Sagada turns to gardening from tourism due to Covid

>> Friday, May 29, 2020

Gina Dizon 

SAGADA, Mountain Province – The dreaded Covid-19 pandemic has heavily hit the tourism industry of this town making residents turn to gardening the past two months of lockdown to tide things over.
Idle lots have been turned to busy gardens with local folks planting traditional crops like legumes, corn and rice while others planted tree seedlings like coffee, bamboo and citrus. Other popular veggies are bell pepper, cabbage and tomatoes.
Cleared gardens and rice fields could be seen in central Sagada and  outskirts of the town.
Geraldine Tauli, a retailer of fertilizers said she sold nearly 20 sacks of ‘complete’ NPK- nitrogen phosphorus potassium fertilizer March and April due to the gardening trend. “In the same months in previous years, only one sack of 'complete' fertilizer was purchased and that was bought by three to five gardeners.” One sack is equal to 50 kilograms. 
Buyers of Furadan, a worm killer in rice fields used also as pesticide for corn and other crops doubled with 100 packs sold the past three months, she added.
Tauli is one among three major fertilizer/pesticide retailers in the main town.
A few others are located in the outskirts of the municipality. Some farmers buy fertilizer in the capital town of Bontoc, a 45-minute ride from here. 
Even before the pandemic, resident farmers went into part time or full time gardening. Others who ventured into farming since start of the lockdown included some 900 tourist guides, 150 homestay owners, 50 souvenir shops owners, masseurs, resto and cafĂ© shop proprietors totaling 2,000 tourism service providers. Others were vendors among 3,300 households and an 8,000 voting population of this tourist town.
With no more tourists during this Covid pandemic lockdown, a number of tourism service providers went into gardening and other economic activities.
Mario, a tourist guide has time now to do gardening which he used to do before and which he stopped during the busy tourism days the past years.  He planted corn and soy beans on a 500 square meter patch of land his grandmother tended before having planted taro/gabi and bananas.
Beans and corn are traditional crops folks here plant during the first rainy days in March on to May in time for the harvest by July to August before rats come scurrying around. Those who are late in planting have to contend with rats who eat their plants if they don’t go with the viable months for planting.
Local folks did gardening then 12 months a year starting late months. Camote gardens were dug while gardens were readied for planting corn while beans were planted during the first rains in March on to April.  Harvest time is July and August.
Rice fields are planted around December and palay harvested by July and August. Such fields are turned into gardens and planted with camote or beans in time for harvest by November, planted with rice again by December and the cycle begins.
Gardens were planted with veggies and corn during Covid lockdown.
While the general rule during this Covid pandemic  is to stay home, farming was made an exception  by the Inter Agency Rask Force (IATF). The Department of Agriculture proposed this considering farming to produce food is an essential task.
Sagada, which is Covid-free, is basically an agricultural town with 85% farmers doubling as tourist service providers during its heavy tourism years in the ‘90s on to the years of 2000 until the Corona virus hit the world March this year.
Due to tourism, a number of residents has taken off from farming leaving their land idle while some hired resident laborers from Belwang, Sadanga and Baklingayan, Abra to till to their fields.   
While some did gardening full time, others were content with home gardening planting   beans, peas and pechay in pots.
Salt and Pepper resto proprietress Safe Pekas helps a group of organic pot gardeners encouraging them the use of the organic “bokashi” mixed with molasses to aid plants’ growth and flowering.
With pechay raised in abundance these months, this town will also have enough beans and corn by July to August.
Petchay still costs P40 per bundle. Veggies are plenty with some gardens planted with bell pepper and tomatoes left to rot since there are simply too many of these. 
There is a need for vegetables to be preserved like making these into  pickles.
Resto owner Aurea Claravall of Sagada Brew said many tomatoes and bell pepper she harvested from a friend’s garden were turned into  tomato sauce. She dried bell pepper for seasoning and veggie soup.
Jams and jellies are a major product of this tourist town mainly processed by Gabay’s and Masferre’s.
The downside of farming in this town is the use of chemicals by some farmers. Too, some traditional farmers make use of small doses of urea to make plants greener and more abundant. 
Some farmers though are into organic composting particularly Binaod farmers who encourage composting, green manuring  and use of organic pesticides.
“Conventional farming” makes use of chemical fertilizers including commercially bought pesticides sprayed aerially.
Meantime, with the pandemic having practically paralyzed mobility and economy, other households have gone into chicken raising with some having availed of the ‘sunshine’ free range chicks from the provincial government   
Clement Sokoken from the provincial office said he has delivered 1,000 chicks to Sagada groups last April. Some are still requesting for more chicks.
 Some women in tourism services went  into  home cooked food and sell these to neighbors and friends or sell veggies and fruits  while some young men went to construction work. 
Meantime,  many farmers registered with the  registry system for basic sectors in agriculture (RSBA) of the Department of Agriculture  are awaiting P25,000 loan per farmer- borrower under the  survival and recovery (SURE) loan assistance of the government agency  which aims to provide immediate relief to small farmers and fisherfolk.


No different from a colorum taxi

March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- No offense to news colleagues affected by the operation of ABS-CBN that stopped due to the expiration of its franchise. I absolutely sympathize with them that they are unable to broadcast via their main system. Although, I am confident there are a hundred other ways of reaching their audiences, particularly through internet and many other means. It is therefore wrong to say that press freedom was curtailed.
Like many others, I wanted to refrain from making comments but the topic about franchise renewal refused to die. I am for the continued operation of ABS-CBN or all other TV stations, but I also agree that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has a duty to stop companies with expired franchises from continuing to operate.
What I am not supportive of is when the current COVID-19 issue is used as an excuse for the continued operation of the giant TV station. Once a legislative franchise expires, a TV or radio station stops running. Otherwise, if that excuse is okay then government has to allow all other outfits to operate even without a franchise but because we are in a pandemic.  
The NTC is torn between two acts. If it just sits back and does nothing, then it allowed the TV station to continue operating without a renewed franchise and would be condemned. If it stops the network’s operation, just the same – it gets the flak. What I am puzzled about is why it has to issue a cease and desist order when ABS-CBN cannot continue airing anyway because its franchise already expired
The TV network repeatedly applied for the renewal of its legislative franchise since 2014 in the House of Representatives but the 16th, 17th, and 18th congresses failed to address the application.
Days after the CDO was issued by NTC, the ABS-CBN management through one of its top officials appealed for public support on another TV station. Who says freedom of the press was suppressed? That baffled me more. While the poor guy appealed for support, I thought the wealthy and powerful TV broadcast system should first reveal to the public what backing it did for its 11,000 employees (some say 4,500 or so). There was no announcement.
There are more than a dozen valid issues confronting the popular TV station from treatment of its employees, talents and contractual workers to irregularities in conducting business. In fairness, those cases have to be set aside and cannot be ventilated here for lack of background info. However, congress is prepared to discuss them properly prior to renewal or non-renewal of the franchise.
Setting aside TV or radio franchises, I explore another kind of franchise. It is the one issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for public utility motor vehicles. The two are differently acquired, have different applications but both are controlled by government and both have similar consequences in cases of misapplications.
For example, if a taxicab company’s franchise expired, it is mandatory for the concerned government agency to regulate and prevent a taxi unit from ferrying passengers without a new franchise. On the other hand, if the taxi owner submitted all the needed requirements and still does not get a new franchise, that is not his fault so that he might be forced to operate. That is called a colorum taxi operation.  
If the taxicab operator violated the use of its franchise prior to renewal, a case will have to be heard and cleared by the LTFRB. In case the public utility vehicle transported people without a franchise, got involved in a vehicular accident and its passengers were hurt if not killed; both the owner and the driver will suffer the consequences, and the LTFRB might be dragged into the case.
That can probably happen to television and radio networks. If they continue to operate without a renewed or new congressional franchise, they too can be called colorum TV and radio stations.
The release of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) second tranche of funds for the month of May by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is dependent on liquidation reports that have to be submitted by the LGUs. The LGUs would have to exert extra effort to complete the distribution of the SAP cash aid meant for the month of April.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) warned that barangay, municipal or city officials who fail to submit liquidation reports will be issued show cause orders (SCO). But what about if the delay in the distribution is caused by slow response by the DSWD?  
Some barangay officials in Baguio complained that they have yet to receive from the DSWD the list of the last batch of beneficiaries they submitted for approval. Without the list, they cannot summon the supposed SAP beneficiary in their barangay. That is why they cannot submit their liquidation report because they still have to distribute SAP cash aid to the last batch of recipients approved by DSWD.


Baguio gov’t sets rules for returning folks / Truck ban on

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY has beefed up its triage system to cater to returning residents and workers starting Friday.
The city opened its doors to stranded residents and workers residing in other areas under a set of strict health and safety rules which include the triage requirements to ensure immediate detection and management of potential Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-infected persons.
In a report to the City Management Committee on May 19, City Health Service Office Asst. Health Officer Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes said that to better manage the RBRS, a central triage had been set up at the St. Vincent gym along Naguilian Road composed of 11 sub-triages delineated based on the medical conditions of the entrants.
This is apart from the triages set up at the checkpoints or the various entrances to the city and those set up at the various hospitals.
City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) Head Dr. Donnabel Panes said these are part of the city's two-triage system adopted for RBRs.
Under the system, RBRs undergo initial triage at the checkpoints set up at the various entry points to the city and those with symptoms are escorted to the triages of hospitals of their choice while those without symptoms are directed to the St. Vincent central triage.
At the St. Vincent triage, the RBRs are managed according to their requirements. Those who require health certificates to return to work are asked to undergo x-ray for a P180 fee and those with lung problems are tested for Coronavirus disease.
Those who are not returning workers are managed based on decision matrices which include the status of their places of origin. If for instance they came from an area that is under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) status or with numerous cases, they will be required to undergo a 14-day home quarantine.
Brillantes said a pilot district triage was also put up at the Lucban health district to cater to residents in said area.
Mayor Magalong said Friday Ordinance No. 5 series of 2017 or the Truck Ban Ordinance is in full force and effect in the city.
The ordinance entitled “Regulating the Use of Streets in the City of Baguio by Heavy Equipment Vehicles, Trailers, Dump Trucks and other Freight Trucks (Six-Wheelers and Above) with Gross Weigh Capacity of 4,500 kilograms or more)...” will continue to be implemented even under the General Community Quarantine setting.
Under the measure, heavy equipment vehicles, trailers, dump trucks and other freight trucks with gross weight capacity of 4,500 kilograms or more are not allowed to enter, traverse, park, load, unload or pass through the streets or roads in the city from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 9 p.m. beginning from and within the following points:
Baguio City Police Office - Station 10 along Palispis-Aspiras Highway (formerly Marcos Highway); along Kennon Road - Junction of Loakan Road and Camp 7 Bridge; BCPO Community Precinct at Scout Barrio Barangay, Loakan Road; BCPO - Station 3 along Ambuclao Road, Pacdal Circle; City Limit, Bell Church, Km. 3, Halsema Highway; BCPO - Station 9 along Quirino Highway (formerly Naguilan Road); Asin Road beginning at the intersection of the circumferential road going to Sta. Lucia and Suello Village; and perimeter roads/line of the central business district as defined in Section 5 of Ordinance Numbered 01, Series of 2003 or the “Baguio City Number Coding Ordinance.”
 These vehicles however are not allowed to traverse roads within the main central business district from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Cargo delivery trucks are only allowed to unload or load dry and wet goods at the central business district area after 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting from the following:
BCPO Station 10 at Palispis-Aspiras Highway going towards the central business district and vice-versa; Camp 7 going up to the central business district and vice-versa, except when passing to Military Cut-Off going towards South Drive to Pacdal Circle and or to Loakan Road Section; Pacdal Circle going towards the central business district and vice-versa; main thoroughfares of Harrison Road, Session Road, Governor Pack Road to SM City Baguio and vice-versa; Bonifacio Street to Post Office and vice-versa; Harrison Road to Bonifacio Street intersection; Harrison Road to Magsaysay Road until city limit and vice-versa; Buhagan Road (formerly Bokawkan Road) - Harrison Road intersection to Abanao Street, Quirino Highway up via Buhagan Road – Magsaysay Avenue intersection and vice-versa; and from Quirino Highway towards Irisan intersection and vice-versa.
Heavy equipment vehicles, trailers, dump trucks, and other freight trucks covered will be allowed to traverse the following roads beyond 9 a.m. until 3:59 p.m. (window time) and will be allowed to use and traverse the following roads only after 9:01 p.m. until 6 a.m.:
Via Kennon Road
Those coming from or going to Halsema Highway will take Magsaysay Avenue, Buhagan Road, Kayang Extension, Legarda Road, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Kisad Road, or vice-versa while those coming from or going to Ambuclao Road shall take Pacdal Circle Park Road, South Drive, Military Cut-Off or vice-versa; or Pacdal Circle Park Road, South Drive, Loakan Road, or vice-versa.
Those coming from and or going to Itogon, Benguet, shall take Outlook Drive (behind The Mansion), South Drive, Military Cut-Off, or vice-versa or Outlook Drive (behind The Mansion), South Drive, Loakan Road or vice-versa and those coming from or going to Balatoc Mines and Philex Mines shall take Loakan Road.
 Those coming from or going to Halsema Highway shall take Magsaysay Avenue, Buhagan Road or vice-versa;
 Those coming from or going to Ambuclao Road shall take Pacdal Circle Park Road, South Drive, Military Cut-Off, Kayang Extension, Legarda Road, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Kisad Road, or vice-versa;
Those coming from and or going to Itogon, Benguet, shall take Outlook Drive (behind The Mansion), South Drive, Military Cut-Off, Kayang Extension, Legarda Road, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Kisad Road, or vice-versa; and those coming from or going to Balatoc Mines and Philex Mines shall take Loakan Road, Military Cut-Off, Kayang Extension, Legarda, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Kisad Road, or vice-versa.
Vehicles coming from Benguet Exploration and Black Mountain Mines shall:
In going to Quirino Highway (formerly Naguilian Road), take Kennon Road, Kisad Road, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Legarda Road, Kayang Extension;
In going to Halsema Highway, take Kennon Road, Kisad Road, Gregorio Del Pilar Road, Legarda Road, Kayang Extension, Buhagan Road, Magsaysay Avenue (La Trinidad Road);
In going to Itogon, Benguet, take Loakan Road, South Drive, Outlook Drive (behind The Mansion); and
In going to Ambuclao Road, take Loakan Road, South Drive, Pacdal Circle Park Road:
Cargoes deliverable to particular places and or persons outside the streets or roads specified but situated within the city limits as evidenced by accompanying waybills and or invoices will be exempted from the provision of this Ordinance provided that the delivery will not be done within the prohibited time.
The ordinance provides exemptions to water delivery trucks actually used in assisting fire-fighting, fire trucks, company vehicles of public utilities actually doing repair works, government registered trucks, heavy equipment already at worksite and trucks used during emergency or calamities.
Penalties for violators include fines ranging from P2,000 to P5,000.


National ID: Boon or bane?


The Senate recently passed the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act of 2018 voting 17-2, paving the way for a national ID system that will unify various government agency numbers and forms of identification.
Last September, the House of Representatives passed its version 142-7.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has reportedly ordered the acceleration of the implementation of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) or the National ID in the country.
Mr. Duterte issued directives to the Philippine Statistics Authority and other attached agencies to fast-track the activation of the national ID system particularly since the CoVid-19 pandemic has placed the nation at grave risk and of great uncertainty.
PSA aims to implement the ID system in the following months and is said to be targeting some five million households by end of the year.
Even then, the debate now is whether such an ID system is a good idea.
There are around 100 countries around with a compulsory ID system. ‘Compulsory,’ however, has different meanings for each system, with some requiring it be carried at all times, others upon reaching a certain age, and so on.
There are countries with a non-compulsory ID, among them Japan, Switzerland, and Sweden. Still others have no such thing at all, including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The United States has no national ID but for many transactions and activities, such as domestic airline travel, citizens are required to show some sort of official identification, usually a driver’s license or Department of Motor Vehicles state ID card. And every citizen and resident must have a “social” or Social Security Administration number—legitimate employment is impossible without one.
The countries that eschew a national ID system cite reasons of privacy, among others. But there are quite a few pros.
“The National ID Debate: Is the Philippines Ready?” is a briefing paper prepared by the Foundation for Media Alternatives. It lists the following advantages: better delivery of and access to government services; financial inclusion (the ID can allow unemployed Filipinos and those without other forms of ID to open a bank account); law enforcement; public safety (counter-terrorism); and social inclusion (this ID is for all Filipinos, whether employed or not).
The convenience promised by a national ID card is very attractive. We have all struggled with getting a TIN (tax ID), SSS (social security), and GSIS (government social security), having to go to different agencies, filling up and submitting similar requirements, and waiting in line.
But glitches still abound. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s UMID (unified multi-purpose ID) system brings together SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth, and Home Development Mutual Fund numbers, but from my personal experience, government agencies still ask for their particular numbers when checking their databases.
Dr. Jenny Ortuoste, a writer and communication consultant
said she recently went to an SSS branch and asked for an update of her contributions, showing her UMID card. There was some delay pulling up her  information until she handed over her old SSS card. “Ay, meron ka pala niyan, bakit di mo agad pinakita,” the person assisting her said, going on to access her data. So what’s the UMID card for?
Now, the cons. First, technical and logistical issues. There isn’t any guarantee the system will work properly, as India is now experiencing with their Aadhaar. Envisioned to help the government crackdown on welfare fraud and corruption, the system is vulnerable to breaches and faux pas. A Washington Post report cites that clerical errors and other boo-boos have prevented people from availing of government benefits and services, claiming salaries, and going to school.
The system is said to be so troublesome that “in some cases, mistakes by Aadhaar operators have led to dogs, trees, and chairs reportedly being issued Aadhaar cards.”
 Other potential risks, says the FMA paper, to having a national ID are its use for surveillance and subsequent privacy right violations; infringement of civil liberties; costs (the Philippine Statistical Authority’s budget, which will implement the system, is P2 billion for 2018); data security (remember the 2016 leak of voters’ data from the Commission on Elections?); doubts of it effectiveness over crime and terrorism; and ‘function creep’ or the “use of a tool for purposes that go beyond its originally stated goals.”
An example of the latter is again the Aadhaar. For 500 rupees and 10 minutes, its database can be accessed, according to the FMA paper citing a 2018 report.
The ease of having just one number for TIN, SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth, and all other agency numbers we need is incalculable. But imagine also the inconvenience caused by a system glitch. You could be refused service at the agency, be asked to comply with more requirements, and have to go back and forth till the matter is fixed.
 In any case, though, this system isn’t going to be implemented any time soon. Senator Panfilo Lacson says it will take five years for the PH system’s rollout “kasi wala masyadong technical or IT ability ang PSA.”
 So whether you’re for or against this, there’s still time to study the pros and cons and find ways of strengthening such an ID system, for government to better serve the Filipino people.


NUSP on class resumption, mass testing

Alfred P. Dizon

(Deanna Louise Montenegro, Cordillera spokesperson of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) writes this corner’s piece for the week)

Philippine society and education have always been in crisis. Facing a global pandemic, the situation of youth and students is at a deadlock. It has been two months since the country has been under quarantine. Daily operations like education and public travel have been totally halted—yet we see no significant change.
The Commission on Higher Education has been mum and utterly useless while students and parents are left anxious over the situation. Both CHED and DepEd are geared to have online classes or other Flexible Learning Options (FLO) for “usual operations” in education to continue. In this, the youth’s voice on these measures must be heard. The following demands articulate the calls of youth and students as most of us face the end of the second semester of A.Y. 2019-2020.
We have been calling for online class suspension and passing all students since the beginning of the quarantine. Despite student clamor, CHED and school administration have implemented policies that have left students at an impasse.
While the student's collective action gained some victories—like online class suspension in UC for the first part of ECQ and in the UP system, and suspension of TOFI in SLU—schools and major universities continue to impose requirements and online classes to catch up with the ending of the second semester this month.
We continue to assert that online classes and distant learning are not accessible, safe, and acceptable in the situation we face. We recall the very recent travel accident involving Kriselyn Villance, 2nd year criminology student at Capiz State University who was looking for signal to submit a school requirement, resulting to her death.
While face-to-face physical learning is definitely off the table—UP COVID Pandemic Response team deems it unsafe until December 2020—institutions like DepEd and most schools have announced the use of Flexible Learning Options (FLO) in the form of online classes, radio and television format, and delivering class modules to the homes of students themselves.
We commend the variety of options FLO provides (other than online learning), but see it as unfeasible given our current state. While countries like Germany and first world countries have an easy capability to have all students use laptops and internet for schooling, the Philippines’ substandard education and public services make it impossible. Moreover, these solutions must be supported by feasibility studies and looking into the preparedness of personnel, logistics, and overall students’ and families’ access.
This will only result in higher dropout rates as only those who can avail and afford FLO may continue their education—a greater gap in access, widening the effects already left by the K-12 program.
We cannot simply “value education” over our health. The Philippines currently has a 6.64% fatality rate and 20.82% recovery rate for COVID-19 cases, the lowest and highest in ASEAN (accordingly). Additionally, we are being tagged as having the “world’s longest lockdown” while seeing no positive results in health-care while the cases reach 12,305. In term of flattening the curve, the country has made little to no progress.
The backwards state of education, not to mention the socio-economic crisis that the country faces even prior the pandemic, makes distant/online learning schemes almost impossible. We cannot go back to business as usual, or continue with the “new normal,” while most of our countrymen are left behind.
Tuition refund is only just economic relief for bereaved families during this time. CHED must officially suspend tuition collection and TFI, even in autonomous universities like UB and UC.
Actual calculation of discounts or refunds must be released. Schools like SLU and UB have already presented 8% and lab fees discounts (respectively). CHED must ensure that these are reasonable and computations must be accorded to how they have been used by the school. It is unjust for schools to collect tuition fees at this time; similarly, tuition fee increase for the next school year (2020-2021) must be halted.
Medical solutions must be met before we can continue with classes and requirements. The value of education must not only be seen in grades, achievements, and finishing our diplomas, but in how we strive towards education for all—not only the few. While we continue to unite and struggle against the colonial, commercialized, and repressive state of our education, we must also work for the betterment of our society in this pandemic.


Transition to greatness

Perry Diaz

In an effort to stem an incoming viral tsunami, President Donald Trump is busy forging a sword to cut the Gordian Knot that has wrapped around the coronavirus that’s causing deaths and miseries to millions of Americans. 
In Greek mythology, the Gordian knot was an extremely complicated knot tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia in Asia Minor. Located in the city of Gordium, the knot came to symbolize a difficult problem that was almost impossible to solve.
As the story goes, in 333 B.C. an oracle had declared that any man who could unravel its elaborate knots was destined to become ruler of all of Asia. The impetuous Alexander was instantly “seized with an ardent desire” to untie the Gordian knot. He wanted to untie the knot but struggled to do so without success. He then reasoned that it would make no difference how the knot was loosed, so he drew his sword and sliced it in half with a single stroke.  The young king was then hailed as a great conqueror. True to the prophecy, he went on to conquer Egypt and large swaths of Asia before his death at age 32.
Fast forward to 2020. According to some sources, Trump’s Fox oracle man, Sean Hannity, had told him that the coronavirus pandemic, which he originally believed to be a hoax, could be stopped if Trump could untie the Gordian Knot that has locked the secret formula for a treatment for the coronavirus COVID-19.  Rumor has it that Hannity, Trump’s renowned conspiracy theorist, had sworn that the yet-to-be-formulated treatment is derived from a hydroxychloroquine-laced snake oil extracted from the venomous Copperhead rattlesnake.  Hmm…
It did not then come as a surprise when, in a flash of delusion, Trump said at a Fox News town hall a weekend ago, “We have a transition third quarter.  We’re going to have a very good fourth quarter. We’re going to have a great next year.”
A week later, in a meeting with congressional Republicans, he used the phrase “transition to greatness” a couple of times pretending he had just thought it up on the spot, right there and then.  Well, he lied.
“It’s a great term,” he said. “It just came out, at this meeting. That’s right, it came out by accident. It was a statement, and it came out, and you can’t get a better one. We could go to Madison Avenue and get the best, the greatest geniuses in the world to come up with a slogan, but that’s the slogan we’re going to use: transition to greatness.”
While it sounded good at the moment, it begs the question: What made Trump optimistic about the economy in the third and fourth quarters?  The economy is now like tumbleweed rolling in the wind of recession and going nowhere.  My take is that he’s trying to convince the American people that everything is just fine and going well, that the economy would soon recover in the third quarter and the country would be on its feet in the fourth quarter, running at full economic speed into a Trump second presidential term.
Delusion of grandeur
While it might sound delusional and self-aggrandizing, Trump has been dreaming of becoming the Great American hero that saved his Make America Great Again (MAGA) vision from disintegrating into an Inferno of destruction and crumbling cities.  Yes, he truly believes that the third quarter would be the turning point of the pandemic’s vicious run that left his beloved America in chaos and turmoil.  The month of June would see the beginning of an economic recovery that he needs to win re-election in November.  The whole second quarter would propel the Trump-driven economic engine to achieving his dream of greatness that will begin in the fourth quarter.  And on November 3, he will emerge the winner in the presidential election in a landslide!  And on January 20, 2021, Trump will be inaugurated to a second term as president of the republic. 
But June is just two weeks away!  How in hell could he stop the virus and begin the recovery from the pandemic?  What does he have up his sleeves that he can say that the country will begin its recovery in the third quarter?  And that it will transition to greatness in the fourth quarter?
Economic revival
And now that he wants to reopen the country to normal business in preparation for an economic revival, one wonders how he can prevent the virus from jumping around communities infecting people during the time that social distancing is not enforced and contact tracing failing amidst the anticipated second wave of the pandemic? 
He knew that if a second wave occurs, his “transition to greatness” would fail to happen and that it would doom his dream of getting re-elected in November.  It’s no wonder then that lately he seems to be on a meltdown.  He’s been cranky and irritable.  At his last press conference, he got so irritated by two women reporters who badgered him with questions that he couldn’t answer, which forced him to cut the press briefing short and walked out a broken man.
Relinquish responsibility
But the problem now is that Trump has relinquished responsibility and leadership in the fight against the virus.  He passed responsibility and leadership to the 50 state governors, claiming that it’s the states’ job to stop the spread of the virus, not him.  He said It’s the state governors’ responsibility to test and conduct contact tracing and isolate those stricken from the healthy.  It’s now to each his own, which is basically an abdication of the federal government’s duty to protect the American people. 
Right now, Trump is preoccupied with his re-election.  He appears to be doing everything to promote his re-election and putting the blame for the failure of his administration on anyone who talks bad about the conduct of the fight against the pandemic. 
But as he plays the blame game, the virus is getting closer to him.  It’s now lurking in the White House and infected his personal valet and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.  Three members of the White House Task Force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, were exposed to the virus as well, which compelled them to go into self-quarantine.  This forced Trump to get tested everyday and requiring people near him to take the test twice a week.  Yet he refused to wear a mask in public because of fears that it would “send the wrong message” and harm his re-election chances.  But his re-election hinges on how he leads the nation in fighting the pandemic and right now he doesn't look good.  He looks weak and irrational.  His numbers in the polls are plummeting into the 20’s.  Sad to say, it would take a miracle to save his presidency.  Only a vaccine could save it and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
As Trump ponders his options, he thought of untying the Gordian Knot to unleash the treatment for the coronavirus.  But then it occurred to him that the Gordian Knot is nothing more than a legend – a myth -- that’s been passed around for 2,300 years since the time of Alexander the Great.  There is no truth to the rumor that the Gordian Knot holds the secret formula for a treatment for the coronavirus COVID-19.  It’s just a figment of Trump’s imagination.   
Trump should – nay must – concentrate on finding the vaccine to treat the coronavirus.  That’s the only way to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic.  That would be the Gordian Knot.
But one thing is for sure: the vaccine will not be found by the fourth quarter, which is what Trump is hoping for to save his presidency.  He might just as well resign to the fact that his dream of a “transition to greatness” is nothing more than an empty slogan he concocted in a flash of delusion to give false hope to the American people. 
But he knew that’s not going to happen.  There is no greatness in the fight against the coronavirus.  There is only a great deal of sacrifice and selflessness from the frontliners – doctors, nurses, and health care workers -- who are fighting the pandemic in every locality in the country.  They’re the real American heroes. (


Kalinga geothermal proj firms help host villages

>> Thursday, May 28, 2020

CITY OF TABUK, Kalinga—Firms  behind the Kalinga Geothermal Project  reached out to   their host communities amid the national health emergency brought about by Covid-19.
Project partners – Aragorn Power and Energy Corporation (APEC), Guidance Management Corporation (GMC) and Allfirst Kalinga Holdings Inc. (AKHI) gave P560,000 worth of food packs to over 1,000 families in Lubuagan and Pasil towns, rice packs for 436 ho5useholds in Balatoc and logistical support for interagency task force operating checkpoints in said areas.
Project contractors DESCO Incorporated, UZMA Engineering Ltd. and CSA Resources Corp. also provided 150 sacks of rice and canned goods.
 To support local efforts to contain the pandemic, project partners also provided   personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Kalinga provincial government through Gov. Ferdinand B. Tubban and in collaboration with the Nation Commission for Indigenous People.
These PPEs include 200 pieces N95 face masks, 200 pieces face shields, 28 boxes of surgical masks, 200 pieces of medical goggles, 20 boxes of sterile gloves and 18 units of thermal scanners.
 The provincial government intends to distribute the PPEs and medical equipment equally to the Kalinga Provincial Hospital (KPH), TALACA Taskforce, Balbalan District Hospital, Lubuagan District Hospital, Pinukpuk District Hospital, Rizal District Hospital, Tanudan Municipal Hospital, Tanudan MHO and Tinglayan MHO.
PPEs were earlier been provided to the Pasil and Lubuagan local governments and thermal scanners for use of Pasil and Lubuagan medical personnel.
Altogether, the Kalinga Geothermal Project has provided P390, 000 worth of PPEs to augment requirements of Kalinga Provincial Hospital, the satellite health facilities in municipalities and the MHOs of Lubuagan and Pasil.
“The Kalinga Project Partners --- APEC, GMC and AKHI, respectfully extend our best wishes and prayers for the provincial leadership and the people of Kalinga to continue to be blessed with good health and stability in these extraordinary times,” said project manager Eugene G. Sunio. -- JDP/PAB-PIA CAR, Kalinga


2 village execs, 6 SAP takers nabbed for gambling

By Raymund Catindig

PAMPLONA, Cagayan — Eight persons, including two barangay officials and six beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) were arrested for gambling here on May 17.
Barangay secretary Elizabeth Tabia 49, and treasurer Sharon Cenal, 40, both of Barangay Cabbagan were allegedly caught playing a game of cards with Elenita Maribung, 40, at the house of Adelina Arinabo.
Meanwhile, six SAP beneficiaries had just received the emergency cash assistance when they were allegedly caught playing a game of cards in Barangay Lallayug, Tuao town.
                Four of the six suspects escaped when the raiding team arrived at the scene.
                Police recovered cash and sets of playing cards from the scene.


ASF outbreak back; infected pigs die in Benguet towns

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet --  As local government units are focused on addressing Covid-19, Benguet is faced with another concern involving its swine industry.   
The African Swine Fever (ASF) is apparently back with about 30 pigs recorded dead  in two municipalities of the province recently.
Dr. Miriam Tiongan, head of the Provincial Veterinary Office, said hog raisers voluntarily reported the death of pigs in Barangay Tuding in Itogon and barangays Bahong and Wangal in La Trinidad.
Provincial veterinarians who conducted the rapid test found out that the dead pigs were ASF- positive. 
According to Tiongan, they could no longer get specimen to administer further test through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as the pigs were already dead. 
Based on experience, rapid test results were 100 percent confirmed through PCR, she said.
ASF manifestations were observed among swine such as loss of appetite, signs in the outer skin, affected kidneys and spleen among other relevant signs and symptoms, she said.
ASF is a cause for alarm as it may totally wipe out the swine production in the province. 
If not contained, it may not only affect hog raisers but also food security, Tiongan added.
There were 488 ASF death cases recorded last February  including mortalities and depopulated swine in barangay Beckel in La Trindad, barangays Camp 1 and Camp 4 in Tuba, and barangay Tinongdan in Itogon. 
Since then there were no recorded cases.
Authorities are looking on how ASF   has recurred in the province.
Feeding of swills may not be the possible source because restaurants only entertain take outs during the enhanced community quarantine.
Tiongan said the transfer of pigs from was restricted during the ECQ. 
For pigs coming into the province, strict monitoring is imposesd along quarantine checkpoints.  In the case of legitimate traders, “We let them go back if the necessary permits and documents are not complete, even if only photocopied,” she added.
Tiongan said transmission of the disease from pork meat transported in vehicles labeled with food pass which pass through checkpoints unhampered could be contributory to ASF outbreak.  “With ASF outbreak in the lowlands, infected pigs may have been butchered prior to its transportation.”
Tiongan sees problems in containing the disease with the relaxing of requirements such as laboratory tests as long as there is ASF-free status certification and without mortalities for the past 21 days. -- JDP/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet


Invoking force majeure option up to electric coops, says ERC

By Delmar Carino

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES (ECs) have the call to invoke the Covid 19 pandemic as a force majeure in case they were not able to fully use their contracted capacity during the period of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
But the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said such option lies with the electric cooperatives and not with the commission since force majeure is a provision in power supply agreements (PSAs) that only the parties involved have the right to invoke.
The ERC also said the same goes through with any plea for any adjustment in the other fixed costs of the generation charge as stated in the PSAs such as capital recovery fee (CRF) and minimum energy off-take (MEOT) charge.
Force majeure refers to unexpected and unforeseeable events. As part of a contract, they legally excuse the parties affected from performing an obligation. 
In the case of ECs, it is up to them to decide if the pandemic is considered as a force majeure.
The PHILRECA Partylist and the National Association of General Managers of Electric Cooperative (NAGMEC) earlier wrote the ERC to indorse or issue an advisory for generation companies to consider the pandemic as a force majeure and allow the adjustment of fees the ECs pay for their contracted capacity and other fixed charges since many of them were unable to use such capacity at 100%.
However, Agnes Devanadera, ERC chair and chief executive officer, said the conditions that allow ECs to invoke force majeure are defined in the power supply agreement and the ERC has no legal personality to come in as a party and state that the pandemic is a force majeure.
“Whether or not to invoke the force majeure event provision is a decision of the parties based on the specific provision of each power supply agreement, ” the ERC chair told Rep. Presley de Jesus of PHILRECA Partylist and Allan Laniba, NAGMEC president.
The ERC added that it could not also advise power suppliers to lower the capital recovery fee (CRF) and minimum energy off take (MEOT) charged by generators on distribution utilities since the move will be unwarranted.
“It must be stressed that the approved CRF, whether provisional or final, were subjected to scrutiny and evaluation by the ERC on a case to case basis after consideration of the evidence submitted by the parties to the PSA. As such the determination of the CRF on each and every PSA varies from one another,” the ERC said.
In similarly denying PHILRECA and NAGMEC’s request of adjustments in the MEOT, the commission said: “While PSAs are subject to ERC’s approval, its character as a consensual contract does not cease. In this regard, the decision to discuss any possible amendment to the MEOT and the contracted capacity provisions in the PSA belongs to the parties of the contract. Hence, the initiative to adjust the MEOT which ultimately leads to an amendment of the original PSA must come from the parties to the PSA, subject to approval by ERC.”       
Explaining its decision, the ERC said that the ECQ did not affect all ECs similarly.
“While some experienced decrease in demand, there are some that experienced an increase in demand due to the fact that most of their customers are residential customers,” it said.
The commission said the varying effects of the ECQ across ECs make it imperative for them to make their own careful assessment of the impact of the ECQ on their operations taking into account the following – the situation of their  distribution system, load profile, economic profile of their franchise areas and other peculiarities that are unique to each EC.    
“A universal advisory allowing ECs to invoke the FME provision, adjust approved CRF and reduce the MEOT or Contracted Capacity will not address these different situations, and hence, not applicable to all ECs nationwide,” the ERC said.


SEC stops Crowdi Asia ‘illegal investment scheme’

By Mar T. Supnad

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ordered CROWD1 Asia Pacific, Inc. to immediately stop soliciting and accepting investments from the public under a scheme disguised as a digital marketing business.
In an order issued May 12, the Commission directed CROWD1 to cease and desist, under pain of contempt, from engaging in activities of selling or offering for sale securities in the form of investment contracts or other similar schemes without prior registration and permit to sell.
The SEC also ordered CROWD1 to cease from promoting its investment scheme in social media and other online platforms.
The Commission prohibited CROWD1 from transacting any business involving funds in its depository banks, and from transferring, disposing, or conveying in any manner all related assets for the benefit of the investors, SEC said in a statement sent to this writer.
The cease and desist order covers the corporation’s operators, partners, directors, officers, salespersons, agents, representatives, promoters, and all persons, conduit entities and subsidiaries claiming and acting for and on its behalf.
The SEC issued the cease and desist order after finding that CROWD1 has operated “a fraudulent investment scheme consisting of the sale and/or offer of inexistent securities in the form of investment contracts to the public.”
CROWD1 solicits and accepts investments from the public by offering what it describes as educational packages for a minimum of P6,000 and as much as P240,000.
To entice the public to invest, CROWD1 promises member-investors five different bonuses: streamline bonus, binary pairing bonus, fear of loss bonus, matching bonus, and residual bonus from games and gambling apps.
CROWD1 likewise touts a pairing incentive payable in euros to encourage member- investors to recruit new members.
Representing itself as a digital marketing business, CROWD1 claims it generates income from online games and facilitates the generation by its members of residual income from its affiliate gaming companies such as AFFIGLO and MIGGSTER.
The SEC, however, ruled that CROWD1’s scheme involved the sale and/or offer of securities in the form of investment contracts and, thus, required a secondary license under Republic Act No. 8799, or The Securities Regulation Code (SRC).
Rule 26.3.5 of the 2015 Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the SRC defines an investment contract as “a contract, transaction or scheme whereby a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits primarily through the efforts of others.”
An investment contract is presumed to exist when a person seeks to use the money or property of other persons on the promise of profits. Also, a common enterprise is deemed created when two or more investors pool their resources even if the promoter receives nothing more than a broker’s commission.
In this light, the SEC held that CROWD1 engaged in the sale and/or offer for sale of securities in the form of investment contracts.
The Commission also ruled that the act of CROWD1 of publishing and making presentations on its investment/ business scheme through its website, Facebook, YouTube and on-ground events, and inviting investors constituted a public offering as defined under Rule 3.1.17 of the 2015 IRR of the SRC.
Section 8 of the SRC provides that securities shall not be sold or offered for sale or distribution within the Philippines, without a registration statement duly filed with and approved by the SEC.
CROWD1 neither secured a secondary license to operate as a broker/dealer, registered as issuer of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds or proprietary/ nonproprietary shares, nor registered any securities pursuant to the SRC.
CROWD1 only registered as a corporation for the primary purpose of engaging in business process outsourcing services.
The SEC, however, emphasized that the certificate of incorporation granted to CROWD1 explicitly prohibited the corporation from soliciting, accepting or taking investments or placements from the public as well as from issuing investment contracts.
The Commission urged the public to exercise caution in dealing with individuals and groups representing CROWD1 through an advisory dated April 28, after gathering information about the corporation’s unauthorized investment- solicitation activities.
Acting on numerous complaints, reports and inquiries, the SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD) conducted an investigation, which included surveillance and field operations, for possible violations of the SRC and its IRR.
The EIPD was then able to establish by substantial evidence that CROWD1 was selling and/or offering securities to the public in the form of investment contracts without the required secondary license from the Commission.
Based on the findings and evidence gathered, the SEC proceeded with the issuance of a cease and desist order against CROWD1.


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