Thursday, 28 February 2013

EXTRA:Dengue in Albay surges by 684%

Dengue-carrying mosquitos under experiment at a medical laboratory. - Websitepic  


By MAR S ARGUELLES
LEGAZPI CITY: Health authorities in Albay are on heightened alert following the surge in Dengue cases by over 600% with one death reported during the past two months  of the year, the Albay Provincial Health Office said.

PHO surveillance team reported that 308 people fell ill of the mosquito borne disease from January to Feb 27 this year, 684% higher than the 45 cases reported during the same period last year, Dr. Nathaniel Rempillo, assistant provincial health officer, said.

The first dengue casualty this year was a six-year-old girl from Tabaco City.

Provincial epidemiology data show that among the 15 towns and three cities in Albay, Ligao City had the highest number of cases with 112, followed by Legazpi City with 77 cases, Tabaco City 33, Daraga  and Guinobatan towns with 24 each, and Camalig with 11;

Oas 6, Polangui and Sto. Domingo with 5 each, Manito and Pio Duran with three each, while the towns of Bacacay, Jovellar Libon, Tiwi, and Rapu-Rapu with one each.

Rempillo said of the 15 towns and three cities in Albay only the towns of Malilipot and Malinao had no reported dengue cases.

Rempillo said the rainy days that prevailed since January this year could have triggered  the increasing trend in dengue cases.

He said mosquitos thrive and breed in water-filled containers and flower pots.

Last year, five people died due to dengue while 1,477 people fell ill after being bitten by the dengue-carrying mosquitos.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH)in Bicol reported that during the period January to Feb 27, this year, at least 522 dengue cases were reported by  various provincial health offices in Bicol with Albay registering 308 cases followed by CamSur with 92, Catanduanes 68,  Sorsogon 27, Masbate 23, and CamNorte with only four cases.

Jaime Guerrero, DOH Bicol public information officer said the agency has dispatched six Provincial Health Teams (PHT) to closely coordinate with local chief executives and local health officers for the clustering of areas with dengue cases and for them to take appropriate intervention to control the surge of the mosquito-borne disease, particularly in villages.

Guerrero said at least three villages in Virac town and a village in Ligao City are being closely monitored.

He dismissed speculations of a dengue outbreak saying that there are no identified parameters yet for the agency to declare an outbreak

Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease with four variant viruses.

Symptoms appear 3-14 days after the infectious bite.

Dengue fever is a febrile illness that affects infants, young children, and adults.

Symptoms range from a mild fever to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. – Bicol Mail









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EXTRA: Electric coop cuts off power supply of cheating consumer

Power consumers protesting against the poor service of the power cooperative in 2011. – Websitepic


By MANNY T UGALDE
  
LEGAZPI CITY: It took a long time for the now bankrupt  Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) to finally come out hard against power supply thieves who are being blamed for being one of the major causes why the power coop is on the verge of financial collapse.

Aleco is said to be among the 10th worst electric cooperatives in the country as a result of mismanagement and corruption.

Last week, one of the five big private establishments that were initially caught using “jumpers,” or illegal power connection in December last year was reportedly cut of its power connection after it failed to pay the P5M computed liabilities. 
The power connection, however, was restored on the same day after its owner signed a promissory note for early settlement of his liabilities based on the estimated cost of stolen power supply with the use of a “jumper.”

Along with four other power consumers caught using “jumpers,” Aleco had computed a total P35M in total liabilities collectible from the errant power consumers.

Power thieves and pilferers cause Aleco to suffer from 23 percent systems loss, considered to be among the highest among the power coops in the country, where only 13 percent is allowed as cap by the Energy Regulatory Board. This means that systems losses above 13 percent are passed on to the local power consumers’ monthly power bills.

Of the initial five big firms caught with jumpers, the four were composed of a 3-star hotel and restaurant reportedly owned by a congressman, a 3-star hotel owned by a Filipino-Chinese trader, another 2-star hotel, and a construction firm with batching plant owned by a party-list congressman. The establishment that was reported disconnected of its power supply last Feb. 18 is said to be owned by a congressman.

Concerned consumers said more efforts should be done to run after other power supply thieves and pilferers that abound not only in this city but in other cities and towns of Albay province.

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EXTRA: The importance of gulayan sa paaralan


Based on studies, the DepEd said one in every three children has weak body resistance and skinny or undernourished. - Websitepics

By IMELDA C FESTIN
Teacher -1 Palangon Elementary School

SUSTAINABILITY has long been a common problem especially in the outskirt regions of our country.
Not to mention in the far flung areas where scarcity often takes place and the constituents have to make ends meet to survive even on a day to day basis of existence.
To address this type of problem, certain measures had been set forth but then the problem on implementing guidelines had been tarnished by flaws as how it should be laid out.
Then came the green revolution project of the late president Marcos.
In this program, focus was not only concentrated on greening project but also on agricultural-based programs.
However, the problems of implementation to fully appreciate its effect was too much politicized until it eventually faded away and forgotten.
The question on sustainability or so to speak subsistence has been a plague in our society and constituents had focused on daily existence instead of a long-term plan to provide not only for their family but to this community as well.
The school has been a basic foundation of skills and learning and is the ideal point for a project such as the “Gulayan sa Paaralan”.
It will not only benefit the children regarding sustainability but will embed in their consciousness the realization of how important these vegetables, their nutrients and vitamins and the effect of healthy living are.
Most, if not all, of the school grounds nationwide are in vast property left unattended.
Turning these idle portions in a somewhat green pasture of vegetation will not only turn the school into a refreshing scenery but also awaken the consciousness of the student populace on the effect of having a healthy dietary intake.
It will provide the nutrients and vitamins the body absorbs when these vegetables are digested.
Also, it will not only be soothing to the eye during its bloom but will also nourish the human body.
Eventually the surplus will be turned into profit not only for the school per se but to the community where this “Gulayan sa Paaralan“ will be implemented.
In short, the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” project when fully implemented will not only benefit the school and its studentry but also the community because the project will serve as an inspiration for the community and awaken their consciousness on the effect of a green environment.
To end, the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” is a multi-beneficial project to the school, the student populace in terms of nutritional benefits not to mention the monetary consideration it will bring about by its surplus,.
It will be a community-wide benefit for all, for it will not only touch on the physical attributes but also awaken the mental and psychological attributes of the community and thus ensure self-sustainability. – Bicol Mail





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EXTRA: Commuter train test run shows problems


A Bicol-bound PNR train ... Problematic operations bugged by competitions from bus and hauling truck companies. - Websitepic


By JUAN ESCANDOR JR

NAGA CITY: The commuter train test run of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) on Monday from this city to Legazpi City has shown problems that require immediate attention before its planned regular run next month.

Passing through 102 km railways from Naga Station to Legazpi Station, the commuter train has to maneuver carefully amidst cluster of communities with structures almost touching the moving trains while several crossings still need keepers to warn vehicles and pedestrian of the incoming train.

But one major problem is the competitiveness of its operation against buses and passenger vans plying the route Naga City-Legazpi City with only two roundtrips daily and the duration of each trip.

While the train ride is cheaper at P82 against buses and passenger vans charging P180, the commuter train travel is 45 minutes longer than the latter means of transportation. The frequency of trips is another problem with vans and buses leaving the terminal every 15 minutes.

Constancio Toledano, area manager, revealed that the existing commuter train operation from Sipocot town to Naga City that started during the Arroyo administration has always been a losing operation with 70% subsidized by the central office of the PNR.

But Toledano said the advantage of commuter train against the traditional means of transportation is that the train accommodates more passengers and cargos.

Another one is the problem with informal settlers living within the 15-meter right of way and 7.5-meter danger zone that put at risk the lives and limbs of people living there. Within the Bicol area, from the boundary town of Del Gallego to Legazpi City, there are some 50,000 families of informal settlers that still need to be relocated.

Maria Lourdes S. Cañeda, clearing consultant, disclosed that so far the PNR has only relocated 51 families in Naga City and it will still take a long way to clear the 15m right of way from both sides of the railways.

Cañeda said the PNR is working to hasten the clearance of railways with structures within the 7.5M danger zone that are still habituated by thousands of families from Naga City to Legazpi City.

She said the total clearance of the 15m right of way is a tall order because of the Urban Development Housing Act 7279 that protects the rights of informal settlers.

Cañeda said it requires collective efforts between the National Housing Authority (NHA), local government units and other agencies to relocate informal settlers out of the 15m right of way.

During the test run, it took five hours to reach Legazpi City from Naga City because rail police had to serve notice of clearance to families and village officials.

As the train traveled the 102-km. stretch from Naga City to Legazpi, the Bicol Mail noted a cow tied to the rail was bumped off, a dog almost run over, an old woman almost hit by the incoming train, vehicles and domestic items left very near the tracks, people seemed unfazed by the dangers and structures almost touching the moving train. – Bicol Mail







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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

JP-LGU eCenter launched

New eCenter … Vice-Mayor Ariel (Aye) Non (center) cuts the ribbon that launched the new information and communication center of Jose Panganiban – LGU recently. He is being assisted by staff of the local government unit including MBO Naning Mariano, MCRO Malyn Obrero; HRMO Mar Alforque; MT Tes Reyes and Admin Officer Cesar Brondia. The officiating priest is Fr Bobit Chavez (left). The operation of the center is similar to an internet cafe. It will provide services like internet surfing, research works, printing, scanning, fax service, among others. Says Vice-Mayor Non: We will also provide training for those Mambulaoans who wish to learn computer programs such as Microsoft word, Excel, Power Point presentation and others. All of these services are available for a minimal cost, or we could give it free of charge to those under privileged pupils. – Photo supplied by the LGU-JP









‘ASAP 18’ summoned by MTRCB over Anne Curtis’ wet-look act


Anne Curtis’ wet-look birthday performance on “ASAP 18”. - Contributed photo/ Curtis Facebook fan page


By BAYANI SAN DIEGO JR
 
MANILA: The Movie Television Ratings and Classification Board (MTRCB) has summoned on Tuesday ABS-CBN’s Sunday noontime variety show, ASAP 18 over the alleged provocative outfit of one of its stars.

On Sunday’s ASAP 18, Anne Curtis caused a stir when she performed Rihanna’s song Diamonds which entailed a shower scene. She was celebrating her 28th birthday.
In the original Rihanna video, the American singer is shown singing naked submerged in an actual bath tub.

In the said ASAP 18 number, Curtis is wearing a black long gown with a slit that shows her left leg, thigh and half of her waist while water drips on her from an unseen shower. For a few seconds, it looks like half of her bare waist is shown.

The wet-look performance on a noon-time weekend TV show has gathered negative reactions in various social media.

Curtis on her Twitter account on Tuesday late afternoon said it’s not a wardrobe malfunction and that the Boom Sason gown she was wearing had a protective bodysuit.

“As you can see, we have a bodysuit with a hidden tangga (sic) to make way for the sky high slit skirt. It is made out of 2 pieces.

In fact the ‘tangga’ is made out of swimsuit material which Boom Sason is also known for making. I was completely protected,” Curtis said.

Accompanying her post is an Instagram shot of the said dress though it wasn’t shown clearly where the protective bodysuit is.

In a statement sent to the INQUIRER, the MTRCB cited its memorandum of agreement on gender sensitivity with the network.

MTRCB chair Eugenio Villareal confirmed that the board has sent the summons to ABS-CBN management.

ASAP 18 business unit head Joyce Liquicia told the INQUIRER in a text message Tuesday late afternoon that she can’t comment on the issue at the moment, as she hasn’t read MTRCB’s letter yet.

She said they will issue an official statement through ABS-CBN’s corporate communications if needed.

Tuesday night, Bong Osorio, head of ABS-CBN corporate communications, told the INQUIRER they’ve received the MTRCB summons.

“ASAP representative will be attending a meeting set by the board on Thursday,” Osorio said.

Osorio added that they can only issue an official statement after the said meeting. – Inquirer










Joblessness in Larap leads to mangrove tree cutting

  
By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ


LIMITED job opportunities and lack of alternative livelihood among many of the residents in Baranggay Larap, Jose Panganiban, CamNorte, led to the cutting of mangrove trees for commercial charcoal and the operation of small-scale mining in the nearby mangrove areas.

The primary causes of the problem are illegal fishing activities, which depleted marine resources in Mambulao Bay, a major source of livelihood for the many residents in Larap, and the non-prioritization of villagers to job hiring for lack of employable skill.

These two major issues were revealed by a research-study group that came to Larap in October and December 2012 to find out how the community’s heavily deforested mangrove areas could be rehabilitated and the former mine camp reforested.

The findings of the research-study will become the basis of a proposed major project to rehabilitate Larap’s deforested mangrove areas and to reforest the mined out sites in the community.

Led by Teodoro Licarte, an environmentalist, the group was funded by a grant from Rufford Small Grants Foundation, with scientific assistance from Prof Pastor L Malabrigo, Jr, who acted as the project team biologist.

Alongside the research-study, the team conducted workshops on environmental awareness involving Larap residents and community leaders.

During workshop discussions, it was revealed that the mangrove forests had been the source of livelihood for many of the residents as it supplied wood materials for making charcoal, which is sold in town.

Illegal fishing through dynamite blasting had damaged much of the coral habitat in Larap’s coastal waters where abundant fish used to thrive.

As a result, local subsistence fishermen caught lesser volume of fish to sell in the local market.

To supplement income, they engaged in charcoal making.

Residents said there had been no alternative livelihood for many of the residents.

Likewise, many of their youths had a hard time finding jobs as they did not have employable skills, the residents said.

The residents said they were aware of the skills training center in Larap but the youth have yet to find out if they were qualified to enroll.

The local government of Jose Panganiban which set up the Gov Roy Padilla Sr Training Center in Larap said the facility was aimed at catering mostly for the out-of-school youth in the community.

Larap, which is the biggest depressed area in Mambulao where job opportunities are almost nil, has many people just doing odd jobs for survival.

It has the second biggest number of population in Mambulao after Parang.

The community was host to the once-prosperous iron mines operated by the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM).

However, when operations became unprofitable during the 1970s, PIM folded up and abandoned the mining camp, leaving hundreds of families who were dependent on the mine operations without sustainable source of income.

For comment please email the writer: ahernandez@thenational.com.pg and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com












Larap’s mangrove areas, ex-mining camp eyed for rehab


Ecological Survey at Barangay Larap.

Seedling nursery at Barangay Larap.


By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

INITIAL results of a research study on the mangrove areas and the abandoned mining camp in Larap, Jose Panganiban, CamNorte, suggested the two target sites needed immediate rehabilitation.

The study also revealed that some portions of mangrove areas in Larap have started to turn into beach forest type, which means these areas have been completely deforested.

The research study will become the basis of a proposed major initiative to rehabilitate Larap’s deforested mangrove areas and to reforest the mined out sites in the community.

Led by Teodoro Licarte, an environmentalist, the group was funded by a grant from Rufford Small Grants Foundation, with scientific assistance from Prof Pastor L Malabrigo, Jr, who acted as the project team biologist.

Prof Malabrigo, who specializes in taxonomy, has already determined the tree species that would grow well in the mangrove areas and in the mined out sites.

The team earlier conducted an ecological survey in October and December 2012 to find out the vegetation existing in the project’s target sites.

The research team was assisted by a group of local environmental advocates called the Jose Panganiban Environmental Protectors Association (JPEPA), composed of members who used to work at the defunct Philippine Iron Mines (PIM), which operated a mining camp in Larap.

The organisation is already registered with the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE).

The team and its local partners established a 10m x 10m nursery plots and the geographic locations at the project site was established using the GPS (global positioning system).

Licarte said the “envisioned outcome of this proposed project is a shift from irresponsible mining to mining with environmental consideration”.

A major target outcome of this proposed project is the reforestation using the concept of natural selection.

“This is a dense planting of endemic species (local trees) with 2-3 seedlings per square meter and using a thick mulch of rice straws to minimize maintenance activities.

Licarte said this will determine the potential natural vegetation of the project area.

This will be used in the proper selection of the combination of species to be planted in the proposed sites.

With this, the team would be able to project the growth and yield of the established plantation.

This scheme would provide scientific data to determine the importance of natural vegetation technique in the ecological succession of degraded lands – abandoned mine sites in this case, Licarte said.

According to the local people, several decades ago, crabs, shrimps and fish could be seen in the shoreline.

But due to loss of its habitat, this marine life has disappeared.

“This is one of the biggest challenges of the project … to bring back those driven-away species caused by habitat loss,” said Licarte.

Larap was host to the abandoned mining camp of the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM), which operated the only iron mine in the Philippines during those years.

When its operations became unprofitable in the 1970s, the company folded up and abandoned the mine, leaving dozens of building structures all over the camp.

Likewise, hundreds of families dependent on the mine for livelihood bailed out, while those with no place to go stayed put and survived on hand-to-mouth-existence source of income.

A decade later, the entire mine camp turned into a “Mad Max-like desert” where skeletons of trees and rusty mining camp structures and colonies of “talahib” grass dotted the area.

A mild blow of wind from the nearby bay was enough to stir up blinding dusts in several inches thick that settled all over the mining camp.

PIM’s operations were also the biggest polluter of the Larap Bay into which mine tailings in massive volumes had been dumped since it began operations from the 1930s.

During those years, tailings ponds for containing mining wastes were unheard of.

The camp’s open pit mine measuring 1km long, 500m wide and 500m deep morphed into an artificial lake – a silent witness to the once prosperous mining community, now desolate and poor.


For comment, email the writer: ahernandez@thenational.com.pg and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com


Larap pushed as eco-tourism park

The open mine pit that has become an artificial lake over the years. – MWBuzzpic by ARNEL P HERNANDEZ


By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

LARAP, which was the site of a defunct iron mine in Jose Panganiban, CamNorte, is being proposed for development as another eco-tourism park.
The idea was advanced by the LaPIMa (Laking PIM Ako), an organization of individuals whose families benefited from the mines operated by the defunct Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) until mid-1970s.
As a theme park, it will showcase how the mineral iron is being mined in exactly the same way PIM did it during its heyday until the middle of 1970s.
The LaPIMa and JPNHSAA have endorsed the proposed project to Mayor Ricarte Padilla for inclusion in his nine-year development plan for Mambulao.
Mateo Ella Espana, former president of the Jose Panganiban National High School Alumni Association (JPNHSAA) and the project proponent, said that a prototype/scale model of the mine’s operations should be put up as one of the displays at the eco-tourism museum.
The museum is also proposed to display souvenirs from the mines that included safety headgear, shovels and picks and equipment and others that have something to do with the mine.
A centerpiece display would be the open pit mine, which has become an artificial lake after being filled over the past 40 years with water from nearby tributaries and rains. The pit is about 1km in length, 500m in width and 500m in dept.
It will also showcase a scale model of the pelletizing plant at Calambayungan Island where Japanese vessels waited at the pier to haul off the iron ore to Japan.
Espana said the project will achieve multiple objectives:
1) It will eventually perpetuate the memories of Larap PIM, a successful mining community whom the baby bloomers of the late 60’s in JP the present and future generations could hardly remember;
2) It will create a window of opportunities for small entrepreneurs run by a multi-purpose cooperative selling snacks and souvenirs;
3) It will put Jose Panganiban on the map as another tourism destination.
Espana is confident that the eco-theme park will draw visitors, especially those children of former Larap employees and workers who grew up elsewhere in the Philippines.
Espana said that since funding would be the main consideration, LaPIMa should also consider an option to partner with the Department of Trade and Industry under its on-going program promoting the One Town One Project (OTOP) scheme where a P1 million loan funding could be availed of.
Under the OTOP scheme, a town will develop one specific product unique to the place and promote it commercially on a national and global scale.
The iron mine made the municipality of Mambulao prosperous by providing stable jobs to Larap residents and to most of Mambulaoans and spurring various economic activities.
However, years after PIM shut down and most of the residents left for new opportunities elsewhere, the mining camp that comprised the Larap community became desolate and gradually turned into a desert.
Most of those who stayed had survived doing marginal farming and fishing and other odd jobs, while others engaged in small-scale livelihoods.
LaPIMa, which is working for the benefit of families who have remained in Larap, is aiming to revive economic activities at the former mining community by working closely with the development thrusts of the municipal government.











PNR conducts test run on Naga-Legazpi route


By ANALIZA S MACATANGAY


NAGA CITY: The Philippine National Railways (PNR) Mayon Limited has completed its test run plying the five-hour trip from this city en route to the Legazpi City and another three-hour travel vice versa.

In a press conference prior to the test run, PNR spokesman Paul De Quiros said that PNR manager Jun Ragrario has instructed his team to fast track the rehabilitation efforts to realize the train’s Southbound trip this coming March.

“GM Ragrario really wants this route completed as soon as possible to serve as alternative route for commuters,” De Quiros stated.

The full operation of the train transportation would benefit regular commuters particularly those working in Legazpi City with the current condition of the Pawili Bridge in Bula, Camarines Sur which is now undergoing repair and rehabilitation.

The project is also pursuant to the government’s commitment for the total rehabilitation of the railways and provision of safe and convenient transportation alternative to the riding public.

PNR Camarines Sur spokesperson Armi Asur-Gagnon meanwhile said that the management is hopeful that the ordinary train trip will start its operation on the first week of March.

“The PNR management is really looking forward to the Legazpi-Naga train trips but we would like to reiterate our call for those living along the rail roads to strictly adhere to the three-meter distance. We have constantly reminded them about this for their own safety,” Gagnon added.

The ordinary three-coach train has a 240-sitting capacity and well-ventilated seats allotted for comfortable travel.

It also offers a cheaper fare of P82 and a minimum of one a half hour travel from this city to Legaspi City and vice versa. First trip schedule will be 5am from Naga station then 10.30am vice versa.

The second trip will leave at 2pm from the Naga Station and will again leave Legaspi station at 5pm. - PIA5






   

Bankrupt Aleco going private?


By MANLY M UGALDE

LEGAZPI CITY:  To save the second biggest power cooperative from total collapse, which is also touted as among the 10th worst and heavily graft-ridden, the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) of 250,000 consumers is finally heading for privatization.

But the local Justice Retribution Restitution Coalition (JRRC) cries foul saying the privatization efforts is the brainchild of a few people in the government with vested interest and being seconded by those whose brains are merely dependent from the perpetrators.

JRRC is backed by professionals and businessmen against the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and Aleco abuses.

It said it had written President Aquino requesting for a dialogue to prevent the privatization, said Engr Melvin Romano, JRRC president.

Aleco-NEA appointed General Manager Rey Reverente would not answer calls and text messages for confirmation but Aleco Employees Union president Dexter Brutas was quoted by JRRC officials that Aleco-NEA executives have began ironing out the privatization program with apparent consent from the Aleco interim board of directors headed by Legazpi Diocese Bishop Joel Baylon.

According to JRRC vice-president and former Albay vice-governor James Calisin, Aleco privatization was earlier raised by Gov Joey Sarte Salceda in 2010 after NEA and the National Power Corporation performed Aleco rehabilitation in 2007 and in 2008-09 which the Albay governor rated the performance as poor.

The privatization proposal, however, was rejected by the church and multi-sectoral groups outright.

A church-led Aleco crisis management committee was created in early 2011 when the consumers-elected Aleco board of directors was forced to resign by Salceda as a condition for NEA to take over control of Aleco management to save it from the eminent collapse.

Early last year, however, the church-led committee had been abolished in favor of a newly created interim appointed board of directors also headed by Bishop Baylon.

JRRC officers said Aleco and NEA have already prepared the terms of reference for the privatization, which is backed by the now silent Albay congressmen, local officials, including the controversial Ako Bicol party-list who had described Aleco in 2010 as worst-corrupt, mismanaged and recommended for criminal prosecutions.

Among the developments in Aleco under NEA management control was the creation of the Special Payment Arrangement (SPA) of 10% in consumers' monthly billings, started in 2011 to raise funds for the settlement of the now P1.3 billion account from power generators.

Aleco debts stands at close to P4 billion  with consumers complaining of frequent brownouts, high system losses, padded billing and constant threat of power cut-off due to failure to settle power bills from the Wholesale Electric Spot Market (WESM). SPA, according to JRRC has been rejected by the Energy Regulatory Board but collections continue as seen in the consumers' monthly billings. It would end in December 2014.

According to the JRRC officers, Aleco has all the leeway to recover as a cooperative if only it is rightfully managed.

They lamented that NEA could not even liquidate the P250 million Calamity Assistance Rehabilitation Efforts (CARE) spent for Aleco rehabilitation in 2007  after Aleco was  devastated  by Typhoon Reming in Nov 2006.

JRRC officers said the P250-million fund was exclusively handled by NEA without Aleco participation by appointing a local project supervisor who was terminated after the project.

A year later, Aleco was put again under NPC operational and maintenance control.

The JRRC said the NEA scandalous handling of the P250 million CARE funds forced an Aleco general manager to retire to silence him, however, with a reward of P10 million worth of junks for his disposal as pabaon.

Engr Romano explained that Aleco had technically settled its obligations with WESM, the source of funds he said came from the P1.66 power rate increase in 2010 proposed by Salceda.

He said that despite rejection by the ERC, the P1.66 rate increase had in fact been included in the monthly billings in the guise of other inserted charges.

Romano computed that in two and a half years, the collection from P1.66 rate increase has already reached P1.4 billion.

Where is this fund now that we continue bullying consumers about the P1.3 billion WESM bills, asked Romano during a hastily called press conference here recently by imposing the illegal SPA.

The JRRC said the continuous bleeding of Aleco is a grand conspiracy which started three decades ago.

JRRC said it is offering that Aleco be divorced instead with NEA and remarry with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) under the Office of the President saying under CDA, Aleco would have a better breathing space in terms of operational benefits.

He said that their CDA proposal, however, had been strongly objected by NEA for unknown reason.

Romano and Calisin said the JRRC is offering a public debate with Aleco, NEA,  ERC and DOE combined, saying “we have the facts to present so that the public would know about the real status of Aleco and how it is bled.

They said it must be a public debate, adding that there are now certain groups instigating consumers to resort to a militant and drastic move.

The name of the Aboitiz Group which now owned the Tiwi (Albay) geothermal is ringing closer as reportedly offered and got interest to buy Aleco, the JRRC official said.

They said Aleco-NEA management is making a fool of the consumers citing a report about at least five big firms, two of them owned by a congressman and a party-list congressman who were initially uncovered of  having tampered meters with a computed stolen power of P35 million.
The JRRC said Aleco would not file criminal charges and continue refusing to bare violators' identities against small consumers who are immediately disconnected on failure to settle a one month bill.

Imagine this illegal SPA payment imposed with small-time consumers bullied of disconnection upon mere delay in payment, the JRRC lamented.

JRRC said Aleco have inserted so many charges they claimed estafa in nature, which ERC and NEA did not resist.

Now, JRRC said consumers do not know where to seek justice, citing a poor consumer who was forced to settle five billings which he claimed had surged to 10 times higher than his usual monthly bills at P50 average and without the findings of pilferage or damaged meter.

Until now this consumer, which is among the thousands of victims, has not been refunded in Tabaco City, the JRRC said. - Bicol Mail






Bicol tourist arrivals up 8%: Albay fastest growing hub; CamSur still tops arrivals

   
By MAR S ARGUELLES

LEGAZPI CITY: While CamSur, along with Naga City as its urban hub, continues to top the chart for distribution of tourist arrivals in Bicol, accounting for almost two-thirds of regional total as in the past, Albay proved to be the highest performing province in terms of last year's growth in tourist arrivals.

In a report of last year's tourist arrivals in Bicol prepared by the regional office of the Department of Tourism here, CamSur and Naga City combined accounted for a total of 2,491,159 tourists, domestic  and  foreign,  but a growth rate of only 0.62% over the previous year's 2,475,820.

But Albay, which used to be the premier tourist drawer in Bicol with its iconic Mayon Volcano in the background, seems determined to regain its old glory by posting the highest growth rate among the six provinces in Bicol by leapfrogging to as much as 49%, from a total of 350,629 tourists, domestic and foreign, in 2011 to 523,832 in 2012.

Coming in second in terms of growth rate is Sorsogon province with 173,700 tourists registered in 2012 compared to 132,696 posted in 20111, or a growth rate of 31%, according to the comparative report on distribution of travelers to Bicol for the years 2011 and 2012 released by the Department of Tourism regional office here.  

Trailing Sorsogon is CamNorte which came in third with 190,918 tourists registered in 2012 compared to previous year's 155,106, or a growth rate of 23%.

Albay  credited  its  remarkable performance to high investment spending in tourism promotion and the holding of festivals.

Masbate registered a three percent increase with 176,700 arrivals.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, posted a growth rate of 1.04% or 128,229 tourists in 2012 over previous year's 126,913, the lowest in Bicol during that period.
Albay Gov Joey Salceda noted that the holding of regional, provincial, and local festivals in the 15 towns and three cities of the province significantly contributed to the robust tourism growth in Albay, with the City of Legazpi as its core destination.

Still, Camarines Sur and Naga took the lion's share of the tourism market, for both domestic and foreign tourists.

It cornered almost half a million foreign tourists (485,550 in 2012, or slightly lower than the 496,603 realized in 2011, the highest in Bicol many times over.

A tourism stakeholder based in Naga said that the city and CamSur need not rest on its laurels but instead do more in order to sustain its lead as the top destination in Bicol.

"We should not wait to wake up to realize that other provinces have overtaken us because we simply slid down," he warned, explaining that good performance by the other provinces should be welcome news, though it should not be at the expense of Camarines Sur and Naga slowing down.

This, while Albay upped its growth in foreign tourist arrivals from 138,373 in 2011 to 170,421 in 2012.

"Albay indeed is the fastest tourist  destination in the region, almost doubling in domestic and 23% in foreign tourism, and it is just our first salvo as a 'united' people," Gov. Salceda averred.

For its tourism events, Albay offers to showcase historical and cultural festivals which include the monthlong Daragang Magayon provincial festival, Karangahan Festival, Ibalong Festival in this city, Tabak Festival in Tabaco City, Cagsawa Festival in Daraga town and Pulang Angui Fest in Polangui.

Other festivals even for small towns like Manito, Pioduran, and Jovellar were virtually upscaled in order to draw more tourists to the province.

Salceda saikd that the 49% tourism arrival growth for Albay last year was further bolstered by advertising collaterals published in magazines, newspapers, and aired in broadcast outlets and the social media.

Citing a survey of Cebu Pacific Airlines, Salceda said Magayon Festival had a 14.7% market share of top-of-mind among Philippine festivals, coming third to Sinulog Festival in Cebu and Bangus Festival in Pangasinan.

In the case of tourists visiting the Cagsawa ruins in Daraga town, total paying visitors reached 322,000 in 2012 vis-a-vis the over 550,000 tourists  that  went to Albay.

This means that more than three of every five tourists that landed in Albay went to Cagsawa, making it the most visited destination of the province.

The governor expects to sustain if not surpass the 2012 performance by way of aggressive foreign reintroduction and closer collaboration with key tourism stakeholders.

Salceda as chairperson of Bicol's Regional Development Council (RDC) said they are also set to launch the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (ALMASOR) tourism alliance, a package that would enhance the structural attractiveness of all three provinces in synergistic positioning and branch franchising.

He said he looks forward to the opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Daraga town, a growth kicker in the future.

The SLIA was originally targeted to open this year, but due to some glitches, its completion would be delayed by three more years, according to Salceda. – Bicol Mail