Beneco camps agree to settle unpaid dues worth millions

>> Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Magalong hits suppression of funds 

By Jordan G. Habbiling, Aileen P. Refuerzo and Dexter See

BAGUIO CITY -- Amid the leadership impasse in the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco), the two opposing camps agreed to work together to settle unpaid dues of the electric cooperative with its power supplier which had already accumulated to P245 million as of June 2022.
    Engineer Melchor Licoben, Board of Directors (BOD)-appointed general manager, said the unsettled dues had been the result of the frozen depository accounts of Beneco in different banks.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong had strongly denounced moves suppressing Beneco funds deposited in banks saying these were selfish acts perpetrated without regard to the welfare of member-consumers numbering 130,000.
    In a forum initiated by the Baguio City Council last Monday, both camps acceded to the city officials’ call to put aside their dispute and come up with mutually acceptable arrangements for settlement of Beneco’s unpaid dues.
The city council’s committee on public works, transportation, and traffic legislation was tasked to mediate the compromise talk between the two camps and submit a report to the city council within 30 days.
    The councilors agreed problems concerning operations of the electric cooperative must be resolved urgently to prevent stop of power services to the public. 
    According to Licoben, the electric cooperative’s bank accounts containing a total amount of P441 million had become inaccessible since banks did not release these to their camp, affecting operations of the electric cooperative including settlement of payments to its power supplier, Team Energy.
    He said the delay in payment may result in surcharges as stipulated in the contract and may jeopardize efforts of the electric cooperative to renew its contract with Team Energy. 
    Lawyer Esteban Somngi, BOD president, said educational, burial and medical assistance as part of the cooperative’s corporate social responsibilities had also been put on hold due to inaccessibility of its bank accounts.
    Employees’ benefits such as retirement pay were also being withheld as a result of freezing of the bank accounts, he added.
    In his advisory issued on Dec. 27, 2021, Licoben said Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) and Philippine National Bank (PNB) changed signatories and closed accounts.
    Development Bank of the Philippines also stopped honoring Licoben and Somngi as signatories.
    Metrobank, Rang-ay and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), decided to freeze the funds.
    The seventh bank, Summit Bank, sought the court’s intervention by filing a declaratory relief.  
    The banks’ actions stemmed from the leadership dispute between Licoben and lawyer Marie Rafael who was appointed by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) as the electric cooperative’s general manager.
    The camp of Licoben and Somngi including thousands of member-consumer-owners (MCOs) of Beneco had maintained that the NEA did not have the mandate to appoint a general manager of an electric cooperative and cases and filed cases with courts questioning the overreach of NEA regarding such appointments.
    They said it was only the board of directors of ECs which had the mandate to appoint GMs as provided by law.
    In their letter to the city officials dated July 22, 2022, the Beneco management, board of directors, Beneco Supervisors’ Association and Beneco Employees Labor Union had assailed the camp of Rafael for allegedly ‘harassing’ the banks, causing these banks to either stop honoring Licoben and Somngi as authorized signatories or freeze the Beneco funds.
    The Licoben-Somngi camp and MCOs had also accused the other camp of illegally withdrawing P58 million from LBP, P2.6 million from PNB, and P8.5 million from BPI.
    However, lawyer Maria Andres-Cascolan, Rafael’s spokesperson, during Monday’s city council session, said claims of Licoben’s camp were “speculative.” 
    She denied the allegation that banks received threats and claimed the suspension of transactions with any party was an offshoot of the banks’ ‘internal policy.’
    In an official statement issued last August 7 on social media, Rafael said the banks were only “exercising their mandate to safeguard their depositors’ financial accounts” and were “trying to seek redress from the courts who shall decide to whom they shall transact with or have the funds be released to.” 
    She said the bank accounts had been made inaccessible both to her and Licoben.
    In response to the city council’s request for transparency, both camps agreed to submit to the council their audited financial reports in the past months and to furnish the body quarterly financial reports henceforth. 
    Councilor Jose Molintas advised both camps to avoid attacking each other on social media so as not to exacerbate existing problems.
    On Sept. 23, 2021, the House of Representatives adapted a resolution urging the NEA Board of Administrators to maintain status quo in the leadership of Beneco until all issues on the selection of the electric cooperative’s general manager have been resolved.
    The dispute in the Beneco leadership has been elevated to local courts and Court of Appeals.
    A Lower House committee is at present hearing the Beneco case and those of other ECs nationwide as it is affecting the power situation of the country.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said August 6, "Right from the start, it has been the city's position that the leadership problem should not by all means lead to disruption of services by the power cooperative since the decision on the issue now rests with the court. But as it is turning out, Beneco's services are bound to be affected by this unconscionable move to curtail its funds by the depository banks apparently due to pressure from the opposing camp."
    The Beneco management led by Licoben and board of directors affirmed that most of the depository banks had frozen the power cooperative's accounts apparently due to pressure from the group of Rafael and NEA.
    They said this has affected the cooperative's cash flow and resulted to its defaulting with the payment to its power supplier on two occasions after the banks refused to honor its transactions.
    While the banks froze Beneco accounts, they had reportedly allowed withdrawals made by the opposing camp, the officials said.
    They said the camp's moves were in total disregard of House Resolution 213 which urged NEA to maintain a status quo until the issue on the selection of the general manager has been resolved.
    Magalong had from the start called for a status quo on the management of the cooperative pending resolution of the case.
    The City Council, during last Monday’s regular session, tasked the committee on public utilities, traffic and transport legislation to mediate the feuding camps of Beneco.
    Earlier, Licoben and Somngi sought the assistance of the local government to compel the electric cooperative’s depository banks to release the frozen funds for the same to be able to pay its obligations with its power supplier among othye4rs to avoid its power supply from being cut off that will lead to total power outages in the Baguio and Benguet areas.
    Licoben disclosed that Beneco is already in default on the payment of its power bill with TEAM Energy by more than P30.6 million.
    Beneco was also in default on the payment of its power bill in May by around P67 million.
    He added that for the succeeding months, there is a big possibility that Beneco will not be able to settle its power bill amounting to more than P245 million monthly that might compel the power supplier to cut off the power supply that will lead to total power outages in the future.
    The committee will first tackle with the parties the mode of settling Beneco’s unpaid obligations with its power supplier and how to continue paying the same before tackling other related issues on its obligation with other suppliers and the implementation of CSR projects that were suspended.
    The decision of the council to mediate the said problem is to avoid the country’s top performing electric cooperative from being negatively perceived with the current leadership impasse that is now worsening in the absence of the final ruling from the Court of Appeals (CA) on the leadership issue.


Cordillera congressmen refile autonomy bill

QUEZON CITY -- All Cordillera congressmen, sponsored and refiled a House measure seeking to establish the Cordillera Autonomous Region and comply with Section 15, Article X, of the 1987 Constitution providing establishment of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and Cordilleras.
     Representatives Menchie B. Bernos of the lone district of Abra, Eleanor C. Bulut-Begtang of Apayao, Solomon R. Chungalao of Ifugao, Maximo Y. Dalog, Jr. of Mountain Province, Mark O. Go of Baguio City, Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang of Kalinga and Eric Go Yap of Benguet filed House Bill 3267 entitled, “An Act Establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region” on August 8, 2022.
    During the 18th Congress (2019-2022), House Bill 5687, known as An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region for the Cordillera was approved on third and final reading before the House of Representatives adjourned session.
    In their explanatory note, the lawmakers said quest for autonomy continues, as many areas in the Cordillera remain underdeveloped.
    “Autonomy shall serve as the foundation upon which the people of Cordillera shall be empowered to pursue sustainable and inclusive growth, through the management, protection and development of their natural and human resources, and the promotion of the rights and culture of the Cordilleran people. It is through its progress and growth as an autonomous political entity that the Cordillerans can tap its potentials and contribute to national success,” they added.
    The Cordillera congressmen said collective aspiration of the Cordillerans for genuine autonomy was rooted on right to self-determination of the people fueled by a long history of struggle for the recognition of their rights.
    “It is high time that we make good on this Constitutional mandate, and allow the Cordillerans to determine their political status and to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. With clearer understanding of autonomy, its implications and effects on the lives of our people and on the future of Cordillera, the time is ripe for us to once again present to the Cordillerans the opportunity to realize this deeply ingrained desire,” they said.
    Among the salient features of the autonomy bill was found in Article III Section 6, which shall afford the autonomous region an “equitable share in the national budget and development assistance in addition to other financial assistance, support and subsidies to accelerate the region’s development.”
    Regional powers shall also be devolved to local government units particularly in areas of education, health, human resources, science and technology and people empowerment.
    In relation to the use and management of resources, Section 16 recognizes the regional government’s share with the national government in the exploration, development and utilization of its natural resources, conservation and protection of natural resources by promoting the sustainable use and management thereof and adopts environmentally sound and appropriate technology in the management of natural resources. The use of renewable energy for the power needs of the inhabitants of the Cordillera and the conduct of business and commerce thereat shall be promoted. (With reports from the Office of Rep. Maximo Y. Dalog, Jr. of Mountain Province)


Mafelino CAR police head; Lee now nat’l CIDG chief

Azurin reshuffles 71 PNP officials 

BARELY A WEEK as the country’s top cop, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has imposed a massive reshuffle affecting at least 71 senior police officers, including those in the PNP Command Group.
    Among those affected was Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee, who was designated as director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, replacing Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, who was appointed head of Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.
    Brig. Gen. Mafelino A. Bazar was designated and assumed office as Cordillera police director in place of Lee.
     Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, who was removed from his post as PNP deputy chief for administration, or the Number 2 man in the police force, was reassigned as director of the Area Police Command-Visayas.
    Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., who served as PNP office-in-charge for three months, was removed as deputy chief for operations and transferred to the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao.
    Sermonia and Danao were replaced by Lt. Gen. Jose Chiquito Malayo and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Santos Jr.
    Maj. Gen. Arthur Bisnar, meanwhile, replaced Malayo as the PNP chief of the directorial staff, the fourth highest post in the PNP.
    Maj.Gen. Valeriano de Leon was transferred from the Directorate for Operations to the Directorate for Information and Communications Technology Management.
    He was replaced by Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta.
    PNP public information officer Brig. Gen. Roderick Alba said the reorganization aims to provide opportunities and career growth among police officers.
    Metro Manila also has a new police chief in the person of Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, the former director of the Anti-Kidnapping Group and Bicol police, who was appointed as head of the National Capital Region Police Office.
He replaces Maj. Gen. Felipe Natividad, who was designated as commander of the Area Police Command-Northern Luzon.
    Brig. Gen. Benard Banac, former Eastern Visayas police director and PNP spokesman, was reassigned to the Directorate for Plans. Replacing him is Brig. Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil, the former director of the Highway Patrol Group.
    Quezon City has a new police director in the person of Col. Jaysen de Guzman. He replaces Brig. Gen. Remus Medina, who was transferred to the police holding and admin unit of the Directorate for Plans and Records Management.
    Another official with a new post is Col. Kirby John Kraft, who was designated as director of the Southern Police District.


Wife shot in love triangle of soldier, cop

By Cherk Balagtas

NAGUILLAN, Isabela -- A woman is in critical condition while she was with her policeman lover after they were ambushed by her soldier husband here in Barangay San Manuel Tuesday afternoon.
    Maj. Junniel Perez, chief of Naguillan Police Station, identified the victim as Jinky Castañeda, 31, married, resident of Barangay Sta. Filomena, San Mariano, Isabela.
    The suspect was identified as Jayson Cabanilla, 31, a member of the Philippine Army, Jinky’s husband, and a resident of Barangay Sipay, City of Ilagan.
    The victim was riding in the front passenger seat of the vehicle driven by her lover SSg. Vicente Soliva Jr., a member of the PNP where there were two other passengers in the back of the car who were the victim’s children.
    While the victim was crossing the southern direction towards the city of Cauayan, a car suddenly blocked from the other side of the road where the victim was able to avoid it and continued to run but the suspect shot them once which hit the side window of the car.
    Jinky was hit on the left side of her neck and was immediately rushed to the hospital by the responding police.
    The suspect immediately surrendered to the Naguilian Police Station with his issued firearm Glock 17 with Serial No. that AFP036509 loaded with a magazine with 14 live ammunition which he used to shoot his wife.
    According to the police, it is possible that it was a love triangle, the investigation is still ongoing.


MPSPC enrollment



Sadanga ground sinks after quake; families flee; 12 houses damaged

CRACKED -- The magnitude 7 earthquake that hit northern Luzon on July 27 pushes the ground apart at Sitio Tatabra-an in Barangay Sacasacan, Sadanga town, Mountain Province, with portions of the road sinking by at least a meter, as shown in this photo taken on Aug. 7. (Photo from the Sadanga Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office)

SADANGA, Mountain Province – A village here is sinking, prompting barangay and disaster officials to seek a declaration of a state of calamity.
    The grounds are “progressively sinking,” Disaster officials said.
    Five houses were totally destroyed while 12 were partially damaged, with six in danger. 
    Officials said all houses were not safe for occupation and all residents were urged to evacuate.
    Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan with Philvolcs, Disaster and fire officials visited the area Aug. 7 after five families in     Barangay Sacasacan were forced to evacuate their houses after the ground in the area continued to sink by a meter every day.
    The Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office said large cracks began to appear on the ground of Sitio Tatabra-an in Sacasacan immediately after the destructive magnitude 7 earthquake struck northern Luzon on July 27.
    Sinking of the soil intensified on Aug. 4, according to an advisory from the Sadanga MSWDO.
    A road and four rice granaries in the village were also damaged by the earth movement.
    As of Aug. 8, the subsidence, including on sections of a road in the village, was estimated to be at a depth of at least 4 meters.
    The sinking ground forced Sacasacan officials to place the village under a state of calamity on Aug. 5, according to the barangay disaster risk reduction and management council.
    The village has a population of 655 based on the 2020 census.
    On Monday, Sacasacan villagers helped affected families bring their belongings to safety due to the ground’s gradual caving in, posing danger to their lives and properties.
    It was not immediately known how many individuals belonged to the five displaced families.
    Local officials have yet to estimate the cost of damage to Sacasacan’s infrastructure, but the strong earthquake left five people injured in the entire Sadanga.
    Houses, rice granaries and other properties in Sitio Tatabra-an in Barangay Sacasacan sustained damage as ground level sinks by a meter each day, authorities said.
    The municipal social welfare office said the sinking of the village started after an earthquake occurred on Jan. 27.
    The movement of the ground reportedly intensified on Aug. 4.
    Reports said five houses made of heavy materials became uninhabitable and four rice granaries were no longer useful due to damage they sustained from the sinking.
    Authorities closed roads leading to the area to prevent any untoward incident.
    Villagers joined hands in transferring structures like wooden rice granaries to safer ground.
    Most of victims were hit by falling objects in the aftermath of last month’s strong temblor, the epicenter of which was traced to Tayum town, in Abra province. Tayum is about 190 kilometers from Sadanga.
    Last week, the towns of Bauko and Besao, both in Mountain Province, were also placed under a state of calamity due to the damage left by the earthquake in these localities.
    The Bauko town council passed the resolution containing the declaration on Aug. 5, saying that the estimated cost of damage across sectors reached P173 million.
    In its resolution, the Bauko government said 27 schools, 21 government buildings, a hospital, a communal irrigation system and five road networks were damaged during the quake.
    At least P143.7 million worth of damage to agriculture and infrastructure was recorded in Besao, prompting the calamity declaration on Aug. 1


Killers of Cagayan bocap hunted

By Liezle Basa Inigo

PIAT, Cagayan — Col. Renell R Sabaldica, provincial director of Cagayan Police Provincial Office, alerted all police stations to arrest  gunmen riding in tandem responsible for the death of barangay chairman Roberto De Ocampo in barangay Gumarueng here Wednesday, August 10.
    Capt. Isabelita Gano, Information officer, said the directive of Col. Sabaldica was immediately implemented.
    Reports said that Roberto De Ocampo, 50, incumbent barangay chairman of Anurturu, Rizal was with his wife Leonora De Ocampo while traversing the provincial road in Barangay Gumarueng in Piat on their way to the municipality of Rizal.
    The barangay chairman was on board his mini truck when motorcycle-riding assailants fired several shots at him.
    The victim sustained gunshot wounds on different parts of his body.
    “Nagtamo naman ng galos ang may bahay ni chairman dahil bumanga sila sa poste ng kuryente, (The victim’s wife sustained bruises because the vehicle they were riding rammed an electric post),” said Captain Gano.
Responding police officers who noticed the victim was still breathing when they arrived immediately rushed him to Tuao District Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
Piat policemen are now conducting operations and coordinated with other adjacent municipalities and friendly forces to arrest the perpetrators.


Benguet Covid cases up; folks urged: get jabs

By Elmer Navarro Manuel

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The provincial government of Benguet urged residents anew to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as the province recorded a 445-percent increase in cases.
    Provincial information officer Silver Pilo said that with the reported increase of Covid-19 infections, they are urging unvaccinated individuals to get inoculated.
    “Vaccination sites in the different municipalities are still actively being managed by their respective Rural Health Units and other health facilities,” Pilo said.
    He added that data from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) showed that from an average of 16 daily Covid-19 cases over the past weeks, Benguet is now recording an average of 28 individuals testing positive for the virus every day.
    He said 200 active cases have been recorded as of 8 August, which marks a 455-percent increase from 8 July when 36 active cases were logged.
    Pilo added that the provincial government saw a 26.98-percent positivity rate in Benguet.
    “Let us continue to observe the minimum public health standards and protocols to protect us,” he said.


3 men get life in jail for transporting marijuana in La Trinidad, Benguet

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Three men were sentenced to life imprisonment for transporting 6.47 kilos of driemarijuana in this capital town.

Judge Lilibeth Sindayen-Libiran Branch 61 of the Regional Trial Court of the First Judicial Region in Baguio City ruled against Kheil Gio Baniqued, Manuel Jose Balbuena and Kasmir Vince Gile on Aug. 3.

In an 18-page decision, Libiran also ordered the trio to pay a fine of P500,000 each.

On Dec. 6, 2020, the three were arrested by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents in Cordillera and Baguio police at a checkpoint in La Trinidad.

The three were also found guilty of using marijuana and ordered to undergo rehabilitation.



Bontoc agri-infra damage due to earthquake P37M+

By Alpine L. Killa

BONTOC, Mountain Province- The damage to agriculture and infrastructure caused by the July 27 earthquake in the capital town has reached P37, 558, 161.80 as of August 4, 2022.
    This was reported during the 3rd Quarter Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) on August 10, 2022, at the Bontoc Municipal Capitol Auditorium. 
    MDRRM Officer Johanna Padaen reported that the damages to infrastructure include Ato or Dap-ay, pathways, Day Care Centers, barangay halls, schools, Barangay Health Stations, and other structures to include private houses. The initial amount of damages to infrastructure totals to P34, 156,000.00.
    The damage to agriculture has reached P3, 402,161.80. The damage was recorded on livestock, poultry, and agricultural assets including rice, high-value crops, and rice granaries. 
     The initial cost of damages was based on the Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDANA) conducted by the Municipal Infrastructure Audit Team to the 16 barangays of Bontoc, and reports from the respective Barangay Local Government Units (BLGUs).
    On damaged structures, Bontoc has recorded 167 damaged houses. Of the total, 160 are partially damaged while seven are totally damaged. The totally damaged houses to include two in Alab Proper, four in Mainit, and one in Talubin were found not safe for occupancy, thus, relocation of the occupants were recommended.
On damages to schools, the Dalican National High School (Building 1) is structurally unsafe and unfit for occupancy. 
    The other buildings and structures with partial damages are safe for occupancy as per recommendation from the Municipal Infrastructure Audit Team. 
    Meanwhile, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Araceli Shane Bayanos reported that 534 families or 2,747 individuals were affected by the tremor. As an immediate response, DSWD food packs were provided to the affected families. Also, those who evacuated at the evacuation centers were given hygiene kits from the Bontoc LGU through the MDRRM Office. 
    Bontoc Mayor and MDRRMC Chairperson Jerome "Chagsen" Tudlong, Jr., thanked and lauded all the workforce and volunteers for their prompt response when the earthquake occurred.
    "During the most difficult times, we saw the best in us. The spirit of Ogogfo is innate in us. This is what keeps us going and what makes us resilient to any eventualities and challenges that come our way," the mayor added.


Bus rams trailer truck in N. Vizcaya, 1 dead, 8 hurt

By Liezle Basa Inigo

ARITAO, Nueva Vizcaya — A conductor of a provincial bus was declared dead on arrival while eight others were hurt in a road accident along Maharlika Highway, Purok 6, Barangay Bone South here Monday afternoon, August 8.
    The Nueva Vizcaya Police Provincial Office reported the accident that happened around 3:30 p.m. involved a trailer truck and Victory Liner bus.
    The conductor of Victory Liner was identified as Clifford Coronel Adaro who was declared dead on arrival by Dr. Van Jasper Bautista, Municipal Health Office (MHO) Aritao.
    The bus driver, identified as Armando Bautista, 58, a resident of Purok 2, Brgy. Salvacion, Rosales, Pangasinan is fighting for his life in a hospital.
    Other passengers with minor injuries were identified as Abraham Siganay, 74, a priest, of Nueva Vizcaya; Mila Simon, 62, Nurse by Profession and resident of San Manuel, Isabela; and Samantha Manzano, 24, of P. Bantug, ICU, Isabela.
    Also injured were two toddlers on board the bus. All the injured were brought to RHU, Aritao hospital.
    Some were sent home Monday evening.
    Police Executive Master Sergeant Allan Jalmasco, investigator-on case, said the Victory Liner was traversing towards South (Manila) when the driver accidentally sideswiped the trailer truck which was parked at the outer lane, with its hazard lights blinking.
    Due to the strong impact, the head tractor swerved on the right shoulder and its helper, Ever Legada, 37, who was then cleaning the trailer bed was also hurt.


Baguio council wants millions of Covid-19 funds accounted for

BAGUIO CITY – The City Council told the city Health Services Office (CHSO) to submit within two weeks upon receipt an updated report to the local legislative body utilization of the Covid-19 supplemental budget amounting to P94.2 million under ordinance 92, series of 2021, current Covid-19 operations in the city and strategies to address spread of the virus.
    Under resolution 298, series of 2022, legislators said they wanted updates on how the local government utilized funds provided by said ordinance.
    Last year, the council also required the CHSO to submit a detailed report on the utilization of the Covid-19 funds appropriated by the local government prior to the enactment of ordinance 92, series of 2021.
    The body also wanted with updates on strategies with the emergence of variants of the virus aside from threat of monkey pox among other illnesses that pose threat to health condition of the people.
    The body said there was need for concerned offices to provide the local legislative body with updates on implementation of their programs, projects and activities and how funds for the same were utilized for purposes of transparency and accountability before allowing further requests for appropriations through supplemental budgets.
    The approved resolution will be transmitted to the CHSO for its appropriate action, information, guidance and ready reference. By Dexter A. See



DepEd: Face-to-face classes mandatory for all schools

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

PUBLIC and private schools that offer basic education are expected to implement face-to-face classes this incoming school year (SY) 2022-2023, the Dept. of Education (DepEd) said.
    While blended learning will still be allowed when classes open in public schools on Aug. 22, DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa SAID all schools nationwide are expected to have transitioned to in-person classes after the three-month transition period or from August to October.
     “To institutionalize blended learning is something that we’re thinking of but for now, the clear provisions of DepEd Order No. 34 is after Oct. 31 which is Nov. 2, moving forward, in-person classes will be mandatory,” Poa said in a mix of English and Filipino during a press conference on Aug. 10.
    “As to the exceptions, they will be limited to highly exceptional cases and we will determine that during the transition period which schools would fall under that exception,” Poa said in a response to the appeal of private schools to allow them to implement flexible learning modalities such as offering “hybrid” or fully online classes.
    In July, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) said that allowing private schools to implement flexible learning modalities will also give the parents — especially those who are still hesitant to send their children to school amid the pandemic — more options.
    While DepEd recognizes the concerns raised by the private schools, Poa maintained that the direction of the department for this school year is to resume full face-to-face classes.
    “For now, just to be clear, the transition period is from Aug. 22 to Oct. 31, and then Nov. 2 onwards, the direction is mandatory in-person for all schools,” he said.
    Poa pointed out that there has been a study on learning loss not just in the Philippines but also in other countries.
    In the Philippines, Poa said that many become out-of-school youth (OSY) for “several reasons.”
    Some of them, he noted, were forced to stop attending school during the pandemic because they did not have enough resources to buy gadgets or pay for internet connection which was crucial for distance learning.
    “That’s why this administration is pushing for in-person [classes] para yung mga nawalan ng (so that those who have lost the) opportunity during the pandemic, makabalik na (they can go back) to learning,” he added.


DOH warns public against Monkeypox

By Julie G. Fianza

12 August 2022 – The Dept. of Health warned the public to adhere to the same protocols as those used to ward off Covid-19 against Monkeypox.
    Individuals exhibiting symptoms; fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion and chills were urged to isolate and seek medical attention.
    Once infected with Monkeypox, rashes are expected to appear three days after the onset of fever. 
  This was presented by Health Services Office (HSO) head Dr. Rowena Galpo during the management committee meeting last week.
     The public should use face mask properly, ensure good airflow both in workplaces and at home, keep hands clean and practice personal hygiene and maintain physical distancing; Dr. Galpo reiterated.
    Lately, the World Health Organization issued an alert that the Monkey pox global outbreak is now a public health emergency of international concerns.
    The illness could be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, through direct contact with bodily fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact through infected clothing, linen and other materials. 
    The administration of smallpox vaccine, which is given for the childhood disease, may give 85% protection, Dr. Galpo said.
    Monkeypox was detected in 1958, in monkeys used for research. Though the source remains unknown, African rodents and non-human primates such as monkeys might harbor the virus, and infect humans.
    The city implements the four-door policy once a case is detected, Dr. Galpo said. The policy includes travel restriction; screening, testing isolation and quarantine; detection through surveillance, isolation and quarantine, treatment and management, vaccination once available; and health care and surge capacity through accordion policy, telemedicine, home care and isolation. 


Ms Tuguegarao bets vie for Darling of the Press plum

By Vince Jacob Visaya

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- Showing not only their beautiful faces and sexy bodies, 20 Miss Tuguegarao City 2022 bets displayed their wits and intellect as they vied for the Darling of the Press award at the SM Center Tuguegarao Downtown on Monday, August 8.
    And they did not disappoint.
    Answering queries from the media, the candidates said Tuguegarao women exude positivity, unity, credibility and serve as inspiration to others. Others said local women should show confidence, empower themselves and manifest self-confidence.
    The bets also shared their views on the Covid-19 pandemic, fake news, environmental protection, sexual harassment, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs and other concerns.
    The winner of the Darling of the Press award shall be announced during the pre-pageant on August 12, one of the highlights of the grand coronation on August 13.
    Dr. James Guzman, beauty pageant chairman and incumbent city health officer, said minimum health standards shall be observed throughout the event due to the continuing threat of Covid-19.
    "After two years of hiatus, this is a time to bring the beauties back, but we are still adhering to minimum health protocols," he said.


Tesda allots P30-M for quake-struck Abra folks

By Kaithreen Cruz

THE Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) has allocated P30 million worth of training scholarships in construction-related courses for residents in areas affected by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Abra on July 27, 2022.
    Training scholarship programs to be offered by Tesda include carpentry, masonry and plumbing.
    "These trainings are vital for the residents of earthquake-stricken areas. They will be able to build their own houses as well as use the skills they acquire to find jobs and earn a living," Tesda chief Danilo Cruz said over the weekend.
    Region 1 (Ilocos Region), Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) and the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) have started mobilizing trainers to help with repair and rehabilitation of damaged houses and conduct construction-related training in the affected areas.
    According to the agency, coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) is ongoing to provide allowances to trainees undergoing scholarship courses, throughDoLE's Tupad program.
    The Tesda field office in the Cordillera Administrative Region has donated P146,400 cash, groceries, and used clothes to survivors and deployed augmentation teams to assist in clearing operations in Abra and neighboring Ifugao province, which was also affected by the earthquake.
    Cruz assured that Tesda is ready to add more funding for implementation of the scholarship programs as part of the government's collective action to support the rehabilitation of the quake-hit areas and ensure the wellbeing of the affected residents.





Private-public partnerships set to up Ilocos Norte dev’t

By Edison Justin B. Deus

LAOAG CITY – The provincial government of Ilocos Norte hosted the 1st Ilocos Norte Business Forum here at Arabella’s Events Place on July 29 to strengthen public-private partnerships in the province, maximize economic resources and generate profitable opportunities for provincial folks.
    The forum, headed by PGIN’s Ilocos Norte Trade and Investment Promotions Center, was attended by government agencies, businesses, companies, and trade organizations, among others, specifically the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and tourism and food establishments associations, development council for local entrepreneurs, bankers association, renewable energy sector, and private sector.
    In his message, Ilocos Norte Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc highlighted the inclusive character of his administration’s economic development road map.
    "We will do it our own way and do it responsibly,” he said. “We want to make sure that even with the influx of investments and development, our local businesses are included and that it is done beneficially for all and fairly for all local stakeholders."
    He urged the Provincial Board to revisit and improve Ilocos Norte’s financial incentives for new investments and businesses in the province.
    Gov. Manotoc also stressed importance of upgrading local ports to increase the potential of Ilocos Norte as a prime destination for investors for the benefit of the Ilokano people.
    "Our Laoag International Airport has already been under the process of improvement and has been upgraded from Level 5 to Level 6, with the end goal of becoming a Level 9 airport which can host large aircraft from international destinations,” he said.
    “We have Currimao and Badoc ports, which we would like to further improve. Kasi alam naman po natin na when it comes to commerce, the sea ports really lead the way especially in terms of economy and affordability. We wish to fix our ports and establish economic zones, which will then truly open up Ilocos Norte not only to the country but more so to the region. We aim to be the gateway to East Asia and the commercial hub of Northern Luzon," he added.
    Participants had the opportunity to consult with the governor and heads of INvest, Provincial Public Employment Service Office, and Provincial Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Office.
    A speed networking session was also conducted to establish a stronger business connection among the participants.
    To address potential barriers to investment and business climate in the province, Manotoc has pledged to improve delivery of utility services for stakeholders in the business sector.
    "We also have to address certain local issues like our cost of electricity, stability of utilities, electricity, water and connectivity. We will continue to work on these things, especially our electricity and our connectivity, because we know that these are absolutely crucial na kailangang affordable at stable for any business to truly thrive," he said.
    "Bilang inyong gobernador, I am with you and I ask you, let's work together for the betterment of our province," he said.


Aboitiz sets P600-K for fuel, water filters in Cordi disaster sites

REPRESENTATIVES from Manabo, Abra municipal government receive water filters from Aboitiz Foundation and PDRF.

ABOITIZ FOUNDATION, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Aboitiz Group, and AboitizPower’s subsidiary Hedcor, Inc. donated fuel and water filters in areas affected by the 7.0–magnitude earthquake that hit Northern Luzon last July 27.
    A total of 1,150 liters of fuel was distributed to the municipalities of Bauko and Sabangan, Mountain Province, and the municipalities of Bakun, Sablan, and Tuba in Benguet, areas heavily affected by landslides. 
    The fuel donation will help in clearing the landslides caused by the earthquake. 
    “The Aboitiz Foundation has been advocating disaster resilience for the past years. We’ve developed strategic systems and partnerships so we can immediately respond to disasters like this. We are glad that our friends from the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) were able to help us extend immediate help to affected areas in Abra. We also commend Hedcor for their immediate response in providing needed assistance in Benguet and the Mt. Province,” said Maribeth L. Marasigan, Aboitiz Foundation, President and COO. 
    Meanwhile, in coordination with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), water filters were distributed in 175 affected barangays and 5 different municipalities in Abra, Manabo, Langangilang, Sal-apadan, Tayum, and Dolores.
    The portable water filtration system is the easiest way to get pure potable water to communities in need. These filters can process all kinds of freshwater such as rainwater, spring water, water from deep wells, and even floodwater. With a lifespan of five to ten years, the filters can provide clean water for five to ten households, saving each family thousands of pesos a year on mineral water. 
    “Aboitiz Foundation has always been a leader when it comes to helping the Filipino people. They’ve channeled their resources for good in so many emergencies. The Philippines is a better place because of their efforts” said PDRF President Rene S. Meily.
    Through its disaster resilience program, Aboitiz Foundation has extended immediate assistance amounting to over P600,000 to earthquake-affected areas in Benguet, Mt Province, and Abra. 
    The Aboitiz Foundation is the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group that was established in 1988. Its purpose is to drive change for a better world by advancing business and communities through programs on education, enterprise development, and environment. Since its inception in 1988, the Foundation’s CSR interventions have evolved from one-time donations to carefully designed programs that empower its beneficiaries to pursue their aspirations. 
    Today, the Aboitiz Foundation, through the Aboitiz Business Units, develops and implements corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs or CSR 2.0 projects that aim to co-create safe, empowered, and sustainable communities. These CSR 2.0 projects are aligned to the Group's core competencies, are scalable nationwide, and create a deeper social impact on the communities and beneficiaries it serves.


Baguio City regulates illegal use of sidewalks

BAGUIO CITY: The City Council approved on first reading Aug. 8, a proposed ordinance that seeks to amend certain provisions that imposed a fee for the temporary occupancy of sidewalks or streets during the duration of building construction or demolition.
    Under the proposed amendment of Ordinance 4, series of 1991, authored by members of the City Council, it shall be unlawful for any property owner or a contractor to occupy a portion of a sidewalk, street, road and alley during the construction or demolition of a building without securing the necessary permit.
    A fee at the rate of P5 a day per square meter of the occupied sidewalk, street, road and alley shall be collected from the property owner or contractor. In case of renewal of the permit, the property owner or the contractor shall pay the amount of P200 per month as an inspection fee until the said project is completed. Assessment of fees shall be done by the City Engineering Office.
    On the other hand, the collection of these fees shall be made by the City Treasury Office with the corresponding receipt.
    After the period granted under the permit has expired and no renewal of the permit was made, the fee shall be doubled per square meter a day.

    Prior to the issuance by the City Mayor's Office of the permit for the closure or occupancy of the sidewalk, street, road and alley, the ordinance said a clearance shall first be obtained from the maintenance division of the City Engineering Office to assess and determine the fees to be paid and the period of occupancy or closure; provided, however, that the closure of a street shall bear the prior approval of the City Council.

    According to the proposal, it shall be the responsibility of the owner or contractor occupying or closing a sidewalk, street, road, or alley to provide measures to ensure the safe passage of passersby and motorists in the said area.

    After the completion of the project, the ordinance emphasized that the expenses for the repair and restoration of the sidewalk, street, road, or alley shall be borne by the property owner or contractor.

    Moreover, the owner or contractor of any project who occupies a portion of a sidewalk, street, road, and alley during the building construction or demolition shall be required to deposit a bond with the City Treasury Office to cover any damage to the same in an amount to be determined by the City Engineering Office.

    The ordinance explained that failure of the property owner or contractor to secure the necessary permit before occupying portions of any sidewalk, street, road, or alley shall be penalized by imprisonment of 10 days and a fine of P5,000 or both at the sound discretion of the court; provided that, in case of a corporation, firm, partnership or association, the penalty shall be imposed upon its responsible officials for such violation. In case the guilty party is a foreigner, he or shall be recommended for deportation after payment of the fine or service of the sentence.



Nueva Vizcaya dengue cases at outbreak level

By Leander C. Domingo

THE province of Nueva Vizcaya has reached the level of outbreak with over 1,300 dengue cases recorded this year, according to the provincial health office (PHO) in the capital town of Bayombong.
    Dr. Jocelyn Bumidang, assistant health officer, noted that the number of dengue cases which continue to rise in the province shows that there is now an outbreak in the province.
    With this, the PHO has prompted health workers to closely monitor the cleaning and sanitation of the surroundings in the community.
    "The peak of cases was noted on morbidity week 25. Three suspected dengue deaths were already recorded as of July 27," Bumidang said.
    PHO records show the area with the highest number of dengue cases is Bayombong with 215 cases. Solano, meanwhile, has 196 cases and Quezon has 149 cases.
    "We need the cooperation of Novo Vizcayanos to stop the spread of dengue cases in the province by regularly cleaning their surroundings, especially in areas where dengue-carrying mosquitoes continue to thrive," Bumidang said.
    Other municipalities in the province with confirmed dengue cases include Bambang with 121 cases, Kasibu with 118, Aritao with 87, Dupax del Norte with 79, Santa Fe with 70, Kayapa with 69, Bagabag with 60, Diadi with 48, Dupax del Norte with 32, Villaverde with 29, Ambaguio with 16 and Alfonso Castaneda with 10.
    "We have strengthened our surveillance system in the province, monitoring towns with an increased number of cases and partnered with municipal and barangay local government units for immediate clean-up drives in their communities, proper referral system, timely reporting of cases, and supply readiness," Bumidang said.
    She said they are also conducting information, education and communication campaigns in various villages.


7 nabbed for drugs; P2.5-M marijuana burned in Cordillera

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- Seven “drug personalities” were arrested while P2,506,000 worth of marijuana plants was uprooted and burned in plantations July 31 to August 6 in Cordillera.
    Records of police Regional Operations Division bared Baguio had highest number of arrests with six, followed by Apayao with one.
    In Baguio City, arrested were Marivic Rodriguez, 61; Cherry Alsim, 37; Carlito Javier, 43; Joel Sales, 37; Margie Maaba, 44; and Carie Maaba, 42. 
    In Apayao, arrested was Claridel Mangligot, 42. 
    Anti-illegal drug operations resulted in seizure of a total of 18.4 grams of suspected shabu worth P125,120.
    All arrested suspects are now facing charges for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. 
    Meanwhile, marijuana eradication operations resulted in destruction of a total of 12,000 fully grown marijuana plants worth P2,400,000 in Kalinga.
    In another operation in Benguet, a total of 480 fully grown marijuana valued at P96,000.00 and 250 marijuana seedlings worth P10,000 were destroyed by police.


20 guns seized in Cagayan gunbattle

By Vince Jacob Visaya

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- Army soldiers seized 20 guns and assorted war materiel in a gunfight between the 17th Infantry Battalion Army soldiers and New People's Army rebels in Calassitan, Santo Niño, Cagayan on Tuesday, August 9, the military said.
    Maj. Gen. Lawrence Mina, 5th Infantry Division commander, said the guns were seized after the 15-minute gunfight between Army soldiers and the 15-member communist guerrillas led by a certain Edgar Bautista alias Ka Simoy, secretary of the NPA's West Front Committee-Komiteng Probinsya-Cagayan-Komiteng Rehiyon-Cagayan Valley.
    Seized were two M-60 light machine guns, an M-14 Armalite rifle, a Carbine rifle, an AK-47 Armalite rifle, an M-16 Armalite rifle and 12-gauge shotgun.
    Also seized were an AK-47 rifle with incomplete parts, three M16A1 rifles with incomplete parts, two M-14 rifles with incomplete parts and a Garand rifle.
    Also found were an M60 barrel, three Cal. 30 Carbine barrels, a Garand barrel, and assorted bullets for M-14, Carbine aNormalnd AK-47 guns.
    Soldiers also found two improvised explosive device components, 30-meter detonating cords, five bandoliers with magazines, a rebel flag, medical items and food.



Mt Province, Baguio PNP cited best nat’l provincial, city, mobile companies

The 1st Mountain Province PMFC and the Baguio CMFC were hailed the Best Provincial and City Mobile Force Company during the 121st Police Service Anniversary celebration held at Camp Crame, Quezon City on August 8.
    Themed “Matibay na ugnayan ng pulisya at mamamayan tungo sa pagkakaisa, kapayapaan at kaunlaran,” the occasion was graced by President Ferdinand “Bong Bong” R. Marcos, who served as guest of honor and speaker.
    During the program, the 1st Mt. Province PMFC and Baguio CMFC were adjudged and awarded Best Provincial and City Mobile Force Company.
    The awards were presented by President Marcos assisted by Sec. Benjamin Abalos Jr. of the Dept. of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr.
    The awards were received by the force commander of 1st Mt. Province PMFC, Lt. Col. Roy Awisan and force commander of Baguio Lt. Col. Renny Lizardo .
    For Individual Category Award, the Best Non-Uniformed Personnel for Non- Supervisory Level was awarded to NUP Mary Jean J Bañaga of the Regional Logistics and Research Development Division of PROCor.


‘Green’ entrep biz pushed; gab set September

BAGUIO CITY – The city government is pushing sustainable entrepreneurship to address concerns on “urban decay,” traffic, pollution and water shortage problems among others.
    The City Environment and Parks Management Office will hold a “green business exposition” whole month of September at Burnham Park as part of 2nd Saleng/Pine Tree Festival.
    The exposition will highlight need for sustainability of businesses in the city in consideration to natural resources and its environmental impact which will form part in coming up with for cleaner and greener lifestyle.
    The exposition is themed “Towards a greener entrepreneurship” to promote  businesses or institutions that seek to achieve sustainability by creating environmentally-friendly products, services and research.
    Those with sample activities, businesses, products and services or researches that are environmentally-friendly may join the exposition.
    Entrepreneurial products or researches may focus on the following: construction materials; upcycled/recycled products; organic vegetables; fertilizers (less chemical usage); wastewater treatment processes; products/services/researches promoting reduce, reuse, recycle; solid waste/hazardous waste treatment; alternative waste treatment/recycling technologies; air, water, soil pollution treatment technologies; renewable energy products; and, other environmentally-friendly initiatives.
     Interested participants are advised to visit CEPMO at City Hall and look for engineer Marivic Empizo, assistant CEPMO or forester Floro Bastian.
    Clarifications and inquiries may be sent via email: or call:  0956 276 6053, 0910 532 8139, 0917 304 8082. – JMPS



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