36 PUJs allowed to ferry folks affected by Loakan Airport operations

>> Friday, March 31, 2023

BAGUIO CITY -- Thirty-six public utility jeeps (PUJs) under the Loakan Jitney Transport Coop. can now ferry residents of Loakan Proper Barangay, particularly Purok Ongasan affected by resumption of operations of Loakan Airport here. 
    This was revealed during the Baguio City Council’s regular session last March 20.
    Upon request of the City Engineering Office, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-Cordillera Administrative Region  had granted special permits to these 36 PUJs to ply the route Baguio City - Ongasan via runway access (Bleeding Heart-PEZA), Loakan Road, and vice versa.
    These 36 PUJ units are divided into odd and even groups.
    Eighteen units belonging to the odd group are authorized to operate on the said route during odd calendar days while the other 18 units belonging to the even group are authorized to operate only on even calendar days.
    Lawyer Laird Dionel Urbanozo, LTFRB-CAR representative, said these 36 PUJ units are not allowed to pick up passengers along roads that are covered by the route serviced by other transport cooperatives.
    This was the agreement during one of the consultations attended by the Loakan Jitney Transport Coop. and other concerned transport cooperatives, Urbanozo said. 
    The request for jeepney units to service the affected community originated from a resolution passed by the city council in December 2022.
    In the said resolution, the city council tasked the City Engineering Office to coordinate with LTFRB-CAR to study possibility of an additional transport route for the benefit of the affected residents.
    Also, in that resolution, the city council broached the idea of creating either an underground road network or an alternate route to address the inconveniences experienced by the community as a result of the regulated hours given to pedestrians and vehicles in crossing the runway for safety reasons.
    However, the Dept. of Works and Highways Baguio City District Engineering Office, in its response to the council’s resolution, was not keen on the possibility of constructing an underground road network as it requires tunneling work “which will impede the re-opening of the Loakan Airport.”
    The office suggested a feasibility study and detailed engineering of the proposed underground road network be prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
    On proposal to create an alternate route, DPWH-BCDEO suggested it start from the junction of Ongasan-Demonstration Mines Road towards the fire station, leading to Heaven’s Garden Cemetery with a total length of 45 km.
    The pre-detailed engineering done by the BCDEO bared the proposed project would cost P119.9 million.
    The BCDEO, however, said construction of the proposed alternate route cannot be undertaken by their office since projects that are of “local concern” and “with no national significance” should be implemented by the concerned local government unit in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia case and other DPWH issuances.    
    As an option, the BCDEO suggested the city government initiate the acquisition of funds needed for the proposed construction of an alternate route with the help of the congressional office of Rep. Marquez Go. 
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and Councilor Benny Bomogao, however, urged DPWH-CAR to consult its legal department and find out if the latter can implement the construction of the said alternate route in accordance with the Mandanas-Garcia Ruling. 


Private lots wanted for Baguio parking project

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government is looking for privately owned lots that can be utilized for the implementation of its parking development project.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the mode can either be for direct sale or joint venture with the city government.
Offers of proposals can be submitted to the City Planning and Development Office tel. no. (074) 442-6607.
    The mayor said parking remains a challenge in the city which needs to be addressed to solve the traffic problem and transportation issues.
    He said that as of now, only 2,700 parking slots are available in the city as against the demand of 22,000 to 40,000 spaces.
    The figure was based on the results of the feasibility study for the three-year smart transport and mobility project of the city which will modernize the city’s public transportation system as a long-term solution to the perennial traffic woes.
    To cater to the demand, the city would need around 40 parking structures, the mayor said.
    He said that at present, the city has identified 11 sites for constructing multi-level parking buildings and it would need more thus the decision to involve the private sector in the pursuit of said project.
    The Traffic and Transportation Management Division (TTMD) of the City Engineering Office said Land Transportation Office (LTO) records showed a total of 49,000 vehicles plying the city’s roads daily based on the number of registered private and public vehicles in 2022.
    This does not include the number of vehicles of outsiders including tourists entering the city daily.


6 druggies held in Cordi; P3-M marijuana burned

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- Six drug personalities were arrested while more than P3 million worth of illegal drugs were apprehended in Cordillera.
    Reports to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. David K. Peredo Jr. bared operations were conducted in Benguet, Kalinga and Baguio City on March 20.
    Suspects were identified as Christopher A Bajit, 44; John Kenneth C Sambrano, 26; John Dave S Suan, 24; Fidel T. Coyub, 27; Shanon M. Codiamat, 20 and Junar A Daguioa, 20. 
    In Benguet, Sambrano and Suan were arrested by elements of La Trinidad Municipal Police Station and regional Intelligence Division while in drug session in Barangay Betag.
    Lawmen seized sachet of suspected shabu worth P3,400.
In Tublay town, police and Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit  of Benguet Police Provincial Office arrested Codiamat and     Daguioa while in a drug session in Barangay Ambassador.
    Confiscated from them were a sachet of suspected shabu worth P2,040 from the suspects.
In Tabuk City, Kalinga, Coyub was arrested by city police and PDEU of Kalinga PPO after he sold three sachets of suspected shabu worth P2,040to a cop who acted as buyer.
    In Baguio, city police and elements of Regional Intelligence Division arrested Bajit in Barangay Loakan Liwanag, after he sold three sachets of suspected shabu weighing around 1.21 grams valued at P8,228 to a police officer who also acted as buyer.
The inventory of confiscated items was witnessed by suspects and representatives from the Department of Justice, media, and barangay officials.
The suspects and confiscated items were brought to the custody of respective police units where charges for illegal drugs were filed against suspects.
Meanwhile, police discovered marijuana plantation sites and confiscated 15 kilos of dried marijuana stalks and 6,300 fully-grown marijuana plants worth P3,060,000 in Barangay Tacadang, Kibungan, and Barangay Kayapa, Bakun, Benguet. All marijuana plants were uprooted and burned on site while an investigation is ongoing to identify cultivators.



DILG to Cordillera LGUs: Stop E-sabong

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Cordillera Administrative Region urged regional local government units Tuesday to monitor and stop betting stations and cockpit arenas operating as E-Sabong in their respective localities
    “We are urging our city and municipal governments in the region to closely coordinate with and provide assistance to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure the compliance of the suspension of E-Sabong,” said Regional Director Araceli A. San Jose of DILG-CAR.
    In December 2022, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., issued executive order No. 9 s. 2022 for the continued suspension of all E-Sabong operations, including auxiliary E-Sabong activities.
“We are enjoining our LGUs to strictly implement pertinent provisions of the suspension of the activities relating to E-Sabong such as live-streaming or broadcasting of cockfights inside and outside cockpits or cockfighting arenas, or in any premises where cockfights are being held including online betting on cockfighting matches, events, activities streamed or broadcasted live, regardless of the betting platform,” San Jose said.
“The PNP is also directed to implement appropriate actions against any violator in accordance with the rule of law”, she said.
In May 4, 2022, Pagcor issued notice and guidelines on suspension of E-Sabong operations following verbal order of then President Rodrigo R. Duterte. – BLM DILG-CAR


Beneco power rates decrease in March

BAGUIO CITY -- Power rates being charged by the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) from its member-consumer-owners (MCOs) went down by P0.2153 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) March.
    Beneco data bared decrease in power rates was due to lower generation and transmission charges.
    From the February generation charge of P5.7300/kWh, the March generation charge dropped to P5.7295/kWh.
    Beneco's transmission charge of P0.7670/kWh last month also dropped to P0.7630/kWh, or a reduction of P0.0040/kWh during the present billing period.
    On the other hand, the prevailing commercial low voltage rate of P9.3699/kWh is lower by P0.2109/kWh compared to a similar rate in February which was P9.5808/kWh.
    The industrial rate in March was at P9.3386/kWh compared to the February rate pegged at P9.5495/kWh.
    For the public building low voltage rate, the same dropped by P0.2109/kWh or from P9.5531/kWh in February to P9.3422/kWh during the present billing period.
    The rate for streetlights also realized a decrease of P0.2109/kWh from the February rate of P9.5808/kWh compared to the P9.3699/kWh in March.
    Beneco's commercial high voltage rate decreased by P0.2163/kWh from the February rate of P8.1180/kWh compared to the P7.9017/kWh March.
    Moreover, the public building's voltage rate of P7.8739/kWh in March was lower by P0.2163/kWh compared to the February rate of P8.0902/kWh.
    Beneco's power rates had been on a downward trend since the start of the year.
    Beneco continues to strive to regain its status as a Class AAA electric cooperative after it was downgraded to class C because of the previous leadership impasse that ruined its gains in the past 3 decades.
    Despite being a Class C electric cooperative, Beneco is able to maintain its cheap and competitive power rates compared to the power rates of similar cooperatives and private distribution utilities with a much wider area of coverage and a much bigger number of consumers.
    Beneco has a 50-year franchise covering the power distribution in the Baguio and Benguet areas where the same is expected to expire by 2028.



Senators, Palace execs join Mt. Province Lang-ay fest

By Roger Sacyaten

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Top national government officials are set to join celebration of the 16th Lang-ay Festival here to commemorate the 56th founding anniversary of the province.
    Lawyer Joseph Sagandoy Jr., Deputy Presidential Legal Counsel and  native of this town, will be main guest of honor and speaker.
    Others include Senators Imee Marcos and Christopher Laurence “Bong” Go, Dept. of Labor and Employment Sec. Bienvenido Laguesma and   Brig. Gen. Marfelino Bazar, Regional Director, Regional Police Office - Cordillera.
    On April 2, 2023, the main street from the Circle to the junction at the Omfeg St. fronting the Eastern Gasoline Station will be closed to motorists to give way to Lang-ay on the Street. 
    Local foods and fruit wines, as well as indigenous delicacies, will be served, so it was learned from the organizers.
    Sponsored by Rep. Maximo Dalog. Jr., this year’s edition will feature watwat or meat for all including tourist and visitors.
Snacks of patopats and linapets will be served for those who will be at the venue that time.
    During the late afternoon and early evening, a concert featuring local talents will be conducted, according to lawyer Cyphrine Dalog, chief of staff of Rep. Maximo Jr. Y. Dalog.
    Jamming on the street will be the come-on of the night as the indigenous fruit wines overflow.
    The private sector consisting of business people could augment the merriment by bringing out their products and delicacies of finger foods and appetizers.The municipal local governments were encouraged to bring their native food delicacies for the public to partake of.
    At 2 p.m., a ceremony will be conducted to open the Lang-ay on the Street.
    Cultural performances follow before dinner will be served followed by a concert of local talents, according to Wabilyn Lomong-oy, staff of Congressonal District Office, one of Lang-ay coordinators on street event.
    Meanwhile, street dancing and street chanting will resonate main streets on April 5 as municipal contingents showcase their top performances in three performance areas, in front of the municipal capitol, Omfeg junction in front of the Eastern Gasoline Station and at the Circle.
    During the commemorative program of the 56th founding anniversary, cultural performances of the municipal contingents will keep spectators on their seats.
    Everybody to include guests and visitors are welcome in the Lang-ay at the Eyeb for lunch after the program.


Ilocos Norte scholar tops physician licensure exam

LAOAG CITY -- Aira Cassanda S. Castro, a scholar of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte's Doctor of Medicine Scholarship Program, topped the recent March 2023 Physician Licensure Examination with a grade of 89 percent.
    Dr. Castro made history by becoming the first medicine graduate from the Mariano Marcos State University College of Medicine (MMSU-COM) rank first in the board examination.
    She was consistent academic achiever from primary level until medical school.
    She was valedictorian of her high school and grade school.
In 2017, she graduated summa cum laude from the MMSU College of Arts and Sciences' BS Biology program.
    She promptly enrolled in Doctor of Medicine program at MMSU, where she graduated cum laude and valedictorian in 2021.
    “I want to teach at the MMSU College of Medicine (COM) to train the younger generation of Ilocano doctors,” expressed Dr. Aira Cassandra S. Castro in a press briefing conducted after the release of results.
    According to Dr. Castro, her intention to teach at MMSU-COM is also a way for her to repay MMSU and the PGIN for giving her with a scholarship during her time in medical school. She aspires to eventually work at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMHMC).
    She remarked that the shortage of doctors in Ilocos Norte was her key motivation for pursuing her career. “I always want to serve Ilocos Norte. So, MMMHMC po ang choice ko,” said Dr. Castro.
Along with Dr. Castro, Dr. Christian Alvin Arca, Dr. Marianne Shem Caraang, Dr. Neil Justine dela Cruz, and Dr. Mida Dorothy Manayon also passed the PLE and achieved a 100% passing rate, giving the university its seventh straight perfect record in the board exam for medical doctors since it began fielding examinees in 2020.
The Doctor of Medicine Scholarship was an initiative of Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc which aims to provide Ilokano doctors who will ensure the delivery of healthcare service in the province, particularly in far-flung areas.
Aside from medicine, the provincial government  also offers scholarships for law school, academic, technical-vocational, agri-fishery (tertiary and secondary), arts, sirib youth leaders, and senior high school.



DILG sets rules in search for top Philippine b’gays

P300-K, more prizes at stake 

BAGUIO CITY – The Dept. of Interior and Local Government has issued enhanced criteria in search of top barangays which have excellent peace and order programs.  
    The Lupong Tagapamayapa will now need to pass an intensified assessment criteria before getting the 2023 Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentive Awards (LTIA) in October.
    “We leveled up the LTIA 2023 with an enhanced criteria and guidelines to boost the performance of LTs in the barangay to strengthen them for better implementation of Katarungang Pambarangay to their constituents,” said DILG Cordillera regional director Araceli San Jose.
    In a statement, Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr., said review of criteria and guidelines for LTIA was timely considering developments that emerged in peace and order, administration of justice and local governance for policies to fit reality.
    The LTIA institutionalized a system of granting economic benefits and other incentives to Lupons which demonstrated exemplary performance in dispute resolution and have generated greater awareness and support from and among the various sectors in the Philippines on implementation of KP, as vehicle toward social order and human development.
    “Through these awards, we recognize our outstanding Lupong Tagapamayapa that adequately demonstrated the ability to judiciously and expeditiously resolve cases referred to them and for their exemplary performance and commendable contribution in the promotion and implementation of Katarungang Pambarangay,” said San Jose.
    Pa4rt of new criteria is systematic maintenance of records with computerized database and searchable case information for cities and manual and digital record filing for municipalities.
    There should be at least 10 cases filed before the LT that were resolved through either mediation, conciliation and arbitration within the prescribed timelines.
    San Jose cited need for LTs to undergo barangay-organized skill training, seminars, and exchange visits to improve their knowledge and skills in KP.
    Meanwhile, San Jose noted the Department will hold its regional assessment of barangay nominees on May 15 to 19.
    “We also encourage the barangays to submit and encode their documents and means of verification in the LTIA System on or before the set deadline. Likewise, we appeal to the assessment teams on the field to fast-track the evaluation and submit the result on or before April 24, 2023 for them to qualify for regional assessment,” she said.
    The national winners and runners-up will receive incentives of
P300,000 and P200,000 respectively trophy.
    Regional winners and runners-up will receive a development grant of P50,000 and P20,000 respectively. -- BLM/DILG-CAR


Bontoc folks receive tilapia fingerlings, feeds

By Christy Mae Che-es

BONTOC, Mountain Province - Five fisherfolks received a total of 4,000 Tilapia fingerlings and 44 sacks of feeds from the Dept. of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Cordillera. Administrative officer Ross Kiat-ong of the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist, said distribution of fingerlings and feeds was under the Technology Demonstration Project and technical assistance to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) barangays program of  BFAR Cordillera Administrative Region.
    The five beneficiaries included two fisherfolks from Barangay Maligcong and three from Barangay Tocucan.
    In an interview, Bontoc Mayor Jerome "Chagsen" Tudlong, Jr., said the Tilapia fingerlings would boost economic development as it would provide livelihood and business opportunities including development of the agriculture sector.
    He assured support of the Bontoc local government to local fisherfolks considering economic empowerment which involves promotion of organic agriculture and recovery of local enterprise is one of main thrusts of his administration.
    The turnover was held March 21 at municipal capitol.



SC: Senior citizen discount includes internment services

By Benjamin Pulta

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday said internment services for senior citizens are covered by the 20-percent discount provided by Republic Act 7432, or the Senior Citizens Act, as amended.
    In its decision, the SC en banc granted the petition filed by government lawyers and set aside a 2018 decision of the Cagayan de Oro City Regional Trial Court (RTC), which excluded interment services from the coverage of the statutorily mandated senior citizen discount on “funeral and burial services.”
    The petition before the SC was filed by the State, through the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and questioned the Cagayan RTC which in turn had ruled in favor of the suit initiated by a private firm, Pryce Corporation Inc.
    The firm, which is engaged in the business of selling memorial lots and offering interment services, argued that interment service is not among the services entitled to the 20 percent discount provided under RA 7432.
    The RTC had ruled that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, only mentioned the services of purchase of casket or urn, embalming, hospital morgue, and transport of the body to the intended burial site.
    The RTC held that the service of interment was not included as one of the benefits covered. It concluded that the digging of land for the grave of the deceased, the concreting of the gravesite, and the other services done during the actual burial were not subject to the discount.
    Ruling otherwise, the Supreme Court emphasized that the Senior Citizens Act is a law created to grant a bundle of benefits in favor of senior citizens or those at least 60 years old, giving flesh to the declared policy of motivating senior citizens to contribute to nation building and encouraging their families and communities to reaffirm the Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens.
    “Death may be the end of one’s life. But from the perspective of those left behind, there are things that survive a person’s demise. For the romantics, it is the memories and feelings that linger long after the passing of a loved one. For the pragmatics and businesspersons alike, the financial aspects of funeral and burial are matters that persist even after one is laid to rest,” said the Court.
    Elucidating on the scope of services covered by the subject 20 percent discount on funeral and burial services, the Court said that both RA 9257 and RA 9994, in amending RA 7432, do not provide for an exact definition of the term “funeral and burial services.”
    Notably, it said that the said laws likewise do not limit the scope of the services falling under “funeral and burial services.”
    The Court added that as pointed out by Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier in her Concurring Opinion that it would be unreasonable to infer that Congress intended to differentiate between the deceased’s final solace for the purpose of granting the 20 percent discount absent a clear legislative intent to the contrary.
The Court said that based on the definition of the term “burial” as it is commonly understood, “burial service” pertains to any service offered or provided in connection with the final disposition, entombment, or interment of human remains.
It held that it follows that burial services necessarily include interment services, such as digging the land for the deceased person’s grave, its concreting, and other services being done during the actual burial.
This conclusion, said the Court, was supported by the IRRs which prescribe the guidelines in the application of the 20 percent discount on funeral and burial services in a comparison of the IRRs of RA 9257 and RA 9994 shows that the two are substantially the same.
The exception is that Section 6 of the IRR of RA 9994 expounded on the term “other related services” by including a sample list of “services” and excluding obituary publication and cost of memorial plot.
The Court ruled that the enumeration in Section 6 is not exclusive. It stressed that the phrase ‘other related services’ does not refer only to the enumerated examples so as to exclude interment services.
The Court maintained that this interpretation was in keeping with the policies and objectives of the law, particularly of RA 9994 which echoes Section 4, Article XV of the Constitution declaring that it is the duty of the family to take care of its elderly members while the state may design programs of social security for them.
The Court found that the exclusion by the RTC of interment services from the coverage of the 20 percent senior citizen discount is not provided under the law, and that the IRR, which does not explicitly exclude interment services, cannot be interpreted to support the lower court’s Resolution.
It likewise stressed that a law cannot be amended by a mere regulation, and the administrative agency issuing the regulation may not enlarge, alter, or restrict the provisions of the law it administers. -- PNA


Jobless, Bontoc PWDs trained for livelihood

By Alpine L. Killa-Malwagay

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Twenty Persons with Disability (PWDs) and self-employed individuals underwent free massage training March 20-24 at municipal capitol so they could earn despite their condition.
    The training involved lectures and demonstrations from physical therapist Irish Farnican-Astudillo and applied what they learned. 
    Participants were also provided supplies including alcohol, massage oil, facemasks, and towels from Technical Education Skills and Development Authority Mountain Province. 
    Engineer Glenn Murphy, Tesda provincial director said the training aimed to capacitate participants with the necessary skills that would qualify them for work. 
    Executive Assistant Jocelyn Culalling who represented Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr., said the training was part of government’s commitment to bring services to the community.
    Municipal Administrator Arthur Leonard Odsey represented Mayor Jerome “Chagsen” Tudlong, Jr.
    He thanked partner agencies for the training and providing essential skills to vulnerable sector of the community and self-employed individuals.
    He added the training will open self-employment opportunities to participants.
     The 5-day training was realized with through collaborative efforts of the Tesda Mountain Province, provincial and Bontoc local governments through the Municipal Disability Affairs Office and the Office of the Community Employment Training coordinator.


LTO: Recommended cap on driving school fees out soon

By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz 

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is set to finalize its recommendation for a standard driving school rate that would be fair and reasonable for both driving schools and student drivers.
    In a Laging Handa briefing on Thursday, LTO Chief, Assistant Secretary Jose Arturo "Jay Art" Tugade, said the final version of the standard rate was discussed in a consultative meeting with its committee on driving schools on Wednesday.
    Various factors were considered in formulating the standard fee such as the cost of investment and operating expenditures of driving schools, the minimum wage, rent, and electricity costs in different parts of the country.
    “Isang pasada na lang po ito at ilalabas na po natin iyong ceiling na puwede pong i-charge ng mga driving schools sa mga interesado pong mag-apply for a student driver permit (We just need to go over this one last time and then we’ll release the ceiling that driving schools may charge those applying for a student permit),” Tugade said.
    He assured the public that the LTO will ensure transparency and accountability in implementing its guidelines.
    Tugade added that the measure would help promote road safety and discipline among drivers.
    He also urged driving schools to comply with the LTO’s standards and regulations.
    Under Republic Act 10930, prospective drivers must first pass the Theoretical Driving Course (TDC) and Practical     Driving Course (PDC) from an LTO-accredited driving school before they can apply for a driver’s license.
Currently, the LTO’s rates are PHP250 for a student permit and PHP685 for a driver’s license.
    However, total costs may reach as high as PHP8,000 to PHP10,000 with the cost of a driving school course, which has drawn complaints from many applicants.
    In response, Pampanga Rep. Anna York Bondoc earlier filed House Resolution No. 751 that sought an inquiry into the ballooning cost of acquiring a driver’s license. – PNA


Cordillera inflation rate up 7.9 percent

BAGUIO CITY -- Inflation  rate in the Cordillera Region  in  January 2023 hit 7.9 percent, slightly  higher  than the  7.7 percent and the 7.6 percent inflation rate recorded in December and November 2022, respectively.
    This was reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority – Cordillera (PSA – CAR) Statistical Specialist II Cherry Dionisio during the virtual Consumer Price Index data dissemination last Feb. 28.
    Dionisio shared that the inflation in CAR continued to rise primarily due to higher prices of food items  as the main sources in the acceleration of the January 2023 Inflation is from the  commodity group of food and non – alcoholic beverages with 11.4 percent,  followed only by clothing and footwear at 4.4 percent.
    Per geographical area, the biggest contributor to the increased Cordillera Inflation are Baguio City and Kalinga with 43.3 %  and 40.3%   share, respectively, she added.
    Inflation rate is the rate of change of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), an indicator  of the change in the average retail prices of a fixed basket of goods and service commonly purchased by households relative to a base year.
For Cordillera, the CPI increased from 119.6 in December 2022 to 120.5 this January 2023.
    Meantime, Department of Agriculture – Cordillera Program Monitoring and Evaluation Division Chief Susan Balanza, in the dissemination forum, affirmed the concern on the increase in prices of food products due to lesser production and higher demand of the population.
    In Cordillera, transportation and logistics cost also contributed  to the  increase in food prices due to the topography and road network in the region, Balanza added.  
    She said for DA, ensuring food security remains their primary goal and in doing so, the department is bringing in interventions to restore level of production to pre – pandemic time.
    The DA is also working in developing the resiliency of the farmers in the region as disasters and calamities are also big factors that affect the production and cost of agriculture products in the region. (JDP/CCD-PIA CAR)


Mayor wants bocaps’ okay for biz permits

By Gaby B. Keith

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Benjamin Magalong has required the Summer Capital’s punong barangays to issue a certification that businesses in their respective areas are not within the following: road right of way; creek easement; certificate of ancestral land title (CALT); forest/watershed/safeguarded land; identified city/barangay needs.
    In a letter dated March 21, 2023 to the village leaders, the Mayor said the certification is in addition to the barangay clearance being issued by their respective offices before the issuance of a business permit.
The directive is in line with the city government’s continuing efforts to ensure that Baguio city remains clean and orderly and all city ordinances related to the same are followed, his letter disclosed.
    “Please be reminded that when you affix your signature to the said certification, you have reviewed and certified that the data you provided are true and complete based on your knowledge and records of the barangay,” it said.
    Briccio Domondon of the City Mayor’s Office-Special Services Division said the mayor’s notice was for the ‘strict compliance’ of the city’s punong barangays.


Swimming pool work stopped; contractor’s blacklisting pushed

By Jordan Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government has decided to stop construction of diving pool at the swimming pool complex of the Baguio Athletic Bowl due to the presence of a sewer beneath it. 
    Officials blamed the contractor and pushed his blacklisting and participating in bidding for city projects
    According to City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Pena and Councilor Mylen Yaranon, the excavation done during the construction had caused sewer seepage. The liquid from the sewer seeps into the pool, making it unusable. 
    Corrective measures were employed to address the leakage but no avail, Dela Pena claimed.
    The unfinished diving pool used to be a warm-up pool. Due to the circumstances, Yaranon proposed to revert the diving pool to a warm-up pool in order to fully utilize the space it occupies. The city council unanimously agreed with the said proposal.
    The construction of the diving pool was included in the scope of work of the contractor, RAG Construction. 
    Dela Pena said the contract between the city government and RAG Construction needs to be terminated to allow the city government to revert the diving pool to its original form. 
    Enumerating other reasons why the said contract needs to be terminated, Dela Pena claimed the contractor had failed to meet the deadline in the completion of the development and rehabilitation of the entire swimming pool complex and also failed to produce satisfactory work.  
Despite the city government’s efforts to constantly send reminders and notices, construction problems remained unaddressed, Dela Pena said.
He said the contractor’s project slippage and subpar performance are sufficient grounds for the termination of the contract. 
Also present in the council session, Patrick Rillorta of the City Sports Division relayed the findings of the consultant that inspected the ongoing project.
The consultant noted that the quality of the construction work was unsatisfactory.
Up to now, the contractor has yet to rectify the flaws and address the deficiencies, Rillorta said. 
Meanwhile, Councilor Levy Lloyd Orcales proposed the blacklisting of the contractor from all the infrastructure projects of the city government. He cited his own observation on the contractor’s failure in completing certain components of the project which affected the training of the city’s athletes and rendered the city’s learn-to-swim program unimplementable.
Because of the unfinished construction work, the swimming pool complex is not yet ready to be used by the athletes and the public for their safety.
In anticipation of the 2023 edition of the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association (CARAA) which will be held in the city, other venues for swimming events will be considered such as Saint Louis University and Philippine Military Academy.



Fire razes 45 hectares in scenic Ilocos town

FIRE razes mountain in Solsona, Ilocos Norte March 17. – BFP Ilocos Norte photo


SOLSONA, Ilocos Norte -- Firefighters and disaster risk reduction workers are battling forest fires that have continued to recur in villages in this scenic town since March 17.
    The Solsona Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office workers reported in the office's social media accounts that they responded and put out the fires raging in 45 hectares of forests in Sta. Ana, Catangraran and Manalpac villages in Solsona.
    Causes of the fires are yet to be known, but thrown cigarette butts and burning of farm wastes anywhere in the areas were pinpointed as possible culprits.
    Dingras and Marcos towns, two neighboring areas of Solsona, have been helping douse the fires.
    The Philippine Air Force also helped by spraying water through "helibuckets" or helicopter buckets.
    In the past weeks, the Ilocos Norte Provincial Fire Station and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council recorded that 23 hectares had been razed by grass fires in Solsona, Batac City, Vintar, Sarrat, Currimao, Marcos, Banna, Piddig and Paoay, all in Ilocos Norte.
    Lack of equipment and the wide area where the fires are raging have delayed operations in putting out the fires, the fire station reported. Other firefighters used agricultural backpack sprayers to put out the fires.
    Fire Chief Inspector Claire Simbol, Ilocos Norte fire marshal, suggested in a radio interview that there is a need to install communication and radio towers in the mountains and put water tanks in strategic locations.
    She noted that 50 fires were recorded from January to February, from the 17 recorded in 2022 in the same months.
    Simbol said the "strong and variable direction" of winds around the Solsona view deck fanned the fires while dried cogon grasses and pine trees aggravated them.
    A forest fire also razed a part of the mountains along Solsona-Apayao road in Ilocos Norte on February 25 this year.


City market vagrant rescued

BAGUIO CITY --  An elderly woman, living in one of the stalls at Block 4 of the city public Market was rescued by the City Social Welfare and Development Office on March 15.
    The City Social Welfare and Development Office led by Ms. Liza Bulayungan acted immediately on a concerned citizen’s report to the Public Information Office about an elderly woman supposedly forsaken by her family and has taken one of the stalls as the public market as her abode.
    The concerned citizen with Social Media name Lem Lem, a vendor at the Block 4, reported that the elderly woman visibly has not taken a bath for long, urinates and excretes on the spot where she lives causing excessive odor and is unsanitary.
    “The stench causes customers/tourists to evade the place thus affecting the businesses nearby,” Lem Lem said in her report to the PIO.
    The CSWDO was able to locate the elderly woman (name withheld per request of family) five days after the structural fire that gutted Block 3 and Block 4.
    She was immediately brought to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) for medical intervention on March 15, 2023 while her family was being located.
    Luckily, the CSWDO was able to contact her sister at Novaliches, Quezon City who expressed her desire to take custody of her and is willing to send her niece to fetch her the soonest.
    On the same day on March 15 at 7:00 in the evening, the elderly woman was turned over to her niece and is now happily reintegrated to her sister.  
    The CSWDO gave thanks to the concerned citizen who reported the case of the elderly woman that led to her rescue and reintegration with her family.
    To report similar cases, call the CSWDO at 444-6467 or 422-6056. – JMPS


Probe finds out Baguio market lease violations

By Jordan G.Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY – The city government has found out violations lease of public market stalls here.
    Long-standing issues on subleasing at the Baguio City Public Market were raised during the Baguio City Council’s regular session last March 20 in relation to allocation of stalls to victims of the fire that hit the city market night of March 11 until the wee hours of March 12. 
    City officials said subleasing is a practice that violates the city’s Market Code under tax ordinance 2000-01.
    The Market Code stipulates that the leaseholder shall not lease the stall awarded to them.
    This practice had long existed according to the results of investigations conducted by the city government. 
    During the session, members of the city council asked who between the leaseholder and the renter should occupy the temporary stall.
    Answering the question, City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said both the leaseholder renting out the stall and the renter should be disqualified since both violated the Market Code. 
    Cabarrubias, however, asked the city council how to properly address this issue, considering application period for market amnesty already lapsed on April 1, 2022.
    The amnesty program was enacted by the city council to end lease violations in the city market such as subleasing and selling of market stalls.
    The amnesty program provides corrective remedies such as formally transferring the lease hold rights by the original leaseholder to the actual occupant upon the former’s issuance of waiver of rights.
    The amnesty ordinance, however, states that if both parties fail to agree, the contract of lease shall be revoked or canceled and the stall shall be declared vacant; or the market supervisor may adjudicate on the case and award the stall to either party based on the results of the investigation. 
    Cabarrubias said they had advised actual occupants to submit an affidavit admitting they had been renting from a leaseholder. 
    The affidavits were merely noted but no further action was undertaken yet, he said.
    “What now is the next step?” he asked the city council.
    Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. said there was a pending proposal to extend application period for the amnesty program in light of the fire incident.
    Cabarrubias considered this as a positive move by the city council. Meanwhile, Councilor Peter Fianza said the priority at the moment is to restore the displaced vendors.
    He suggested suspending any decision as to who between the leaseholder and the actual occupant has better rights over the stall. 
    “As of now, the intention is to simply allow the vendors who were there at the time of the fire to return. There should be no decision yet as to who will be awarded the stall because that process takes time.” Fianza explained. 
    Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said this matter will be discussed further with the executive department. 
    In the same session, the city council passed a resolution urging the City Buildings and Architecture Office to employ the services of a structural engineer to inspect the “structural integrity of Block 4 Building at the public market to ensure the safety of vendors and the public.


Agents burn P700-K marijuana found in Benguet plantation

KIBUNGAN, Benguet -- Fully grown marijuana plants valued at P700,000 were burned in three plantations here last week.
    In a social media post on Tuesday, Police Community Affairs and Development Group Cordillera said lawmen discovered the illegal plants in communal forest Monday, March 20.
    Around 3,500 marijuana plants were found by anti-drug agents in a 1,700-square meter land area in Sitio Langey, Pakpak, Barangay Tacadang.
    The agents immediately burned the illegal plants.
    No marijuana grower was apprehended.
    “The said operation was successful with the joint forces of Bakun Metropolitan Police Service, Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit, Regional Intelligence Unit 14, and the Kibungan and Benguet Probationary Police Officers,” PCADG said. 


CCDC to host grand homecoming

By Karlston Lapniten

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- All roads lead to the Strawberry Valley here this April for former and current students and employees of Cordillera Career Development College (CCDC).
    Following a brief hiatus, the longest running private higher education institution in Benguet will be hosting its grand alumni homecoming on April 4 as part of its 30th founding anniversary celebration.
    The last Admirals homecoming for the grassroots took place in 2018 according to CCDC Founding Chairman James Malaya.
    The pandemic halted all social gatherings from 2020 to 2022, making it not possible for the school to continue its homecoming tradition.
    "The homecoming serves as an avenue for all those who made CCDC as their home away from home – be it as a student or an employee – to get together and catch-up, rekindle and nurture friendships or make some," said Malaya.
    The program, which starts in the afternoon, is expected to draw hundreds into the Admirals Gym.
Prior to the program, in the morning, the school will host its "CCDC Got Talent," named after the renowned game show, where students will showcase their talents in music and arts.
    A day before, the school will hold a thanksgiving mass, followed by a program attended by cultural presentations and a recognition ceremony.
    CCDC's theme this year is "Grateful @30: Flourishing in the New Era with Excellence, Commitment, and Synergy."
    Malaya said CCDC was officially registered as a corporation on April 6, 1993. However, the date falls on a Holy Thursday, prompting the schedule to be moved earlier.
    The operation of CCDC started during the summer term of 1993 in rented classrooms of the Pelizloy Centrum at Km. 5, La Trinidad, Benguet with 59 students enrolled in modular computer courses, review class for the NTC examination, a typing class and remedial classes for grade school pupils in reading, writing and arithmetic.
    Now, it has grown to over 4,000 in student and staff population from pre-elementary until graduate school courses.


4 rescued from boat in waters off Cagayan

COAST GUARD of Santa Ana rescue the four crew members of MB Kiray, which was swamped with water near Palaui Island in Santa Ana town, Cagayan Monday, March 20. -- PCG-District North East Luzon photo


TUGUEGARAO CITY–Four people were rescued at sea after their boat was swamped with water in Cagayan province, the local Coast Guard station said Tuesday, March 21.
    According to a report from the Coast Guard District North East Luzon, the boat–MB Kiray–was found adrift in the waters off Palaui Island in Cagayan’s Santa Ana town on Monday afternoon.
    Citing the boat crew’s account, the Coast Guard said the boat was on its way to Babuyan Claro when a five-foot-long dolphin accidentally hit its starboard bow, causing the boat to nearly sink.
    The crew removed their cargo and threw it into the water to keep the boat afloat.
    Coast Guard personnel from Santa. Ana substation responded to the distressed boat after receiving information from fisherman Mervin Pablo, who spotted the boat.
    All four aboard the MB Kiray were brought to safety, the Coast Guard said.



Mayor orders colorum motorcycles apprehended

BAGUIO CITY – Police impounded two motorcycles March 1 after Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong ordered intensified crackdown on violators of City Ordinance Number 55 Series of 2017 or the Anti-Colorum Ordinance.
    The two motorcycles were operating as ‘angkas’ or motorcycle-for-hire services without the mandatory certificate of public convenience required by the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) before a private motorcycle/vehicle can operate as a public utility vehicle.
    Last week, the Land Transportation Office – Cordillera Administrative Region (LTO-CAR) impounded two angkas motorcycles in a bid to stop the proliferation of PUVs without appropriate permits and franchises. The LTO-CAR likewise confiscated the driver’s license of the motorcycle riders.
    The mayor repeatedly issued warnings to motorcycle riders offering "angkas" for a fee as well as taxi drivers using the InDrive Application, as he recommended to LTFRB and LTO for the revocation of licenses and franchises of those using these unauthorized schemes.
    The LTFRB-CAR warned the public on the use of motorcycles operating as PUVs in Baguio City.
    “At present, there is no law allowing motorcycle taxis to ply the streets and carry commuters. Motorcycle taxis have yet to be officially legalized as a form of public transportation and are currently operating under a pilot study in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. To date, there are no authorized motorcycle taxi operators in the city of Baguio,” the LTFRB-CAR advisory stated.
    “The riding public is urged to refrain from patronizing any individual and company providing motorcycle-for-hire services,” the agency stated.
    Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code states that registered private motorcycles, scooters, or motor wheel attachments shall not be used for hire under any circumstances and shall not be used to solicit, accept, or be used to transport passengers or freight for pay.
     Private or public utility vehicles offering transport network vehicle service (TNVS) without any accreditation as transport network companies (TNC) is also disallowed under the said law. – JMPS


53 wanted persons nabbed in Cordillera

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet --  Fifty three wanted persons were recently arrested by police in Cordillera.
     Based on the records from the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division, the weeklong manhunt operation was conducted in provinces of the region.
    The same records disclosed that the Benguet Police Provincial Office has recorded the highest number of arrests with 20 followed by Baguio City with 19 arrests, Abra with six arrests, Ifugao with four arrests, Kalinga with two arrests, and one arrest each for Apayao and Mountain Province.
    Of these arrested individuals, six were on the most wanted persons list. Meanwhile, as a result of intensified police visibility and campaign against criminality, 66 municipalities in the different provinces of the CAR and three police stations in Baguio City remain peaceful with no recorded crime incidents in the past week.
    Zero crime incidents were recorded in the 24 municipalities in Abra, 11 in Benguet, 10 in Mountain Province, 10 in Ifugao, six in Kalinga and five in Apayao.
    Loakan Police Station 4, Aurora Hill Police Station 6 and Marcos Highway Police Station 10 also recorded zero crime incidents out of 10 police stations in Baguio City.


45 child abuse cases in Baguio City bared

BAGUIO CITY – The City Social Welfare and Development Office  reported 45 child abuse cases documented by the city government in city barangays  last year.
    CSWDO Gender and Development focal person Myrna Valencerina claimed that of the said cases, 12 cases had already been filed with the proper authorities while there are still 33 cases that remain unfilled for various reasons.               
    The CSWDO official claimed that two cases had already been provided with decisions by the concerned authorities while 10 cases are still undergoing trial with the proper courts.               
    She explained that the 33 pending cases are reportedly undergoing the appropriate intervention programs being spearheaded by the CSWDO and other partners to allow the reformation of those involved in the said cases before they will be allowed to join mainstream society. 
    According to her, of the abused children, 40 are females and 5 are males who were said to be victims of various abuses.
    Among the types of abuses committed against the children include sexual abuses with 31 female victims; physical abuse with 7 female and 4 male victims; psychological abuse with 1 female victim, and neglect with 1 male and 1 female victim.   
    In terms of the age bracket, most of the abused children belong to the 11-18 age group with 36 cases followed by those belonging to the below 5 years old bracket with 6and 3 cases for those in the 6 to 10 years old age bracket. -- Dexter A. see


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