bontoc folks hit illegal sand, gravel extraction along Chico River

Heavy machines extract gravel and sand along the Chico River in Bontoc, Mountain Province

By Gina Dizon

BONTOC Mountain Province -- Some 50 residents here at Barangay Eyeb petitioned the Provincial Environment Natural Resources Office here to stop illegal sand and gravel extraction along the Chico River by some private persons. 
Following this, barangay chairperson Evelyn Padong of purok Eyeb and chairman Joseph Toyokan of Barangay Samoki were asked by the ENRO to provide names of persons who are illegally extracting and stockpiling sand and gravel along the Chico River within their jurisdiction so these would be issued stoppage orders following a meeting by the Provincial Natural Waterways Clearing Task Force.
    Illegal extraction activities near the Chico Karayan Jumbo Bridge are being done on both sides of the river near barangays Samoki and Eyeb.
    Samoki and Eyeb is where the Jumbo bridge is located which links the two barangays and connects the Bontoc- Banaue Road.
    In their petition letter forwarded to officer in charge Sabas Gayadon of the provincial ENRO, petitioning residents said reclamation activities “impedes the flow of water endangering the lives and properties of people beside the Chico River”.
    Stockpiled sand and gravel “cause the diversion of the river water flow to one side of the river,” petitioners stated. “This causes grave concern among residents specially so when the water swells endangering the residential areas therein.” Reclamation and stockpiling of sand and gravel had been going here for quite some time along the Chico River.
    Extraction activities herein had been reportedly attributed to the weakening of the columnar posts of the jumbo bridge and led to the construction of a new one three years ago.
    The old jumbo bridge was temporarily closed following the onslaught of typhoon Lawin in 2016. The newly constructed bridge was opened last year.
    Environmental studies note that “excessive instream sand mining is a threat to bridges, river banks and nearby structures. Sand mining also affects the adjoining groundwater system and the uses that local people make of the river.”
    Despite laws which provide for the non-extraction of sand and gravel near public structures however, illegal activities have been unabated .
    The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 provides that “no extraction, removal and or disposition of materials, shall be allowed within a distance of one kilometer from boundaries of reservoirs established for public water supply, archaeological and historical sites or any public or private works or structures, unless the prior clearance of the government agency concerned or owner is obtained.”
    Mountain Province provincial ordinance No 101 series of 2010 provides that “no person, corporation, partnership of local government unit may extract sand and gravel and any quarry resources from any public, land or public waters without first securing a quarry permit from the Provincial Governor and no extraction or quarrying shall be done within 100 meters from any public work
Illegal structures built within the easement of the Chico River are also a concern of local folks.
    Owners of structures within the easement were given 30 days by said task force to dismantle their structures two years ago.
    To date, structures are still visible within the easement area.
    It was learned that structure owners near the stockpiling sites have allegedly sold or rented said sites to contractors.
    Provincial ordinance 314 series of 2018 provides “every person who shall extract sand and gravel and quarry resources shall secure a permit from the provincial governor and any persons who violate any of the provisions of this ordinance or the rules and regulations shall upon conviction, be punished by not less than P1,000 nor more than P5,000 or imprisonment of not less than 1 month nor more than 6 months or both at the discretion of the court.”.
    Despite violations of said laws, no person had been charged nor fined of illegal extraction of sand and gravel along the Chico River or for building illegal structures along the river. 


7 'tired, weary' NPA rebs yield

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- Seven members of the communist New People's Army (NPA) surrendered to government forces, according to a report from the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines released on Thursday.
    Maj. Israel Galorio, NolCom public information office chief, said the NPA rebels narrated they are tired and weary from fighting the government forces, and also surrendered high-powered firearms such as five M16 rifles, an M653 rifle and an M14 rifle. They also yielded other war materiel.
    "The rebels are already tired and weary of fighting the government forces who are relentless in their focused military operations," Galorio said.
    Galorio said 633 NPA rebels have already surrendered in Northern and Central Luzon and turned over 259 firearms since Jan. 1, 2021.
    "These are apart from the 780 party members of the different NPA-affiliated mass organizations who withdrew their support from the terrorist group," Galorio added.
    Based in Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu town in Isabela province, Maj. Gen. Laurence Mina, Army's Fifth Infantry Division commander, said government forces will be relentless in performing various military operations and community support programs to encourage more rebels to give up their armed struggle.
    "We will not rest until this decades-long security problem is concluded," Mina said.
    NolCom chief Lt. Gen.Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. lauded the troops responsible for the recent accomplishment, saying their recent feat is a clear indication of their efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of their mandate to win peace and end NPA atrocities in Northern Luzon.
    Burgos noted with a rate of three NPA rebels returning to the government fold with a firearm every day, the NPA's complete decimation in Northern Luzon is within reach
    Galorio said the seven surrenderers will be assisted by government troops and other government agencies to avail the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program before bringing them back into mainstream society. – Leander C. Domingo


'Collapse' of Benguet's health care infra feared

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Local officials and health authorities aired possible "collapse" of the province's health care system because of alarming increase of Covid-19 cases even as cases of the more infectious Delta variant were bared.
    Gov. Melchor Diclas said the Benguet General Hospital started using tents within the hospital compound to accommodate rising number of Covid-19 patients being admitted by the hospital daily.
    He added five district hospitals and temporary treatment and monitoring facilities in the province reached maximum capacity, the reason why asymptomatic and mild patients are now being considered for home isolation if their residences qualify.
    The governor said the provincial government is hiring 10 new medical officers to replace the eight doctors of the BeGH who refused to renew their contracts to serve the hospital.
    According to Diclas, there is a need to restrict movement of people inside and outside the province to help in containing the spread of the deadly virus, especially now Benguet had already recorded 10 Delta variant cases.
    While he said it is true being confined in tents might inconvenience patients who will be temporarily housed in the same, the governor said the BeGH administration has to take the option rather than deny patients from being treated in the hospital.
    The BeGH is a 150-bed secondary hospital managed and operated by the provincial government which serves as primary healthcare facility operational in the province.
    The five district hospitals being managed by the provincial government are Northern Benguet District Hospital in Buguias, Atok District Hospital in Atok,  Kapangan Community Medicare Center in Kapangan, Itogon District Hospital in Itogon and Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital in Bokod.
    Diclas, a physician by profession, urged health workers to continue their dedication and passion to render service to the people of Benguet and for them to hold on amid the difficult situation they are experiencing in the ongoing battle against the deadly virus.


NCIP, IPs okay big 150- mw Apayao hydro dam

KABUGAO, Apayao -- The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has green-lighted the development of the 150-megawatt (MW) Gened-1 renewable hydro power project in Apayao after a series of deliberations and consultations with indigenous peoples and traditional communities.
In its meeting on August 13, the NCIP en banc resolved to grant Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corp. Certificate of Precondition (CP) to develop the renewable hydro power plant.
    "We are pleased to receive the Certificate of Precondition from the NCIP. This reaffirms the deliberate process that we took in ensuring that the GENED-1 project will proceed as planned while taking into account the concerns and welfare of the affected communities,”stated Allee Sun, President of Pan Pacific.
    Apayao Rep. Elias C. Bulut Jr. said, “This is a victory for our indigenous cultural communities whose collective decision to give their consent reflect their desire to see meaningful transformation in their community through the project.”
    Through the CP, the NCIP en banc recognized the 6-year Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for the Gened-1 hydro power project, in accordance with requirements of the IPRA Law or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997.
    By law, the FPIC process is needed to inform, consult, and seek approval from the elders of the Apayao IPs for the hydro power project as it will be built on ancestral grounds.
    The granting of the CP will allow Pan Pacific to proceed with the next step of securing licenses and permits for the hydro power project from government agencies and local government units.
    Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang said he supports Y’Apayaos and the Isnag IPs’ will “to develop their ancestral domain in the manner they see beneficial and sustainable to the community.”
    “As the Representative of the Lone District of the Province of Kalinga, I share with our sister province this unyielding belief in self-determination, in pursuing their own development without outside interference and to decide on the appropriate means in the utilization of their natural resources,” said Mangaoang, who is also the chairperson of the House committee on ndigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples.
    The 150-MW Gened-1 hydro power project will pose tremendous growth and benefits for the Y’Apayaos and their IPs as it will provide them with clean, renewable and dependable energy for the development of their province, stakeholders said.
    The project is also expected to positively impact the lives of affected Y’Apayaos as they will be provided with grants and an option for relocation to areas where there will be regular electricity, essential infrastructures such as schools and hospitals, etc.
    The 150-MW Gened-1 project is expected to affect only 1% of the total land area of the Apayao province.    
    “Let us move forward as one Province, respectful of our differences yet united in our common aspirations to give our less privileged communities that chance at a better life," Bulut added.


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