Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jeepney drivers stop plying Bicol streets

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:55:00 04/27/2009

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay—Jeepney drivers refusing to pay new increases in fines for traffic violations did not ply their routes on Monday morning, stranding commuters in the main streets of Bicol’s four provinces.

Organizers of the transport holiday said they were protesting the “unreasonably increased traffic fines, fees, and penalties” being imposed nationwide by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

The Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reform (Condor) asked for a moratorium and revocation of Order 1008-39 of the Department of Transportationand Communications. The affiliate of the Pagkakaisa Ng Mga Samahan Ng Tsuper At Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) has around 10,000 public utility drivers and operators as members in Bicol.

Ramon Roco, LTO regional director in Bicol, said the penalties for traffic violations were increased in March by as much as 1,000 percent under the DOTC order.

Driving without license now carries a fine of P1,500, or double the old rate. For unregistered or delinquently registered vehicles or those traveling with expired plates, the fine has been raised from P900 to up to P4,000.

For violators

For out-of-line vehicles, popularly referred to as “colorum,” the fine was increased from P1,000 to P6,000.

Licenses of violators are also suspended for 90 days, much longer that the old period of only seven days.

Mar Magistrado, LTO regional operations chief, said that as early as 2008, the agency had been disseminating information about the new penalty scheme and had been getting negative reactions, especially from transport groups.

But he said the new policy was intended for violators. “It will not affect the livelihood of public drivers. It will affect only if they will refuse to obey traffic regulations,” he said.

Roco said the new fines were low compared to other countries that strictly enforce traffic laws. “In the United States, a person could go bankrupt just for drunk-driving but here fines are really low that drivers would no longer mind if they committed violations,” he added.

Joel Ascutia, Condor-Piston regional president in Bicol, said in a phone interview that Monday’s strike was successful although some drivers did not join because they needed money. “Many of our drivers are saving up for the tuition of their children,” he said.

Ephraim Aguilar and Rey M. Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bicol transport strike held vs steep fines

By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 14:39:00 04/27/2009

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines--Vehicular traffic has been paralyzed late Monday morning in four provinces in the Bicol region.

This was after the transport group Condor-Piston held a transport holiday to protest the government's exorbitant fines on traffic violations.

Condor-Piston (Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reform-Pagkakaisa Ng Mga Samahan Ng Tsuper At Opereytor Nationwide) is asking a moratorium and revocation of Order 1008-39 of the Department of Transportation and Communication which it said "unreasonably increased traffic fines, fees, and penalties" being charged nationwide by its implementing arm, the Land Transportation Office.

As of 10 a.m., 95 percent of public utility vehicles in Albay province were taking part in the transport holiday, 85 percent in Camarines Sur, 80 percent in Camarines Norte while a motorcade protest was held in Masbate province, said Joel Ascutia, Condor-Piston regional president in Bicol.

A transport strike was also staged simultaneously in Davao City.

Condor-Piston, an affiliate of Piston, has around 10,000 public utility drivers and operators under in its wing in the Bicol region.

George San Mateo, Piston national secretary general, said the transport group is asking President Macapagal-Arroyo to intervene after DOTC refused to suspend the order despite a recommendation of the House committee on transportation.

On April 21, the House committee held a public hearing attended by transport group leaders wherein the committee ruled that the DOTC order has to be suspended for lack of public consultation before passage and for its arbitrary implementation.

San Mateo said Piston and its affiliates would continue to hold protests and even a nationwide transport strike until the order is canceled.

Ascutia said in a phone interview that the strike turned out to be successful although some drivers opted not to join the transport holiday due to financial need.

"Many of our drivers are saving up for tuition fee of their children come the enrollment period next month and the opening of classes in June," said Ascutia, also the concurrent Condor-Piston national deputy secretary general.

On March 26, a transport strike was held by Piston in its provincial affiliates in Cebu, Negros and Bacolod City.

Sun-dried beef tapa cooks in just seconds

By Ephraim Aguilar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:16:00 04/26/2009

MASBATE CITY, Philippines -- Breakfast that cooks in just seconds.

This is what the business of Mariano Natural, 53, and wife Mercy, 55, is all about. They manufacture and sell tasty beef tapa that cooks in as fast as three seconds.

Tapa is a mainstay on the Filipino breakfast table. It is meat cut in thin slices and cured with salt and spices to preserve it.

The word “tapa” is associated with smoked fish, which is natively called “tinapa.” It is usually fried or grilled and served with “achara” or pickles.

The couple’s beef tapa is not just cured with salt and spices but is also sun-dried. Cooking it is faster than driving through the nearest fast-food restaurant to have your fill before you go to work.

This homemade tapa has started to reach places through trade fairs organized by the Department of Trade and Industry in Metro Manila and by word of mouth.

There are balikbayan and overseas workers, like those from Saudi Arabia and Germany, who have placed orders to bring with them this tasty meat abroad.

In a government-sponsored trade fair at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay reportedly ordered 20 kilograms of beef tapa from the Natural couple.


The couple works out of Barangay Tugbo here, which is about 15-minute tricycle drive from the Masbate port. They started with making and selling homemade longganisa to augment Mariano’s income as a fisherman and vendor.

He is the president of the Masbate Fish Vendors’ Association.

“We thought if we’re going to engage in business, it had to be related to food,” Mariano said. “It is a common need and will never run out of demand.”

He added that Mercy thought of making homemade longganisa with a P10,000-capital. The new business had fair sales and ran smoothly.

After Mercy attended government-sponsored training programs, she learned how to create other products like beef tapa, pork tapa, and bamboo shoot pickles.

This was the humble start of what later would become the Nomer’s Masbate Meat Processing.

The home-based company now earns at least P100,000 in net income in a week and is seeking to become a household name, hoping to tap the export market.


Touted as the rodeo capital of the Philippines, Masbate is known for its ranches. Cattle-raising has been a long-running tradition in this island province.

The Natural couple sources out meat from local ranches, making sure the meat is fresh and of good quality.

The meat is marinated in special seasoning for more than 24 hours to lock in the flavor. Then it is sun-dried for an entire day and cut into strips.

The cut tapa is then vacuum-sealed in a pack and labeled.

The Mariano couple learned modern packaging techniques through programs of the DTI.

3 seconds

After the tapa has been dunked in heated oil, it will only take three seconds to cook it before it is ready for consumption.

Not only does the tapa cook very fast, it also has a long shelf-life.

“[The tapa can] last for five to six months, or even up to a year if kept frozen,” Mariano said.

Nomer’s beef tapa sells for P100 for every 125 grams, the pork tapa for P75, and the pickled bamboo shoots for P60 a bottle.

The tapa is also available in different flavors: sweet-spicy, salty, spicy, sweet.

Mercy said it would be necessary to add more flavor options since people’s tastes also vary.

She said she hopes they could export their products someday, but that they would need to first upgrade their facilities to increase production.

They also need to learn strategies on how to tap the foreign market.

She admitted that they still have a long way to go, adding that small Filipino entrepreneurs need to have continuous education and support from the government to enable their businesses to grow.

“We need a dehydrator so that when the sun doesn’t shine, we can still produce something,” Mercy said. “Today, we only rely on the natural heat of the sun to dry our meat.”

She said they are expecting to receive equipment grants from the Department of Science and Technology this year.

Nomer’s Masbate Meat Processing contact number is (0908) 566-9159.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Quake jolts Legazpi

By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 12:09:00 04/07/2009
Filed Under: Earthquake

LEGAZPI CITY--A magnitude 3.7 earthquake shook this city 6:37 p.m. Monday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Manila reported.

Local villagers described the earthquake as "strong but abrupt." It was strong enough to be felt by a person sitting down. The strong and quick jolt was followed by weaker tremors that lasted not more than 10 seconds.

State seismologists, in a bulletin, said the earthquake, which was tectonic in origin, was located 23 kilometers north of Legazpi City. No damage to infrastructure was expected.

On Sunday dawn, two earthquakes were also recorded, a magnitude 3.1 in Baguio City and a magnitude 4.2 in Cauayan, Negros Occidental.