Friday, August 31, 2007

Fund transfer delays Bicol schools repair

LEGAZPI CITY--A TOP education regional official said President Macapagal-Arroyo’s order to transfer funds for the rehabilitation of school buildings from the Department of Education to the Department of Public Works and Highways might raise legal issues since the school principals had already conducted bidding for the projects.

DepEd regional director Celedonio Layon said the transfer of funds might mess up the agency’s ongoing rehabilitation projects.

The problem cropped up after the President, during her visit to the Barangay Anislag Resettlement Site in Daraga, Albay, on Friday, publicly chided the DepEd for the slow rehabilitation of schools damaged by typhoons late last year.

Ms Arroyo cited reports from Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya that only seven percent of the rehabilitation projects of the DepEd under the Calamity Assistance Rehabilitation Effort (CARE) fund had been completed.

She gave instructions for the funds, formerly allotted to the DepEd, to be rechanneled to the DPWH as suggested by Albay Rep. Reno Lim (first district).

Accomplishment report

Layon, however, said it was not true that only seven percent of the projects had been implemented.

Furnishing the Inquirer a copy of printed accomplishment figures, Layon said that in Albay alone, 42.44 percent of the rehabilitation of 485 public schools in the three congressional districts had been accomplished with a total funding of P368.3 million.

In a mobile phone interview, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus stressed that the CARE fund came from the World Bank and, therefore, its use is subject to the bank’s requirements.

World Bank money

“A principal-led implementation is always faster compared to the regular school program of the DPWH, which is dependent on the efficiency of the congressmen to identify schools,” he said.

“In contrast, the DepEd can easily identify schools to be constructed depending on the school shortages per school,” he added.

In any case, he added, the amounts involved in the rehabilitation of the schools that have been contracted can no longer be taken back or realigned.

A total of 2,238 schools in all six provinces in Bicol are being rehabilitated by the DepEd with a total special allotment release order of P1.2 billion from the P2-billion CARE fund.

A total of 6,562 classrooms have to be repaired, while 733 have to be constructed.

Ms Arroyo visited the Anislag Resettlement Site last week to distribute certificates of occupancy to 61 families from Barangay Binitayan who were displaced from their homes due to the series of typhoons last year. Jaymee T. Gamil and Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Army bares NPA threat to attack mine firm

LEGAZPI CITY--THE PHILIPPINE Army in Bicol yesterday confirmed intelligence reports saying that the New People’s Army (NPA) was planning to attack Lafayette Philippines Inc. to stop the controversial mining firm’s operations in Rapu-Rapu town.

The firm operates an open-pit copper and zinc mine in the island-town.

Col. Muhammad Nur Askalani, commander of the 902nd Infantry Brigade based in Villahermosa, Daraga, Albay, said military officers had received the information from civilian sources and other intelligence units on the island.

NPA directive

Earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) criticized President Macapagal-Arroyo’s family for its control of the lucrative mining industry and ordered NPA rebels to attack and stop mining operations in the country.

Communist spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal announced a directive from the CPP to stop the operations of mining firms, mostly foreign corporations, in various parts of the country.

Defense shield

Askalani said that despite security threats authorities were confident that the military had enough forces in Rapu-Rapu to prevent any sabotage of the mining firm’s operations.

Lafayette officials expressed alarm at the intelligence report, saying it shouldn’t be ignored.

“The rebels could attack anytime,” said one official, who asked that he not be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter.

Lafayette representatives snubbed the invitation to the forum organized by the multisectoral Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (Sara) in cooperation with the provincial government on Tuesday.

The forum was designed to discuss the environmental and socioeconomic impact of the mining activity in Rapu-Rapu.

Protest march

Sara proceeded with a protest march from the Bicol University in Daraga town to the Legazpi City seaport to demand a stop to Lafayette’s operations.

Bishop Lucilo Quiambao of the Archdiocese of Legazpi, who was present in the forum, said his stand now against the mining issue had hardened after the government allowed the full resumption of the firm’s operations.

He said he had asked the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to write all congressmen and senators to help repeal or amend the Mining Act of 1995. The law, he said, was putting the country at a disadvantage.


Quiambao added that he would start a signature campaign throughout his diocese to build a stronger consensus against destructive mining.

John Concepcion, one of the conveners of Sara representing the militant Karapatan-Bikol, said large-scale mining was a form of human rights violation that the government should not take for granted.

“Large-scale mining violates the economic rights of the people since it threatens the livelihood of fishermen and farmers. It also infringes on our social rights since it destroys the environment,” Concepcion said.

He added that it was the people who should benefit from the country’s natural resources and not the foreign-owned giant mining firms. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spain keeps aid flowing to typhoon victims

By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon

LIGAO CITY--THE Spanish government has given anew 173 tons or 16,000 galvanized iron sheets to help typhoon survivors rebuild houses in Albay.

Spain’s Charge d’ Affaires Alvaro Trejo said the assistance benefited 151 households from 21 villages in this city.

In a turnover ceremony on Aug. 23, Trejo also announced that the Spanish government had approved a P60-million grant to the local government for the rehabilitation of the badly damaged Ligao City Hospital.


Trejo said the money, coursed through the Agencia EspaƱola de Cooperacion Internacionale, would be used for the repair of the hospital, as well as for the acquisition and upgrade of medical equipment.

The Spanish agency was one of the first institutions to extend help after Typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” wreaked massive havoc in Bicol late last year.

It has already extended a total of P54 million to Albay, covering community projects on farming and livestock, infrastructure and education.

Farm tools

Cedric Daep, executive officer of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, said the Spanish Embassy also gave more than P4 million in farm tools, seeds, pesticides, and knapsack sprayers to those who had lost their livelihood to the storms.

Trejo said he wanted the Filipinos to remember the help of the Spanish government not merely as a dole-out but as a product of cooperation between the two countries.

“The Philippines and Spain are two very close countries cooperating to promote development and reduce poverty—all part of a global effort,” Trejo said.