Friday, June 29, 2018

DENR bans 14 quarry operators in Bolo River

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has banned all quarry operators extracting sand and gravel along the Bolo River in northern Ilocos Norte.

In a May 13 cease-and-desist order issued by regional director Carlos Tayag, officer-in-charge of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), authorities found 14 quarry operators along the Bolo River covering the municipalities of Bangui, Dumalneg, Pagudpud operating without the necessary permit from the DENR or from the Ilocos Norte provincial government.

On May 16, 2018, key officials of the DENR led by regional directors Reynulfo Juan, Ma. Victoria Abrera of the Environmental Management Bureau, Mr. Tayag of MGB and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Victor Dabalos served the order to the illegal quarry operators along Bolo river.

Florante Nicolas, PENRO Ilocos Norte information officer identified the illegal quarry operators as Dumalneg vice mayor Francis Espiritu and 12 others as:  Joy Soriano, Jovelyn Taggaoa, Florencio Dy, Denton Garvida, Analiza Garvida, Marino Faylogan, Praxedes Castillo, Joseph Castillo, Rajan Benemerito, Gensie Palima, Edimar Ubasa, Estrella Bacong and Joseph Acio from the municipalities of Bangui, Dumalneg and Pagudpud.

As stated in the order, the DENR gave the said persons 72 hours upon receipt of the order to explain why the government agency should not charge them with theft of minerals.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Piddig mayor, DSWD aid cancer patient

Piddig Mayor Georgina Salazaer-Guillen chats with cancer patient Rizalinda dela Cruz. (Berong Ver)

By Bernard Ver

Piddig, Ilocos Norte—Doctors diagnosed Rizalinda dela Cruz, 48, a resident of Barangay Arua-ay, this town with a malignant tumor (advanced cancer)-stage IV, located on her right cheek of her face.

She later became one of the beneficiaries of the Dept. of Social Work and Development (DSWD) cash assistance program.

Piddig mayor Georgina Salazar-Guillen also extended her support to Mrs. Dela Cruz for her medicinal needs thru the “cash assistance” from the municipal social welfare development office (MSWDO) fund.

Mrs. Dela Cruz is one of the beneficiaries of the DSWD Assistance to Individuals and Families in Crisis Situation (AICS) here. She discovered her disease last December 2017. She said that the she is encountering migratory pains and recently went to a doctor and undergone health examinations especially on her right cheekbone.

The doctor found-out that Mrs. Dela Cruz is suffering from malignant tumors stage IV. According to health science, these tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

Mrs. Guillen’s passion, she said, is to “help those who were needy and living with the deadly disease, like cancer.”

“I am touched by Mrs. Dela Cruz and praying to God to heal her miraculously... Stage IV cancer is risky enough and we will help her for this fight,” said Mrs. Guillen.

Laoag City hosts DepEd chief, reg’l meeting

Education secretary Leonor Brione (middle) with Laoag mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas and Laoag division superintendent Joel Lopez. (Aceyork Guerrero)

By Jennifer T. Pambid

Laoag City—The city schools division office here hosted Dept. of Education Sec. Leonor M. Briones, who in turn, attended the Regional Management Committee special meeting at a hotel in the city on April 27, 2018.

DepEd regional director Alma Ruby C. Torio chaired the special meeting attended by regional education officials, division superintendents and assistant superintendents.

In her speech during the meeting, Ms. Briones congratulated Region 1 for being number one among other 17 regions in the country in terms of budget utilization.

She also shared developments in the central office pertaining to the senior high school program, kindergarten policy, ICT program and improving the overall DepEd system, among others.

“We have to rationalize the organization especially financial management. We have to enhance the accountability of our officials including those at the level of the principal,” Ms. Briones said.

The DepEd chief also advised the regional officials to “keep their faith while dealing with the demands and pressures of both internal and external factors inherent to their jobs”.

Meanwhile, Laoag division superintendent Dr. Joel B. Lopez, presented educational innovations in his schools’ division including ICT, media literacy and indigenous technology.

Ms. Briones congratulated Laoag DepEd’s ISO 9001:2015 Certification, adding that the central office is still planning to achieve such because of the large expenses and tremendous time it will entail.

She also lauded Mr. Lopez’s efforts to pioneer the use of Baybayin in the division level even before the approval of the House Bill 1022 or the proposed “National Writing System Act” just recently.

Moreover, Ms. Briones emphasized the leaders’ huge responsibility to the learners who look to them as second parents.

“I’d like to thank your devotion to the department and most especially to your devotion and commitment to the children who…one of these days, they will be ruling this country, they will be running this country and we have to do our part,” she concluded.

Currimao gov’t, SIKA clean up coast

Currimao, Ilocos Norte—The municipal government here, with the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) leading, in cooperation with the Sirib Ilocano Kabataan Association (SIKA) Inc. conducted an emergency coastal clean-up on May 6, 2018.

The clean-up stemmed from social media posts that went viral, showing a large volume of plastic wastes floating along the Pangil Rock Formation here.

Complaints reached the local government here on May 5, 2018, with regards to an unusual volume of garbage found along the shores of Barangay Pangil. Several people posted photos of waste materials at the Pangil rock formation in a social media site.

Currimao mayor Gladys G. Cue reassured that upon receipt of the report, the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) acted accordingly.

She reminded the public that they are implementing measures to maintain the cleanliness of the rock formation. She said they are imposing penalties and fines to offenders, particularly in illegal disposal of plastic waste.

Considered an iconic Eco-tourism site in Ilocos Norte, the Pangil rock formation is one of the most visited tourist attractions, and one of the first destinations for both local and foreign tourists.

Mrs. Cue plans to conduct a regular clean-up drive starting this month to monitor the garbage influx and avoid improper disposal.

She explained that the accumulated garbage came from areas outside her town, “Talagang hindi galing yung mga basura dito sa Currimao. Alam naman natin ang volume ng basura natin at nakokolekta naman lahat ang mga ito. Kaya naman, imposibleng makaipon ng ganoong kadaming basura.”

According to Currimao MENRO, days before the incident, a fisherfolk saw a 30 to 40 meters wide bulk of plastic wastes in the high seas.  

Mrs. Cue believed that it has been long floating in the sea, “Pinag-uusapan pa namin ng MENRO. May lumot na, kaya naisip naming matagal nang nasa dagat yung mga basura. Dala siguro ng hangin at noong kamakailang pag-ulan.

Yung iba, kumpol-kumpol. Yung iba nakalagay sa plastic bag na malalaki. Hindi natin alam kung may barkong nagtapon sa mga basurang ito,” she added.

Mrs. Cue conducted a meeting with the members of Philippine Coastguard and Philippine National Police-Maritime based in Currimao, SIKA members in Currimao, and the barangay officials of Barangay Pangil, to reinforce task force ‘bantay dagat” and continuous mitigation measures. (PGIN-CMO)

Imee promotes women employment, 'binakol' fabric

The anniversary of the women’s club coincided with the 7th Binakol Festival of this town.

Sarrat, Ilocos Norte—Gracing the 38th anniversary of the Women’s Club Federation in this municipality on May 5, 2018, Ilocos Norte governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos encouraged the preservation and promotion of the town’s heritage loom-woven fabric, binakol.

Over the past years, the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) and the municipal government, in cooperation with various national agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), have started initiating activities that aims to revive the culture and industry of binakol weaving.

Sarrat specifically produces binakol. It is one of the hand-woven fabrics produced in the province, together with the renowned abel Iloco produced in Paoay. Filipino designers have used both Ilocos Norte fabrics in making traditional clothing such as terno, maria clara, and filipiniana.

Designers and other crafts people can also use binakol in making fashionable bags, fans, tablecloths, and other household products.

Noting the increasing demand for local handicrafts, Ms. Marcos urged the local binakol weavers to take advantage of her LACASA program, a capital assistance program to supplement women’s capital in running a micro enterprise. 

Sana tuloy-tuloy tayong magtulungan, lalo na para sa livelihood sa ating mga kababaihan. Ituloy natin ang pag-gawa ng binakol. Usong-uso ang binakol saan mang sulok ng mundo. At alam din natin na kailangang magbigay ng karagdagang kita,” said the governor.

Through the LACASA livelihood program, which began in 2012, the provincial government has given Ilocano women financial assistance amounting to PHP10,000. Until now, the program provides an avenue for women’s economic empowerment.

Ms. Marcos also reiterated that aside from the LACASA program, PGIN also has a summer employment program for both the young and elderly. Senior Citizens can now become tourist guides in museums and churches around the province.

Meron ding iba’t-ibang cash-for-work. Talaga naman, priority ang ating mga senior citizens. Sila ang tutulungan nating una,” she added.  (PGIN-CMO)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ilocos Norte senior HS program needs more teachers

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Department of Education in Ilocos Norte said they need more professionals to fill in job vacancies for senior high school (SHS) this school year.

According to schools division superintendent Vilma Eda, there specialized subjects in SHS which they need to fill up. Among these include technical vocational, Filipino, English, social studies, and music, arts, physical education and health (MAPEH) among others.

“We ask our college graduates even those who do not have license yet to file their applications as we need more teachers for senior high program,” said Ms. Eda as she urged interested applicants to go the Ilocos Norte Schools Division Office in Laoag City to file their applications.

Like in various parts of the country, Ilocos Norte is also facing the same challenge of filling up teaching positions for various tracks.

Out of the 1.517 million students enrolled in Grade 11, DepEd records show majority or 60.27 percent signed up in the academic track; while 39.15 percent enlisted in the technical-vocational-livelihood track.

Under the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, DepEd can hire graduates of science, mathematics, engineering, music and other degree courses to teach specialized subjects in elementary and secondary education schools with shortages in qualified applicants who have passed the licensure exam for teachers.

According to Ms. Eda, they have received previous applications but these are not enough yet.

Pagudpud resort vows to create new order for sustainable tourism

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte—The largest resort in this town vows to lead the way in ensuring clean and sustainable tourism.

“It’s a lesson learned to all of us in the tourism industry. We need to create a new order for tourism. One that is environment-friendly and sustainable in the years to come,” said retired Philippine Air Force Col. Ricardo Nolasco, proprietor of a Pagudpud resort.

To strengthen its eco-tourism advocacy, the resort is on the forefront of organizing world-class beauty pageants which primarily aims to develop men and women who make it to their mission to help others change their habits for the good of the planet.

Referring to the temporary closure of Boracay island as a sad event in the country’s tourism industry, Mr. Nolasco said all other tourism stakeholders need to develop and strengthen it without disregarding the environment.

 “Generally, it is sad note for Philippine tourism, baka isipin nila lahat ng beaches dito sa atin ay ganon. It’s a lesson learned to all of us. I hope that within 6 months, it will be back to normal and the glory of Boracay will be restored,” he added.

Since the closure of Boracay, tourists have flocked to northern Luzon beaches including beaches here daily. Travel tours, van rentals and other resorts and homestays here reported they are all fully-booked this summer.

Nagulat nga kami kasi we are receiving a thousand guests every day. All the more that we should support the ideals of our president and advocate for sustainable tourism,” he pointed out.

To strengthen the promotion of sustainable eco-tourism, the seven-year old resort hosted 20 male and 20 female candidates on Saturday evening for the conduct of Mr. and Miss Hannah’s World Tourism Philippines, rebranding its regular hosting of local pageants that has now turned global.

“This is one of our ways to promote an icon of beauty and purpose. By having a voice to create a new order of a sustainable tourist destination in Pagudpud,” he said.

Undersecretary of Tourism Advocacy and Public Affairs Katherine de Castro of the Department of Tourism, Philippine fashion designer Renee Salud, Miss Universe Philippines Catriona Gray, master shoe man Jojo Bragais along with other regional and local officials who served as part of the board of judges attended the preliminary event which featured costume and swimwear competition.

Group renews vow to save environment

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has renewed its commitment enjoining all stakeholders to become responsible stewards of nature.

Attended by about 1,500 participants from the different regions of the country, the DENR launched Tayo ang Kalikasan Movement at a hotel in this city on April 24, 2018 with a symbolic signing of covenant to take an active role in the preservation of the environment.

“The aim of this movement is to improve our environmental condition. It is not just the DENR who is doing it, all of us should help each other to show that we are concern about our environment,” said Atty. Jonas Leones, DENR undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs who is also the co-chairman of the Task Force Tayo ang Kalikasan.

Highlighting the movement as collaborative endeavor between the government and the people, DENR Usec. Rodolfo Garcia and chief of staff said mobilizing the citizenry to promote environmental stewardship is a tedious and challenging process but for the sake of the environment and for the future generation, the time is now to act on it.

Meanwhile, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu reiterated to all concerned groups and individuals to abide by the law and prevent environmental degradation.

As chairperson of the newly-created committee on sustainable tourism, Mr. Cimatu told participants that all resorts all over the country should have their own separate sewage and drainage system and ensure that they are following proper waste segregation and disposal.

He added that the DENR will soon close Boracay Island to give way for its 6-month rehabilitation.

“The improper utilization of environment led to the closure of Boracay. We are there to restore it because the water around the island is dirty. The sewage system is already old and needs to be replaced and connected to the drainage so that it will not go directly to the sea,” said Mr. Cimatu.

He hopes that that with a renewed commitment to save planet earth, everyone will adhere to participatory democracy for the future.

PCC-Ilocos Norte maintains ISO certification

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the Mariano Marcos State University (PCC-MMSU) in Batac City continues to improve its organization to better serve its customers.

Following a series of processes, the PPC is among the latest government organizations in the province to pass a re-certification audit by the TUV SUD PSB Philippines on April 16, 2018.

 “To God be the glory,” Grace Recta, PCC director said in excitement after the successful conduct of the fifth surveillance transition audit and the PCC have satisfactorily complied to all the requirements of the standard.

During the presentation, auditor Eunice Sol Pimentel-Diamante recommended that they issue PCC a certification-ISO 9001:2015.

Ms. Recta said this is now the third time that they got a certification as it holds the distinction of being the first regional center of the PCC to have been ISO-certified since 2011.

An ISO-certified organization conforms to the eight quality management principles required for certification which include: leadership, involvement of people, factual approach to decision-making, mutually beneficial supplier relationship, process approach, customer focus, continual improvement, and system approach to management.

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies. It promotes the adoption of a process approach when developing, implementing and improving the effectiveness of a quality management system and enhancing customer satisfaction by meeting customer requirements.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Recta assured the PCC at the MMSU will continue its commitment to deliver quality products and services for its customers in the Ilocos region including its nearby provinces.

Among PCC’s best practices include its continuing Carabao Development Program particularly in addressing concerns related to genetic improvement, carabao-based enterprise development, and research and development.

Piddig gov’t shares good governance ideas to MinDA

Piddig LGU consultant Eddie Guillen shares some good governance ideas to MinDA. (Berong Ver)
Piddig, Ilocos Norte—The municipal government here recently provided ideas on good governance and convergence project for Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in Davao City.

Piddig mayor Georgina Salazar-Guillen and Piddig consultant Engr. Eduardo “Eddie” Guillen led the team in reaching out to different government officials in Mindanao.

Mr. Guillen shared to them the proper way to prepare project proposals to the national government offices—leading to its successful downloading of funds to the LGUs.

In the interim, Mr. Guillen introduced convergence project that serves Piddig town’s economic sustainable development. Foremost of which is the training of farmers in the rural areas to use cropping calendar to avoid wasting of yields.

The MinDA) is a government agency of the Philippines created through Republic Act 9996, or the Mindanao Development Authority Act of 2010.

The law mandates the said office to promote, coordinate and facilitate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect socioeconomic development of Mindanao. (Bernard Ver)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

PhilRice helps IPs conserve traditional rice varieties

By Allan Biwang Jr.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is assisting the indigenous people (IP) in Sarangani to protect their traditional rice varieties (TRVs).

“We have been waiting for this move from the government to conserve our traditional varieties. The entire IP community fully supports this project,” expressed Celito C. Terando, provincial government project manager of Sulong Tribu.

As Sarangani is one of the areas most vulnerable to drought, preserving the seeds is important in breeding new climate-change ready seeds for the area. Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, Manobo, Ubo, and Kalagan tribes live in its upland areas where they plan most of the TVRs.

Starting this year, the locals and PhilRice’s genetic resources team will collect, conserve, survey, and document the varieties in a project, “Conservation of Sarangani Traditional Rice Germplasm (SaTRice).” The team will also evaluate the grain quality, level of resistance to pest and diseases, and level of tolerance to drought or submergence stress.

Jess Bryan Alvariño, project staff, said the farmers noted the TRVs resistance to pests and drought. They also produce good yield even without fertilizer and pesticide intervention.

Mr. Alvariño also said Sarangani has no records of germplasm collection in the PhilRice Genebank. Germplasm are genetic materials used for breeding new rice varieties.

“As Sarangani has a significant number of estimated [107] TRVs [with unique traits], it is our foremost initiative to conserve and protect all their rice germplasm,” he said. Phil Rice will use the results from the ident cation and testing of the TRVs to recommend the best variety suited in the province. They will store high quality TRVs at PhilRice Genebank, which houses more than 5,000 Philippine TRVs and more than 16,000 germplasm collections.

Based on the study conducted by Mindanao State University-Gensan, they identified 107 TRVs with unique traits in the area.

PhilRice expects to gather more comprehensive data on morphological and molecular profiles of TRVs, specifically those that pertain to size, shape, and structure of seed components.

Farmers, mostly indigenous people (IP), can also utilize these data in adding value/price to their varieties if they decided to commercialize it.

Other than conservation and characterization, the said project also aims to establish and strengthen community-based seed banks for IP communities in partnership with the Provincial Government of Sarangani and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Batac celebrates 10th Farmers Festival

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Batac City—Thousands of residents here and visitors from nearby towns witnessed this year’s Farmers Festival 2018 celebration with the theme “Honoring the Pride and Delight of the Soil—The Farmers” held May 1-5, 2108.

A motorcade around the city and a thanksgiving mass headed by Batac mayor Albert D. Chua and vice mayor Jeffrey Jubal Nalupta held at the Immaculate Conception Parish thanking the fruitful agricultural blessings from Almighty kicked off this year’s celebration.

During the same day, the festival’s opening ceremony featured the pre-judging of farmer’s booths and exhibits and the zanjera dance competition.

The following day saw the judging of the PINAKA HVCDP, indigenous shells, aquatic foods and fresh water fish; dog show; RIC dance competition and the coronation night of the Search for Farmers Festival Queen 2018, otherwise known as the “Balasang Ti Away 2018”.

The Balasang Ti Away of Magnuang, Katrina Ancheta emerged as the Farmers Festival Queen 2018; with Jazerl Erna Corpuz (Baoa East), Maria Therese Aglipay (Billoca), Leazyl Casauran (Pimentel), and Patricia Butay (Bungon), finishing first, second, third, and fourth runners-up respectively.

The festival also featured the city agriculture and fishery council day and 4-H club dance competition, which also showcased the oath-taking of the new 4H Club set of officers.

Among the festival’s highlights was the Farmers Festival Grand Parade wherein all the rural barangays showcased their respective carosas and muses with their barangay officials, farmers, women and youths.

The academe, the Dept. of Science and Technology, Dept. of Agriculture, private companies and the Romaine Organics Agriculture Academy, the first TESDA-accredited farm business school in Ilocos Norte also joined the parade. 

Decorated cattle and carabaos. and dogs also joined the parade.

Mr. Chua thanked all the participants in the five-day event; he especially thanked the city’s farmers and zanjeras for their full support in the festival’s 10th edition.

Tay kuna dan, saan a maudin ti away. Kasla maiyarig ton nga awanen tay makun-kunan nga ili ken awayen agsipud ta iti adminstrasyon iti Batac ket ikarkarigatan mi a pabilgen iti Batacqueño tapnu agsapasap iti progreso,” Mr. Chua said. 

Masintir yo siguro nga ti away ket saanen a paudi no iti panagdur-as no ikumperar tayo ti ili,” he added.

Likewise, Mr. Chua also thanked Ang Pangkabuhayan Party-List Rep. Dennis Laogan for attending the coronation night of the Balasang Ti Away 2018 and thanked him for the projects he gave to this city.

What I owe MVF

If there’s one blogger-journalist who has hit hardest on Michael V. Fariñas, both when he was mayor of Laoag and in his tenure as vice mayor cut short by a tragic accident last night, it could be me.

Over the years, I have written about him on a range of issues, nothing personal and all of public interest. Each time I’d do so, people would ask if I was not afraid. He was, after all, the leader of the city, a member of Ilocos Norte’s powerful family, and a man preceded by a certain reputation. Even my editor at The Ilocos Times—deeply concerned with the political repercussions it will have on our publisher who is now back in politics as a barangay captain—once edited out some lines about a throwback issue people today not dare talk about.

Was I afraid? I wasn’t. At all. I think Sir Michael fully embraced critics like me—and here I remember my late friend Steve Barreiro who also wrote explosive columns on MVF—as an important part of a democratic city. To his credit, MVF never caused injury nor harm to me or my family, and my commentaries notwithstanding, he always flashed for me a smile and extended a firm handshake each time we cross paths. As he does to other people, he prepends my name with “Apo” as in “Apo Herdy.”

On one occasion some years ago, I told him: “Sir, you are my favorite mayor,” to which he replied with a chuckle, “Paborito a tirtiraen.” (You’re fond of hitting me.) Then we had a nice photo together. His wife, mayor Chevylle and his kids are also very nice to me.

Last April, in what would be our last encounter, MVF visited us at home during the “last night” of the wake for my dad. Surrounded by barangay captains, including my brother Herry, he stayed for almost seven hours until almost the break of dawn. I sat right beside him for about half an hour during which he told me how he has always respected my thoughts and how he chooses not to get affected by criticisms and unfair accusations and how he prefers to “just do his job.”

Never that night or ever did he tell me to shut up or tone down.

I love living in a city where a person can freely and responsibly express views, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to the powerful. That is why as a dutiful son of Laoag, I share my thoughts and talents in the ways I know, always with pure intentions, always with humility, and a dash of courage.

MVF helped make that possible. He consciously made Laoag a fertile ground to write, a safe place to disagree, a conducive place for the practice of journalism.

I thus say that MVF, simply by being MVF—with all his human strengths and frailties—helped me nurture a career in writing.

For that, I am thankful.

So long, Sir Michael. Rest now. May God be with you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Biosafety behind Golden Rice

By Dr. Reynante L. Ordonio

As we aim for food security, producing enough, affordable, and accessible foods for consumers is our battlecry. More to this is to ensure that these foods are of high quality, safe, and nutritious.

Not only quantity but also quality
We must explore and utilize a combination of different agricultural technologies and strategies to achieve food security. Among these technologies, perhaps the most powerful yet the most controversial is the use of modern biotechnology or genetic engineering. With this, we can transfer genes from one species to another to create organisms with a novel combination of genes, referred to as genetically modified organism (GMO).

Because of the unlimited combinations of genes that we can integrate into an organism, genetic engineering has a great potential for use in rice research for designing plants with higher yield, better quality in terms of increased resistance to insect pests and diseases, improved tolerance to environmental stresses, effective nutrient uptake, shorter breeding time, enhanced nutritional value, etc.

One of PhilRice’s efforts in promoting better nutrition among Filipinos is the “Healthier Rice Project”. This revolves around the development of a genetically modified rice with high beta carotene, also known as Golden Rice (GR), and its future biofortifications to address Vitamin A, iron, and zinc deficiencies in the country.

Golden Rice
Safety matters
A stringent biosafety regulatory process starting from their development to commercialization govern GMOs worldwide. The biosafety procedure involves a series of checkpoints to ensure that GMOs or their by-products will meet the expected level of safety to health and the environment. Going through this procedure doesn’t mean that GMOs have higher risks as even ordinary foods such as peanuts, milks, melons, breads, and shrimps can cause harm as sources of allergens. In fact, GMOs can even be a lot safer because of this strict biosafety process.

Golden Rice itself had to go through a series of rigorous testing and regulatory procedures. To ensure that GR is safe for the environment and health, candidate PSB Rc82 GR lines (planting material) were in 2015 subjected to confined field-testing (CFT1) in isolated/fenced areas for at least two cropping seasons in three different locations in the Philippines. During the tests, scientists carefully assessed any discrepancy or variation from the original variety in terms of appearance or agromorphological characteristics, and any unusual disease, pest, or weed incidence at the sites. The DOST-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) that provides overall supervision along with scientist representatives and members of the local community who jointly form the Institutional Biosafety Committee of each site, see to it that all follow biosafety guidelines. Among these guidelines is preventing the intentional or unintentional release of viable seeds or plants from the site, and the proper disposal or transport of transgenic materials.

After finishing CFT2 in 2016, scientists forward the five best-performing lines to a season of field trials under the supervision of the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), following Joint Department Circular No. 1 Series of 2016 pertaining to the handling and use, transboundary movement, release, and management of GMOs. Aside from DA and DOST, this circular now also involves the Departments of Health, Environment & Natural Resources, and Interior & Local Government. This collaborative assessment further ensures the safety of Golden Rice.

Scientists also need to assess the edible parts or grains of GMOs for safety and suitability for food, feed, and processing (FFP). For this purpose, authorities implement Codex Alimentarius guidelines on food safety for evaluating their equivalence to their conventional counterparts (means “as safe as”) in terms of their molecular and chemical compositions. The molecular aspect includes information about the sources of the genes and their usage, along with their biochemical implications. The proteins produced by the foreign genes must not be toxic nor allergenic; and must not have unintended effects. They also must analyze compositional data in terms of nutrients, bioactive non-nutrients, antinutrients, toxicants, contaminants, and other potentially useful and dangerous elements to identify deviations from the norm. In the case of GR, experts also analyze the level and bioavailability of beta-carotene. So far, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand has found that GR has no public health or safety concerns or issues. This means that Golden Rice is as safe as ordinary rice.

Once the technology has passed the rest of the biosafety procedures, only then will the government approve it for commercialization. Ultimately, we expect that Golden Rice will not only pass biosafety regulations but will also prove efficacious in fighting Vitamin A deficiency, the real reason for its conception. (With reports from Jungie Q. Amacanin)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sirib scholarship encourage holistic growth, says cum laude beneficiary

Laoag City—Vanessa Mae C. Palalay, a beneficiary of the Sirib Young Leader (SYL) Scholarship proudly offers her achievements to her family and the youth as she is one of the 175 Latin honors recipients for the Mariano Marcos State University 40th Commencement Exercises.

The SYL Scholarship is one of the three scholarship programs offered by the Provincial Government thru the Ilocos Norte Youth Development Office (INYDO).

She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Technology as a cum laude. According to her, the scholarship paved way for her to gain not only quality education, but also holistic growth. 

As a scholar, Vanessa is a youth volunteer at the INYDO and is the incumbent deputy chairperson of non-government organization Sirib Ilokano Kabataan Association, Inc.-Burgos.

Napakaganda ng scholarship at programang ito ni Governor Imee Marcos. Marami itong natutulungan—hindi lang ang mga kabataan kundi maging ang kanilang mga pamilya at sa kani-kanilang komunidad. Napakasayang makilahok sa mga programa at aktibidad na pinapangunahan ng gobyerno probinsyal. Ito’y napakalaking tulong sa akin, kaya naman, sinisigurado kong palitan ang kabutihang binibigay sa akin sa pamamagitan ng pagvo-volunteer at sa pagiging organizer minsan ng mga programang pangkabataan,” she explained

Graduating as an honor student back in high school, Vanessa made her way to college easier with discounted tuition fees. However, maintaining her stand as a college scholar became more challenging in her sophomore year when she found herself shortlisted in the grade requirement for a college scholarship.

Her classmates then encouraged her to apply for the SYL scholarship. She noted that she saw improvements in her friends’ academic, extracurricular, and leadership performance, which spiked her curiosity and willingness to apply for the program.

Vanessa also saw this as an opportunity to lighten the financial burden on her parents.

Kayatko met a saanda [nagannak] unay a marigatan. Tallo kami nga agbasbasa, duwa a high school. Dagitay itedda kaniak, itedda latta kadagiti kakabasatkon,” she said

Vanessa also expressed her gratitude to the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, led by governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, with the hope that the scholarship program will continue helping and inspiring the youth to excel in all aspects of their lives.

The INYDO has a total of 160 SYL scholars for the academic year 2017 to 2018. The office continues to offer the scholarships up to this date.

Vanessa is among the 2,553 students that marched on June 8, 2018 at the Mariano Marcos State University Sunken Garden. (PGIN-CMO)

DFA exec visits Laoag City

DFA assistant secretary Frank Cimafranca pays a courtesy call to Laoag mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas during his visit to Laoag on May 7, 2018. (Photo by Alwin Formantes)

Laoag City vice mayor dies in car crash

A security officer stands guard on the late vice mayor’s casket.
By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The city’s vice mayor Michael V. Fariñas dies in a car crash along the bypass road a Brgy. 55-C Vira, this city, on the afternoon of June 6, 2018.

First responders attend to the fallen vice mayor
The Laoag police said they responded to the incident along with the Dept. of Public Safety paramedics at 5:45 pm of the said date.

The police said the vice mayor was driving a Mercedes Benz V8 Biturbo SUV along with his security aide SPO2 Melchor Geronimo of the Laoag police.

Initial police investigation showed that the SUV was heading northwards when the vice mayor apparently lost control of the vehicle. The SUV, the report continued, swerved to the right shoulder of the road, hit a concrete barrier, and the impact threw the car into a rice field.

Responders immediately transported the vice mayor to the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital; attending doctors pronounced him “dead on arrival.”

Mr. Geronimo survived the crash. Responders rushed him to the Laoag City General Hospital.

Laoag police officer-in-charge P/Supt. Dominic Guerrero said they are still in the middle of the investigation. He said Mr. Geronimo will be the focus of the investigation since he was with Mr. Fariñas when the accident happened. The police, however would have to wait for the police officer to recover sufficiently.

He added that the vice mayor was coming from the city’s poblacion area after a project inspection and a visit to his youngest daughter at her school.

He also disclosed that the SUV suffered heavy damages and was on fire, which the responding Bureau of Fire Protection officers immediately put out.

The SUV after the accident.

Based on witnesses’ accounts, the car was really moving fast “[P]ero mas maganda kung yung statement mismo yung kasama niya dahil nasa loob mismo ng sasakyan at siya din mismo ang makapagsasabi kung naka seatbelt nga talaga si vice mayor during the incident,” Mr. Guerrero said.

Nakausap din natin yung pamilya niya [Mr. Geronimo] at sabi may dalawang broken ribs daw at sa lungs niya kaya di pa masiyado clear pag kinakausap pero conscious naman siya yun nga lang medyo hinihingal siya magsalita kahit gustuhin sana naming siya makausap para malaman kung ano talaga ang nangyari,” the Laoag police OIC added. 

Mr. Guerrero also clarified that they have no report of other accidents involving the vice mayor’s SUV prior to the fatal crash. Social media users have claimed that the SUV hit two other vehicles prior to the fatal crash. Mr. Guerrero pointed out that there are no such report or record either from the police or the DPS traffic division.

Imee’s message
Ilocos Norte governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos said she is extending “her hope for peace in the family of the late Laoag City Vice Mayor Michael V. Fariñas, who passed away on Wednesday afternoon, June 6, in a vehicular accident along the bypass road on Brgy. 55-C Vira”.

“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of our vice mayor,” said Ms. Marcos. “He has been a real leader in Laoag City, and his contributions to its development will never be forgotten.”

She said Mr. Fariñas, during his term as Barangay 16, Laoag City chairperson, he established an effective revenue collection scheme which the Laoag government now uses. He also initiated complete illumination of his barangay, which he likewise implemented as city mayor, thus lowering crime rate and increasing crime solution efficiency during his term.

As vice mayor, he was also a recipient of the Most Outstanding Local Legislator Award by Superbrands Marketing Inc.

“We extend our prayers and condolences to mayor Chevylle, Jamie, Mikee, and Motmot. I’m hopeful that the Fariñases will find peace and be assuaged in their grief by prayer and our best wishes,” the governor added.

No statement from Family yet
The Ilocos Times tried to reach the vice mayor’s family for their statement, but, as of press time, they have yet to release any. Mr. Fariñas’ remains was immediately transported to their residence at Brgy. Vira this city from the provincial hospital.

He leaves behind his widow, Laoag mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas, and three children: city government administrator John Michael, Laoag Loga ng mga Barangay president Mary Michelle Louise, and Michelle Friedrich Therese.

Mr. Fariñas was on his second term as vice mayor after three terms as Laoag mayor.

He was also a former three-term Laoag Liga ng mga Barangay president.

Meanwhile, Laoag Sangguniang Panlungsod secretary Enrico Aurelio said the councilor with the highest number of votes will automatically assume the vice mayoralty post as stated in the law.

Laoag councilor Franklin Dante A. Respicio attained the highest number of votes in the 2016 elections and thus will assume the position.

3rd LC vice mayor
Mr. Fariñas becomes the third vice mayor who died in office.

In 2012, Laoag vice mayor Edward “Sapatos” Domingo died of cardiac arrest on September 29,2012. He was also a barangay chairperson and a member of the council prior to his election as vice mayor. He challenged for the mayoralty post in 2004 but lost to Mr. Fariñas, who then started his three-term reign. Then Laoag councilor Donald Nicolas succeeded as vice mayor.

In 2005, a still unidentified gunman gunned down Laoag vice mayor Jimmy Chua in the early morning of February 2, 2005, right after the city fiesta’s opening program. Mr. Chua was with then Laoag councilor Melvin dela Cuesta in a restaurant in the city when the killing occurred. The case remains unresolved today.

‘Accident prone areas’
In a related development, Mr. Guerrero urged the Dept. of Public Works and Highways to install early warning signs on accident-prone areas in the city and the province.

He stressed the need to put up more signages to avoid fatal vehicular accidents in those areas again. The police also reiterated to drivers and passengers to always buckle up for safety.

Mr. Guerrero’s statement came after the car accident that killed Mr. Fariñas near a curve of the newly-constructed Laoag bypass road connecting Laoag and Bacarra town.

Earlier, another vehicular accident happened in the same area that killed two motorists riding in a motorcycle. (With reports from Leilanie G. Adriano and PGIN-CMO)