Tuesday, 1 October 2013

When the environment is healthy ….

Early morning fun … A young girl plays in the sand as the morning sun starts to warm on the beach just next to the popular Boardwalk in Mambulao, CamNorte. This morning, the beach sand at low tide looks fine, with less silt and mud from the operation of small gold miners that normally begins by 9am when the bay waters start to rise. The Boardwalk would be the center of attention towards this weekend, with locals gearing up to the celebration of the feast of the patron saint, Nuestra Senora del Rosario. Happy fiesta to Mambulaoans! – Words by AP HERNANDEZ, picture courtesy of RICHELDA TRAQUINA.

Lush bakawan trees … Mangrove forests like this one at Baranggay Salvacion, in Mambulao, has become a rare commodity these days. This is because those abundant bakawan trees decades ago gradually disappeared with the endless onslaught on the mangrove forests by firewood gatherers and charcoal makers. In Baranggay Salvacion, the locals managed to protect the bakawan environs, at the same time working hard to reforest spots in the area where trees had disappeared. Now, the village gradually attracts visitors who came just to behold the beauty and richness of green forest. Words by AP HERNANDEZ, picture courtesy of ARTEM ANDAYA

EDITORIAL: Mambulao LGU: Bracing for porkless regime

UNLESS a faster means to access state funds is devised, the local government of Mambulao would have to brace itself for projected delays in its infrastructure and socio-economic programs in 2014.

And surely, with a very minimal allocation from Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla’s usual funding sources that included a handful of friendly senators and congressmen, the LGU’s development program is bound to suffer a stroke.

We could now assume that the biggest casualty among the LGU’s pet project is its baranggay road cementing project.

From a moderate speed that the road project is being carried out to these days, it is expected to slow down, or may even ground to a halt, next year.

The trickle of development funds for Mambulao from the scandal-tainted pork barrel is, finally, going to dry up.

On the wee hours of Saturday, September 28, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No 2630 on next year’s P2.268 trillion national budget.

In so doing, the chamber formally scrapped P25.2 billion worth of pork barrel, or the scandal-soaked PDAF, aka the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Congressmen also removed Vice-President Jejomar Binay’s own P200 million allocation.

Now out of the country’s lawmakers’ hands and control, the aggregate amount of P25.25.4 billion was then allocated to six key agencies.

As expected, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) got the biggest slice of P9.654 billion.

Unlike before when congressmen decided where their pork barrel money should go and how much, the new state funding regime has only allowed them to propose pet projects.

Here, they could name only five infrastructure projects, to be carried out by the DPWH.

And each one could only access a budget ceiling of just P24.5 million for all the projects.

In light of this new scenario, how would Padilla’s road cementing project fare?

During the past 38 months of his governance, with the last two months ushering in his second term as mayor, Padilla received modest funding from lawmakers, who included senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Chiz Escudero and Teofisto “TG” Guingona and congressmen from CamNorte.

This money, which was sourced from the lawmakers’ pork barrel allocations, mostly went into the concreting of the municipality’s baranggay roads.

Other substantial amount, although not in millions, went to socio-economic projects such as deep well pumps, baranggay halls, health care centers, classrooms, so on and so forth.

Very recent of such projects to get pork was the 2km San Pedro-Baranggay Silang Dos (Labo town) concrete road that would connect Mambulao to the Maharlika Highway, one that would serve as a diversion road in future.

The funding came from Enrile and estimated between P15 million and P20 million.

Of course, Mambulao also received a windfall of pork that also funded various projects in its 27 baranggays from the office of the Provincial Governor Edgardo “Egay” Tallado.

The provincial capitol has claimed that the governor poured into Mambulao a total of P159.5 million in so called development initiatives.

Most of the provincial government development funding for Mambulao during the years 2011 to the present came from the pork barrel allocations of the Office of the President, specifically the Office of the Presidential Affairs on Peace Process (OPAPP), Enrile and other lawmakers, and money from the General Appropriations Act, through the Agrarian reform Community Projects (ARC), National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Department of Health,

Since state funds would no longer be accessed directly from the congressman who covers Mambulao and the rest of the Tagalog-speaking district towns of Paracale, Labo, Santa Elena and Capalonga, it is safely assumed that there would be delays in securing such development funding caused by the bureaucratic grinder.

For instance, funding for road projects has been “centralized” with the DPWH at the head office.

And with 1,491 municipalities and 142 cities wanting to have their roads improved or built, this department would be overwhelmed by direct funding requests from across the country.

And with the five towns in the CamNorte’s first district trying to jockey for infrastructure funding from Congresswoman Cathy Barcelona Reyes, who got only P24.5 million in next year’s state funds allocation, each municipality would have only an average of P4.9 million.

This, if Reyes decides to hand out the money to them equally.

And P4.9 million won’t build a kilometer of cement road.

Under the new rules, Reyes is allowed only to propose five “infrastructure” projects with a total funding of just P24.5 million.

If Padilla is not a friend of the congresswoman, chances are he would have to settle for crumbs that would instead go to other projects with lesser funding requirements.

And unless he is fast enough to get a friendly conduit to access funding for his road projects from the DPWH, he would have to go through the usual red tape that could keep money out of his reach for months.

And this is bad for Mambulao.

This is bad for Mambulaoans, too, who, until now, are still trying to make of the future ahead of them: will development and progress finally come?

The entire Filipino people are crying for the scrapping of the pork barrel that was made notoriously bad by the systematic stealing of more than P10 billion in people’s money involving at least five popular senators along with several congressmen and a private businesswoman named Janet Napoles.

This end has come finally, courtesy of the House of Representatives, whose members decided with finality to banish the pork barrel for good.

It will begin next year.

And next year is also the start of Padilla’s new  headaches in making both ends meet to complete his baranggay road cementing project.

Obviously, pork barrel money would be sourly missed in Mambulao

But this could not be helped. A new beginning for a change in the way our government deals with the people’s money has to start somewhere.

This could be it.

- Alfredo P Hernandez

For feedback, email: aphernandez@thenational.com.pg  and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com

Opinion: Doing away with election

Today's crop of lawmakers is a far cry from what we used to have decades ago. - FACEBOOKPIC


LET'S abolish elections!

They have not delivered to the people and nation the promised ultimate good.

We have been suffering the cancer from bad elections since the 50s. They had just spawned corrupt politicians and corrupt individuals and drained out people's money one after another.

But before doing so, let the nation's trustworthy top brains come up with an alternative to this election exercise.

Because abolishing elections would mean a status quo of what would be left of the govt after local and national polls have been done away with.

No worries. The people will deal with those running the govt. They have the power to do so.

And the power of the people is one from God.

It's about time we got the better deal.

Elections have allowed corrupt individuals-turned-government servants-turned- politicians to creep into sensitive and vital govt positions -- in the Senate and House of Representatives, departments and agencies-- and then into the coffers of the people.

It's towards the people's money that these supposed public servants did their best performances --- stealing from it.

And because they got the money, they now have all the powers to buy elections -- by buying stupid voters across the country.

There are no so-called intelligent voters, only paid voters.

And these are the fodders that supply oxygen to the greed of these politicians.

Let's not close our eyes to this reality that the right of suffrage of every Pinoy should not be denied.

The good news is that it is this right that has screwed up the Filipino nation.

This right has become our own undoing.

It has been abused by millions of stupid voters and converted to cash by good for nothing greedy politicians.

Elections are just a money mill for our government officials, churning out tons and tons of cash for their wallets, pockets and bank accounts -- not to mention their "queridas".

The P10-billion caper pulled off by Janet Napoles is the ultimate product of these elections. How?

Who are these people who got their hands stuck in the cookie jar?

You forgot? I tell you who: they are our senators, congressmen and local politicians who emerged the best in the past several national elections, having topped their respective races.

All the while that we trusted them in giving us the better deal in good governance, they were actually scheming and skimming off the people's money.

Skimming is a mild term because this act touches only the very thin surface of the moolah.

What these people have done is to haul off this cash by the truck loads to their bank accounts via the Napoles Highway.

So how can we ever respect elections? How can we ever trust these politicians?

There's no way to right the wrong they just did and those shenanigans they would try to do if elections are given another chance to pop its ugly head.

So what can we expect without elections?

Nothing  only chaos and anarchy.

But at least the people could deal with it. They have the power.

And what about elections if allowed to persist?

Nothing, because it has become a dope flowing in our veins and highfiving our souls.

We are its slave, and we are the Filipino people.

We could burn in this hell for as long as we want.

And we won’t do anything about it like what’s happening now.

Clearly, I can hear: Long live elections!

For feedback, email: ahernandez@thenational.coml.pg and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com

Dr Edgar “Egay” Aler: Crusade to feed Mambulao’s malnourished kids

 Some of the children having their nutritious meal.

Fresh milk for the kids.


Michigan, USA

WHEN Ricarte “Dong” Padilla assumed the mayor’s office in July 2010, the first thing he thought of doing during his term was to deal with the growing malnutrition problem among the children of poor families.

Something that he had to balance with other major urgent concerns, such as the need for more infrastructure, the governance of the local government, health and sanitation, education, skills training, environment and ecological issues.

And when he delivered his second inaugural speech as the re-elected mayor last July, he assured the community that “such specific undertaking will be done with priority”.

Zeroing in on the children, he said: “There would be no malnourished children in Mambulao under my watch."

Leday sharing happy moments with a beneficiary kid. 

Somehow, it was a pledge that he needed to flesh out as soon as possible if things should get better for the malnourished kids.

A year earlier, when he flew to the United States and met fellow Mambulaoan Dr Edgar "Egay” Aler, Mayor Padilla brought up the topic.

And with less word, Aler stressed his willingness to extend his helping hand for the good of the next generation children of his beloved community.

Dr Aler went home during the mayor’s inauguration last June 30, for his second term of office, and sealed his commitment with Padilla for the malnourished children of our town.

With a budget of P15/day per child for 81 beneficiaries, or a total of P24,300 a month, the feeding  program took off.

The malnourished schoolchildren at the Jose Panganiban Elementary School  (JPES) pupils were confirmed by the representatives of the Department of Social Services as well as the office of the school principal along with the home economics teachers.
Leday, Dr Aler’s eldest daughter, tending to the kids during mealtime. -
– Pictures courtesy of the Aler Family

Under the feeding program, they will enjoy nutritious meals from Monday to Friday.

On July 21, 2013, Dr Aler’s initiative was finally launched, with his daughter Leday Aler, who is based in Mambulao, spearheading the project.

The feeding gig these days is popularly known as the Project Sagip Dagdag sa Kalusugan (Feeding to rescue malnourished kids).

Since launching, the program has identified more malnourished children across the municipality.

In fact, at baranggay South Poblacion, 60 kids from the village’s ten purok (unit) were identified and included as beneficiaries.

Sagip Dagdag sa Kalusugan also monitorsits success by making sure that at the end of the month, each of these children mounts the weigh scale to see if they actually gained weight.

As incentive for staying healthy, thanks to the nutritious meals, they are awarded some cash for their daily needs such as tricycle fare and all.

To boost the feeding program, Mayor Padilla distributes nutritional products and vitamins.

As you may recall, Dr Edgar Aler and his family as well as  his siblings from overseas come home every year, either for medical mission at RPS Stadium or to distribute pasalubong to the poorest members of the 27 baranggays.

Dr Egay said it was his family’s token of appreciation to the great blessings he received from The Almighty and his adopted home in California.

"Kung saan ako makakatulong sa kapwa at kababayan sa abot ng aking makakaya, doon ako at hindi ako nag-hihintay ng kapalit na pagkilala, o ano pa man. (At any time I could help within my means, I will be there without waiting for recognition from anyone).

Aler said during my phone interview with him: “Sana naman, iyong mga kababayan nating nakaluluwag sa buhay dito sa America at Canada or any other places ay maka-alalang tumulong sa ating kapwa Mambolenos, lalo na iyong mga malnourished children sa ating bayan (I’m just hoping our well-off  kababayan  in America, Canada and elsewhere to remember extending help to malnourished children in our hometown).

Food for thought:

The problem:
a) 38 % of children from the least developed  countries have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

b)  Malnourished children score 7 % lower in Math  tests and 19 % less likely to be able to read aged 8.

c)  The poorest 40% are 2,8 times more likely to suffer the long-term effects of malnutrition than the richest 10 %.

d) Poor health and education limit job prospects. Children malnutrition cuts future earnings by at least 20 %.

e)  In total current children malnutrition could cost the global economy US$125 billion when today's children grow up.

The opportunity :
a) Better childhood nutrition could cut stunting by 1/3 and reduce health issues, from diarrhea and pneumonia to deaf-mutism.

b)  well nourished children are 13 % more likely to be in the correct grade at school -- boosting lifelong skills.

c)  Good health and jobs break the cycle of poverty and ensure that every child gets a chance to thrive.

d)  By improving health and education, good nutrition leads to a more skillful and dynamic workforce.

e)  Fixing malnutrition now could bring economic benefits over 100 times as large as the costs of intervention.

(Source: UNICEF- 2013 improving child nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress; Save the Children. (2013 Food for Thought)