LTFRB: Despite problems, PUV modernization full swing by 2020

>> Wednesday, February 26, 2020


BAGUIO CITY—Despite opposition from transport groups particularly PUV (public utility vehicle) operators, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in the Cordillera Administration Region (LTFRB-CAR) on Tuesday said implementation of the PUV modernization program in the country is now underway and will be on a full swing by 2020.
Lalaine Sobremonte, LTFRB-CAR officer-in-charge, said they are hoping for the various transport groups to file their intent to modernize before June 30, 2020, according to a report by the Philippine News Agency. “We have not received anyone yet for consolidation and we hope that they would conform before June 2020 which is the deadline,” Sobremonte said.
 Consolidation means individual PUV owners have to form an organization or cooperative with whom franchises will be named for an assured continued service benefiting the commuters, and not at the convenience of the single PUV owner.
It also intended to make the group accountable for the financing of the PUVMP-compliant vehicle, according to Sobremonte.
Based on the intent of the program, the PUVMP is not merely a vehicle modernization but a comprehensive system reform that will entirely change the public land transportation industry in the country.
It features a regulatory reform and sets new guidelines for the issuance of the franchise for road-based public transport services, focusing on roadworthiness and assured continued service to the commuters.
Sobremonte said PUV owners, who fail to comply with the requirements, will have to face the consequences.
“Transport groups who will not comply with the program will be given a probationary authority to operate which is good for one year if they can show a certification from LTO (Land Transportation Office) that their vehicles are roadworthy. However, their routes will be opened to any organization that can enter and apply for the route,” Sobremonte said.
Transport groups in the region said the proposed modern vehicle may not match up to the rugged terrain of the Cordillera, but then, the government is insisting on its so-called modernization program. There should be room on the part of government to iron out such problems.   


Nationalizing Benguet General Hospital

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – It is high time the national government takes over the Benguet General Hospital (BeGH) from the cudgels of the provincial government.
Over the years, we have seen the inefficiency of administration of the hospital. Recently, the mother of a baby patient complained to us she submitted her billing around 10 a.m. so they could check out from the hospital. Around 2:30 p.m., she was not yet given clearance to move out.
The one in charge at the billing section reportedly told the mother there were still a lot of papers ahead of her which needed to be finished.
The mother was complaining there were only at least three persons in the area who filed their papers so they could be given clearance to move out since it was a Saturday.
It was only when the one in charge was asked what really was the problem that she was given clearance.     
Over the years, since I live nearby, I could personally attest to the inefficient administration of the BeGH since I have myself checked up there once in a while like when my blood pressure shoots up or my liver complains due to a a drink too many.     
Sometimes, it takes an eternity for one to get attention for one’s ailment, reason why I go now to nearby private clinics or in Baguio to have myself checked up.
Owing to reported lack or inadequacy of personnel, patients have to endure long lines before they are checked up.
Like in the case of the mother, there was no pediatrician around when she had her kid admitted. A nurse just inserted a dextrose needle on the weak baby’s wrist who was crying pitifully and visibly in pain.  
The kid who was vomiting and had diarrhea needed immediate attention. But there was no doctor so she had to call a doctor she knew to go to the hospital to check her baby.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of patients about their bad experiences at the hospital. Some complained some staff were rude, although some doctors did their job efficiently.
The BeGH also lacks enough facilities like dialysis machines or those for eye operations unlike the Baguio General which is now getting patients all over Luzon due to its modernized facilities and systematic way of handling things.
Among other matters, the BeGH badly needs to be upgraded to be at par with world-class standards considering it is the nearest hospital which should be catering to Benguet and nearby provinces.
If this is done and the hospital placed under the national government, patients at the overcrowded BGHMC in Baguio could be decongested.
It is welcome news that Benguet’s province’s caretaker congressman Eric Go Yap said Thursday he has filed a bill reverting the BeGH to the national government’s control and increase its bed capacity from 200 to 400.
In filing the bill, Yap said he wants to improve the facility, as well as service with the staff receiving much better pay.
Yap said he is saddened with the low pay of nurses, whom he said, receive a Salary Grade (SG) 9 when they should be receiving at least SG 15.
An SG 9 employee gets P17,975 and an SG 15 gets P32,000 under the new salary grade scheme.
Yap said he has already talked with Gov. Melchor Diclas, a physician, who is amenable to his proposal. “Walang gustong gobernador na ibigay sa national government ang Benguet General Hospital, except Gov. Diclas (No Benguet governor wanted to have Benguet Gen nationalized),” said Yap, adding that the Dept. of Health also welcomes his proposal.
A PNA report by Pigeon Lobien said the BeGH was first opened to the public in 1971 under the supervision of the DOH.
In 1993, due to the passage of the Local Government Code in 1991, operation and management were devolved to the province. From a 50-bed hospital facility, the BeGH was made into a 200-bed capacity in 2000.
Yap was on a three-day stay here last week that included meetings with La Trinidad, Benguet-based Team Lakay whom he promised to give a gym of their own, check on the hospital and a meeting with the Dept. of Public Works and Highways on what projects must be implemented.
He met with the Dept. of Agriculture on how his office could help implement farm-to-market roads.
He will also meet with the mayors of the 13 municipalities, and the Police Regional Office-Cordillera to have a better look at what the province needs as its caretaker-congressman.


Trump calls Duterte’s bluff

Perry Diaz

Two weeks after reports that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened the U.S. that he will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, U.S. President Donald Trump reacted by saying he didn’t mind that the Philippine government terminated the agreement. “We’ll save a lot of money.  You know my views are different from other people.  I view it as, ‘Thank you very much, we’ll save a lot of money,’” he said.  After notification of the termination, VFA will end. 
Trump’s reaction is typical of his mindset about military alliances.  He believes that the U.S. has been giving away billions in military expenditures to its allies for not much in return.  He thinks it’s not good business.  A case in point is the 29-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which he says the U.S. is shouldering too much of the cost while the other member countries aren’t contributing much.  
He has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the alliance although he knows that it would weaken America’s standing as a world superpower.  But he doesn’t care about that.  All he cares about is money being spent to protect other nations.  He is an isolationist, thinking that the U.S. can stand on its own against anyone in the world. 
Of course nobody would agree with him.  But Trump the president is Trump the businessman whose track record of six bankruptcies involving five companies that went under speaks of his narrow-minded views of how to make deals.  He aims for short-term profit to save money at the expense of building long-term relationship and equity. 
Mutual Defense Treaty
Duterte is no different from Trump.  He, too, doesn’t look at long-term relationship and equity.  He transacts business to gain immediate profit regardless of the consequences.  In the case of the termination of VFA, he didn’t seem to have thought about the repercussions of severing the Philippines’ alliance with the U.S. 
It’s not just about stopping American forces from being deployed in Mindanao to help in the war on terrorism, it’s about a relationship where both countries benefit from each other’s strengths.  It’s like a relationship between two brothers where the older brother is stronger than the younger. 
 Their relationship is based on “mutual defense” where one brother will come to the aid of the other if attacked.  But in the case of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), it is designed for the U.S. to defend the Philippines from attack, not the other way around because the Philippines – with no warships and warplanes -- doesn’t have the means to come to the defense of the U.S. if attacked. 
But without the VFA, the MDT and two other agreements – the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) -- would most probably be junked. 
Simply put, getting out of VFA would make EDCA and MLSA virtually useless.  EDCA, after six years, remains inoperable since it has never been fully implemented.  MLSA is used to allow U.S. forces on training engagements to turn over military equipment and ammunition expeditiously to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).   But with VFA gone, that would also end the turnover of military equipment used in VFA training exercises.
As Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin had said, “Scrapping the VFA may also dilute U.S. commitment to other pacts, affect trade relations and make it more difficult for the Philippines to access millions of dollars in U.S. defense aid.”
With the termination of the VFA, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that the MDT would now be reduced to a mere paper treaty. 
“There’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more U.S. military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
“That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises,” he added.
War with China
 So, what will happen after the VFA is scrapped and China attacks the Philippines?  Since American forces will no longer be stationed or deployed to the Philippines, how would Duterte react if Chinese President Xi Jinping threatens again to go to war with the Philippines if Duterte wouldn’t accede to Xi’s demands to explore the Spratly Islands and the much larger and richer Benham Rise in the Philippine Sea?
 Lacson and two other senators filed a resolution asking Duterte to reconsider his plan to scrap the VFA. But Duterte has already made his final decision.  It’s unfortunate though that he based his decision to terminate the VFA on the U.S. government’s cancellation of the visa of former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, close personal friend, and now senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa. 
It seems like it was a knee-jerk reaction to a slight.  However, one has to look at Duterte’s hatred of the U.S. as the main reason why Duterte terminated the VFA. The visa issue seems like it’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back.  But by doing so, Duterte has achieved his desire to steer the Philippines to align strategically – and eventually, militarily -- with China before his term ends in 2022, which was what he’s been promising since taking office.
But the question is:  How would a Philippines aligned with China affect and impact the geopolitics of Asia -- specifically, Japan, South Korea, and Australia – who have all mutual defense treaties with the U.S.?
Satellite surveillance
It’s a known fact that a very important aspect of the U.S.’s defense alliances is information sharing among them.  Australia is the site of Pine Gap, the commonly used name for a U.S. satellite surveillance base located in central Australia, which is operated jointly by the U.S. and Australia. 
Officially known as Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap (JDFPG), it is partly run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).  It is a key contributor to NSA’s global interception effort.
Since the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the rise of the War on Terror in 2001, Pine Gap has seen a refocusing away from mere nuclear treaty monitoring and missile launch detection, to become a vital war-fighting base for US military forces.
One of the station's primary functions is to locate radio signals in the Eastern Hemisphere, with the collected information fed into the US drone program.  This was confirmed by an NSA document from 2013, which says that Pine Gap plays a key role in providing geolocation data for intelligence purposes, as well as for military operations, including air strikes. (Source: Wikipedia, “Pine Gap”)
The location is strategically significant because it controls U.S. spy satellites as they pass over one-third of the globe, including China, the Asian parts of Russia, and the Middle East.  In other words, once a missile is launched from any of these places, Pine Gap is instantly alerted and the missile is tracked, which provides the U.S. with valuable information to intercept it.
Since the Philippines is within the range of Pine Gap’s satellite surveillance, China’s seven bases in the artificial islands in the Spratly Archipelago are within reach of the U.S.’s cruise missiles deployed in the area and can strike any of the bases within 30 seconds. 
 While this would provide the Philippines with security umbrella, it is not enough to stop Chinese invasion.  However, it would certainly keep the Philippines safe from Chinese missile attack.  So, next time Xi threatens Duterte with war, Duterte can dare say, “Go ahead, bro. Make my day.”
At the end of the day, Duterte might have been sorry for threatening to scrap the VFA. Trump took it took as a bluff.  But Trump did not only take the bluff, he raised the ante. (


Robinsons, SM offer to develop Baguio market

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Robinsons Land Corporation and SM Prime Holdings Inc., two of the country’s leading real estate development companies, formally tendered their offers for the master redevelopment plan of the city market.
City officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Faustino Olowan witnessed the presentations of the general plans done for Robinsons by Bambie Andal last Feb. 14 and by Vice Pesident for Legal Ryan San Juan for SM last Feb. 17.
The mayor said the offers received will be evaluated by the city's Public-Private Partnership for the Public-Private Partnership for the People (P4) selection committee subject to PPP rules.
He emphasized that the city intends to speed up the process without resorting to shortcuts in the established procedures to ensure that only the best offer will be selected at the shortest time possible. 
He also reiterated that he will not tolerate bribery or ‘lagay’ system in the selection of projects.
According to the mayor, two more big companies have served intention to present proposals in the coming days for the multi-billion project aimed to modernize the public market supposedly the city’s show window.
The mayor said the city’s topmost consideration in the deal will be the interest of the existing vendors as he assured that the vendors’ cooperative will not be left out in the in PPP joint venture whichever company will be chosen.
  Recently a redevelopment plan was presented by the Technical Working Group headed by Coun. Mylen Yaranon, the architectural design of which was approved by the city council through Resolution No. 39-2020.
The said design was for a seven-storey structure including two underground floors to house the vendors with provisions for parking, sewage treatment plant, materials recovery facility and open space comprising 30 percent of the area for alleys and parks.
The city’s trading area should have been developed back in 1995 but the design-build-lease contract forged by the city government with the Uniwide Sales Realty And Resources Corporation was halted and held hostage for more than 20 years by lawsuits filed by opposing vendors’ groups.
Although the city and Uniwide won the cases, the project failed to take off due to Uniwide’s ensuing insolvency problem. 
The city government through the City Health Services Office will engage the private sector in expanding its health system in line with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.
CHS Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo said the UHC law includes a component on the Health Care Provider Network that enables local government unit to partner with private groups or companies on various health care ventures.
Under the UHC law, the network may be “a group of primary to tertiary care providers, whether public or private, offering people-centered and comprehensive care in an integrated and coordinated manner with the primary care provider acting as the navigator and coordinator of health care within the network.”
Galpo said the joint venture may be on diagnostics that include laboratory procedures such as x-ray and ultrasound; consultancy or medical service delivery of health professionals; and pharmacies to ensure that medicines are available and affordable.
This is in consonance with the provision of the UHC Act to make health system citywide and province-wide in contract to the present set-up where health centers are under the management of the municipalities or in case of the city, the barangays.
Galpo said the city’s Local Health Board has begun discussing ground preparations for the law’s implementation in the city with the Department of Health, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, PhilHealth, Baguio-Benguet Medical Society and other concerned government and private sector institutions.
Among the plans initially considered in the board meeting was the public-private partnerships to serve health centers in the city apart from the additional guidelines to emanate from the DOH, possible expansion of membership, the local investment plan for health and annual operational plan, referral system with BGHMC and the strengthening of primary care providers.
Last Feb. 17, city officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan received an unsolicited proposal from one private health care company offering a tie-up with the city government on the provision of diagnostic equipment and facilities for the city health office and health centers.
The proposal will be reviewed by the concerned offices.


Bad faith

March Fianza

            In an informal dialogue with Dr. Manuel Jaramilla, PhD., the new regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous People in the Cordillera, he gave the first impression of a religious personality as he pressed each one of us to put God first in whatever undertaking we do.
            I saw in him a simple man as the way he dressed was not sophisticated. Compared to others with “PhD” qualifications, he walked about in his maong pants and rubber shoes. To me, that means a lot.  
The conversation centered on concerns of indigenous cultural communities (ICCs), particularly the IPs of Baguio or the Ibaloys to which he said there are always solutions to every problem.
Any which way one goes toward a goal or takes several detours, a destination can always be reached. Believe that solutions to a problem can always be reached even by taking detours, he said.
Included in the IP concerns that the group discussed with him were about the IPMRs, organizing IPOs and that there are personalities in the agency who are themselves contributory to the problems. If that is the case, he said there is bad faith in the way work or actions are dispensed with.
Dr. Jaramilla did not promise anything but he showed determination in helping to resolve IP issues. We left the conference room with renewed faith, and hopeful that this time we can work together. That was something the Ibaloys in Baguio wanted to do in the past, but somehow did not.  
Everytime a new PNP chief is appointed, statements about closing illegal gambling operations are made. It is like a broken record that keeps playing back non-stop.
Days after assumption into office, PNP chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa ordered PNP heads to strictly obey a “no take” policy which all the more confuses the ordinary cop on the street.
The cop wonders why a “no take” policy and closing gambling operations is ordered at the same time. He knows that if gambling operations are closed, there is nothing to take.
Then there is the idea to meet officials from the PAGCOR and the Games and Amusement Boards to find out if the gambling operations at present are legal, as if they still do not know that.
Upon ordering an intensified operation against illegal gambling, his men immediately moved to destroy in front of cameras illegal video karera machines and fruit game machines in various spots of Manila.
 While the move that was shown live on news TV can convince the audience that the police are seriously obeying orders, that is nothing compared to the on-going operations of Jueteng, the biggest illegal gambling operations nationwide.
That is not being stopped and there is no mention about it from the PNP chief’s mouth. I am reminded that in 2017, Sen. Ping Lacson said, the PCSO is being cheated out of an estimated P50 billion a year in its Small Town Lottery (STL) operations.
Lacson who was then chair of the Senate Committee on Games and Amusement made the claim after PCSO officials reported that the PCSO generated only P6.4 billion from STL operations in 2016.
Sen. Lacson, a former chief of the PNP has been saying all the time that the uniform or vest and ID issued by PCSO to STL workers are used for guerrilla jueteng operations. In his words in 2017, Lacson said, “it’s happening on the ground and the police know that.”
I wonder if PNP chief Gamboa knows what his men on the ground know, as claimed by Sen. Lacson. If not, then that should be one of his agenda with the government offices in charge of gambling.
The jueteng collection of P50 billion a year or P50 million to P65 million daily according to the senator even appeared to be small based on the real situation on the ground.
With the recent raids against video karera operations that were shown on TV, people may have been convinced of Gamboa’s pronouncements to his men not to take bribes because there is nothing to take anyway since the gambling dens were closed.
 But what about reports of police officials receiving payola from jueteng operations that has not been stopped? Will there be a crackdown against jueteng hiding behind STL operations?
Under RA 9287, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies are duty-bound to enforce the law against jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling. Jueteng is not exempted from the anti-gambling operations of the PNP, even if that is “ordered” by President Duterte.
But if PNP chief Gamboa does not make any move, then there is bad faith in his previous pronouncements to fight against all forms of illegal gambling.


Guardians of God’s Heritage

Jun Malazo

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."  (Psalms 127:3, KJV)
Children are treasures from God.  The word heritage is the Hebrew word nachălâh
(pronounced nakh-al-aw’) which literally means inheritance or possession.  If you are a parent, you have been given a tremendous treasure from God—your children.  And as a parent you have been given the privilege to train “God’s heritage” to follow God’s purpose for his or her life.
My wife and I have been privileged to be the parents of five children ages 17 to 2.  Each one of them has unique personality traits, and we thank God for each one of them.  We recognize the awesome responsibility that we have to nurture them.  We recognize both our physical and spiritual responsibilities toward each one of them. 
Sadly, our society in general does not value children as we should.  I found an interesting article regrading family structures in the Philippines.  According to the ABS-CBN News article posted on September 25, 2008, there are up to six million children left behind by OFW (Overseas Foreign Workers) parents.  The author, Aries Rufo said, “The government should rethink its policy of promoting labor migration as a way of generating employment opportunity, as it strikes adversely into the very foundation of society, which is the family.”           
The article highlights Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF (United Nation Children’s Fund) deputy director for programs, and her address in the International Conference on Gender, Migration and Development which was held in Manila concerning the implications of parents leaving behind families to work overseas.  She adds that the absence of parents creates, “. . .displacement, disruptions and changes in care-giving arrangement.”  This creates a dynamic change in children’s upbringing with far-reaching negative implications.
While many would argue that having an OFW parent creates better livelihood and better educational opportunities for children, Tobin argues otherwise.  The article continues:
Tobin cited studies where it was found that “there is not much improvement in the lives of the families, the money being sent is just enough or sometimes hardly meet the demands and needs of the families left behind.”
It is true that there are economic benefits to working overseas.  But according to the article studies have shown that children do not see provision of these benefits as a form of care.
The article continues to say:
Labor migration of parents also skews the values of children as they view it only in terms of ‘money equivalent.’ With no proper guidance from the parents, the regular remittances lead to materialistic attitudes of children.
This not only creates a materialistic attitude, but it also harbors an unhealthy self-entitlement outlook of children which will not be good for their social development.  The article adds that, “Children of migrants are also vulnerable to abuse and violence with the parent’s absence.”
Additionally, Tobin closes by saying:
“The prevailing separation of one or both parents from their children definitely goes against the interest of the children. It is therefore imperative to determine how these remittances are utilized to find ways to increase the positive effect of remittances on these rights and promote their best use.”
This article gives us a sad but true picture of the devaluing of the importance of family unity in our society today.  Sadly, the children whom God has entrusted to parents suffer the most effect of the absence of parents.  Children need their parents to fulfill their God-given role.  Simply put, parents cannot fulfill this by being physically absent.  Just exactly what are these responsibilities?
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."  (Ephesians 6:4, KJV)
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  (Proverbs 22:6, KJV)
"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes."  (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, KJV)"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."  (Proverbs 13:24, KJV)
The above verses are plain and self-explanatory.  But more importantly, these roles cannot possibly be fulfilled by parents that are not physically present with their families.  Your role as a parent cannot be outsourced or fulfilled by proxy.  Nor can your physical guidance be replaced by your monthly remittances. 
Paul Chappell in his book entitled “Making Home Work In a Broken Society” said:
“As parents, we are to give attention to the upbringing of our children.  We are to shape their hearts, lives, and consciences.
As the guardians of God’s heritage, our job is not to change who God made our children to be, but to shape and direct their lives toward the purposes God has for them.  We are to provide protection that nurtures and develops them….so when the time comes…they have  a solid foundation and a straight direction.”
In closing, delinquent children are often a result of delinquent parenting or the complete lack thereof.  As guardians of God’s heritage we must treasure each of our children.  We are not here simply to make sure they have food, shelter, and clothing.  We are here to love and to develop them to become responsible adults who serve and love God.


ASF-affected hog raisers in Benguet get aid from gov't

LIVELIHOOD OPTION – Dept. of Agriculture in the Cordillera Administrative Region director Dr. Cameron Odsey (right) says Wednesday the government started releasing livelihood assistance to the 37 African swine fever-affected hog raisers in Benguet. The hog growers are still waiting for more support to allow them to recover from the effects of the ASF infestation. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)
By Liza Agoot  

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the provincial government of Benguet have started to release the livelihood assistance to the families affected by the de-population and culling operations as a result of the African swine fever (ASF) infestation that has reached Benguet Province.
DA in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR) executive director Cameron Odsey said Wednesday they have already released starter chicks for poultry production to the affected raisers.
Each hog grower received 200 chicks and a sack of feeds to start with while they are still reeling from the effects of the ASF infestation.
He said it is just one of the national government’s assistance because there will still be an indemnification fund that qualified raisers will receive from the DA.
Odsey said dialogues were held with the hog raisers following the depopulation and culling as poultry raising was identified as a stop-gap livelihood.
Upon testing positive for ASF, “de-population” of animals that go with the infected hogs are immediately killed to avoid the spread of the disease.
With the "1-7-10 protocol" in place, areas within a one-kilometer radius from where the infected hogs were discovered are culled, regardless of their condition.
The pigs found within the seven-kilometers radius are prohibited from being brought outside the area and they are subjected to regular blood testing. Meanwhile, those within a 10-kilometer radius are prohibited from being sold outside the area.
After culling, the area is cleaned daily for a month. Another month is devoted to sanitation, then a three-month rest period.
After the fifth month, a sentinel pig, aged 45 days, is placed in which blood is regularly tested for the presence of the ASF. If it survives without a showing of symptoms of ASF, the owner can resume swine raising activity.
Dr. Miriam Tiongan, Benguet provincial veterinary office chief, said the 37 affected hog raisers in the towns of Tuba, Itogon and La Trinidad got a total of 7,000 chicks and 12 heads of sheep as government aid.
She said the provincial government also released one sack of rice each to the affected raisers.
Tiongan said a total of 532 pigs were either killed or had died after being infected from the three pigs that tested positive for ASF.
Tiongan reiterated her call for residents to observe good animal-food raising practices and to buy only from places that are declared ASF-free. (PNA)


Parking building eyed for 1-K vehicles at city orchidarium

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The local government is studying the possibility of pursuing the proposed construction of a multi-level pay parking building within a portion of the orchidarium here at Burnham Park considering that it could accommodate more vehicles compared to the planned multi-level pay parking structure at the Ganza parking area.
The plan was presented by the Baguio City traffic management team as alternative to the proposed multi-level parking structure at Ganza parking area.
Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong tasked concerned offices of the local government to come out with a study on which of the two proposed sites of the planned multi-level parking structure will be feasible and advantageous to the city.
Earlier, a number of proponents submitted their proposals to construct the multi-level parking structures in the Ganza parking area which could accommodate more than 700 vehicles that will be equitably distributed in five to eight floors.
However, the proposed 3-storey multi-level pay parking structure within a portion of the orchidarium can accommodate over 1,000 vehicles at one time.
One of the 15-point collective agenda of the present administration is effective traffic management through the implementation of the strategic programs, projects and activities geared towards improving the current state of the worsening traffic congestion in the different parts of the city.
Among the strategic programs that have been identified by the local government to help solve the prevailing traffic congestion in most parts of the city include the put up of multi-level parking buildings in suitable areas in the city, the re-designing of the existing geometric designs of certain intersections in the city, the implementation of traffic experiments and the procurement and purchase of traffic lights that will be installed in identified choke points and the acquisition of the traffic simulation software that will help guide traffic experts in the formulation of new traffic schemes.
The local government is awaiting the comprehensive report of the team of traffic experts from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that came up to the city several months ago to study the traffic situation in the city to help policy makers and decision makers on what will be the interventions that will be put in place to ease the current traffic congestion in the different parts of the city, especially during weekends and peak tourism months.
The MMDA reportedly waived the P1.5 million cost of the study on the traffic situation in the city which will serve as its corporate social responsibility in the performance of its duties and responsibilities to help local governments address the traffic situation in their areas of jurisdiction.
One of the problems being encountered by the local government and traffic experts in addressing the prevailing traffic congestion around the city is the increasing volume of motor vehicles plying the city’s roads and streets daily.


Heart center for the north coming slated in Candon

CANDON CITY – This city is expected to have a new hospital to cater to patients soon: the Ilocos Sur Heart Center.
Ilocos Sur Second District Rep. Kristine Singson Meehan said the hospital, a satellite of the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC) in San Fernando City, will specialize in coronary diseases.
“It will be the heart center of the North,” Meehan said.
Although it will cater mainly to patients from the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Abra, its specialty will soon serve the whole Northern Luzon.
The two-story main building will house the 100-bed emergency room and an outpatient department, with a total cost of P61.61 million and P86.44 million, respectively.
There will also be a two-story Radiology Building, worth P28.96-million, in the center.
The ITRMC satellite hospital compound will also have its own rehabilitation building, dialysis building, administrative and records building, dietary building, and maintenance building.
Meehan said Candon’s strategic location will mean it can cater to those needing medical help from as far as Pangasinan and Ilocos Norte.
According to Meehan, the heart center is expected to be completed by December 2020 or January 2021. –


Gov’t to rid NPA rebels’ influence in barangays

By Mar T. Supnad

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur - The national government will focus on clearing barangays from insurgency in the country by implementing development programs in communities influenced or controlled by the New People’s Army.
Cabinet Sec. Karlo Alexei Nograles bared this during a press conference Feb. 2 at Hotel Luna in this city.
“When it comes to public service and development programs, the government will pour in development to the under threat barangays, which were identified as priority areas” Sec. Nograles told the media.
“Napag-usapan na namin yan sa gabinete, na-lay out na 'yong mga program na kailangang gawin at siyempre isa sa mga programang nakikita natin is to pour in development talaga doon sa mga areas. So doon sa mga na-identify na priority areas, which are mga barangays na under threat, 'yon ang ipa-prioritize natin. Na-present na sa Pangulo yung mga barangays na under threat at 'yon ang uunahin natin pagdating sa public service at development programs," he said. 
The national government will implement development programs such as farm-to-market roads, water systems, school buildings, health stations, livelihood programs and other programs that will be identified.
This is part of government’s campaign to end insurgency through Executive Order No. 70, which aimed to address root causes of insurgency through the Whole-of-Nation approach and creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Nograles said the “whole-of-nation” approach addresses the root cause of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, and other armed conflicts and threats by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity, and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.
“We assess that when Filipinos feel the positive impacts of the government programs, the affected barangays will become insurgency-free and we’re very happy to say that more and more areas are being free from the threat of local armed conflicts,” Nograles said.
Last Jan. 27, more than 100 villagers from various barangays in Ilocos Sur affected by local armed conflicts attended seminar and livelihood training conducted by the Philippine Army, Dept. of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Dept. of Agriculture and the provincial government and 17 of them, who are former members of the Militia ng Bayan, received cash benefits from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of DILG.


Ifugao leaders affirm opposition vs SN Aboitiz's hydropower complex

By Khim Abalos

LAGAWE, Ifugao — Leaders from different barangays of Lamut and Lagawe towns in Ifugao filed a resolution affirming the petitions opposing the SN Aboitiz's Alimit Hydro Electric Power Project before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR).
On Feb. 17, representatives from Barangays Dulao, Tupaya, and Banga of Lagawe town and Barangay Hapid of Lamut submitted the resolution signed by 137.
"Kaya kami pumunta rito sa NCIP ay upang isumite ang aming napagkaisahan sa assembly ng lahat ng petitioners mula sa iba't ibang barangay na maaapektuhan ng gagawing tunnels at diversion (We came here at the NCIP to submit what we agreed upon during the assembly of all petitioners from the different barangays to be affected by the diversion tunnel)," Benedict Tangid, one of the representatives from Ifugao said.
"Pasingkedanmi ti petisyon nga pinirmaanmi tapnu lappedan ti pannakaiyaramid ti Alimit Hydropower Complex iti uneg ti ancestral domains ti Lamut ken Lagawe iti probinsiya ti Ifugao," the resolution stated.
The signatories were referring to the petitions they submitted to NCIP-CAR on February 20 and December 16 last year. The petitions contained their concerns and statement of opposition to the SN Aboitiz's project.
In the resolution, the signatories said they agreed to reiterate opposition to the project after their assembly and forum on February 15 in Barangay Hapid, Lamut. Discussed during the gathering were the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) and the concerns about the project. Resource persons came from the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA), and NCIP Region 2.
The complainants noted that the indigenous peoples' organizations that entered an agreement with SN Aboitiz, together with the company and NCIP held dialogues with the affected barangays. They said that SN Aboitiz discussed the mitigation measures regarding the concerns they raised in their earlier petitions. However, the company failed to convince the petitioners.
They also submitted the proceedings of the February 15 assembly.
The projected power output of the Alimit Hydro Electric Power Complex is 390 megawatts. The facility is composed of a dam and reservoir with a powerhouse along the Alimit River. A weir will also divert water from the Ibulao River through a tunnel (Ibulao Diversion Tunnel) to the Alimit Reservoir for the Olilicon HEPP. A 25- year contract beginning on July 24, 2014, covers the project. The proponent can renew the agreement for another 25 years. --


PMA homecoming only for alumni, kin; media barred

BAGUIO CITY -- The alumni homecoming here at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will push through this weekend, but will be exclusive for its alumni and their immediate families.
Capt. Cheryl Tindog, PMA spokesperson, said members of the media would be barred from covering the event.
“This is part of of the academy’s precautionary measure against the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19)... We are limiting the crowd at Fort Del Pilar,” Tindog said.
Originally scheduled from Feb. 13 to 15, the PMA alumni homecoming was postponed due to the threat of the flu virus.
The Baguio City government also postponed major public gatherings, including the Panagbenga Festival, to ensure that the city remains free of COVID-19. 
PMA was closed to tourists also due to the flu virus.
Several towns in the Cordillera imposed a lockdown on tourists to prevent the spread of the acute respiratory disease.
Several other festivals were cancelled.


Mt Prov solon to Baguio media: Have credibility

>> Tuesday, February 25, 2020

By Dexter A See

BAGUIO CITY – Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Y. Dalog, Jr. urged the media to maintain their credibility saying this will allow them to effectively disseminate right information to the people on programs of government.
Dalog was guest of honor and speaker during the recent induction of the new set of officers of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) here at Camp John Hay clubhouse through sponsorship of the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB).
Dalog said being the repository of information, the media must appropriately inform and educate the public on programs, projects and activities of the government considering people deserve to be provided with right information for them to be guided in coming out with their own opinion on what is happening around them.
He expressed his gratitude to the new set of BCBC officers for inviting him to be their guest of honor and speaker and wished them the best of luck in their endeavor to help in providing the people with the right kind of information considering the emergence of the social media which seems to create confusion on the latest happenings in the different parts of the world.
Dalog congratulated the new set of BCBC officers and the media sector for taking the challenge of confronting the emerging threat to the Fourth Estate because it will be an enormous task ahead of them in trying to inculcate to the people the right information beneficial in molding a holistic society.
Dalog also congratulated the previous set of BCBC officers for confronting the emerging challenges of the sector which had been the reliable and credible source of information the past decades.
The BCBC is the oldest media organization in the city which had been serving as the unifying factor among different media organizations in Baguio and Benguet.
Dalog said one of the important characteristics that media personalities should possess is credibility because it will be the one that will chart the future of the media in this highly competitive industry as the mainstream media is now under threat by the social media with the use of various state-of-the-art platforms.
                The 41-year old lawmaker is the son of the late Mountain Province gov. and Rep. Maximo Dalog, Sr. who worked as an officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Mountain Province aside from being a practicing lawyer before he was elected as the province’s representative to the House of Representatives during the May 2019 synchronized local and national elections.
He assured his support to programs and projects of the media organization, especially in trainings for its members to improve their skills and update their knowledge on latest trends of the media in the global village.


2 more Benguet towns closed to tourists over COVID-19

KAPANGAN, Benguet -- Two more towns in Benguet were closed to tourists amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
The orders to lock down issued by the local governments of Bakun and Kapangan brought to nine the total number of municipalities in the Cordillera that have been closed to tourists since last week.
Bakun Mayor Bill Raymundo and Kapangan Mayor Manny Fermin issued the orders on Feb. 11 and 12, respectively, following advisories from Malacañang to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Police set up checkpoints to prevent tourists from entering the towns.
Bakun is known for its Kabunian and Nagasa caves.
Tourists flock to Kapangan for its scenic spots such as the Lumanoy, Longog and Bulalacao caves as well as Mt. Dakiwagen or the “Sta. Claus Mountain.”
Fermin said some 5,000 to 8,000 tourists flock to his town during peak season.


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