Sunday, August 31, 2008

Albay boy’s drawing bests 1,676 worldwide

31 August 2008 (page A17)
By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon

GUINOBATAN, ALBAY—BRYLE NAPAY’S mind is etched with memories of rainy days when he would set aside his black leather shoes and wade to school on slippers as floods would rise fast in their village in Camalig town.

These memories were what inspired Bryle, now 16, to join the Shoot Nations 2008 contest, where his drawing bested 1,676 entries from all over the world.

Shoot Nations, organized by Plan International and London-based Shoot Experience, is an annual photography and drawing contest, which encourages young people to express their thoughts on global issues.

It aims to use these art forms as tools for cross-cultural, language-free communication. Entries are sent online.

This year’s theme revolved around climate change, a global menace that has prompted advocates to launch worldwide campaigns on awareness and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But Bryle’s drawing, which he finished in just a day using paint and oil pastel, conveyed a simple message out of “a hand holding a seedling.”

It was captioned, “Reminds me that we can still do small things before it’s too late.”

A newbie in outside-the-school drawing contests, Bryle, senior high school student at the Marcial O. Rañola Memorial School here, said he never thought his drawing would win as “Best Overall Drawing” in the all-age category.

Bryle’s winning entry will be printed for exhibition at the World Youth Congress in Quebec, Canada, for the United Nations International Youth Day 2008.

It is also posted on and was exhibited at the OXO Tower Gallery in London last Aug. 12 to 17.

Bryle said his awareness of the ill-effects of environmental degradation as experienced by his community vividly showed him the impacts of a changing climate.

“Since [my] kindergarten [days], our village had always been flooded,” he recalled.

This reality, Bryle said, made him easily understand that deeds as small as littering trash have greater effects on a larger population.

He said that as thousands of young people view his drawings, he wants to send a message of unity.

“If every one would contribute in small ways and with all our efforts, we can save mother earth,” he said.

He lamented that most of the so-called “wired generation,” or those born in the advent of mobile technology, have become passive of environmental issues.

“Even if there are environmental laws and education in schools, some young people would not really care. But this can change if the youth are properly educated,” he said.


Given the chance, he said, he would love to create cartoons, whose content advocates environmental protection.

“I want to make animé about climate change so the youth will be aware of this issue,” he said.

After winning the contest, Bryle said he was motivated to learn more about environmental issues.

Because of his Shoot Nations stint, Bryle received an invitation to become a young ambassador for climate change in the YouthXchange, a international campaign initiative on sustainable consumption and production.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gov orders police to shut down STL in Albay

22 August 2008
Across the Nation, A19

LEGAZPI CITY—ALBAY GOV. Joey Salceda wants the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to halt small-town lottery (STL) operations in the province following allegations it is being used as a cover for the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”

In a statement, Salceda said he instructed Senior Supt. Joel Baloro, Albay police director, to immediately convey to the PCSO his directive to shut down STL operations in the province.

Salceda also cited persistent media reports about the alleged underdeclaration of STL bet collections.

Baloro, in a mobile phone interview, confirmed having received a directive from Salceda but claimed no knowledge of the reasons behind it.

However, he said he believed it had something to do with the attacks made by antigambling witness Sandra Cam against four Bicol governors last week, which got published in some tabloids.

Cam accused Salceda and three other Bicol governors—Sally Lee of Sorsogon, Jesus Typoco Jr. of Camarines Norte and Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur—of being responsible for the revival of jueteng in the region.

She also said these governors were being protected by “high-ranking officials of the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government.”

She said other politicians were banking on jueteng money to fund their campaign in the 2010 elections.


Salceda did not address Cam’s accusation in the statement and refused to grant further interviews.

Baloro denied the existence of organized jueteng in Albay but said there could be “guerrilla-type” operations in remote villages, where people think they could not be monitored by authorities.

He added that they were validating reports that STL operations were being used as a front of jueteng.

“There are reports of ‘bookies,’ a scheme where bets below P10 are not being remitted to STL and are instead being drawn outside,” Baloro said.

He said they had arrested some people claiming to be legitimate STL bet collectors but lacked proper IDs.

Lawyer Joel Descallar, president of the Pilipinas Pacific Rim Corp. (PPRC), which mans STL operations in Albay, said they thank Salceda for recognizing it is the PCSO’s discretion to shut down STL operations.

“STL is a national project and it would take only a (national-level intervention) to stop it,” Descallar said in a mobile phone interview.

No benefits

He denied allegations that the PPRC was being used in illegal gambling.

“There is no economic benefit (if we involve in jueteng). We are the legal operators of STL. We operate in the open. We are in the mainstream. We are legitimate business people,” he said.

“Also, there are big risks. Our license could be revoked and that does not commensurate any gain if there is,” Descallar said.

Nelly Loyola, PCSO-Albay lottery operations chief, said they respected Salceda’s directive but the PSCO has yet to receive an official, black-and-white copy of it. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another aftershock rocks Bicol

By Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 13:23:00 08/18/2008

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines--Another aftershock rocked areas of the Bicol region early Monday morning, following Friday evening’s earthquake and the first aftershock on Sunday afternoon.

The 5.2-magnitude earthquake, at 4:46 a.m., was felt at Intensity 4 in Virac, Catanduanes, Intensity 3 in Sorsogon City and Legazpi City, and Intensity 2 at the Mayon Volcano Observatory on Ligñon Hill in Daraga, Albay, reports from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

State seismologists plotted the earthquake at around 34 kilometers north and 69 degrees east of Sorsogon province.

On Friday, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Sur provinces and was felt strongest in Legazpi City at Intensity 6.

An aftershock was also felt 2:28 p.m. Sunday in Sorsogon and Albay provinces.

Alex Baloloy, senior science research analyst of Phivolcs-Bicol explained that the earthquakes were tectonic in origin.

Magnitude measures the seismic energy unleashed by the earthquake. An earthquake with a magnitude 5.1 is moderate, while that with a magnitude 3.9 or 3.2 is considered minor.

Intensity describes the strength of the quake based on observable effects on the ground.

Quake jolts Bicol areas

16 August 2008

LEGAZPI CITY—A 5.1-MAGNITUDE EARTHquake strong enough to prompt people to go out of their houses rocked Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Sur provinces, at 6:25 p.m. yesterday.

The earthquake’s epicenter was plotted 42 km. north and 69 degrees east of Sorsogon province, said a report from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Manila.

Intensity 6 was recorded in Legazpi City; 5 in Sorsogon City and Irosin, Sorsogon; and 3 in Naga City and Bulan, Sorsogon.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said he was not expecting damage but there could be aftershocks. He advised people to be alert.

He added that the earthquake was not strong enough to cause sea level rise but warned coastal villagers to be watchful.

The earthquake was of tectonic origin and not related to the increased abnormal behavior of Mayon Volcano, which spewed a 200-meter-high ash column Sunday. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mt. Mayon shows more quakes, swelling--Phivolcs

Two-man team to set up watch
By Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 15:25:00 08/15/2008

LEGAZPI CITY--The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Manila sent a two-man team to Albay province Friday to measure the swelling of Mayon Volcano's slopes following observations of increased abnormal activity succeeded by a mild ash explosion Sunday, an official said here.

Alex Baloloy, senior science research analyst at the Phivolcs Mayon Observatory in Daraga, Albay, said the engineering team would monitor changes in the volcano's ground deformation.

He said Mt. Mayon's volcanic edifice has been showing swelling by up to 12 millimeters since May, which indicated magma movement inside.

"The team is here to monitor changes in ground deformation, which is a key parameter in explaining the volcano's ongoing abnormal behavior," Baloloy said in a mobile phone interview.

Baloloy added that there were not much significant changes after the Sunday explosion except for an increase in the number of volcanic earthquakes daily.

Latest bulletin from Phivolcs-Manila showed that there were 11 volcanic earthquakes over the past 24 hours with moderate steam emission from the summit and crater glow at night.

After Mt. Mayon, the team will also monitor Mt. Bulusan, another active volcano in Sorsogon province.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda has ordered a stop to all human tourism and farming activities within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone.

Mt. Mayon is an attraction to mountain climbers and orchid collectors.

The public is advised to keep off active river channels and lahar zones.

In the southeast quadrant where the crater rim is lowest, the danger zone had been extended to 7 kilometers following the Typhoon “Reming” lahar tragedy which killed almost a thousand in 2006.

Alert Level No. 1 remains hoisted over the 2,463-meter volcano, which is vying for a spot in the Seven Wonders of Nature online search.

Mayon bid for ‘7 wonders’ gets full Bicol support

LEGAZPI CITY—MAYON VOLcano’s mild ash explosion Sunday could be an alert signal for its supporters to cast more votes as it slid down by more than 10 notches this week in the New Seven Wonders of Nature online search.

All Philippine candidates—including Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef, Bohol’s Chocolate Hills and Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River National Park—fell from the top seven list yesterday in live rankings on

In the Bicol region, posters campaigning for Mt. Mayon are starting to proliferate everywhere—on streets, airports, Internet cafes, campuses, offices and stores.
Radio advertisements, which are mostly pro bono, have been aired in local stations here.

Albay provincial board member Glenda Bongao, chair of the committee on tourism, said the provincial government is mounting a plan to enlarge the campaign into a national advocacy.

“Here in Bicol, we have encouraged provinces other than Albay to support Mt. Mayon. Even other regions can vote for all Philippine nominees,” Bongao said.

Nini Ravanilla, director of the Department of Tourism in Bicol, said it is time for the government and the private sector to join hands.

She said the tourism department had already launched campaigns in Australia, Canada and the United States to draw support from Filipino expatriates and overseas workers there.

Ravanilla said they are banking on the youth, who are more technologically savvy, not just to vote but to start an online campaign.

The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education in Bicol have released memorandum circulars instructing schools to campaign for Mayon volcano.

“We can even create multiple e-mail addresses every week so we could vote as many times as we can,” Ravanilla said.

The results of the seven wonders online search are determined through the number of votes cast on Voting is on until Dec. 31.

Kristina Uy Gadaingan, a young professional from Legazpi City, would send text messages and e-mails to friends and post a bulletin on social networking sites such as Friendster and Multiply to campaign for Mt. Mayon.

She said since voters are required to vote for seven candidates, Filipinos should vote for those at the very bottom to push the Philippine nominees up the ranks. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mt. Mayon 'abnormal' but no eruption imminent--Phivolcs

First posted 15:35:14 (Mla time) August 11, 2008
Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
Read from the INQUIRER website.

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Bicol allayed fears of a major explosion after Mayon Volcano in Albay province spewed ash Sunday morning, following two years of inactivity.

Over the past 24 hours, volcanologists detected an explosion-type earthquake with no visual observation of ash-ejection, six low-frequency earthquakes and 12 harmonic tremors, the latest Phivolcs bulletin on Monday said.

Alex Baloloy, senior science research analyst at the Phivolcs Mayon observatory in Daraga, Albay, said the volcano had been showing "abnormal" or "increased" activity indicating the ascent of "magma" inside the volcano.

Phivolcs said steam and ash explosions may occur in the following days.

Baloloy added that precise leveling surveys conducted on Mt. Mayon's slopes showed swelling of up to 12 millimeters on its edifice.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered Monday all human activity, such as mountain climbing and farming, stopped within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone.

Salceda said that as of 2006, when Mt. Mayon last erupted, there were 1,400 farmers within the permanent danger zone.

The governor alerted municipal disaster coordinating councils to take precautionary measures to avoid any casualties should the volcano act up.

The dried-up lava front in gullies at the foot of the volcano became tourist attractions early this year. But disaster officials warned the public to keep out.

Baloloy said people should avoid gullies and lahar paths while the volcano shows abnormal behavior.

The ash column of Sunday’s explosion, which lasted for about one minute, reached an estimate of 200 meters above the summit crater before drifting east-northeast of the volcano.

Alert level No. 1 remains hoisted over the 2,462-meter-high Mt. Mayon, which is vying for a spot in the New Seven Wonders of Nature online search.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mayon Volcano under tight watch after mild explosion

By Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 17:16:00 08/10/2008
Read from the INQUIRER website.

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines--The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology is keeping a tight watch over Mayon volcano after it monitored a mild explosion in the mountain at 9:12 a.m. Sunday, a Phivolcs bulletin at noontime said.

Mt. Mayon emitted smoke that reached a height of around 200 meters above the summit, said the Phivolcs bulletin. The smoke from the volcano summit later drifted east northeast.

"The volcano is undergoing an episode of increased activity probably related to magma movement and though no major eruption is indicated, steam and ash explosions may occur in the following days," added the bulletin.

The Phivolcs reiterated that Alert Level 1 remained over Mt. Mayon as of Sunday. It has also reminded the public that the seven-kilometer extended danger zone at the southeastern flank and the six-kilometer permanent danger zone at other areas remain off-limits due to threats from sudden small explosions and rockfalls from the upper slopes.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

No more aching feet for ‘kakanin’ vendor

08 August 2008
Text and photos by Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon

STO. DOMINGO, Albay—A struggling single mother, Lutgarda Alejo would rise up very early to make rounds in villages carrying a woven basket filled with “linanggang,” this town’s native version of “kakanin.”

After a tiring day of selling, she would go home with less than P500 and aching feet.

Alejo might have thought this routine was enough to make both ends meet for her family, but she realized she could upgrade her business.

Today, Alejo, from being just a walking linanggang vendor, is a living example of success to many other linanggang makers in Barangay Fidel Surtida.

In this village, there are around 70 households cooking and selling linanggang, which has been identified as Sto. Domingo’s town product by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Linanggang is a native kakanin made from cassava, rice, sweet potato, and banana, all major agricultural products of this town.

Russell Nieves, trade and industry development specialist of the DTI in Albay, said linanggang served as alternative food for the locals at the height of the Japanese invasion in the region.

“The people were not able to till their farms or fish regularly because of fear of the Japanese. After World War II, linanggang-making became a common livelihood in the community,” Nieves said.

From village streets, Alejo’s native foods have now reached malls in the cities of Tabaco and Legazpi carrying the brand name “Mama Lutz Delicacies.”

Alejo said she never thought all these developments in her product and business were possible.

“Just like many of the linanggang-makers here in our place, I grew up to traditional ways of cooking and selling,” Alejo claimed.

But through DTI-sponsored trainings, Alejo was able to develop her products and improve their packaging.

From unsophisticated plastic wrappers, Alejo’s products are now gracefully stuffed in polystyrene foam (commonly known as “Styrofoam”) with printed labels on them.

She also got her products approved by the Bureau of Food and Drugs.

At first Alejo was hesitant, or even pessimistic, about revolutionizing her ways of business.

“I never had a bigger vision for my livelihood. But one day, I said, why not give it a try?” said Alejo, who used P15,000 of her savings to start anew.

Now, Alejo does not have to walk around villages to sell. She was the first among Fidel Surtida traders to bring her products to the mall.

For her, manning two stalls in malls is not a bad start as her P500 earnings have multiplied to at least P3,000 daily.

Alejo said she seeks to expand her business by someday investing on technology that will improve the shelf-life of her linanggang.

“I want my products to reach places outside the region. I have once sold my products to people who brought them to as far as Aparri, Cebu and Davao,” Alejo said.

She added that befriending one’s loyal consumers does wonders in promoting the business. “My products are advertised by word of mouth. There would be times when, unexpectedly, customers would just visit my house and place bulk orders,” Alejo said.

There are around 30 food varieties under linanggang.

Some of Alejo’s products are the tabog-tabog (cassava, sweet potato, sugar, vanilla), inagom (cassava, corn, young coconut), cassava kalamay (latik, condensed milk, margarine, cassava, nuts), and many others.

High cost of ingredients

Despite the developments in Alejo’s business, she said the current economic slump badly affects linanggang makers.

Coconut, a mainstay ingredient, costs at least P15 per piece. Before Supertyphoon Reming ravaged massive coconut plantations in Bicol, it only cost P8.

The prices of cassava, camote, malagkit (glutinous rice) and sugar have also increased.

Nieves said it is in a time like this when entrepreneurs should be educated and empowered.

He said it is challenging to convince makers of native products, who are usually locked in traditional production and marketing means, to widen their horizon.

“In 2005, the DTI sponsored a local study mission trip in Cainta, Rizal, to expose linanggang makers to other successful native food entrepreneurs,” Nieves said, adding that real success stories could easily inspire starters.

Nieves said the linanggang makers of Sto. Domingo still need more capability-enhancement trainings to boost their morale, better technology to increase production, and new marketing strategies to broaden their niche.

Now, each day for Alejo no longer ends with an aching feet.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

GMA, allies hit for taking control of power sector

LEGAZPI CITY--THE MILITANT group Bayan-Bikol (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) sounded the alarm bells as it alleged President Macapagal-Arroyo’s relatives and allies to be inching their way to the “lucrative” power industry.

This came after Aboitiz Power Corp. affiliate AP Renewables Inc. topped the bid for the government’s 747.5-megawatt Tiwi-Makban geothermal facilities in Albay, Laguna and Batangas provinces with an offer of $446.9 million.

The Lopez group’s First Luzon Geothermal Energy Corp., offering $368.4 million lost in the bid.

Tessa Lopez, Bayan-Bikol spokesperson, said the Aboitiz group is “most-favored” by Ms Arroyo because her brother, Diosdado Macapagal Jr., is one of its owners.

“Now all indications point that (Ms Arroyo) wants to control the power sector. The moves of her relatives and allies to corner the power market are part of a game plan,” Lopez said.

The militant group bared a time line showing Ms Arroyo’s “ulterior motives to control the power sector.”

First, Lopez said, President Arroyo authored the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) as a senator, then approved it as President.

Then she ordered Dato Arroyo to run for congressman of the first district of Camarines Sur.

Afterwards, her eldest son, Mikey Arroyo, was placed as head of the energy committee in Congress with Dato and Negros Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo as members.

Also, the bidding for the 25-year concession contract to operate the National Transmission Co. (Transco) was won by Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., which is owned by Ms Arroyo’s ally, Enrique Razon Jr., who is “discreetly tied to her brother Diosdado Macapagal Jr.”

Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. is the same company that is financing the proposed coal mining in Catanduanes province, Lopez added.

“Arroyo appointed her close ally Zenaida Ducut as the chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission [ERC]. Then she ordered the takeover of the Albay Electric Cooperative [Aleco], which is a transition to privatization,” Lopez said.

On the Manila Electric Co. controversy, Lopez said, “Of course, Meralco and the Lopezes have to be investigated on claims that Meralco over-charged and even passed its electric bills to consumers, at the very least they should refund this to the people.”

But, she said, the public should remain vigilant against possible ulterior motives that the President has to control the power industry.

Exploration of the geothermal area in Tiwi started in 1972. A year after, the Naglagbong well was discovered.

At present, there are 39 production wells and 21 injection wells at the site.

Tiwi geothermal, which started commercial operations on Jan. 11, 1979, had an installed capacity of 289 megawatts and available capacity of 234 megawatts as of July 2007.

Its cumulative gross generation as of December 2005 was 40,166 gigawatt-hours. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Saturday, August 02, 2008

COA lists 19 audit violations of Legazpi water firm

LEGAZPI CITY—A GOVERNment-owned water utility firm here is under public scrutiny after the Commission on Audit reported that it had violated audit rules and guidelines in 2006 involving almost P11 million of its funds.

The COA report said the Legazpi City Water District (LCWD), the capital’s water supplier for 27 years, had committed 19 audit violations, including illegal disbursement of corporate funds, understatement of loans payable, misclassification of expenses, and unrecognized tax and interest liabilities.

The report was done in October 2007 and was released in the wake of the LCWD’s implementation of a 47-percent water rate increase.

The increase was questioned for alleged bidding anomalies and lack of consultation before the LCWD sealed a deal with Philippine Hydro Inc., which will run a P300-million bulk water supply project and sell water to the LCWD for P13.50 per cubic meter.

Raul Chua, LCWD general manager, said the violations were only procedural in nature and could be rectified.

“None of the violations pertained to malversation of funds. We did not rob any amount from the corporation. But we have been victims of trial by publicity even if the COA findings cannot yet even be considered final,” Chua said.

One violation cited by the COA was the LCWD’s failure to comply with requirements under Presidential Decree No. 198 in the repair and rehabilitation of the Rapu-Rapu Water Supply System, resulting in the illegal disbursement of corporate funds worth P1.3 million.

The report also noted that after a COA inspection on May 23, 2007, a P389,900 Honda Civic described in the LCWD’s books as “In Service” and “Fully Depreciated” could not be found.

Based on previous audits, it said, the Honda Civic was under Chua’s car plan.

Contesting the COA claim that the car plan was not authorized by the LCWD’s board, Chua showed the Inquirer an authenticated copy of a board resolution showing that he was legally “entitled to a car plan.”

“It is for this reason that we are filing an appeal to the COA for its wrong observations, though we will readily accept the correct ones,” he said.

Chua said most items in the report were nothing but “errors,” like misclassification of expenses, which they were already correcting based on the COA recommendations. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon