Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ilocos Norte activists say ‘never again’ to Martial Law

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—As the nation commemorated the September 21, 1972 Martial Law declaration during the time of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, some Ilocano activists mostly composed of farmers, fishermen, youth and human rights advocates from various parts of the province convened a forum today inside the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Church in this city.

During the time of martial law, even the residents of Ilocos Norte were not spared from the terror that it brought.

For 54-year old Antonino Pugyao of Brgy. Cacafean in Marcos, Ilocos Norte and incumbent president of the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP-Exploitation) in Ilocos Norte, he said his dark memories about human rights abuses during the time of martial law still lingers in his mind.

“We were forced to evacuate our land, the military burned our house, my cousin was killed and some of my barrio mates went missing during the time of Martial Law,” Mr. Pugyao narrated in Ilokano language.

“Years had passed but we can never forget the military abuses during that time,” he added.

Organized by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Ilocos), the forum meant to commemorate the bad effects of Martial Law and to enjoin all concerned groups and individuals not to allow the declaration of Martial Law ever again in the Philippines.

Known as a progressive church, the IFI hosted the said event attended by more than 200 individuals.

While the ecumenical mass and forum are being conducted at the IFI Church just beside the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol, members of the Philippine National Police were alerted to a possible rally which prompted them to preposition police in combat uniforms to ensure peace and order. A fire truck was also placed near the Aurora Park where a crowd usually gather during rallies.

Meanwhile, workers of the Ilocos Norte government also placed loud speakers at the Capitol grounds as they played some of the province’s tourism campaign jingles and others.

Responding to an earlier call of Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa ‘Imee” R. Marcos to “move on” from the dark days of Martial Law, Mr. Pugyao quipped, “papaano ka mag-move on kung ang hustisya ay hindi mo pa nakakamit?”

According to the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP-Exploitation), many farmers from the towns of Vintar, Dumalneg, Solsona, Marcos and Piddig suffered from illegal arrest and torture perpetrated by the military from 1984 until the end of Marcos’ regime.

Also, in 1984, three members of an indigenous community in Pallas Valley, Vintar and eight farmers in Bangui were salvaged.

Aside from these, indigenous communities such as the Yapayao and Isneg were forced to evacuate from their ancestral domain.

The victims in these cases have not yet received any compensation until now.

GLEDCO cuts all contacts with Laoag City gov’t

GLEDCO board chair Enrico Aurelio (extreme left) explains a point during a committee hearing at the Sangguniang Panlungsod session hall. (Doms dela Cruz)

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—After the Commission on Audit’s (COA) said in its annual audit report that all transactions between the Government of Laoag Employees Development Cooperative (GLEDCO) and the Laoag City government has “conflict of interest”, the homegrown cooperative has taken steps to rescind all its contracts with the city government.

The COA reports were for 2016 and 2017 and involved at least Php66 million.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod here and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan also started separate hearings on the issue.

The city council has also since passed a resolution urging Laoag Mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas to rescind all contracts between the city government and GLEDCO.

GLEDCO board chairperson Enrico Aurelio said that they have cut their contracts with the city government except the dietary and laundry services at the Laoag City General Hospital (LCGH) continues despite the COA report.

Mr. Aurelio explained that they are continuing with the services until the city government can find another firm to handle the services. He stressed that they are doing so because they do not want to disrupt LCGH’s normal daily operations.

Laoag councilor Justine Clarence Chua, who sponsored the measure calling for the rescinding of contracts said GLEDCO should strictly follow the COA report.

Dagitoy audit findings ket saan a GLEDCO ti agsagrap no di ketdi iti siyudad. Dagiti tulong a serbisyo nga inted iti GLEDCO isu dagitoy dagitay gasolina nga inus-usar ti amubulansya a nangsalbar iti biag; isu dagitay nagastos a makan dagitay pasyente iti hospital; dagitay nagastos a pinanglaba dagitay usaren da tapnu saan da nga ag-infection; ken dagitay gasolina iti compactors a pagbunag iti basura iti kal-kalsada,” Mr. Aurelio said.

Saan mi a rigaten daytoy inaramid iti COA ngem sapay kuma ta maawatan da even at the risk of being disallowed, indanun mi iti tulong iti siyudad ket milyones iti balor na dagitoy ket saan da kuma nga iparit wennu i-disallow ta naiserbi met dagitoy ken saan mi met a tinaktakaw,” the GLEDCO board chairperson added.

Unaccounted amount
Mr. Aurelio also confirmed that they have an issue of unaccounted funds. He identified cashier Dianalyn Rentegrado as the one behind the missing funds.

He disclosed that their internal investigation showed that Ms. Rentegrado admitted she was involved in the missing funds, which the investigation report pegged at least PHP4 million.

GLEDCO officials plan to meet to decide whether to file a case against Ms. Rentegrado or just ask her to pay back the lost funds.

Mr. Aurelio said they immediately suspended Ms. Rentegrado after they learned of the issue.

Ket inpasimodaag na pay a kayat na nga isubli dagita nasagid na a kuarta,” Mr. Aurelio said adding that the board is open to this possibility.

Ms. Rentegrado is just one among other cooperative employees who are involved missing GLEDCO funds.

Another GLEDCO employee identified as JB Don Mariano, which the cooperative accused of missing at least PHP1 million. GLEDCO has since filed a case against him in court.

GLEDCO also accused Norwin Atud, an employee of the city government for non-remittance of GEDCO raffle ticket payments amounting to at least PHP400,000.00.

Three other GLEDCO employees were allegedly involved in missing funds but the coop in an investigation later found them not liable.

Mr. Aurelio also touched on an alleged manifesto and signature campaign that is calling for a special general assembly for GLEDCO members.

He said the manifesto has yet to reach the board. He stressed that they will immediately act on it and hold a general assembly if necessary.

The manifesto allegedly states that GLEDCO members want enlightenment on the various issues facing the coop.

No kuma adda pannakabalin na ket saan tayo nga agpipinnalikod. Umay kayo dumasar wennu sumango kadakami ta ammo yo iti maysa a problema iti board ket no kasanu met nga ag-communicate kami kadakayo no di ket laeng iti general assembly. No adda problema yun, umasideg kayon ta ilawlawag min no ania dagita a probleman,” Mr. Aurelio appealed.

He added that any depositors are free to withdraw their money from GLEDCO anytime, “Ngem iti laeng kiddawen mi nga no adda makapanunot nga ag-withdraw iti dakkel nga amount, ipila tayo ti uneg iti 60 days ta saan da met a napilpilit nga ag-deposit ken saan a napukaw dagita a deposits ken insured dagitoy”.

As of July, 2018, GLEDCO has a total of 2,625 members.

GLEDCO services
Despite these controversies, Mr. Aurelio said GLEDCO is still surviving even though they ceased their service contracts with the Laoag City government.

As of July, 2018, records show that GLEDCO has total assets of P960,124,259.33.

At present, GLEDCO offers lending services, and operates a cafeteria, three gasoline stations, water station/ice cubes, pharmacy/grocery, hollow blocks and pavers, photocopying/lamination, ID picture, large format photo printing, photo booth, van rental, mag printing, organic fertilizer, LPG distribution, tutorial and e-fly travel and tours.

GLEDCO also offers loans on car/housing/business; buy-out loan, hold-out loan; consolidated loan; regular loan; medical loan; appliance loan; all-purpose loan; calamity loan; GCARD; petty cash; purchase order; express loan; rice loan; and rediscounting of checks.

GLEDCO expects more expansion soon including the opening of another 24-hour convenience store at the city’s south of the river portion and another gasoline station at Brgy. Buttong here.

However, a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopped the construction of GLEDCO Tower “gapu ta mabuteng dagiti aglawlaw na a marsood iti building da ta ngamin tay pannakaitaltal tay poste na ket isu met iti mang dayyeg iti daga isut kabuteng ni Mr. Michael Luis,” Mr. Aurelio said.

Mangkhut blows off LIA building roof

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—Typhoon Mangkhut [Ompong] blew off the Laoag International Airport (LIA) administration building’s roof forcing airport personnel to relocate temporarily.

Operations, however, resumed on September 24, 2018 after the sole airline servicing the Manila-Laoag-Manila route cancelled flights starting September 15, 2018.

Ronald Estabillo, civil aviation area 1 manager said Mangkhut is the strongest typhoon so far that caused severe damage at the airport.

Before the expected the typhoon’s landfall at dawn of September 15, 2018, the airline also cancelled the evening Manila-Laoag-Manila flight on September 14, 2018.

The airport was closed from September 15 at 8:00 a.m. until September 16 at 4:00 p.m.

Earlier this year, the Laoag airport has been identified as one of the safest and secured international airport in the country with its new aerodrome certificate.

The Laoag airport caters to domestic flights daily.

Batac distributes fertilizers to farmers

Batac Mayor Albert D. Chua leads the distribution of thousands of fertilizers as grant to the 7,409 registered farmers in the city of Batac from the city's RA 7171 share. (Photo courtesy of Batac City government)

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Batac City—"Pabilgen ni Bataqueno, Kasapulan Dagiti Mannalon Ikalikaguman Tayo”.

Those were the city’s cry as officials distributed thousands of organic, complete and urea fertilizers to at least 7,409 registered farmers here.

Batac City agriculturist Merilyn Gappi said that with the big volume of fertilizers they distributed, the city government decided to divide the distribution into three batches.

The first batch was on August 20 and 21, 2018 and the second batch was on August 24 and 25, 2018. The city government has not scheduled the third batch as of press time.

Ms. Gappi said each registered farmer received two bags of organic and one bag each of complete and urea fertilizers for a total of four bags per farmer.

She added that funding for these fertilizers come from the city’s share from tobacco excise tax.

In a random interview, the famers expressed their gratitude to the Batac City government for giving them priority on what they need like the fertilizers especially now at the start of cropping season.

Aside from fertilizers, the city government also distributed farm machineries to the different farmers and Batac farmers’ organizations.

Relative to this, Ms. Gappi urged all the farmers to apply for crop insurance at her office.

She said that her employees are ready to assist them because this will be great help in case their crops are damaged by calamities.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Batac hospital forms multi-sectoral governance council

OATH-TAKING. Lawyer Ferdinand Nicolas, President of Northwestern University, leads the oath-taking and induction of the officers and members of the Multi-Sectoral Governance Council (MSGC) of the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMH&MC) on September 11, 2018. Nicolas was elected MSGC chair while Zarriedie D. Parilla was named vice chairperson of the Performance Governance System team. (Edward Vincent Paul A. Miguel photo)

BATAC CITY—After becoming the first retained hospital by the Department of Health (DOH) to hurdle the initiation stage of the Performance Governance System (PGS), the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMH&MC) here is currently trailing its path towards the compliance stage of the accreditation.

PGS pathway has four stages—initiation, compliance, proficiency and institutionalization—wherein MMMH&MC surpassed the first stage last February 2018.

True to this, the Institute for Solidarity and Asia and National Competitiveness Council awarded the hospital with the Silver Trailblazer award.

Dr. Jose B. Orosa III, the PGS team chairperson, said that efforts centered on PGS were started to be pushed by six national government agencies, namely, the Department of Education, Philippine National Police, Department of Tourism, Department of Health, Department of Transportation and Communications, and Department of Public Works and Highways, to apply globally recognized governance model system in government operations.

As it gears towards the second stage of the accreditation, MMMH&MC convened various sectoral leaders and representatives to establish the Multi-Sectoral Governance Council (MSGC).

During the orientation and induction program of the members of the MSGC held on September 11, 2018, Zarriedie D. Parilla, PGS team vice chairperson, highlighted MMMH&MCs efforts towards passing the PGSinitiation stage, a beginning to the courageous move to lift the standard of governance in the public sector.

“As we move to the next stage of our journey, it is imperative that we establish a council who shall serve as our advisory body to proactively assist us to realize our vision and achieve our targets towards becoming the premier center of advance healthcare in Northern Philippines by 2022,” Ms. Parilla added.

As the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte focuses on efforts to eliminate corruption and irregularities, Ms. Parilla emphasized that PGS recognizes that major solutions in the countrys governance problems can be found outside the government and involves the active participation of private businesses, civil society, media, religions, academe, among others.

Atty. Ferdinand Nicolas, representative of the academe and President of the Northwestern University was elected MSCG chairperson.

“Healthcare is something that we should advocate and contribute to specially for the sake of the people who cannot afford to go outside the province for proper medical care,” said Mr. Nicolas as he pledged his commitment in enjoining the members and officers of the council towards supporting MMMH&MC on its PGS journey.

MMMH&MC started to accept the challenge of PGS accreditation in 2016 when it was inspired by the efforts of the Philippine Heart Center in strengthening its governance mechanism and enhancement of critical systems and processes. (John Michael Mugas)

Caltex turns over modern learning tools to Ilocos, Cordillera public highs schools

STEM students of Ilocos Norte National High School explain to executives of Caltex and GLEDCO how they are using the newly-donated digital microscope that projects the image on a big screen so that the whole class can see. With the modern equipment, teachers can use 21st century teaching methods to make their students better learn STEM.

Laoag CityWith the academe, government, private sector and community all involved, almost 52,000 public high school students and 1,781 of their teachers will be able to use 21st century learning tools as they study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

The days of learning calculus and physics with manila paper and chalk are over for these students. On September 25,2018 during an awarding ceremony held in the iconic Plaza Aurora in Laoag City, Caltex Fuel Your School (FYS) turned over P3 million worth of 21st century learning tools to the 30 highest-need public high schools in Ilocos and Cordillera regions.   

From June 1 to July 31, 2018, the students and teachers worked the hardest in promoting Caltex FYS to people online and to their communities; they liked, shared and promoted the program. During this period, each fuel up was matched by Caltex and branded marketer, Northern Star, with a one-peso donation. Twenty-six Caltex stations in Ilocos and Cordilleras participated. The community promotions included flash mobs, motorcades, and flyering. By the end of July, the target of three million pesos in total donations was reached, enough to provide P100,000 worth of modern teaching and learning equipment to each of the 30 public high schools selected by the Department of Education (DepEd).    

The students generated most of the buzz and this unique participative approach to social investment, where the recipients have high buy-in, enabled Caltex to run FYS in different locations in the country for the past four years, namely the National Capital Region, Davao, Bicol and, now, provinces in Northwestern Luzon. A total of P14 million pesos in STEM learning equipment was donated by Caltex which is currently helping 4,781 public high school teachers and 1.477 million students better teach and learn STEM, respectively.  

STEM education is important in a country’s competitiveness. The Philippines needs more mathematicians, engineers, and scientists for its long-term growth prospects. With the new equipment provided by Caltex FYS, more students will find STEM interesting and pursue careers in STEM. 

Northern Star chief operating officer Juan Miguel Delgado said, “We are a company that values learning and quality education. As part of the downstream energy sector, we rely on a broad range of STEM professionals, from engineers to accountants to help grow our business. It was a good learning experience to help raise the quality of education of our nation’s future problem-solvers, innovators and inventors that also contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals target to build and upgrade education facilities wherein

Northern Star proudly provides solutions. Moreover, our network of Caltex retailers readily provided assistance to the project to support the participating high schools in the areas where we operate."

Northern Star and Caltex executives turned over laptops, multimedia projectors, calculators, digital microscopes, laboratory equipment and even robotics set during the awarding event. In early May, Caltex and Northern Star invited public high school teachers to submit STEM projects. These teachers are from the 30 highest-need public high schools in the region selected by DepEd.   

“It was inspiring to see the high interest in STEM among the teachers through the innovative projects that they submitted. This shows that our teachers do not lack the necessary skills or knowledge to bring the wonders of STEM to their students; however, due to the high cost of such specialized equipment, much effective demonstrations and characterizations are unmet.  Caltex and Northern Star seek to fill this gap in resources for STEM education and bring greater STEM awareness among the public,” added Mr. Delgado.   

One of the most active high schools that campaigned for Caltex FYS was Ilocos Norte Agricultural College (INAC) in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. The online campaign, flash mobs, and flyering they did bore fruit when the school received their much need learning tools in August.

Teacher Hazel Bareng, INAC math adviser, said, “Caltex Fuel Your School is a big help not just to students but also to us teachers. By acquiring modern learning equipment, we can now provide every student a hands-on learning experience.”

Teacher Hazel’s students now have enough scientific calculators and a multimedia system to unlock the wonders of math. They can use the new 65inch LED TV, laptop and projector when tackling complex subject matters such as graphing and GeoGebra. Previously, the students had to huddle around and take turns using a single scientific calculator. 

Northern Star leveraged its 26 Caltex stations in Ilocos and Cordillera regions and donated P1.5 million directly to Caltex FYS. All the selected 30 public high schools have already received their educational equipment. Some schools received their new equipment as early as August and are being put to good use by the students.

Keithlyn Manayan, grade 12 student of INAC, said,” With the new equipment, we are excited to go to classes and study STEM. We don’t have to waste time taking turns and the lessons have come to life with the videos explaining topics like GeoGebra. We are learning better and faster than we previously did with chalk and Manila paper. We are eager and confident to prove ourselves with the education that we are getting now.” 

Special awards were given to top performing high schools which will receive additional laptops each. Narvacan National High School bagged the award for the school with the most post likes, La Union National High School gets the award with the most Caltex fans, and Abra National High School topped the school with the most fuel ups. 

“Caltex Fuel Your School enables us to contribute in the development of the education sector by making modern learning equipment available to STEM students in Northern Luzon. We support the government’s vision of improving the country’s quality of education for us to produce more competitive leaders, particularly in the fields of STEM,” said Louie Zhang, country chairman of Chevron Philippines Inc.

Since its Philippine launch in 2015, Caltex FYS has funded almost 120 classroom projects at 118 public high schools in Manila, Davao, Bicol and Ilocos Region. Caltex Fuel Your School was recognized by different award-giving bodies such as the Silver and Gold Anvil Awards from Public Relations Society of the Philippines, a merit recognition from the coveted Quill Awards, and the American Chamber of Commerce CSR Excellence Awards.

Caltex FYS beneficiaries were selected by Chevron’s project partners, the DepEd and the American Chamber Foundation of the Philippines based on stringent criteria such as having the highest need public high school students in their enrollment and a sharp focus on STEM learning. Teachers can choose the learning materials they need up to P100,000 in value per school.

“We’re very grateful to the Caltex Fuel Your School program. Not only will this help the overall STEM track of our dear school, it will also open up new avenues for us to produce more globally competitive students. It feels great to know that the joint effort of our teachers and students has resulted into an amazing award,” exclaimed Abra National High School teacher Agnes Faye Bringas.

“I am amazed by the teamwork and the winning spirit of our participating schools, DepEd, our retailers and the community. Not only did we reach our goal of P3 million to give to public high schools, we have proven that by working together, businesses and customers can help fill the gap in teaching resources in our public education system. But more needs to be done and more can be done if we will all support STEM education.  So, I call on other companies, businessmen, charitable groups and other sectors to support STEM learning for it is the path to a long-term inclusive economy,” ends Zhang.

Ilocos Norte board oks P35M for palay purchase

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—The Ilocos Norte government through the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan unanimously approved the reprograming of about PHP35 million for the purchase of palay and rice in the province.

Starting this month, the Ilocos Norte government will be buying local palay harvest or rice supply from qualified traders and farmer-recipients here under the so-called “buy-back” scheme.

Based on the memorandum of agreement entered into between Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos and qualified palay/rice traders and farmers here, the provincial government shall buy some of their stocks at fair market value to ensure every household in the province will have sufficient rice supply until the year end.

Qualified traders are those engaged in palay or rice trading which maybe sole proprietorship, partnerships, cooperatives, or private organizations. Farmer-recipients also include individual farmers or accredited farmers organizations in various parts of the province.

While the province is still under a state of calamity, the governor initiated this move to anticipate rice shortage caused by typhoon Mangkhut [Ompong] where it reported around PHP1.9 billion damages mostly in agriculture sector.

“The palay and rice buy-back scheme is also expected to enhance the livelihood of local residents in order to minimize the adverse effects of typhoon Ompong,” said SP member Domingo Ambrocio, chair of the committee on agriculture in passing the said resolution on October 2, 2018.

As incentive to those who will engage in this buy-back program, the provincial government assured farmer-recipients to provide incentives to them such as the provision of free farming inputs like rice seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural necessities.

Earlier, the provincial board passed an ordinance prohibiting the delivery, removal or any act of transferring rice outside the province.

The measure, certified as “urgent” by Ms. Marcos, aims to secure stable rice supply in the province as it copes with the damages brought by typhoon Mangkhut.

In anticipation of an impending rice shortage up to December this year, Mr. Ambrocio explained it has been a recurring issue that there is an abrupt price increase on rice when the supply is depleted.

To prevent rice shortage and unstable prices, he said the provincial government has to exercise its police power to ensure that palay harvest, stocks and supply should be kept in the province under the rice procurement program to benefit both farmer-producers and consumers.

“The anti-rice shortage ordinance shall take effect immediately within the 120 days after each calamity such as a typhoon signal no. 3 typhoon or a 6.0 magnitude earthquake,” said Mr. Ambrocio.

Anyone found violating said ordinance shall be ordered to return the rice products to its warehouse or stores at its own expense.

Laoag City begins training of new barangay officials

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The city government here began the training of new barangay officials on September 11, 2018.

Officially called Barangay Newly Elected Official (BNEO) training, it is set for three days.

The first training ran from September 11-13; the second training is on September 17-19 and 21; and the final training is on September 21 and 24-25.

City interior and local government director Andres Vendiola said the city government broke the trainings into three batches to accommodate all the new 720 barangays officials and Sangguniang Kabataan chairpersons, and 160 barangay secretaries and treasurers.

The first training involved 26 barangays.

For the first day of the training, discussions include an overview of the BNEO for GREAT Barangays program; barangay government administration; decentralization and governance; and the Katarungang Pambarangay.

On second day, they tackle the barangay development council composition and functions; essentials of governance administration; legislative enactment; barangay development planning; barangay finance administration and the barangay budget.

On the last day, topics are the national program thrusts on violence against women and children; peace and order; climate change and disaster; seal of good local governance for barangay; public accountability: code of conduct and ethical standards; crafting barangay agenda for governance and development; and the program synthesis and integration.

The BNEO training is the Dept. of Interior and Local Government’s flagship training program for barangay officials and a term-based integrated capacity development intervention for elected barangay officials geared towards the enhancement of their competencies to attain the needed synergy to transform them into champions of excellence in basic services delivery and bring the government closer to the people.

Knowing that the barangay being the basic political unit is always in the forefront of local development undertakings in the country.

Mr. Vendiola therefore, said that the barangays are collectively the partners of the national government to respond to development challenges especially in the effective and efficient service delivery to the community.

Mr. Vendiola hopes that the BNEO training will assist all the participants perform their functions as national government’s partner in nation building.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Laoag City officials, no show at SP hearing on coop deal

By Leilanie G. Adriano and Bernard Ver

LAOAG CITY—Laoag Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and five other city officials failed to show up at a joint committee hearing that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan set on September 4, 2018 to clarify alleged questionable transactions between the city government and one of the biggest cooperatives in Ilocos region.

In a September 3, 2018 letter addressed to Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Eugenio Angelo M. Barba, which the Sangguniang Panlalawigan office received on the afternoon of September 4, 2018, Mrs. Fariñas along with Laoag City legal officer Marlon Wayne D. Manuel, city accountant Edgar Pascual, SP Member Shirley Ong Sin, Secretary to the Sanggunian Enrico Aurelio, and acting city treasurer Diomedes Gayban said they could not attend the hearing due to a similar investigation the Sangguniang Panlungsod  set on September 6, 2018.

“We could not come to your joint committee hearing, as we will be attending a similar investigation of the Sangguniang Panlungsod,” the city officials said in the letter with their affixed signatures.

However, according to SP member Vicentito M. Lazo, who called for the hearing in his capacity as chairperson of the committee on finance and appropriation, their reason is not acceptable because “Laoag City is a dependent component city.”

“Laoag City is under the jurisdiction of Ilocos Norte. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan covers 21 towns and two cities of the province. So, if the SP creates or amends a resolution or ordinance, it will encompass the City of Laoag and all other LGUs within its jurisdiction,” he said.

The controversy stemmed from the Commission on Audits (COA) annual audit reports for 2016 and 2017, where, Mr. Lazo reported, there are some “questionable transactions.”

“The COA cant understand if these are real assets, as there are no itemized schedules and they cant verify it,” he said referring to the transactions made by the city government with the Government of Laoag Employees Development Cooperative (GLEDCO).

To shed light on the issue, the Ilocos Norte board invited the city officials to explain, but only Laoag Vice Mayor Franklin Dante A. Respicio showed up.

The provincial board set another hearing for the same issue while also inviting the same officials again to attend “in aid of legislation.”

The issue Mr. Lazo referred to came out during a joint committee hearing of the committees on laws, finance and appropriations.

The hearing discussed the controversial Commission on Audit’s (COA) report of the city government of Laoag and GLEDCO for the year 2016 and 2017.

According to Mr. Lazo, the committees found-out from COA that in the year 2016 the city had a PHP187 million cash deficit and another PHP115 million deficit for 2017.

Mr. Lazo added that the Laoag City’s fund is currently insufficient to pay their liabilities for the government operations and other services.

The COA in Laoag is also eyeing the more or less PHP90 million missing fund as one of the causes of insufficiency on the city’s budget.

Meanwhile, the Laoag City government is reluctant to show some of the documents needed for the COA to initiate a notice of suspension and disallowance of the said cause.

Present during the hearing as resource speakers were Laoag City COA auditor Remelyn Guiang and provincial audit team leader Marilyn Llaguno.

Ilocos Norte enjoins Apayao for tourism exchange

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—Ilocos Norte and Apayao are both gifted with natural wonders. So, instead of fighting over a long-time boundary dispute, Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos reached out to the people of Apayao and offered a tourism exchange program to benefit both provinces.

In between aerial inspection of the southwest monsoon rain damages and delivery of relief goods to the affected residents of Adams and Carasi towns, Ms. Marcos touched down in Luna, Apayao to honor the invitation of Apayao Governor Elias C. Bulut Jr. as guest of honor and speaker during the 118th Philippine Civil Service Month celebration in Luna.

In her speech, she said the opening of the Ilocos Norte-Apayao road offers huge opportunities to both residents of Apayao and Ilocos Norte in terms of tourism development.

“It is now easy to come to Ilocos Norte via Solsona-Apayao road. I invite you to come visit our province. Let us not fight over our boundary as we are one family and one solid north,” Ms. Marcos said as she noted an “eat-all-you can fruit tour” in Ilocos Norte’s dragon fruit, mango and coconut can be extended to Apayao’s rambutan, lansones and durian fruits among others.

“We know for certain that the Cordillera is now open for business. We now have every manner of road, of tourism destinations and of agriculture produce ready to compete in any part of the country. Perhaps, we can send our two million tourists visiting Ilocos Norte to Apayao in order to boost community tourism,” added Ms. Marcos as she received a warm applause from thousands of Apayao residents who joined in the provincewide activity.

Ms. Marcos also lauded the Apayao government for initiating a unique celebration to honor government service workers.

Under the leadership of Mr. Bulut, all government employees, both from local and national line agencies were gathered as one to celebrate the Civil Service Month in Luna, where the government center is located.

“This is unusual and special occasion for our industrious and patient government workers with no overtime and no lunch break. Congratulations to all of us,” Ms. said Marcos as she flew back to Ilocos Norte via a military chopper to continue in the relief operations and inspection of damages in the province’s cultural minority groups.

Imee calls for 1-year VAT suspension

Laoag City—A one-year suspension of the value-added tax (VAT) on basic food commodities, fuel, and electricity is an inflation solution, given the persistently high inflation over the past several months, suggested Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos.

“The temporary lifting of the VAT on basic commodities will provide urgent, much-needed relief to Filipinos, as inflation hit the hardest in the countryside. The poor Filipinos, they cannot wait for anti-inflation strategies that could take months to work. They need solutions now,” Ms. Marcos pointed out.

“Filipinos cannot wait for global oil prices to go down. Prices are already too high for Filipinos living below the poverty line. Removing the VAT would lighten the burden on millions of Filipino households and would make their Christmases litter lighter amidst the high prices,” she added.

The TRAIN Law has Sections 31 to 34 (pages 31 to 44) pertaining to VAT. These sections amended the old provisions of the Tax Code about VAT.

Ms. Marcos stressed: “The VAT suspension will run parallel to the anti-inflation measures of the Duterte economic team and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It will buy time to set our economy back in shape.

Wagi ang mahihirap kung mawawala ang VAT kahit isang taon lang; kung walang VAT, bababa ang presyo ng pagkain, gasoline, at kuryente,” she emphasized.

Though the President cannot amend the law, he can suspend its implementation though an Executive Order (EO).

Ilocos Norte offers low-cost packages at PH travel mart

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—Provincial tourism officials are offering low-cost tour packages in this northern gateway of Luzon at the 29th Philippine Travel Mart, the longest running travel trade show in the country.

Held at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City from August 31 to September 4, the PTM provides an avenue for various tourism stakeholders to promote their respective travel destinations.

For this year, Aianree Raquel, Ilocos Norte supervising tourism operations officer said, “We’re selling ‘IlowCost’ packages and pushing promos that have added value.”

Mr. Raquel explained this is the province’s way to counter the impact of inflation by encouraging everyone to visit Ilocos Norte on a budget.

For as low as PHP499 per person, one can visit various attractions in the province from September 1-December 15, 2018 should they avail of this promo and make reservation with budget hotels or authorized travel agencies.

While promoting the province as a wedding destination, Mr. Raquel said they have a current experiment, offering an Ilocos wedding package worth PHP15,000 only.

“Let’s see if someone gets interested,” said Mr. Raquel as the wedding package is inclusive of a civil wedding fee at the mayor’s office, round trip fare to Ilocos Norte, hair and make-up, bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, photographer, lunch for five, two-night accommodation and a wedding venue.

As the biggest tourism fair in the country, the provincial government is now a regular participant to PTM since 2009.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ilocos Norte gov’t to acquire commodity heat automated multi-pump dryer

LAOAG CITY—The Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) is set to purchase a multi-commodity heat pump dehydrator to minimize food loss in agriculture production.

Pegged at PHP1.5 million, the Ilocos Norte government represented by Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos has tapped the services of the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) based in Silang, Cavite to provide the technology and assists in implementation.

The stainless machine measures 2.44 meters x 4.88 meters x 2.44 meters with a drying chamber, dehumidifier and 126 perforated trays in six racks.

Under the agreement, the AUP and the micro, small and medium enterprise of the province shall jointly implement and utilize the technology particularly in the processing of fresh mangoes, dragon fruits, malunggay leaves and other commodities available.

The two-year project is meant to encourage more farmers to process and add value to their products. The contract is renewable every two years to be able to come up with more conclusive results.

For a mango farmer like Ricardo Tolentino, he said this is a great help for small farmers who could not afford one.

“This is a nice project for it allows more farmers to become productive,” he narrated.

During the peak of harvest season, tons of mangoes, dragon fruits, tomatoes and onions are sold at the mercy of traders. Some are unpicked or just left rotten under the because the cost of labor is higher than the commodity itself.

With the use of dehydrating machines, farmers are optimistic they will be able to earn more by adding more value to their products.

“When we harvest our mangoes, about 100 tons are classified as rejects. We just dump it before but now, we came out with dehydrated fruits or process them into wine or vinegar,” said Mr. Tolentino.

According to Mr. Tolentino, the cost of dehydrating mango is minimal.

For example, 250 kilos of fresh mangoes become 40 kilos when dried. “The price is still competitive,” said Tolentino. He however expressed concern on the increasing prices of basic commodities such as sugar which may have an impact in the food processing business. (PNA)

Lapsed TRO paralyzes Paoay gov’t

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

Paoay, Ilocos Norte—Major transactions of the local government unit here remains paralyzed as of press time following the expiration of a 60-day temporary restraining order the court issued to halt the dismissal of Paoay Mayor Jessie Galano.

Since September 10, 2018, some government employees have started to complain about the delay in receiving their salaries as piles of documents due for signature and processing are stocked at the mayor’s office.

Paoay Vice Mayor Eileen Llaguno-Guerrero confirmed this in an interview as the Department of Interior and Local Government has not issued any directive so far regarding the mayor’s case.

“Based on our inquiry at the DILG provincial office, there is no order yet from the regional and central office. As a result, all important transactions at the Paoay government remain pending for approval at the Mayor’s Office,” said Ms. Guerrero.

On June 21, 2018, the Court of Appeals granted a 60-day TRO in favor of dismissed Paoay town mayor Jessie Galano.

Mr. Galano’s dismissal from service came after a resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman finding the Paoay mayor and his municipal administrator Bruno Dumlao guilty for grave abuse of authority, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

In 2015, then Paoay mayor Dolores Clemente filed administrative charges against then Paoay Vice Mayor Galano and Sangguniang Bayan member Bruno Dumlao in violation of Republic Act No. 6713 and Republic Act No. 7160 specifically on the falsification of travel documents which was reimbursed from the municipal treasurer’s office.

The dismissed mayor has not issued any statement so far after his TRO expired.