Thursday, March 31, 2016

Simultaneous tooth-brushing in Laoag City

Day-Care pupils of Laoag join the celebration of the Oral Health Month in cooperation with the Department of Health Region I with the theme: "Kalinisan ng ngipin laging panatilihin, ugaliing kumain ng masustansyang pagkain". The simultaneous tooth brushing drills held in front of the city hall on February 26, 2016. (Doms dela Cruz)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hyposol key to ending water-borne diseases

By Monette H. Herrera

Close to eastern part of Pangasinan province is the first class municipality of Sta. Barbara where capable residents of Brgy. Malanay has thrived to be one of the community’s cost-effective assets. 

It was the “Long Live Pharma” where Racky D. Doctor, 26 years-old then, started the production of water disinfectant (hyposol/waterine) to purify water safe for human consumption. 

How it all began
Way back in 1997, Mr. Doctor started the operation of Long Live Pharma and production of hyposol with an initial capitalization of P20,000. Hyposol is a simple water treatment technology or a 1.25% sodium hypochlorite solution packed in 100 ml plastic bottle good in purifying 20 liters of raw water. It is registered with the Department of Trade and Industry in 2010. Most of its products are distributed in regions 1, 2 and 3 along with its market linkages to include Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Comes DOST
The succeeding years were a steady flow of income from Long Live Pharma. However, due to the increase in demand for hyposol, the company cannot respond to the needs of DOH, WHO and UNICEF. This situation prompted the company to transfer to a new site and put a new production plant. The firm also needed to upgrade its packaging facility to increase volume of production thereby meeting demands. In 2009, the Long Live Pharma sought the assistance of DOST-Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). SETUP is a nationwide strategy of the DOST aimed to encourage and assist micro, small and medium enterprises to adopt technological interventions to improve their products, services, operations and increase their productivity and competitiveness. 

Long Live Pharma and SETUP
SETUP has tied-up with Long Live Pharma. By then, the DOST has evaluated the company’s response to the given requirements. Along the process, DOST 1 provided Long Live Pharma with an automatic vertical form fill seal machine and an ink jet printer for hyposol production. 

Building on the momentum
The DOST-SETUP interventions enabled the firm to have more accurate filling and sealing ensuring product quality in the production. Also, production cost of the hyposol per bottle was reduced, from P45 to P43. Mechanization also brought lesser contamination due to human handling in filling and capping.  

During the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda, the availability of potable water in Samar and Tacloban was a major concern since drinking water systems were damaged. The DOH, DSWD, local government units and non-government organizations looked for ways to provide the basic need for potable water for those who were devastated by the typhoon. 

Long Live Pharma ably responded to the needs through the just-in-time production of hyposol. About one million bottles of hyposol were distributed in central Visayas region. Thru the use of Hyposol, the spread of water-borne diseases like diarrhea among Samareños was prevented.  On the business side, the sales generated by hyposol distribution helped the Doctors to setup another technology-based line of business.

In 2014 the owner organized a family corporation named Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation, a subsidiary of Long Live Pharma, which was registered with the Security Exchange Commission.  Nutridense handles the food product component of the business to produce commercially available innovative and research based products aiming to alleviate malnutrition incidence in the country. The offer came from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the DOST. Among the products, is a snack item for children 2 years old and above and a food blend for babies 6 to 24 months old, both made from rice and mongo grains. The project was part of DOST’s science and technology-based intervention program to address malnutrition among children in the country.

“They were talking about the big need for entrepreneurs to help solve malnutrition in the country. I saw the need for participation. And since I was passionate about making new products, especially food, I grabbed that opportunity, Doctor also said.

The DOST was indeed, instrumental for financial and technical help in fully automating production. “We now have the facility to answer every demand of the market.  We benchmark with international standards.  We are also compliant with Clean and Green Manufacturing Practices, including 5S housekeeping”, Mr. Doctor said.

Social Responsibility
Mr. Doctor stressed that the assistance of DOST and availability of hyposol during Yolanda had a great impact in their lives because of high volume of sales with 45% growth, increase of production which added 75 personnel and more significantly expansion of the company. Long Live Pharma’s growth is a testimonial not only to the Doctors’ enterprising spirit but also to the advantages of asking help where help is available.

THROUGH the different opportunities given by the Long Live Pharma, still the firm is looking forward to strengthen its expansion process and collaborations with all partner agencies towards helping people concerned in the country.

“I am really grateful to DOST for the granting us SETUP and providing professional assistance for our staff,” Mr. Doctor added.

Taldiap: Dagiti nangyuna a nangusat ti dalan ti Ilocos Surian Association of Hawaii

Modesty aside, we are part of the history from the start when the Ilocos Surian Association of Hawaii (ISAH) was still being organized.

Salute to the individual leaders who put their time and energy to run this provincial organizational that exist in the Land of Paradise, known as Melting Pot of the Pacific or Crossroad of the Pacific.

ISAH first set of officers (1977): Atty. Peter Aduja, president; Pacita Saludes, first vice president; Mel Europa, second vice president; Annie Lugmao, secretary; Francisco Ugale, treasurer; Mario Albalos, asst. treasurer; Amado Yoro, auditor; Mike Ulibas, business manager; PRO: Ernie Cardenas, Bert Ugalino, Francisco Ponce; Sarhento: Elvin Quiocho, Johnny Villanueva, Jun Abinsay; John Quiocho, adviser.

The first officers were installed on March 27 1977 at the Holiday Inn Airport. Consul Purisimo de Peralta, Philippine Consulate General served as guest speaker.

The program. With Ernie Cardenas as emcee, has Rev. Mariano Caneso with the invocation. Ms. Saludes delivered the opening remarks followed by a Bukanegan featuring this writer where I wrote “Maipapan iti Pallot iti Hawaii”. This was followed by “Pro and Con-Laban da Mariao Albalos ken Francisco Ponce” then by a dance number from members representing San Esteban, and a daniw by yours truly.

The installation of officers by Consul De Peralta was followed by an acceptance speech by Atty. Aduja. Mr. De Peralta then delivered his remarks. The program was closed by Mr. Europa.

Following is the list of presidents of different towns and barangay organizations: Annak Ti Caoayan- John Quiocho; Burgos Ass’n- Dan Villa; Cabugueneos of Hawaii- Florentino Sardenia; Candonians—Miguel Lopez; Lapogeneos of Hawaii—Pol Ragasa; Magsingal Hawaii Residents Ass’n-Francisco Ugale; Narvaceneos of Hawaii-John Quiocho; Santaneans-Meliton Battad; San Esteban Circle-Jose Abad; San Estebanians of Hawaii-Freddie Esperanza; Santa Marians of Hawaii-Arturo Perez; Sinait Saranay–Agustin Ipalari; Sinaitenians of Oahu-Manuel Cabacungan; Sons of Candon-Jose Bautista; and Tapao Aid Organization of Hawaii [TAOH]-Paul Guzman.

The affair produced the first ISAH souvenir book with this writer as chairperson. I was joined in the project by OFCC Pres. Ilalo Parayno, UFCH Pres. Jake Manegdeg, former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi, Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi and Atty. Aduja.

The yearbook showcased Ilocos Sur and its people with the following article: 

Illustrious leaders, heroes and heroines 
ILOCOS Sur is gifted with many brilliant, brace, illustrious heroes and heroines, and leaders. They include but not limited to: Pedro Bucaneg, 1592, father of Iloco Literature; Diego Silang, 1730, leader of the Ilocos revolt; Gabriela Silang, 1731, first woman leader of the Philippine Revolution, Joan of Arc of Ilokandia; Ventura delos Reyes, 1743, signatory of the Cadiz Constitution; Fr. Jose Burgos, 1837, martyr of 1872 [GomBurZa]; Cosme Abaya, 1840, Military Chaplain of the Revolution; Isabelo Abaya, 1846, Hero of the Revolution; Leona Florentino, 1849, first famous Filipina poetess; Fernando Guirnalda, 1860, patriot; Isabelo delos Reyes, 1864, nationalist labor leader; Elpidio Quirino, 1890, second president of the Philippines; Benito Soliven, 1898, Assemblyman; Mena  Crisologo, and many more

In Hawaii, there are sons and daughters of Ilocos Sur [with bloodline and roots] who served and still serving in state and city government, include but not limited to: State Representative Romy Cachola, State Senator Willie Espero, Honolulu Councilmembers Brandon Elefante, Joey Manahan, former State Representative Jun Abinsay, Ben Cabreros, Rida Cabanilla, Ted Mina, Al Lardizabal and many others

In Hawaii, Filipino community leaders are so many; they gave their time and services, volunteers, organizers, advocates, community organizers, family builders and various type of endeavors, different field of professions and expertise such as media, newspaper, business and entrepreneurship, immigration, construction industry, agriculture, radio, television, labor union, caregiving, healthcare, literary and arts, others.

Accenture opens in Ilocos Norte

Accenture new delivery center in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. (Lei Adriano)

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

SAN NICOLAS, Ilocos Norte—A working student Camille Joyce Calipjo, 22, of the Divine Word College of Laoag struggled through a long and tough journey to finish her accountancy course but it’s all worth it, she is now one of the pioneer employees of a giant information technology and business process management (IT-BPM), which is now officially open for business in this northern gateway of Luzon.

For Ms. Calipjo and the rest of the over 200 new workforce of Accenture Philippines’ newest delivery center in San Nicolas town, she said, “It’s a life changing experience” to be part of this global company, servicing about 89 companies worldwide.

“Despite being just a fresh graduate, actually I’m graduating on March but I was already hired during a school job fair, Accenture participated last year,” Ms. Calipjo said.

Since February 2015, Accenture has started hiring and training about 200 local graduates, including graduating students and experienced professionals in the province to provide health administration and finance for the companys global clients across Europe and North America.

The new three storey-building of Accenture constructed under a built-to-suit scheme with the VENVI group of companies, a real estate developer in the province was inaugurated on March 4, which is strategically located between the cities of Laoag and Batac.

Next to Metro Manila and Cebu, the new facility is now the third delivery center Accenture has built in the country.

Two years ago, Accenture Philippines through Benedict Hernandez, service delivery operations lead met with Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos to discover what Ilocos Norte has to offer in the field of the growing IT-BPM industry.

“This is the best kept secret in the Philippines for us,” said Mr. Hernandez during the inaugural program at the new facility attended by locos Norte officials led by Ms. Marcos and San Nicolas Mayor Melanie Grace Valdez.

Ilocos Nortes optimal telecommunications infrastructure, accessibility to the Laoag International Airport, presence of special economic zones, education centers and a deep pool of local talents have impressed investors like Accenture to expand business in the province.

Now operating for two months, Mr. Hernandez boasts of the “incredible Ilocano talents who are at par if not better” in terms of performance to the other delivery centers in the country.

According to Mr. Hernandez, Ilocos Norte is an ideal site for IT-BPM companies having outstanding universities and colleges, producing graduates with a passing rate several times higher than Manila.

“We are very happy because finally they are here. It took us five years [since 2011] working with the provincial government [under Ms. Marcos] trying to convince the industry [BPO] to come to the province,” said Professor Marlina Lino, coordinator of Project C4 (Coaching for a Call Center Career) of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in partnership with the Ilocos Norte government which funded the trainings for students who may wish to apply as call center agents.

Aside from trainings, Ms. Lino said MMSU has revised some of its curricular offerings to include BPO subjects to prepare students to consider working in the industry.

For her part, Ms. Marcos, whose platform of government is centered on job generation noted that while Ilocos Norte is host to multi-billion companies of renewable energy plants such as wind and solar power, the opportunities for local employment is very meager.

“In the BPO industry, it’s the other way around. Certainly, we are counting on you to accelerate growth through jobs, through reliable, well-paying and fulfilling jobs for our youth,” Ms. Marcos said.
Ceremonial tree-planting. (Lei Adriano)

Among Filipino groups, Ilocanos are the most famous migrants. They are located everywhere in search for a greener pasture. Their top destinations are the United States of America particularly in Hawaii, Canada and some parts of Europe. When you go to a foreign land or elsewhere in the Philippines, most of the Filipinos there knows Ilocano language or at least trace an Ilocano root in northern Luzon.

The out-migration in Ilocos Norte has never been a major concern in the province until in 2010, a study showed that four out of 10 Ilocanos are left with no livelihood.

Recognizing this problem, the Marcos administration started to initiate reforms to prevent apparent brain drain in the province as most of the graduates would prefer to seek employment outside this dominant agriculture province and apply for work abroad.

Over the years, some families who are left behind in the province have also developed “remittance dependency” from a family member working overseas. This is evident with the presence of the most number of banks and remittance centers scattered everywhere in Ilocos Nortes major commercial districts.

Under the Task Force Trabaho program of the provincial government, meant create more jobs for Ilocanos and reduce dependency to dollar remittances, the Marcos administration has aggressively promoted Ilocos Norte as an alternative destination for various investment opportunities including BPOs. 

From an initial hiring of 200 new workforces, Accenture hopes to hire 5,000 people more in the near future to help expand its delivery center in Ilocos region.

Beyond earning profit for the company, Manish Sharma, Global Delivery lead for Accenture Operations said the Philippines economy remains very strong and as competitive as India and the rest of other countries.

This is why a lot of foreign companies are expanding in the Philippines for business, said Mr. Sharma.

“Our dream is to make this a vital community and a better place for the local people,” he added.

On top of generating more jobs for Ilocanos, the company through Accenture Corporate Citizenship, underscored its commitment to the province’s environment and education sectors. During the inaugural ceremonies, Mr. Sharma and Ms. Valdez led a tree planting ceremony in front of the delivery center while its local employees conducted computer skills training program among select grade school pupils of Barangay Pasion Elementary School to further enhance their knowledge and skills in basic computer applications.

Meanwhile, Accenture’s move to finally expand in the province was made easier with its partnership with VENVI Group of Companies, a real estate developer owned by the Valdez clan in San Nicolas town.

To have its own building is a major requirement for Accenture and this sealed the deal in Ilocos Norte with the favorable action of San Nicolas town, adjudged as the most business-friendly municipality in the country.

Under a built-to-suit scheme, VENVI partnered with Accenture to build its third delivery center in this northern gateway of Luzon, situated near Ilocos Nortes first—and so far only—mall which earlier stirred further development and prompting other big time investors to expand food chains and restaurants, hotels and condominiums and other commercial and entertainment facilities here.  

According to Atty. Hilario Valdez, chief executive officer and chairman of the VENVI Group of Companies, it has been one of the aspirations of VENVI to put Ilocos Norte in the world map of the BPO industry hence they supported Accentures move to expand business in the province.

“We are happy and blessed to have you here in San Nicolas. You are only on your second month of operation and you have already started your Corporate Social Responsibility program. Not all companies do that,” said Valdez as she vowed the local government unit of San Nicolas will always be in support to Accenture’s endeavors, which she said the presence of the company is now actually attracting more investors in the province.

To date, Expert Global Solutions (EGS), also a major IT-BPM provider is also building up its new building near Accenture’s new facility at the Valdez Center while Robinson’s mall has expanded two floors for BPO.

In 2014, the Department of Science and Technology has awarded Metro Laoag as best in IT-BPM infrastructure and a premier Next Wave City or an alternative IT-BPM destination to Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

Sarrat: A famous historical town left behind

By Arnel M. Barangan

I am a pure Ilocano and a Sarrateño residing now in Cebu City. I spent the last Christmas in Sarrat and in time also on the occasion of my first cousin’s wedding last December.

I used to visit Sarrat, my father’s hometown and birthplace in the late 1990s. How I loved to swim in the crystal clear waters of Padsan River that divides the town. My cousins and I were very happy catching goby or the so-called “bokto”. Then we caught crabs, lobsters, tilapia, dalag from their rama, a cluster of twigs covered with coconut leaves submerged into the water and used as a sanctuary and a habitat of fish and other crustaceans. We also had a nice time picnicking at Sagpatan Dam located at Barangay 22 in Sarrat.

To maximize my last vacation here in Sarrat, we toured and traveled the neighboring cities of Batac and Laoag and almost all the towns of Ilocos Norte except Carasi and Adams. I’ve noticed how fast Ilocos Norte have soared to progress. I love the windmills in the northern towns. Gosh, big malls are already in San Nicolas Town and Laoag City.

I loved going around the market of Batac City where I bought the rare vegetable my father used to tell me called “banitog”. Then we dropped by San Nicolas for the famous Ilocano “bagnet”. I remember from San Nicolas we preceded to Dingras town. It was a Wednesday morning and luckily it was the town’s open-market-day. I bought my favorite tupig a native delicacy made from malagkit. On that same day, we went to Solsona town and I bought a deer horn and venison (deer meat) as pasalubong. From Solsona, we decided to go and pass by Piddig town before going back to Sarrat. Inside the market of Piddig, I noticed a bottle with shells in it. I asked my uncle what that is and he answered me that is called “birabid”, one of the Ilocano favorite dishes.

During our dinner that same day, I asked my uncle why our dear Sarrat is being left behind in terms of progress compared to neighboring adjacent towns. My uncle just shrugged his shoulder and said it is because of too much politicking and no will of the chief executive to work for progress. At that moment I just let my uncle speak. He continued, you see son, just a matter of observation from our trip from San Nicolas to Dingras—I did not see any more the welcome arc along the national highway at Sitio Tagiporo in Santa Rosa village. He told me that the welcome arc was accidentally bumped and destroyed by a dump truck and my uncle came to know that the dump truck owner had already paid the damages but reported allegedly pocketed by a Sarrat official.

I remained adamant for a while but to break the silence, I asked my uncle—why public market of Sarrat is like a skeleton not like the beautiful and clean markets of neighboring towns. He told me it is because of no transparency and no full accountability? Why? I asked him and he threw back the question to me and said, if you are a member of the legislative body, would you concur for the passage of additional budget for the market if the last fund allocated is not yet clear on where it was spent? Would you not ask for the supporting documents where the people’s money went? I did not ask anymore question to my uncle, perhaps, I just kept to myself my own observation that Sarrat public market and plaza is the worst of all the places in Ilocos that I saw.


(Mr. Barangan is a seaman and a professional photographer. His father is a retired public school teacher and a member of Sarrat National High School Batch 1965.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DAR project improves rice production in Ilocos Norte

Adjudicators of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) of Region I held a training-workshop on agrarian laws on February 22-24 in Baguio City. Regional Adjudicator Annabelle Madayag-Oandasan (first row, second from the left) gave a lecture on the latest jurisprudence on agrarian cases. (Jopo Guerrro)

Aiming to increase rice production, the Department of Agrarian Reform through its Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project III (ARISP), implemented a Hybrid Rice Production Project in Ilocos Norte.

The project, which was carried out by the San Roque Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ARC) at the Cabaroan Agrarian Reform Community (ARC), was designed to improve rice yield through the use of hybrid seeds, organic fertilizer and appropriate farm technologies.

It was implemented in three phases: the first phase was a production of hybrid rice in an area of 18.25 hectares with 67 farmer beneficiaries; the second phase involved an increased area of 36.5 hectares with 69 farmer-beneficiaries; and the third phase was rice production in 38.5 hectares with 72 farmer beneficiaries.

Farmer beneficiaries or cooperators are agrarian reform beneficiaries who are members of the cooperative in good standing and owners of area of tillage of not less than 0.5 hectares.

These cooperators were given enhancement training on hybrid rice production conducted through the assistance of the Department of Agriculture in coordination with the local government unit.

After the training, each cooperator received a loan in the form of inputs like pesticides, organic fertilizers and inorganic fertilizers, like urea 46-0-0, 14-14-14, 16-20-0 and 0-0-60.

Based on the area of tillage, the highest amount of loan per cooperator was P8,720, while the lowest was P3,460. In addition, each cooperator was given five fruit tree seedlings to be planted in their backyards.

The farmer beneficiaries were also given training on management capability, recording skills, monitoring and the conduct of enterprise development activities. This training helped them update their books of account and prepare their financial statements and other mandatory reports.

Because of this project, each cooperator was able to increase his income from an average of P3,200 per hectare to an average of P20,500 per hectare.

The farmers were also able to improve their knowledge on cultural management technology on hybrid rice production and utilization of irrigation facilities which resulted in the increase of farm yield from 80 cavans per hectare to 120 cavans per hectare.

This project now serves as the “demonstration farm” for other farmers who want to replicate the system in their own farms and receive the same profit. Its end result is not only beneficial to the cooperators but it also pours advantage to all communities dependent on rice production.


BARD NOTES: Happy bard-reading to Mayor Chevylle Fariñas, Vice Mayor Michael V. Fariñas, Provincial Treasurer Josephine Calajate, INWD General Manager John Teodoro, Dr. Miramar Bumanglag and PNB Laoag Branch Manager Metty V. Guerrero.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Biggest losers

THE SEEMINGLY endless saga of Solsona’s two mayors have reached alarming proportions. Apart from having two mayors, Solsona now will also have no budget for 2016.

Citing the active suspension order on Solsona’s top three officials, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has invalidated the town’s 2016 budget upon review. The officials in question are Solsona Mayor Jonathan de Lara, Vice Mayor Joseph de Lara and senior councilor Edison de Lara.

The trio has defied the suspension order handed down by Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda R. Marcos as they continued on with their respective duties and responsibilities as elected officials. Among those duties included the passage of the town’s 2016 budget.

From all possible angles, the suspension can only be tabbed as political. The De Laras have fallen from the Capitol’s grace. The governor, herself, is supporting candidates that oppose the De Laras. And in this power struggle in this eastern Ilocos Norte municipality, the biggest losers are Solsona’s residents.

Those people have chosen the officials they wanted to lead and serve them for the next three years. That mandate expires on June 30, 2016.

The least all other officials can do is to respect that mandate. If they feel that they can offer a better alternative, the next election is just two months away. They can persuade the people to vote for them instead of the De Laras.

In a democracy there will always be voices and opinions that would differ with one another; stifling them would be as good as bludgeoning democracy. Elections, on the other hand, gives the people the right to choose who they want to lead them; removing elected officials for political advantage is not only unfair, it is nefarious even.

If all elected officials really have their constituents’ welfare at heart, then this should have not happened at all. If there are local officials who have overstepped their bounds, then they by all means charge them—but not in a political body, where decisions hinge on political affiliations. They should be charged in the proper forum and given all due process afforded by law.

For after all has been said and done, this political clash only results in the ordinary people becoming the biggest casualties.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

God and leadership

AS social beings, we will always need leaders to bring us to our common good. We therefore need to choose leaders with the proper qualities. And this means that they have the proper understanding of what our common good is in all its aspects—from the temporal to the eternal, from the material to the spiritual, from the immediate to the ultimate, etc.

We should stay away from the way of choosing our leaders simply on the basis of popularity, wealth or technical skills. While these have their objective value and should be given their due consideration, we have to understand that they cannot be the beginning and end of leadership. We need to go beyond them.

We have to say this now since our current world culture seems to be practically at the mercy of these criteria that at best are only secondary and instrumental. We have to outgrow this kind of mindset.

Leadership has God not only in its center and core, but also, in a manner of speaking, in every pore of its being. Without God, or ignoring him, or simply giving him token consideration would make any idea of leadership hollow. It may manage to make a lot of sound and fury, but it would be inherently infirm, certainly doomed to failure sooner or later.

Its bravery would simply be bravado, its wisdom and prudence cunning, its victories pyrrhic. Its vision can never be total and with the right hierarchy of values. It will be biased, distorted, deceitful. It will not be able to tell everything that we need to know and do.

It will shun away from sacrifice or anything that would need some amount of pain that would be necessary. And when the unavoidable problems and troubles come due to our fragile human condition, it hardly would have any resource to tackle them.

We need to explode the myth that giving God the primary role in the pursuit of leadership would simply be a drag, an unnecessary element, or that it is impractical, irrelevant, undoable. Or that it would just confine us to the spiritual and supernatural and desensitize us from the mundane, etc.

This kind of reasoning can only reflect a certain lack of faith and a lazy thinking. These actually are the basic problems we have at hand. We need to do something about this predicament by showing that we as persons need some amount of faith and that we should try our best to go all the way in our thinking and reasoning.

We should avoid being led simply by what our senses perceive, nor even what our intelligence can discern. Again, while these are always necessary, they are in need of a higher source of knowledge and stimulus that can only come from faith.

Our act of faith, which we do one way or another, should get engaged with an objective faith that comes from God himself, our Creator and Father, who continues to govern us through his providence. Our act of faith should not just be a matter of what is empirical, convenient, intellectually stimulating and the like.

This objective faith is not a fantasy that can be made up by anyone depending on how a person is. Its something that can be known because even if God is so supernatural that we he will always be a mystery to us, he is also very close to us. In fact, he is in the most intimate part of our existence as well as being all around us.

Besides, he has revealed himself to us in full by sending his Son to us, Jesus Christ, who left us with his word, his sacraments, his Church. He has left us with his real presence in the Eucharist.

If we would just have the proper disposition of faith that comes together with hope and charity, we can always connect ourselves with him, and somehow get to know his will and ways not only in a generic way, but also in a concrete and specific way.

Thus, leaders should be men and women of faith, of genuine piety, who know how to cruise in the material and spiritual world, in the temporal and the eternal, in the mundane and the sacred.

True leaders should be able to lead everyone ultimately to God making use of our natural conditions. They should be able to go beyond our many human conditionings, not by avoiding or nullifying them which would be quixotic, but by making use of them by the power of God.

God and leadership should be together!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Private reforestation should be encouraged—PIDS study

Nongovernment reforestation, or tree planting activities conducted by private land owners, organizations, and citizens, has been declining despite the introduction of the National Greening Program (NGP). Launched in 2011, the NGP is a priority program of the government that aims to rehabilitate the forests and, at the same time, to reduce poverty; promote food security, environmental stability, and biodiversity conservation; and enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation.

According to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), nongovernment reforestation contributed only about 2 percent of the total reforested area in 2013. This figure is much lower compared to the 56 percent of total area that private entities and individuals reforested in 2005.

PIDS Senior Research Fellow Danilo Israel, author of the study, noted that nongovernment reforestation contributed a large share in reforestation before the early 2000s. However, at the turn of the millennium, its contributions to reforestation efforts dropped to 20 percent from 39 percent in the 1990s. It continued to decline to 6.94 percent in the early 2011, just as the government launched the NGP.

Nongovernment reforestation occurs through agreements between the government and various nongovernment groups, such as forest agriculture communities, indigenous peoples, and industry entities and private groups. Nongovernment reforestation was driven by programs like community-based forest management agreements, integrated forest management agreements, socialized industrial forest management agreements, tree farm lease agreements, agroforestry farm lease agreements, industrial tree plantation lease agreements, industrial tree plantations, and Presidential Decree 1153 that requires every Filipino citizen to plant one tree every month for five consecutive years.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the country suffered massive forest cover and biodiversity loss due to unchecked exploitation. Prior to the 1970s, the country has always relied on government programs to manage its forest resources. To mobilize better forestry protection and management, the government passed laws that would grant rights and responsibilities to nongovernment entities and enjoin them to the cause. 

A good way to revive the contribution rate of nongovernment reforestation is to work through private landowners, organizations, and citizens. According to Israel, “private reforestation has been the main driver of nongovernment reforestation. However, it faces many obstacles and is generally left out of large-scale government reforestation programs like the NGP.”

Mr. Israel recommends that since private reforestation has outperformed other nongovernment reforestation programs in the past, the country’s policymakers should look into optimizing its performance by addressing institutional, production, and marketing issues that stand in the way.

“Harmonization of laws and regulations is a good place to start. Developing a coherent Sustainable Forest Management Act and Comprehensive Land Use Act would reassure private investors that their interests are protected. Right now, part of the institutional issues faced by private reforestation entities is the inconsistencies in relevant laws and policies, the lack of government-assisted programs, and complications related to security of land tenure and contesting land claims,” Mr. Israel explained.

Moreover, Mr. Israel indicated that government has to give the private sector incentives to expand their reforestation operations. Tree planting is a risky business especially when it comes to prices. Poaching, diseases, and natural calamities pose real threats to private investments. Tree farming in itself might be a hard sell, but Israel argued that “agroforestry and forestry tourism as alternative ventures can be promoted.”

To help address input price risk, government seedling nurseries must be capacitated to provide steady supply of good quality of seedlings at cheaper prices. More stringent laws against poaching must also be put in place such as having an effective reward system for catching tree poachers and a higher penalty for offenders including sufficiently long prison sentences. Likewise, government should extend crop insurance coverage to tree planting and conduct better anti-disease and pest control activities.

Lastly, government should assist tree farmers market their products through better organization, especially when it comes to entering and engaging the markets here and abroad, and provision of better transport infrastructure.

“Government should help tree farmers organize themselves into marketing cooperatives. This way, they can have better access to international markets for commercial logs and processed wood products. Cooperatives, for example, can also invest in commonly owned equipment and facilities, such as chain saws and trucks, for harvesting and transporting logs to markets by their members,” Mr. Israel recommended.

At the same time, road and bridge infrastructure in the rural areas must also be improved to hasten the transportation of tree production inputs and harvested logs from the planting sites to the holding areas and markets.

Private reforestation is one facet of nongovernment reforestation, founded on the principle of engaging citizens and nongovernment groups to care for, protect, and help manage the country’s remaining forest resources. It is to the government’s interest to give its private partners more opportunities to participate and enhance conservation efforts. (PIDS)

Breakthrough climate agreement recognizes food security as a priority

FAO leader hails role of agriculture in national pledges, applauds the promise to scale up funding

Rome—FooD and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva has welcomed the approval of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, saying that "for the first time ever, food security features in a global climate change accord."  

The Agreement recognizes "the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the impacts of climate change".

It underlines the need to "increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience (...) in a manner that does not threaten food production." 

"This is a game changer for the 800 million people still suffering from chronic hunger and the 80 percent of the world's poor who live in rural areas and earn their income − and feed their families − via the agriculture sectors. By including food security, the international community fully acknowledges that urgent attention is needed to preserve the well-being and future of those who are on the front line of climate change threats," Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

"FAO commends this milestone decision to move forward on climate change action, which comes on the heels of the new Sustainable Development Agenda and its pledge to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2030. Central to our goal of achieving Zero Hunger, FAO strongly advocates for commitments to protect and enhance food security in a changing climate," he added. "Our message is simple: we will not reach Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger − and by extension the entire 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda − without ambitious action on climate change."

Fighting hunger and climate must go "hand-in-hand," he said. "FAO is highly encouraged by the fact that agriculture, forestry, fisheries and land use factor prominently in most of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) − the actions countries intend to take under the new Paris Agreement—and notes that this underscores the need for targeted investment in sustainable agriculture.

"In the contexts of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, parties shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive INDCs that they intend to achieve. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) may prepare and communicate strategies, plans and actions for low greenhouse emissions development reflecting their special circumstances. Each party to the Agreement shall communicate a nationally determined contribution every five years.

"In this respect, FAO lauds the commitments made throughout the COP21 negotiations to support scaled up climate action in developing countries. Countries pledged additional resources to the Least Developed Countries Fund, Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund, among others.

"These resources are vital to supporting developing countries to implement their INDC contributions."

FAO at COP22

Building on the outcomes of the Paris Agreement, FAO is now working closely with the Government of Morocco to prepare for COP22 in Marrakesh in November 2016, with an eye to anchoring food security and agriculture even more prominently in global action plans and to ensure financial support for adaptation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Ilocos Times March 14-20, 2016

Click photo for the PDF file

Imee gives stipends to tech-voc scholars

ILOCOS Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos distributes stipends to technical-vocational students who are beneficiaries of the Iskolar ni Manang Imee program of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte in Laoag City.  (Reu A. Flores)

By Mizpah Grace G. Castro

ILOCOS Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos through the Provincial Education Department (PED) distributed stipends to 399 "Iskolar ni Manang Imee" beneficiaries enrolled in technical-vocational programs on February 14 at the Centennial Arena in Laoag City.

The "Iskolar ni Manang Imee" program of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) was launched in 2012 but only started including technical-vocational scholars in the first semester of Academic Year 2015-2016. The stipend is funded by PED, supporting students enrolled in technical-vocational programs of schools such as the Bangui Institute of Technology, Marcos Agro-Industrial School (MAIS), Ilocos Norte College of Arts and Trades (INCAT), Mariano Marcos State University-College of Industrial Technology (MMSU-CIT), and the Overseas Technical Institute, Inc.

"Mas mabigat ang tech-voc. Mas mabilis magkaroon ng trabaho dito at sa ibang bansa. Kaya huwag kayong mag-alala. Magsipag kayo. Ang master electrician, madaling makahanap sa job fair. Ang mahuhusay na arc welder, pinapadala sa ibang bansa. Talagang sigurado na mayroong trabaho ang mga HRS [hotel and restaurant services], kasi dito pa lang sa probinsiya, kulang na kulang ang serbisyo natin. To all of you, congratulations, magandang choice ito, at siguradong makatutulong sa kada pamilya," Ms. Marcos said.

Since 2010, the PGIN has shouldered over 39,000 elementary, 16,000 high school, and 3,000 college scholarships as a strategy to empower the youth and human capital of Ilocos Norte alongside efforts increasing the provincial employment rate from 3% in 2010 to 50.78% at present.

Recipients of the technical-vocational "Iskolar ni Manang Imee" scholarship are mostly out-of-school youth and the unemployed. The program was developed to maximize productivity of residents throughout Ilocos Norte by aiding them in finding sustainable livelihoods.

The rest of the 432 beneficiaries who were not present during distribution may claim their stipends by presenting valid identification at the Treasury of the Provincial Capitol in Laoag.

Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan voids Solsona’s 2016 budget

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) here declared on February 29 the 2016 budget of the Solsona town government as invalid in view of its top three local officials who continue to perform their duties and functions amidst a six-month suspension order signed by Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos.

Upon recommendation of the provincial board, Ms. Marcos suspended Solsona Mayor Jonathan de Lara, Solsona Vice Mayor Joseph de Lara and Solsona senior Sangguniang Bayan member Edison de Lara since December 10 for grave abuse of authority but they all refused to step down from their respective positions.

The de Laras are banking on an alleged ‘stay order’ the Office of the President issued on the same day the suspension order was served but until now, the SP have yet to receive an official copy of the said document, if any.

“It’s very unfortunate that the people of Solsona have to suffer because of this situation. Basic services are being hampered because we are on stalemate,” acting Solsona Mayor Jose Martin told the SP board members who appeared to be “helpless” in resolving the issue of having two mayors in Solsona town.

During the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Mr. Martin along with four other SB members and eight Punong Barangays sought the advice of the body regarding the continuing assumption of said local officials despite their on-going suspension which stemmed from an administrative charge filed against them by SB members Martin, Alexander Calucag, Mark Dennis Del Castillo, and Lorenzo Pascua.

“We are at a loss. What can we do now to correct this situation in Solsona? The suspension order was served but they continue to perform their functions and duties, despite suspension,” Mr. Martin reiterated.

While submitted for review at the provincial board, the SP has invalidated the 2016 budget of Solsona and that a copy of the committee report be furnished to all concerned authorities including the mayor, vice mayor, municipal treasurer, budget officer and the depository bank of Solsona.

“It appears there’s vacuum in the local government unit of Solsona. I believe that the controversy is now ripe for judicial intervention,” said SP member Vicentito “Toto” M. Lazo.