Friday, July 20, 2018

Laoag City gov’t cracks down on streetlights wiretappers

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The city government here is cracking down on those who are illegally tapping into the city’s streetlights.

Laoag mayor Chevylle V. Farinas warned that the city government will deal with illegal wiretappers harshly.

The crackdown stemmed from a case where Brgy. Sta. Maria kagawad Cesario Pascual allegedly tapped into a streetlight in their barangay.

“Personally, no siyak lang mapakawan ko isuna ngem iti problema ket adda met pagdalanan na nanga umno a wagas wennu proseso aglalo ket illegal connection,” the mayor said.

The city government may file administrative and criminal charges against the kagawad.

The Laoag government pays for the electric bills of all streetlights in the city. Each streetlight has their own electric meters.

The city’s general services office (GSO) discovered that a “kubo” has tapped into the Brgy. Sta. Maria streetlight. The office’s probe further stated that the illegal connection resulted into thousands of pesos billed to the city government.

As a result. GSO head Benedicto Castro instructed his men to check all the streetlights in the city. So far, the GSO discovered two more alleged illegal connections at Brgys. Dibua and Araniw. They are still investigating these.

Meanwhile, the city’s Liga ng mga Barangay president Mary Michelle Louise “Mikee” V. Fariñas said they are ready to tackle the issue should the city government file a case against Mr. Pascual.

Ms. Fariñas, an ex-officio council member and barangay affairs committee chair, said they will treat any administrative case that may arise from the issue fairly.

Mr. Pascual, for his part, said that he is ready to face the consequences of his action.

He admitted that there they illegally tapped into the streetlight but claimed it was not for his personal use but for the association of farmers. He added that they use the electricity during their meetings.

Mr. Pascual apologized to the city government because he failed to inform the city government, which shoulder the payment of the bills.

In a related development, Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative general manager Engr. Felino Herbert P. Agdigos said that he learned about the issue but no formal report has reached him yet.

Mr. Agdigos said that once a report reaches him they can ascertain if the case violated the Anti-Pilferage Law.

A new Philippine future beside the exodus?

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

EVERY seventh of June, a Southeast Asian archipelago commemorates the "heroism" of compatriots who have been a visible reason for the steady growth of their motherland's economy. The celebration is National Migrant Workers Day, and the passage of a law to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos and their families brought about the date's historicity.

That law, currently coded as Republic Act 10022 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, revised twice), spells out regulations for labor migration and lays out the bureaucratic structure—found at home and abroad—that ensures safe and orderly overseas migration. The original law, RA 8042, was a result of the execution of a domestic worker in Singapore, Ms. Flor Contemplacion, in March 1995. That episode created diplomatic tension between the two countries, as well as national shame for a country that then had no enabling law for migrant workers' protection.

The said law helped the Philippines lay out a program on labor export that (explicitly) facilitates Filipino workers' overseas placement in destination countries requiring certain skills. Decades hence, to include the hard lessons learned since Ms. Contemplacion's execution, the Philippines has now "excelled" in migration management.

Filipinos are now in over-200 countries and territories, in all sorts of occupations, with their migration status either legal or irregular. Filipinos have contributed to countries' economic growth, especially countries facing demographic shortfalls and labor shortages. The estimated 10.3 million overseas Filipinos have (unfortunately) become the Philippines' top export. Their overseas migration is a response to the search for more gainful opportunities, what with the country's agriculture and manufacturing sectors still struggling and services being the top draw for homeland employment for nearly two decades.

Remittances have been the reason for overseas Filipinos' symbolic tag as heroes since a formal labor export program (given the passage of a Philippine labor code) began in 1974. Form the 1970s to the mid-2000s, remittances have helped shore up the homeland economy's fiscal issues, mitigated the impacts of domestic unemployment, and somewhat help buoy the Philippines' gross national product. That period, spanning just over three decades, saw the Philippines' macro-economic growth performance as "boom and bust"—like a roller coaster, going up and down. Meanwhile, there is rising overseas migration (including that for overseas permanent residency, depending on the migration pathways countries offer to foreigners) and a concomitant rise of labor, welfare, human rights and criminal / civil cases affecting Filipinos in various host lands. So, with rising migration and remittances is a perceived growing number of problems facing Filipinos abroad, and the corollary family-level social costs.

However, there is a change in the plot: since the 2008 global economic crisis, the Philippine economy is now one of the top economic performers in the world. Sustained gross domestic product growth, with an annual average of some 6 percent, these past ten years is slowly buoying the Philippine economy. Coinciding that is what some demographers perceive to be a demographic transition, where old and young dependents are lesser and the working force is bulging in numbers. That situation gives the Philippines a chance—a 30-year window, says some demographic projections—to drum up as many savings and investments and have these parked at home. Overseas migration and remittances have been contributing their share to this ongoing demographic transition, currently through buoying local consumption.

Yet one wonders why the stories are still the same sordid ones? The recent episode the Philippines faced was a diplomatic standoff with Kuwait, with the former demanding certain protections and employment regulations for Filipina domestic workers. This four-month saga started off with the discovered massacre—body chopped into pieces, placed in a refrigerator for a year— of Joanna Demafelis, angering the tough President Rodrigo Duterte. After a deployment ban and Kuwait's own issues with Philippine diplomatic authorities, both countries signed a memorandum of agreement on hiring domestic workers just last month and, which, restored diplomatic relations. Implementation by Kuwaiti authorities is another matter.

For decades now, the world still sees Filipinos abroad as those women who have found dates online and migrated for economic security; of women as "lowly" domestic workers or as abused spouses even after they got permanent residency; of men who are trafficked into occupations different from what was initially in their work contracts. They also see Filipinos as the bearers of the Christian faith; the workers with a more caring attitude; the workforce who can endure tough work conditions just to earn more and please employers; as the behaved foreigners in certain host country societies.

Yet, what is baffling is that a lot of people still perceive the storylines of the Filipino migration saga to be the same even in the age of social media. Philippine real property companies luring Filipinos abroad is so 2000s. The sending of boxes with souvenir items (called balikbayan boxes [balikbayan is "returning home" in Filipino]) is already a generation old. Some Filipinos abroad continue to display pity at their compatriots who are in less-skilled occupations in certain host countries, with pity masqueraded as empathy.

Filipinos' overseas migration has already brought about socio-cultural, economic and institutional changes in Philippine society, sociologist and historian Filomeno Aguilar, Jr. writes in his anthology The Migration Revolution (2014). Class structures have been reconfigured. That is the current scene of the Filipino migration phenomenon.

Given the current era of a Philippine economy that's in a demographic transition which runs side-by-side with overseas migration, what can be the new Philippine future beside the exodus? Can we tell new stories about Filipinos abroad instead of sticking to usual tales?

Will Filipino food, for example, become mainstream in host societies and capture the imagination of nostalgic and curious foreign taste buds? Will there be more of a new breed of Filipino migrant entrepreneurs braving the riskier agricultural sector back home, while Filipino banks are averse in handing out credit to that sector?

With social media easily bridging transnational Filipino families, what kinds of family rearing tales have we not heard from those who endured parental separation and found successes? In some Filipino rural communities, kinship and community embeddedness mitigate the risks of migration's family-level social costs. With Japan having a long history of Filipinas going there as entertainers in night clubs, and that migration pathway stopped over a decade ago, have the Japanese of today looked at Filipinos differently?

How many more Filipinos will become elected leaders in countries that realized these first elected migrant leaders, like the United States, New Zealand, Korea or Canada?

Have you heard of a deeply affected full-blooded Australian by the ongoing Philippine war on drugs and helping resolve a Filipino relative's drug-related woes? Or what about some Filipinas, already permanent residents and naturalized citizens in a destination country, dating with compatriot seafarers docking on some ports?

There can be a myriad of good and bad tales about the overseas Filipino. People aspire for more pleasant stories, especially since Filipinos are known for extending their personal boundaries and fits of empathy. Filipinos also aspire for less of the tear-jerking stories—from abused domestic workers to Filipino permanent residents who are duping compatriots on temporary work visas. With Filipinos abroad now an influential force for their motherland, and with their exposure to better systems abroad, how can we change gruesome migration tales for the better?

The homeland and its institutions, especially the Philippine government, have their work cut out to fulfill ambitions of comfortable living for Filipinos. But so do Filipinos abroad: they can chart newer tales and tumble-down ageing stereotypes of themselves. That will be through the love they usually show to their families, through better remittance management, through improved and sustained relations with locals in host countries, and through a renewed sense of Filipino citizenship even while they're away.

(Mr. Jeremaiah Opiniano is a doctoral student (geography) at The University of Adelaide in Australia. He also handles a nonprofit research group on migration and development issues in the Philippines: The Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI). Correspondence:

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Batac lowers scholarship grade threshold to 85

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Batac City—Good news for students here.

The city government here lowered the weighted average rating to 85 for its scholarship program.

Sangguniang Panlungsod secretary Gladys Lagura made this announcement after the council passed an amendment to City Ordinance No. 2007-05 on May 29, 2018.

Batac councilor Medeldorf Gaoat sponsored the amendment to the ordinance that establish the city government’s secondary scholarship program.

The amended ordinance states that elementary graduates who at least has an 85 weighted average now have the chance to avail of the scholarship program provided the annual income of both parents should not exceed the P120,000.00 annual income, as provided by the regional wage board.

For the past years, only elementary honor graduates and others who have a weighted average of 90 can avail of the scholarship program.

Batac mayor Albert D. Chua requested the amendment to the scholarship ordinance.

Mr. Chua said that since this school year is the start for free tuition for state colleges and universities, it should also be the time for the city government here to increase the number of its scholars.

The mayor said he learned that the city government spends from PHP15 million to PHP20 million for education. With the increase in the city’s annual budget, he said Batac officials decided to expand the city’s scholarship program.

Records here show that there are at least 240 incoming Grade 7 students who have at least an 85 weighted average who can avail of the city’s scholarship program this coming school year of 2018-2019. They, however, are still subject to the income of parents’ rule.

Mr. Chua verified that should all the 240 pass the screening, the city government has available funds for their scholarships.

From the PHP5.5 million existing funds for the scholarship program, the city government need more than a million for the new scholars. But because of the two-year savings, they now only need PHP300,000 to complete the budget.

Mr. Chua explained that the city government saved funds for the scholarship program due to the implementation of the K-12 program.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chua is also proposing the increase of stipend for college scholars to PHP500 per month.

Currently, college scholars at Mariano Marcos State University-Batac receive PHP1,000 stipend monthly; while other scholars studying outside Batac receive PHP1,500. With the free tuition in the state university, the mayor said they may also increase the stipend by PHP500 monthly.

PHO reminds Ilocos Norte residents to stay vigilant vs dengue

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Provincial Health Office reminded all residents in the province to keep their surroundings clean to allow no room for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Over the past two years, Dr. Josephine Ruedas reported that Ilocos Norte has maintained zero casualty in dengue until later last month when two died due to dengue virus. The casualties were from the towns of Solsona and Dingras.

"We must be extra vigilant, especially since we are in the period of rainy season,” said Ms. Ruedas.

In view of this, the PHO led a series of fumigation in affected areas to drive away dengue-carrying mosquitos.

Ms. Ruedas explained even just a small cap of a bottle can be a breeding site of mosquitoes.

According to the Dengue Disease Surveillance Report of the Department of Health, health officials reported more than 10,980 dengue cases from January 1 to February 10, 2018.

The DOH report also stated that it has recorded 51 deaths for 2018.

But the number of dengue cases was 41.38% lower than the 18,731 cases reported within the same period last year, the report said.

The report also showed that 23 percent of those afflicted with dengue were 10-14 years old.

Ilocos Norte education summit eyes schools’ transformation for millennials

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Department of Education in Ilocos Norte hosted the first of a kind education transformation summit here urging education stakeholders to adopt new teaching-learning processes for millennials.

To keep pace with the ever-changing technology, traditional classroom discussions which teachers often monopolize with chalk and blackboard are no longer the norm, hence, the education curriculum needs re-engineering to align with the needs of present-day learners.

With this new focus, Ilocos Norte schools’ division superintendent Vilma Eda led the conduct of a whole-day education transformation summit, presenting the strengths and weaknesses of the schools in Ilocos Norte and to come up with strategies on how to stay relevant for the children’s future.

Barely a year since Ms. Eda took over as division superintendent, the Ilocos Norte division successfully passed the tedious process of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 certification.

The ISO standards require an organization to enhance customer satisfaction through effective and efficient application of its system and processes.

Of the more than 200 DepEd schools divisions in the country, Ilocos Norte is the first division in Region 1 to earn ISO-certification.

The schools division received the ISO 90001:2015 certification during the said summit at the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center.

The awarding served one of the highlights of the education transformation summit,  attended by around 1,400 participants composed of DepEd officials and employees from the different primary and secondary schools of the province, Parent Teacher Associations, local government units and other non-government organizations including DepEd Undersecretaries Annalyn Sevilla for Finance Budget and Performance Monitoring ; and Lorna Dig Dino  for Curriculum and Instruction who served as resource speakers in the plenary sessions.

According to Ms. Eda, DepEd-Ilocos Norte continuous to implement the whole brain literacy system or self-mastery among its teaching and non-teaching personnel. Said training focuses on the seven domains of self-mastery such as to think, communicate, intuit, feel, do, lead and learning to be to improve oneself.

Ms. Eda said there are 2,000 more employees that are awaiting training under this self-mastery training.

Aside from the conduct of series of leadership trainings and improvement of offices and classrooms conducive for a healthy environment and workforce, the DepEd Ilocos Norte is also currently implementing its Information and Communication Technology program focusing on the needs of learners.

In Lanao school in Bangui, Ilocos Norte, Ms. Eda reported kinder to grade 3 pupils can now utilize at least four sets of robots there. She hopes that soon, all other schools in Ilocos Norte will integrate robotics in the curriculum for elementary grades.

“In small things that we do, we should work towards this aspiration. Let us work together and constantly innovate so that we can always come out with better ways to serve our stakeholders,” said Ms. Eda as she underscored transformation is not free and it needs a lot of hard work to make it happen.

For her part, DepEd regional director Alma Ruby Torio lauded the Division of Ilocos Norte for being one of the very few schools divisions in the country with International Standards Organization (ISO) certification.

“It is a coveted achievement and I congratulate the leadership of the INSDO for your hard work,” said Ms. Torio.

She likewise urged the participants to nurture children and help them survive the “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world”.

“We can’t undermine the presence of digital world. We need to integrate and transform our education. Let us collaborate with one another,” Ms. Torio said as she underscored, “Teachers, listen to your learners, parents and community and to school heads, listen to your teachers.”

PICE-IN hosts 18th technical regional confab

The Officers and Board of Directors of the Lead Chapter after the Closing Remarks of Engr. Gil B. Lorenzo, the Chapter President and the PICE Region I Coordinator last May 26, 2018 at Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center.

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, Inc.-Ilocos Norte Laoag City Chapter hosted the 18th Region 1 Technical Conference last May 25-26, 2018 at Plaza Del Norte Hotel and Convention Center, this city.

With the theme “Heading North: Civil Engineers Leading the Way in Creating Innovations Towards Sustainable Development Through BUILD, BUILD, BUILD!”, 603 PICE delegates from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan Chapters among other chapters outside the region and including CE professionals who are currently non-members attended the event.

Awarding of Plaque of Appreciation to the DPWH Region I Director and PICE National Business Manager, Engr. Ronnel M. Tan, after his talk representing the Keynote Speaker, Engr. Maria Catalina E. Cabral, during the Opening Ceremony of the 18th Region I Technical Conference.
The two-day event kick-started with a Eucharistic Celebration led by Rev. Fr. Leonardo Juan B. Lorenzo followed by the opening ceremonies.

After the Opening Program, Engr. Melchor L. Peralta, a PICE national director held a special session on “ASEAN Registry”.

The technical conference commenced in the afternoon with topics on “CPD Law and Water Resources Engineering” conducted by Engr. Robert S. Licup, Ph.D., PICE National’s First Vice President and Executive Vice President of VA TECH WABAG Philippines, Inc.

Engr. Michael Paolo V. Follosco, MSCE, a senior associate engineer and deputy project manager of AMH Philippines Inc., discussed topics on “Advanced Methods of Soil Stabilization and Ground Improvement/Liquefaction: Assessment Methodologies and Mitigation by Ground Improvement, and Design Consideration for Soil – Nailed Walls and Slopes”.

After the first day of the technical conference, Batac mayor Albert D, Chua, representing Ilocos Norte governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, delivered the governor’s message. He reiterated important roles of Civil Engineers in the BBB projects of the government. To enjoy the rest of the night, Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc sponsored a raffle draw.

On the second day of the event, Engr. Ernesto S. De Castro, Ph. D., PICE immediate past president, and president & CEO of ESCA International, discussed Building Information Modelling while Engr. Juanito C. Cunanan, treasurer of the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP), gave a talk on the “Highlights on the Updates of the National Structural Code of the Philippines (NSCP) 2015 and Checklist of Minimum Structural Design Documents”.

Before the end of the event, Engr. Emily G. Baraoidan, a delegate from Ilocos Norte won the grand prize worth Php 50,000 in another raffle draw.

“This is by far the best Regional Technical Conference we attended,” stated delegates from La Union Chapter.

“As part of the PICE-INLACC group, we can say that this event was successful. We are happy that this is one of the most attended RTCs in the region so far. And we were able to promote our province, Ilocos Norte, as a Tourist Haven in the North,” said Engr. Maria Kay S. Eco, chairman of programs & events for the said RTC.

“Aside from the required CPD units, the big boost in the attendance was due to the information drive undertaken by PICE-INLACC in promoting the event through the PICE National website and by means of the social media through PICE INLACC FB account and SMS drive attracting CE professionals to grace the event”, said Engr. Gil B. Lorenzo, the PICE-INLACC President and PICE Region I Coordinator. (With reports from Rachelle Anne K. Remigio)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ilocos Norte remains malaria-free

Laoag City—The Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) through the Provincial Health Office (PHO) has successfully maintained the province’s “malaria-free” status since 2012.

The Department of Health (DOH) Regional Office I allotted PHP1 million to PGIN, to fund its programs and activities for the continuous prevention and control of malaria.

“The allocation of the grant will be for equipment and insecticide purchases, information and education drive, food and accommodations and transportation expenses,” said Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Rogelio Balbag.

“It’s important to prevent the occurrence of malaria. Compared to dengue, malaria is more dangerous,” the provincial board’s health committee chairperson said.

Mr. Balbag also acknowledged the efforts of other local government units (LGUs) in coordination with the PHO in leading periodic spraying of insecticides in various areas with reported malaria cases, particularly the nearby provinces of Apayao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

To sustain this effort, Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos allotted almost PHP500 million for the health sector this year. (Glydel Stifanny Acacio)