Thursday, July 31, 2014

Paoay to collect green fees in tourism destinations

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

Paoay, Ilocos Norte—Tourists visiting this town’s popular destinations, parks and heritage site will soon charge “green fees” following the passage of an ordinance by the municipal council here.

The “green fee” collection on the Paoay sand dunes, Culili Point and the town’s parks and heritage site was initiated by the municipal government to ensure their cleanliness and development being among the province’s popular tourist destination.

In recent months, several construction and development initiatives by the provincial government of Ilocos Norte such as the construction of the Paseo de Paoay and Arte Luna art gallery were launched in Paoay town to attract more tourists to visit.

These developments contributed to tourist influx, requiring greater maintenance of cleanliness in the area. 

The approval of said ordinance is within the authority of the municipality granted under the provisions of Sections 128-139 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines except however for the imposition of entrance and parking fees on the UNESCO world heritage site of Paoay church, being a private property.

Paoay Vice Mayor Jessie Galano said the specific amount for the green fee collection including parking fees will still be fixed once the implementing rules and regulations of said ordinance will be finalized.

Mr. Galano said that through the collection of green fees and other charges, it would ensure better development, maintenance and orderliness of the eco-tourism and heritage sites here.

Ilocos Norte court employees stage silent protest

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—As the perceived attack on the judiciary gets more controversial, Ilocos Norte court employees staged a silent protest against threats to scrap the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).

Atty. Zaldy dela Cruz, a court employee at the Ilocos Norte Marcos Hall of Justice said the recent controversial issue between the executive and the judiciary over the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional should not affect court employees.

“They should not mind the judiciary. The timing and the move of the Congress to scrap our allowance is just awful,” Dela Cruz said.

Executive Judge Philip Salvador said in a separate interview that wearing black and white is meant “to show cohesiveness with the Supreme Court (SC).”

“We have to make a stand against insinuations that the SC is vindictive in its ruling. The truth is, the decision is based on the law and no other else,” Judge Salvador said.

Saying the attack of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is simply unfair, the executive judge of Branch 13 said the JDF is a fund authorized under a Presidential Decree under the term of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

“The JDF comes from the collection of the SC. About 80 percent of the total collection goes to the cost of living allowance [cola] of all court personnel while the 20 percent goes to equipment and other facilities,” he explained.

Also, the court employees are also condemning the additional taxes to be levied by the Bureau of Internal Revenue without any increase of salary.

"We had been clamoring for additional budget but it seems like the SC is not one of the three branches of the government. The attack of PNoy is wrong and we express our sentiments about it,” the executive judge added.

As an expression of support to the Supreme Court, court employees here said they are joining the high court, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan in wearing red or black at the start of the new work week as a symbol of indignation for attacks against the judiciary and threats to scrap their allowance.

Court employees get an average of P2,000 a month through the JDF, and a certain percentage of the fund goes to the rehabilitation of court houses.

The same court employees will also stage a similar action on July 28, when President Benigno Aquino Jr. delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Iglesia Ni Cristo celebrates Centennial on July 27, 2014

By Emmanuel Samonte Tipon

“If you came to ask for money, I don’t have any,” exclaimed President Ferdinand Marcos as we were ushered into his office in Makiki Heights, Honolulu. I was with former Assemblyman Nemesio V. Ganan, Jr. of Romblon.

“No sir, we did not come to ask for money,” I answered, emphatically. “We attended the dedication of the Iglesia Ni Cristo [Church of Christ] chapel in Waipahu and we stopped by to pay our respects to you before going back to San Francisco. But if you think we came to ask for money, we are leaving, good-bye.”

“I’m so sorry,” Marcos apologized. “Everybody who comes to see me these days asks for money, even the relatives of Cory.” “Who, sir?” I asked. “Never mind,” he remarked. (I later learned who they were, accompanied by an Ilocano congressman).

“I did not know you were Iglesia,” Marcos remarked. (I had known Marcos since 1949. Roque Ablan, Jr. and I learned how to drive using Manong Andy’s car. Roque’s father who was the governor of Ilocos Norte when Marcos was tried for murder provided Marcos with special treatment in the jail, including giving him a set of law books so he could review for the bar.)

“You know, I believe that the Iglesia Ni Cristo is the true church,” Marcos said.

“What makes you say that, sir?” I inquired.

“How can the Iglesia be so successful, building all these churches with thousands of people joining? God must be behind it,” Marcos explained.

“Sir, may I ask you then to join the Iglesia. You will be my first convert,” I said.

“I have already changed my religion once. It is too late for me to change it again,” Marcos demurred. (The Marcoses were originally Aglipayans before he became a Catholic. Their home in Batac, Ilocos Norte is directly across from the first Aglipayan church in the Philippines).

“I know your parents, you were not an Iglesia ni Cristo at birth, you were Protestants, what made you join?

“Only my mother was Protestant, my father was Catholic. I went to the church of whoever I was courting,” I joked. Marcos laughed, shaking his head.

Common sense doctrines
My fiancée, Natividad Valerio, was a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. She personally introduced me to Brother Eraño G. Manalo, then the Executive Minister of the Iglesia. He is the father of Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the current Executive Minister, and the son of Brother Felix Y. Manalo, the first Executive Minister.

I did not join the Iglesia simply to marry a beautiful woman. Iglesia doctrine prohibits members from marrying outside the faith. Before I joined, I attended at least 20 indoctrination sessions listening to the Iglesia’s history and doctrines. I would not have joined if I did not agree with the Iglesia doctrines. I found that the doctrines are based not only on the Bible but reflect common sense.

Foremost is that the Iglesia believes that there is only one God, not three nor thirty three. That is the first commandment. The Iglesia believes that Jesus Christ is a man, not God. Indeed, for if Jesus Christ was God, how come he died? God does not die. Jesus Christ may be the son of God, but that does not make him God. Everyone knows the expletive “son of a b…..” The son is not a b…..

The Iglesia members do not eat blood. That is the dirtiest part of an animal. I tried it once when I was a child during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. I found it yucky. This is especially true of the Tagalog version called “dinuguan” where the meat is literally swimming in cooked blood. At least the Ilocano version called “dinardaran” is tolerable. It is cooked like adobo. When I was in London for the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, I went to breakfast and asked the waiter, a Filipino, what the sausage was made of. “Blood,” he answered, “try it, it is delicious.” “I am Iglesia,” I told him, “I do not eat blood.” “I am Iglesia, too, but I will not report you,” he assured me.  “God is watching,” I told him.

The most difficult doctrine of the Iglesia that I accepted was voting as one in the elections. I told the minister who was teaching us that I do not want anybody telling me what to do. “But does not your wife tell you what to do?” he asked. “No, I am not married,” I replied. “You went to U.P. (University of the Philippines), did you not belong to a fraternity?” “Yes, in fact I was the Lord Chancellor of a fraternity, the Alpha Phi Beta,” I replied. “Don’t the fraternities vote as one?” he asked. “Yes, that is the essence of brotherhood—unity,” I told him, “But the fraternity leaders first assess the qualifications of the candidates with input from the members and then the head of the fraternity makes the final decision.” “That is the same with the Iglesia,” the minister explained. “You mean I can suggest to Ka Erdie whom the Iglesia should vote for?” I asked. “Sure,” the minster replied. Since joining the Iglesia, I had been suggesting to Ka Erdie whom the Iglesia should vote for in Philippine and American elections and he always accepted my suggestion, even when my suggestion was not the llamado (favored winner). I also suggested to Ka Eduardo during the last Philippine presidential election whom the Church should vote for as president but he did not accept my suggestion. Millions are now suffering from voter’s remorse.

Origin of Iglesia ni Cristo
The Church of Christ was actually established by Jesus Christ, hence the name. But the original members of the Church of Christ became apostatized. However, the Church of Christ (in Tagalog, Iglesia Ni Cristo) was re-established in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 when its articles of incorporation were registered with the government. Brother Felix Ysagun Manalo, considered the last messenger of God, led the re-establishment of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Coincidentally, the First World War began on that day.

The Iglesia ni Cristo members are the most persecuted and ridiculed people in the Philippines. Once upon a time, an attractive lady I was seeing eye to eye, came up to me and said “I heard you are a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo, is that true?” “Yes,” I admitted. “But that is the church of the poor. You are not poor.” she continued. “No, I am not poor, I am the poorest.” I told her.

The Church of the “poor” will celebrate 100 years of receiving God’s love and blessings which has enabled it to expand throughout the world with the members sharing their faith with others and performing acts of kindness among their fellow human beings. We will be going to the Philippines to join in the celebration which will be commemorated at the Philippine Arena at Ciudad de Victoria, a city within a town, in Bulacan province. It is considered the largest air-conditioned domed structure in the world with a seating capacity of 55,000 people.

(Atty. Emmanuel Samonte Tipon may be reached at:

‘Worth living for’

PRESIDENT Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s penultimate State of the Nation Address was by far his most peaceable as he did not harp against the past administration—much. It also showed us the emotional side of a President who is often perceived to be ice-cold and somewhat indifferent, as he now asks for unity and a collective effort to bring the country further forward.

While it is true that being a President is full of challenges and hardships, this has not dawned on his critics, especially the leftist minority who would want us to believe that they can do better. As much as burning effigies and being hosed down in the process still has romantic and adventurous values, they are as meaningless as the words they are spewing.

“Oust US-[whoever is President]” has not only become passé; it has also become a punch line. For what is the use of changing Presidents—or ousting them as our left-leaning brethren ask—if we do not go to the root of the problem? All incoming Presidents would ultimately fail given the rotten system of governance we currently have.

The problem is not the President. It is the system that is in place that largely allows corrupt practices to occur. And if Mr. Aquino is hell-bent on reforming these to pave the way for whoever would succeed him then the least we could do is support him.

The Philippines has been through a 20-year dictatorship and another nine years of a splurging administration and fixing all that went wrong during those tumultuous times may take a long time. However, starting to fix them would only need all of the Filipino peoples moving towards the same direction.

And this is what Mr. Aquino is asking from his “bosses”.

As it is, the needed reforms to wean this country away from the culture of corruption that has since permeated our collective values would entail every Filipino’s support. For every one of us would now need to prove that the Filipino peoples are worth living for.

‘Worth fighting for’

THE struggle for reforms however should not take any shortcuts. This is basically what the Development Acceleration Program was all about. It may have been coated with good intentions but if it did not go through the proper process, it would simply be unconstitutional as the Supreme Court ruled—or illegal as every ordinary Filipino now sees.

As much as the DAP has been praised even by international financial bodies, the fact remains that Mr. Aquino and his cabinet took extraordinary shortcuts to achieve their ends of boosting spending to stimulate the economy. The economy did in fact moved—and how it moved. The Philippines soon has the highest economic growth rate, second only to China, but this should have been achieved using constitutional means.

And this is something Mr. Aquino may have realized.

In his SONA, Mr. Aquino specifically stated that he would ask Congress for supplemental budget for erstwhile DAP-funded projects. If at all, this signifies a shift from his combative stance towards the Supreme Court to accepting the High Tribunal’s decision on DAP.

However, this did not preclude the President from asking Congress to draft a joint resolution to clear the law on budgetary transfers. As much as his critics would see this as treading on dangerous grounds, it is actually a welcome development to fix the budgetary mess left by the previous administration which relied heavily on reenacted budgets and which technically declares all of previous year’s appropriations as “savings.” And as it goes, the “savings” are spent on the then-President’s say so with accountability thrown out the window.

If Mr. Aquino is sincere in his intent to reform everything in government that needs reforming, then we say it is really “worth fighting for.” And for all that has been said and thrown his way, it may be the right time for all of us—the Filipino peoples—to examine ourselves and try to decipher what we have really done to help our country, our fellow Filipinos, and ourselves.

Hawks versus doves

“Kishore—who?” That’s what many irritably snap when gently pressed to pay equal attention to other significant issues than the impeach President Aquino brawl.

Kishore Mabubani is dean the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He was Singapore’s former ambassador to the United Nations for Singapore.  And what he has to say about China’s doves versus hawks will affect our grandchildren. Excerpts:

China is on the verge of destroying a geopolitical miracle,” Mabubhani writes.  In just three decades, China rose to become No. 2 world economic power. It did so, without disrupting the world order.

Suddenly, three decades of careful management of its external challenges have been upset by three years of assertive and occasionally reckless actions—threatening all.

Meet the hawks versus doves conflict within China.

The hawks are mostly young officers of the People’s Liberation Army. They argue that China should confront those question its claim’s to most of the China Sea.

“The young officers are taking control of strategy, and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s,”  recalls  Prof. Huang Jing at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy  “They are thinking what they can do, not what they should do. This is very dangerous.”

This new posture partly explains an emerging Western media consensus that China has become an expansionist military power, threatening its neighbors and the world.

“Before this consensus is set in stone, we should remind ourselves what a large, complex society China is: Neither the country nor its government is monolithic.

“Given this internal debate, it would be unwise to rush to judgment,” Mabubhani cautions. China will not necessarily become more hostile. Western prophecies of a dangerous China could even prove self-fulfilling if they provoke a nationalist backlash.

Chinese are still haunted by humiliations endured in the two 19th-century Opium Wars. The surge of anti-China opinion journalism feeds the hawks’ assertion there is a “containment conspiracy” by the West.

When Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping ruled China, they paid scant attention to public opinion. Both made territorial concessions when they settled China’s border disputes with Russia and Vietnam.

“Today, no Chinese leader, not even President Xi Jinping, can make unilateral concessions of that kind.”

The “doves”, in contrast, use the current wave of criticism. They heft a  Pew Research Center survey that shows rising anxieties of Asian neighbors. Remember Deng’s advice that China adopt a low profile as it emerges as a world power.

China’s 2012 decision to block a joint statement on the South China Sea alienated the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Asean represents 600 million people and is now wary.  "China behavior unleashed a “tiger” of anti-China sentiment. That will be difficult to cage again."

It is unwise for China to defend the “nine-dash line” map of territorial claims. As the world’s largest trading power, China has far larger interests in maintaining open seas globally.  China can afford to be patient as its power grows. 

Its    leaders spend perhaps 90 percent of their time focused on internal issues.  President Xi and Prime Minister Li begun a campaign against corruption.   Obstacles stem from factional struggles within the Communist Party. Senior army figures, been “may be stoking external tensions to save themselves from internal investigations" Corruption is the one force that could ruin legitimacy of the Party. Success is far from guaranteed.

The need to shrink state-owned enterprises is a major challenge. Chinese university graduates yearly crest at seven million yearly. Many cannot find work. “This is a bigger issue than sovereignty over barren rocks in nearby seas.”

Chinese leaders wants to focus on domestic problems, “The world should let it”. The international community has a clear interest in the doves winning out over the hawks: What can we do to help the doves?

MMSU hikes production of organic fertilizer

By Reynaldo E. Andres

Batac CITY—The Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) is increasing the production of bio-organic fertilizers to cope with the increasing demand by farmers in Ilocos Norte and nearby provinces.

Records showed that from 1,191 bags of organic fertilizer that was produced in 2012 and sold at P297,750, the production went up to 1,363 bags last year which generated a substantial income of P340,750.  One bag weighs 50 kilos and its price is pegged at P250. As of June this year, there are now again 687 bags ready for this year’s planting season.

Started in 2008, the heaping area for active composting and curing process at the back of the University Library, which is headed by Dr. Floramante Pastor, has continuously been flooded with rising demand for organic fertilizer from farmers in the province especially those involved in organic farming for rice, corn and other high value commercial crops.

Pastor said the university’s bio-organic fertilizer production project has been producing high-quality compost for the past seven years and is part of the long range plan of the university to convert all farm residues that found elsewhere into organic farm input.

Aside from the leaves and other farm residues, the university if also producing vermicast fertilizers from earthworms and is providing free vermiworms to those who may want to venture into vermiculture project. So far, there were 45 kilos of earthworms that were given to selected clientele.

The return of investment of producing organic fertilizer is high, according to Dr. Pastor, which posted 35.92% last year. This is because the project has only a break-even yield of 368 bags, which means that it only needs this volume to recover all the amount spent for a one-year production.

Thus, for last year’s 1,363 bags of organic fertilizers that were produced, a net income of about P247,750 was realized from the 995 bags. Also, the break-even price for one bag is only about P183.

Nutrient components of the MMSU organic fertilizer is also high according to the analysis done by the Bureau of Soils and water Management (BSWM). Its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium components reached 2.15, 3.55, and 1.45 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of advantages in using the MMSU organic fertilizer over the inorganic. Most of its components contain elements that increase physical and biological properties in soils, thus, mitigating the risks of over-fertilization.

Organic fertilizers also emphasize the role of humus and other organic components of soil, which are believed to play several important roles such as mobilizing the existing soil nutrients so that good growth of plants is achieved while spending less.

On the other hand, inorganic or chemical fertilizers are only good for the rapid growth of plants but not for their health. If used in excess, these chemicals make the soil saline and infertile. Even the chemicals may seep in nearby water resources and enter the food chain, thus, posing health hazard.

Organic fertilizers, however, take longer time than inorganic fertilizers in bringing soil fertility but they are effective for long term basis.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Ilocos Times July 28-August 3, 2014

DENR presents ‘Poles of Hope’ book

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

LAOAG CITY—In what was meant as a perfect duo of strong public and private partnership, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative lead the way how to turn the vast resources of the country into a sustainable source of development both for people and the environment.

Presenting the “Poles of Hope”, a book featuring a story of the INEC and its Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the DENR-Ilocos Norte proved to be a success after 25 years of lease agreement amidst the government’s declaration of moratorium on total log ban.

In 2011, a few months after President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating an anti-illegal logging task force, the law exempted the INEC-IFMA, a 235-hectare industrial tree plantation in Pancian, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, considering that their matured plantation are purely classified as big-leaf Mahogany (Swietenia Macrophylla), meant as source of locally-produced wood poles for an intensified campaign to electrify the entire country.

Back in the 1980’s when the agreement was signed, the rural areas in the province through the INEC has been pursuing its electrification program, resorting to importation of costly wood poles, cross arms and anchor logs due to limited supply in the Philippines.

So, on September 4, 1989, the DENR granted INEC an Industrial Tree Plantation Lease Agreement (ITPLA) which was later on converted into an IFMA in 1992.

Instead of importing forest products from abroad, INEC established an industrial tree plantation to have a reliable source of wood materials for its electrification program.

After 25 years, INEC is reaping the fruits of its labor, harvesting around 273 poles in 2013 and to harvest 655 more trees this year under the close watch of the DENR, which issued the tree cutting permit.

On Monday, the DENR launched the book at the La Tabacalera Function Hall to show that public and private partnership is doable and the huge benefits of sustainable development trickle down to the masses like the case if the INEC-IFMA success story.

Batac plants 30,000 forest seedlings annually

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

BATAC CITY—Rising temperatures, withering agricultural crops and rivers running dry. These are just among the signs of times where local residents here cannot just take it sitting down.

Rising above the challenge of climate change, the Batac City government has been planting around 30,000 forest trees every year in response to the worsening effects of global warming and extreme weather temperatures bringing in incessant flooding within Batac and its neighboring town of Paoay that forms its own infinite pool along the national highway during heavy rains.

Launched in 2009, the city government initiated project “Save the Quiaoit River, the Mountains and the Watershed,” continues to gain ground with the full support of the communities and a multi-sectoral group of government and non-government organizations including the schools and the mass media.

The river is one of two major waterways of Batac that straddles the Poblacion and drains towards its neighboring town Paoay. Measuring to 19.5 kilometers, it traverses eight urban and seven rural villages. These include Barangays Valdez, Ablan, Caunayan, San Julian, Lacub, Barani, Ben-Agan and Palpalicong, Quiling Sur, Parangopong, Mabaleng, Colo, Payao, Quiom and Maipalig.

This year, the City Agriculture Office is again propagating around 30,000 saplings of Mahogany, Narra and Gmelina among others, ready to be planted in the city’s upland villages and in at least 4,000 hectares of watershed areas. 

With the onset of the rainy season, city provincial agriculturist Maryline Gappi said they are ready to distribute the seedlings.

Based on initial evaluation of the project, Ms. Gappi admitted that full recovery of the planted seedlings is not one hundred percent as there will always be an expected mortality. 

Nonetheless, the city government under the administration of Mayor Jeffrey Jubal C. Nalupta continues to engage people’s participation to support the project, which has now expanded to other denuded mountains and watershed areas.

DA awards Regional 2014 Gawad Saka winners

OUTSTANDING Ilocos Norte farmers dominate awardees during the awarding ceremony of the 2014 Regional Gawad Saka held at the Plaza Del Norte, Laoag City on July 17. (Lei Adriano)
By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Department of Agriculture-Region 1 recognized on July 17 outstanding farmers and farmers’ group in the 2014 Gawad Saka Regional Awards held at the Plaza del Norte, this city. 

Clad in Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana dresses, these outstanding men and women from the agriculture sector took time out from their daily routine as they climb up the stage at the Ilocos Norte convention center to receive their plaque of recognition and cash award from the DA for their great contribution in enhancing the development of agriculture and fisheries.

Engr. Ariel Cayanan, executive director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries who served as guest of honor and speaker lauded farmers in Region 1 for their remarkable performance in increasing farmers’ productivity, resulting to food sufficiency and sustainability.

“We salute our hardworking farmers for their excellent performance. Our awardees have gone beyond the traditional farming as they rise above innovative ways to improve their yield and contribute to positive growth,” Mr. Cayanan said.

Out of the 17 regional awardees, nine or most of the awardees will represent Ilocos Norte in the national search for Gawad Saka this year.

“We take pride of our farmers as they remain resilient at all times,” said provincial agriculturist Norma Lagmay citing the hard work and creativity of Ilocos farmers in keeping the economy going.

For the individual category, this year’s Gawad Saka Regional Awardees are: Orlando Bumanglag, outstanding rice farmer from San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Jonathan Sony Domingo, outstanding young farmer from Solsona, Ilocos Norte; Alberto Calsada, outstanding agri-entreprenuer of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte; Mario Dennis Pagal, outstanding small animal raiser of Laoag City; Eulalia Llaneras, municipal agricultural officer in LGU-Bacnotan, La Union; Dionisio Angeleo Sr.; outstanding fisherfolk-fish culture in San Gabriel, La Union; Marlon Taasin, outstanding corn farmer in Sta. Catalina, Ilocos Sur; Arnulfo Corpuz, outstanding large animal raiser in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Mary Ann Baradi, outstanding agricultural researcher in PhilRice, Batac, Ilocos Norte; Rommel Bumanglag, outstanding Agriculture Extension Worker in LGU-San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; and Ediecris Raquino, outstanding fisherfolk-fish capture in Laoag City.

Unfortunately, two of the outstanding individual farmers—Ilocos Norte’s outstanding rice farmer Mr. Bumanglag and outstanding small animal raiser Mr. Pagal were represented by their family members as the two were already dead. According to the search committee, Mr. Pagal died of heart attack recently while Mr. Bumanglag was shot dead in San Nicolas town.

Meanwhile, the other 2014 Regional Gawad Saka awardees under the group category are:  City Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (CFARMC) of San Fernando, La Union as outstanding CFARMC; Rolando Rocapor and family as outstanding farm family of Rosario, La Union; Bigbiga Rural Improvement Club as outstanding RIC of Sudipen, La Union; Fish Searchers Sta. Cruz Fishermen Association, Inc. as outstanding small farmer/fisherfolk organization of Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur; City Agriculture and Fishery Council (CAFC) as outstanding CAFC of Laoag City; and the Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) Santiago Sur as outstanding BFT of Caba, La Union.

The Gawad Saka, the search for outstanding Filipino farmers, is an annual undertaking of the DA which aims to give due recognition and pay tribute to dedicated individuals and institutions whose exemplary accomplishments contributed to the country’s agricultural development.

Each winner for the individual category received P30,000 cash prize while each group category received P50,000 cash.

The regional Gawad Saka winners are automatic nominees to represent Region 1 in the national search for Gawad Saka awardees which will be announced later this year.

DILG rates LC as ‘very high’ in citizen satisfaction

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave a “very high” rating to the city government in the Citizen Satisfaction Index Survey (CSIS) for 2013.

The results of the survey were announced on July 7, 2014 by the DILG regional office assistant regional director and current officer-in-charge Victoria H. Ramos and Bureau of Local Government Supervision (BLGS) representative Anna Liza Garcia during the utilization conference on the CSIS results held at the Laoag City Auditorium.

Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) Pres. Miriam E. Pascua also attended the event as MMSU’s Local Research Institute (LRI) conducted the r2013 random survey in all of Laoag’s barangays.

Ms. Ramos congratulated the city government headed by Laoag Mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas for the very high rating.

The DILG official explained the survey was based on eight areas of concerns: health, basic education, social welfare, governance and response, public works and infrastructure, environmental management, agriculture support, and tourism promotion.

The satisfaction index survey aims to generate citizens’ perspectives on the reach and quality of basic public services and provide information handle for citizens to and the civil society to allow an informed engagement in the workings of a local government.

Ms. Ramos disclosed further that the Laoag government’s performance were very satisfactorily in all areas of concerns.

DILG-Ilocos Norte officer-in-charge Roger Daquioag also congratulated the Laoag government as it was also the pilot local government unit in the province for the CSIS.

Laoag City, according to Mr. Daquioag, is the best city in the country in terms of the CSIS results and compared to other cities surveyed.

Mr. Daquioag also stressed that the survey was independently handled by LRI. The MMSU unit also presented the results during the conference.

The LRI said the result of the survey showed that the surveyed gave “very high” rating to the Laoag government in all areas.

Mr. Daquioag also disclosed that of all the areas surveyed, it was only in agriculture support that the city government needs improvement.

However, it was also explained in the conference that the agriculture support was also included in the urban barangays’ survey. There is no agriculture support for most urban barangays in the city as they do not have plantation fields.

The agriculture support result also showed the full support of the city government based on the recent awards given to Laoag’s agriculture office and Laoag farmers.

Ms. Fariñas, for her part, thanked all the agencies concerned for the rating. She also reiterated that her administration is very serious in bringing government services closer to the people.

She pointed out that Laoag’s Rang-ay ti Barangay program primarily aims to bring government to the people and to get the people’s pulse in terms of what they need.          

PCC beefs up carabao genetic program in Ilocos Norte

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

Batac City—The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) here has intensified their campaign to conserve native water buffalos by increasing their genetic potential and promote it as a source of alternative livelihood among rural farming villages.

Threatened by the apparent decline of land available for cultivation due to a dramatic increase of infrastructure developments such as construction of commercial buildings and houses, the PCC recognizes the need to intensify crop-livestock integration, eyeing improved breeds of water buffalo as a great source of meat, milk and draft.

Grace Marjorie Recta, PCC regional center director, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture based in Batac City, said every year they are targeting about 5,000 artificial insemination services to water buffaloes in Ilocos Norte’s rural farming villages mostly in Marcos and San Nicolas towns.

With highly-skilled private technicians the PCC trained to perform artificial insemination (AI), Ms. Recta hopes that the Philippines no longer need to import to improve the quality of native water buffaloes here.  

With a success rate of 25 to 30 percent, the PCC reported that they have produced at least 800 mestizos in 2013.

At present, the PCC still provides free semen to beneficiaries but the actual conduct of AI performed by private technicians now has a standard fee of at least P500 for water buffalo and P600 for cow.

Ms. Recta added that riverine breeds produce more milk and doubles farmer’s income through organized crossbreeding of swamp and riverine buffaloes.

For example, the income derived from milk of crossbreed in comparable with that derived from 1 hectare of rice. Income from fresh milk increases with the increase milk yield resulting from backcrossing with dairy breeds.

In Marcos and San Nicolas towns, Ms. Recta said the PCC has assisted several farmer-beneficiaries there to improve the breed of their carabao. At least two of the farmer-beneficiaries have successfully produced crossbreeds for their local milk supply and some being shared to neighbors after they were trained on milk processing.

Classified as a swamp-type buffalo, the native carabao plays an important role in rural farming communities particularly among small time farmers.

In 2010, the volume of meat production from this sector reached 148,000 metric tons valued at P10.05 billion, based on the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. Meanwhile, milk production from Carabao is estimated at 5.4 million liters in 2009 valued at P248.4 million.

The Philippines however remains dependent on imported milk as 99 percent of the demand for fresh milk come from milk-producing countries notably from New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Batac eyes more scholars

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Batac City—The city government here is set to increase the number of their scholars following the passage of an ordinance that sets new income requirements for applicants.

Batac Vice Mayor Ronald Allan M. Nalupta, author of the ordinance, said the new household income requirement will be based on the minimum wage set forth by the Regional Wage Board or salary grade 2 when in government service. Annual income for salary grade 2 is Php 116,604.

The combined annual income of parents or guardians must also be certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Another scholarship ordinance however was tabbed for further study while a third was disapproved.

The Batac Athletic Scholarship Program, which was supposed to provide financial assistance to student-athletes selected to represent the city in sporting events, was shelved for further study. The Batac Cultural Scholarship Program, which was supposed to give financial aid to student-dancers or performers who represent Batac in various cultural events, on the other hand was disapproved on its second reading. Mr. Nalupta sponsored both draft ordinances

The vice mayor stressed that the scholarship ordinances are in line with Batac Mayor Jeffrey Jubal Nalupta’s objective to increase the city government scholars to 1,000. Currently, Mr. Nalupta disclosed that there are less than 500 Batac City government scholars.

US supports disaster risk reduction in Metro Manila

By Michael T. Esmino
Managing Editor

THE UNITED States government is stepping up its efforts to help the Philippines in disaster preparedness.

On July 17, the US Embassy in the Philippines announced that the US government will partner with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to build community resilience to disasters in Metro Manila.

On July 14, the US, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided an additional P107.5 million (US $2.5 million) to CRS for disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the Philippines.  The support will provide training and support to communities in 15 high-risk, flood-prone barangays in Rizal and the National Capital Region, directly benefiting an estimated 43,200 people.  Through the program, CRS will provide training to barangay officials and community members on areas including risk assessment and mapping, participatory disaster risk reduction and management, and contingency planning.  The program will also build community resilience by undertaking preparedness and mitigation projects, such as waterway and community clean-up campaigns and improvements to evacuation centers and early warning systems, helping to lessen the impact of future flood events.

The US through USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has provided nearly P868.6 million (US $20.2 million) for DRR programs in the Philippines since 2012.  US-supported DRR programs in the Philippines seek to build the capacity of communities, Philippine Government agencies, and local non-governmental organizations to prepare for and respond to the range of disasters that frequently impact the country.  Other US-supported DRR programs in the Philippines include funding to assist the Philippine Government to pre-position logistics equipment in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao that can be used during emergencies; support to increase the technical and physical capacity of national and local government units in eight disaster-prone provinces across the country; and support for DRR in areas affected by the 2012 Typhoon Bopha, among other activities.

When teachers lead the cheating

In Philippine society, we look up to teachers as paragons of virtue. They lead us to the realm of wisdom, and let us distinguish right from wrong.

Teaching is arguably a most noble profession. I am sure you have heard of the story of various professionals, all of them Filipino, at the doorstep of heaven explaining to St. Peter why they deserve to enter paradise. “I served the people with all my heart,” a politician enthused. “I built roads, bridges, and buildings, including churches,” said an engineer. A doctor explained how she healed the sick while a lawyer detailed how he brought justice to the oppressed. Then a teacher came forward and proudly said, “Well, St. Peter, I taught them all.”

Impressive answer, indeed. I am not sure though whether heaven's gatekeeper let the teacher in, for there’s a chance he may have wondered whether the chaos in Philippine society today—the massive corruption, the greed, the thoughtless bickering, and the lack of foresight, among others—are to be blamed on teachers. We already know how politicians betray us, how professionals like doctors and lawyers do not pay the right taxes, how engineers construct substandard structures, and how other professionals do society more harm than good.

This comes to mind after allegations of cheating in the National Achievement Tests hit the headlines earlier this year. Whistleblowers claimed that teachers themselves initiate, orchestrate, and execute the cheating in many creative ways. Cheating incidents have been investigated on by the NBI in some areas, although we know that these happen many place else, if not everywhere.

Teachers allegedly disseminate leakages during examination reviews for the nationwide test taken annually by students in Grades 3 and 6 and fourth year high school. In a report by GMA 7, one teacher let the students memorize the patterns, and then burned the kodigo afterwards. Also, teachers make seating arrangements where brilliant students are strategically positioned and are instructed to make their answers available to others. There could be hand signals and passing of cheat sheets but the students are told to do it silently. These mostly happen in public schools although some private schools have reportedly received leakages as well. While proctors do come from other schools, many of them are either active collaborators in the grand scheme or are just passive participants who choose to be blind over the gross dishonesty happening before their very eyes.

Meanwhile, the students are confused why teachers who talk about the importance of honesty and integrity all the time suddenly change tune by carrying out unlawful acts.

We all know these are happening despite denials from the Department of Education authorities. “To me, there is no cheating committed in the NAT,” wrote Atty. Tonisito Umali, DepEd assistant secretary for legal affairs, in his column in Business Mirror. If there is any, Umali added, these allegations should be very isolated. I don’t know how high Umali’s ivory tower is, but it must be high well enough for him not to see what really happens on the ground.

Why do teachers resort to cheating anyway? That their performance is largely assessed by NAT results is a big reason. Good ratings in the NAT mean better performance appraisal for the teacher, and, in the advent of the Performance-Based Bonus (PBB) introduced by Butch Abad (yes, the same guy who designed the unconstitutional DAP), the higher their monetary rewards, too. Teachers in schools who obtain top NAT results receive P35,000. Those on the other end get P5,000 only, if at all. Teachers who come from good performing schools also have an edge in terms of promotions.

Moreover, public schools that do not show adequate yearly progress in the NAT face sanctions such as a decrease in their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE). This means that schools that are doing poorly will receive less government support. This, dear karikna, defies reason, for shouldn’t government give even more attention to poorly performing schools—those which need serious intervention? The MOOE, according to DepEd, is intended to be spent in critical and priority areas that would help improve the quality of learning. For instance, it is to be used for the repair and maintenance of buildings and other facilities. What sound logic is there when students who are already faring poorly are ‘punished’ by having their school deteriorate further because of a decreased MOOE?

Given the rampant cheating in the NAT, there’s a big chance that cheating performance and not really learning achievement is being rewarded by the system. It is not uncommon then that some schools, which are unheard of in credible competitions or have never done well in any interschool academic endeavor, ace the NAT. It is not unlikely as well that other schools that are doing honestly well based on all indicators, do not rank as high in the NAT.

Rightfully then, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers have expressed strong opposition over considering NAT results as a major factor in determining teachers’ bonuses and school funding. This proposal, the party-list group says, would lessen the temptation of cheating in the NAT.

But cheating is not the only problem brought about by the NAT which abolition is now being pushed by Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators (FAPSA). “Students need to think, not memorize,” the group said in a statement.

FAPSA Eleazardo Kasilag explained that public school teachers resort to “teach to test” to get incentives. “Teaching to test is simply item-teaching, which removes the validity of tests and is reprehensible. It should be stopped," he said. This means teaching only what students are most likely to encounter during exams such as in science, math, English, Filipino and sibika. Meanwhile, the arts, as well as problem solving, effective communication, and ICT are getting less attention. In effect, students abandon assignments that require critical thinking in favor of drill, memorization, repetitive practice, and... (sigh) cheating.

Let me, dear karikna, make this clear: not all teachers are cheats, most may even be honest. I know many who value honor and integrity over all the monetary bonuses on earth. And St. Peter will surely find their names in his master list because heaven’s achievement test, unlike DepEd’s, is credible and honest.