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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ibajay Bridges

Side view of ibajay's brand-new bridge, which will be inaugurated by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she visits Aklan on June 2. ibajay town is located in the western portion of Aklan leading to Caticlan, the jump-off point to Boracay island. The Strong Republic Nautical Highway passes the Ibajay road network, and the new bridge is seen to further boost the tourism as well as Aklan's agricultural industry, the province' twin thrust for development. (PIA/Photo courtesy of DPWH-Aklan)

Ibajay's new bridge, which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be inaugurating on June 2 upon here visit to Aklan. This new bridge has a total length of 246 linear meters, double lane, which was constructed June 1, 2002 and completed May 25, 2008. (DPWH-Aklan Photo)

PGMA to visit Aklan; to lead inauguration of Ibajay town's new bridge

Kalibo, Aklan-- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be in Aklan June 2 for her first visit to this province this year.

On her Monday visit, she will inaugurate the new 246 linear meter double-lane Ibajay bridge in Barangay Polo, Ibajay, Aklan that leads to the Caticlan Jetty Port where commercial ships and boats dock, and serves as a jump-off point to Boracay Island.

The new bridge replaces the existing Reinforced Concrete Deck Girder (RCDG) Bridge (252 lm long).

Data provided by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) here reveal that the new UK Steel Truss Bridge was constructed about 63 meters downstream of the existing bridge at Brgy. Polo, Ibajay, Aklan along the Nautical Highway at Aklan West Road (Tangalan-Ibajay Road Section), located at Station 241+729.098.

The new bridge connects Panay Island with the Islands of Luzon and Mindanao. It will serve as a vital link to the famous tourist destination of Boracay Island, passing through vast agricultural and fishing areas that lead to Iloilo, Capiz and Antique.

According to DPWH-Aklan, the construction of Ibajay Bridge and Approaches is one of the development programs of the Philippine Government with the assistance from the United Kingdom by the consortium of Balfour Kilpatrick Cleveland Bridge Joint Venture. The DPWH is the lead implementing agency through the supervision of the Project Management Office (Special Bridge Project) Manila.

Contractual data given by the DPWH here, which is headed by District Engr. Rodolfo Cabigas , show that the bridge had a Civil Works Cost of P138,616.287.72 million and Steel Materials Cost of P68,751,141.30 million. Construction of the bridge was started on June 1, 2006 and completed on May 25, 2008.

PGMA will be assisted during the bridge inauguration by Hon. Hermogenes E. Ebdane, DPWH-Secretary. UK Ambassador Peter Beckingham will also be with the President's party.

At the inauguration, Aklan Congressman Florencio T. Miraflores will give the welcome message, while Sec. Ebdane will give a briefing on the project.

Ibajay's local officials, led by Mayor Maria Lourdes Miraflores are expecting that PGMA will also look into the market area of the town, which was recently burned.

After the Aklan visit, PGMA will proceed the same day to Masbate, according to Congressman Miraflores. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poor boy's scholarship: turning dreams to reality, improving lives

Theirs is a tale of constant struggle and hope everyday to defeat poverty in the countryside – and one of the reasons that they still hope for a better life and a better future if not for them but for their children is a distinct scholarship grant named after the father of the incumbent President of the country, who, 47 years ago, served as the 5th President of the Republic President Diosdado Macapagal, beloved father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The grant is called the President Diosdado Macapagal Scholarship (PDMS), and the qualified grantees are children or grandchildren of Aklan's Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) selected through a rigid screening process by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

During President Diosdado Macapagal's incumbency, he was called the "Poor Boy from Lubao", attributing to his humble beginnings in his place of origin.

In Bacyang, Madalag, a mother who is an Agrarian Reform Beneficiary (ARB) of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) glows as she relates that her daughter, a PDMS scholar enrolled at the Aklan State University (ASU)-Banga Campus will be graduating this coming school year.

"She's taking a four-year course in Agriculture, and when she graduates, she will help me and her father improve our vegetable farm, so we will be able to produce better crops which will fetch better prices in the market," said Julieta Neri of her daughter.

As a scholar, Julieta's daughter enjoys free tuition and also receives a monthly allowance. Julieta said her daughter's being a PDM scholar gives them hope to improve their lives, and at the same time, she counts on her daughter to help send her younger siblings to school and have a course, although presently, much in their economic life had changed because of the programs brought to their doorstep by CARP.

"If not for CARP, it will still be very hard for us to transport our products to the market. Now, with the roads and bridges constructed in Madalag through the program, we can bring our vegetables straight to the market, still fresh and attractive. With the many public utility jeeps and buses plying the route from Madalag to Kalibo and vice versa, we can go home early the same day after finding buyers of our vegetables," Julieta said.

Presently, a carabao Julieta got through the animal dispersal program of the DAR through CARP is a big help to her and her husband's vegetable farming venture. Julieta also said that her children help her in the vegetable farm and in the rice fields her family tends.

"I tell them not to shun the land we till because this sustained us for years, although life is much better now – we have a bigger house, and we have purchased some basic appliances through the money we got from our farm produce," Julieta happily said.

And the future for this farming ARB family will be much brighter once the scholar-daughter graduates, have a job and help introduce better farming ways as a result of being a poor boy's scholar.

In Brgy. Aparicio in Ibajay, another Agrarian Reform Community in Aklan, a mother, whose daughter is a prospective PDMS was solemn-faced at the time of the interview. Her daughter that same day was undergoing a screening for the PDMS at the DAR office in Kalibo, along with many other hopefuls, all dependents of ARBs from all over the province, and Jocelyn Italia, 37, is praying that her daughter will be one of the lucky qualifiers for the scholarship slots which only five are being opened this school year.

"I fervently pray that my daughter qualifies for the President Diosdado Macapagal Scholarship. The scholarship is our only hope of sending her to college", a teary-eyed Jocelyn said.

Jocelyn hopes that if her daughter becomes a PDMS scholar, graduate later on and find a good job, she in turn will be able to send her brothers and sisters to college.

Presently, Jocelyn, as a member of the Aparicio ARC Multi-Purpose Cooperative along with 233 others, is engaged in abaca fiber production, twining abaca fiber in various designs, lengths, sizes and colors according to the need of buyers. A big hit among the buyers, Jocelyn said, is the abaca twine they named the "Stick-O", which is a combination of brown and white abaca fibers twined together that looks like a favorite stick snack among children.

The finished products are displayed at the Cottage Industry Technology Center (CITC) provided by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the area also under its CARP program for the ARBs.

Coop members said they were trained by the DTI to weave abaca fiber and to produce other quality by-products of abaca. The DTI provided looms and other much-needed equipment to members of the cooperative. As a result, the Aparicio coop became a recipient of various awards from the Regional Development Council, from DAR and other award-giving organizations..

"Because of CARP in Aparicio, we have visitors almost daily from the government and other organizations", said Eligene Tayco, former Barangay Captain of Aparicio.

Tayco is saddened that CARP is about to end, because he believes that although it has brought and given so much to his fellow Apariciohanons, many things could still be done and taught to them, if the program gets extended for five years. His sentiment is shared by residents of the barangay, whose lives were touched by CARP.

"Before, Aparicio can only be reached by taking a raft upriver because there were no roads. Residents who go to the market to buy basic commodities like fish arrive home with it already rotten or foul-smelling, because of the very long period of travel. As we have no ricefields here in Aparicio, we get our rice supply in the market, while the National Food Authority (NFA), through its many programs to bring affordable government rice to the public like the TGL and now the Tindahan Natin, then delivers rice to Aparicio upriver through a bamboo raft. Now, with a concreted road provided by CARP, NFA delivers rice straight from its warehouse up to Aparicio. All types of vehicles now come to Aparicio daily bringing residents home, delivering goods, bringing visitors, trainors and program implementers as well as other much-needed services to the community", Tayco said.

If Jocelyn's daughter get to be one of a former poor boy's scholar this year, she said her daughter will not be staying in a boarding house in Ibajay where the school, Aklan State University Ibajay Campus is located and where the scholar is qualified to enroll, being the only state university in the province that could admit government scholars. Instead, because of the good road and with the many vehicles plying the route like motorcycles or jeepneys, she will be going home everyday.

"My child is a female and she needs our guidance. She is also our hope of having a better life, if not for us parents, then for her siblings", Jocelyn said.

The President Diosdado Macapagal Scholarship has already produced 20 graduates since its opening in 2003. Eight (8) scholars are now studying while this school year, five slots will be opened.

"The PDMS has produced many Cum Laudes. Many are now gainfully employed", said Grace Quimpo of DAR-Aklan.

These scholars are now assured of a brighter future due to a poor boy who inspired the government through DAR to look the ARBs' way and give their children a chance for a better life. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Respect, revere our flag, Aklan governor tells government employees

Kalibo, Aklan -- The Philippine Flag is the embodiment of all our country's ideals, culture and tradition, so everyone must give respect and reverence to our symbol of national sovereignty and solidarity, Aklan governor Carlito S. Marquez said to hundreds of government employees who attended today the province' launching of the "Paggalang Sa Watawat" campaign at the Provincial Capitol grounds here.

The launching was led by Governor Marquez and Vice Governor Gabrielle Calizo, and joined by Provincial Capitol department heads and employees, heads and employees of national government agencies, and judiciary officials and employees from the nearby Regional Trial Court.

Governor Marquez further told all present to display the flag in their offices year round and not just during the period from May 28 to June 12 as mandated by Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

The Republic Act calls on all offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments, schools and private homes to display the Philippine flag throughout the period.

"The flag is a symbol of reverence, respect, patriotism, courage and valor of our forebears who offered their lives in defense of our country", Governor Marquez said.

Governor Marquez also said that due to economic hardships, respect of the Philippine flag has seemingly been forgotten by some, even the custom of kissing the hands of elders by children, and so the launching serves to remind everybody of the flag's significance.

"As we celebrate the "Paggalang Sa Watawat" campaign, let us have unity and cooperation in our hearts not just as individuals but as public servants. Service to the people must be strengthened, because public service is public trust", Governor Marquez emphasized.

The launching in Aklan consisted of an opening prayer, singing of the Pambansang Awit, recitation of the Panunumpa sa Watawat and Panatang Makabayan, and delivery of messages from Governor Marquez and from Ms. Evelyn N. Ejar, Civil Service-Aklan Director II.

Theme of this year's launching is "Igalang ang Ating Watawat, Sa Isip, Sa Salita at Sa Gawa". (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Govt. officials, employees should be first to respect our flag – CSC

Kalibo, Aklan –As government officials and employees, we are expected to be the first na "Gumalang Sa Ating Watawat".

These words came from Director Evelyn N. Ejar of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) here when she delivered a message after the flag ceremony held here today at the Provincial Capitol Grounds to launch the "Paggalang Sa Watawat" campaign, attended by Aklan's provincial officials led by Gov. Carlito Marquez and Vice Governor Gabrielle V. Calizo, Provincial Capitol department heads and employees, national government agencies heads and staff and officials and employees of the judiciary from the Goding P. Ramos Hall of Justice (RTC).

Governor Marquez himself delivered a short message after the flag-raising.

Ejar said the campaign aims to promote public awareness of good citizenship values such as love of country, respect for the flag and the elderly, patriotism and nationalism.

"We might belong to different offices from the national government agencies, local government units, Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, State Universities and Colleges, from the private sector; we have different religions, different positions, different values, different opinions and beliefs yet one of the things that we have in common is we are all subject to the same laws as government officials and employees," Ejar said.

One of these, according to her, is RA 6713 – Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

"Section 4 is the Norms of Conduct for all of us, namely commitment to public interest, professionalism, justness and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, commitment to democracy, simple living and nationalism and patriotism that fits the activity today," she told those present.

Ejar said that in nationalism and patriotism, public officials and employees shall at all times be loyal to the Republic and to the Filipino people, promote the use of locally-produced goods, resources and technology, encourage appreciation and pride of country and people, and maintain and defend Philippine Sovereignty against foreign intrusions.

"Ours is not a perfect society, yet, we have to be proud that we are Filipinos, we have one country, the Philippines, we have to be proud of our flag and anthem – that we belong 'sa isang bansa na may isang diwa at isang lahi'. Every time we sing our National Anthem let us always remember and thank God that we are Filipinos and are very lucky to be one," Ejar said.

The launching here today of the "Paggalang Sa Watawat" campaign is mandated under the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, also known as Republic Act 8491 stipulating that every year, May 28 (National Flag Day) to June 12 (Independence Day), all offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments, schools, and private homes are enjoined to display the Philippine flag throughout this period and hopefully throughout the year.

In his memorandum to all municipal mayors, offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments and schools enjoining them to join the campaign launch, Governor Marquez said the activity is to give respect and reverence to the symbol of national sovereignty and solidarity, the Philippine flag.

"Igalang Ang Ating Watawat Sa Isip, sa Salita at sa Gawa" is the theme of this year's Paggalang Sa Watawat campaign. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan State U not increasing tuition fees

Kalibo, Aklan -- The only state university in the province, Aklan State University (ASU), is not increasing its tuition fees this school year.

This was announced by high-ranking officials of the university, who revealed that the school had its tuition fee increase in 2005 yet.

The state university, with its main campus in Banga, has other campuses located in Kalibo, Ibajay, New Washington and Makato, specializing in various courses.

Dr. Edilberto Solidum, ASU Main Campus Director of Students Affairs said enrolment at different university campuses is ongoing on a staggered basis, but the university is contemplating to conduct walk-in examinations, noting that a big number of incoming freshmen students have shown interest in enrolling in the state school.

"Courses most favored by incoming students to take this year appear to be related to computer science, like Information Management, Information Technology; and Nursing and Home Technology", Dr. Solidum revealed.

Despite this, Dr. Solidum revealed that enrollment in agriculture courses in the university is still high as compared with those in other state-run agricultural schools. The government recently called on state universities to help in food production and avert hunger by devoting their vacant lots to rice and other agricultural crops.

Dr. Solidum also said many students are interested to take up nursing course at ASU because tuition fees are almost a half less than those charged by private schools.

"We cannot accommodate them all, however, as the university's facilities, classrooms and teachers are currently not enough", Dr. Solidum said.

Just recently, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo directed the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to freeze all tuition fee increases in the 110 state-run colleges and universities nationwide to help students and parents cope with the global rise in oil and food prices

The President issued her directive at the start of the command conference with education officials and Oplan Balik Eskkwela partners May 26 at the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City.

She also appealed to private colleges and universities to consider and freeze plans to hike tuition and other school charges, in the meantime.

The President said the freeze on tuition fees would greatly help ease the financial burden of students and their parents. At present, parents are spending an average of P450 per unit, or about P10,000 per school year for their children taking a 21-unit load in college.

The Chief Executive said shelving tuition fee increases in SUCs and private institutions of learning would also help reduce the college dropout rate and set off an environment conducive to quality tertiary education for all. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan prov'l government mulls hog-raising venture

Kalibo, Aklan -- The provincial government of Aklan is mulling to embark on hog-raising to help meet the supply of pork in the province.

Aklan Governor Carlito Marquez raised this possibility during the recent Local Price Coordination Council (LPCC) meeting here in response to concerns raised by some food processors here that there is a low supply of pork in the province.

A leading food processor here is said to be hesitant to avail of financial assistance from the government as it is not assured of a steady supply of raw meat.

According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) here, Aklan currently lacks supply of hogs for slaughter. Buyers are said to be sourcing their supply from Capiz backyards. Based on household interviews, BAS revealed that Aklanons currently raised pigs for fiestas.

The Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPVET) here bared that Aklan is not operating big piggeries anymore, due to high prices of feeds.

Presently, the province is focusing on livestock production at Tina, Makato, with on-going pasture and forage production, large and small ruminant production, cattle fattening and production, and goat upgrading programs.

The OPVET said the site in Makato is also ideal for hog production. The provincial government through OPVET is currently implementing a swine dispersal program on a rollover scheme among provincial employees.

To help in this concern, council members urged the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist to request Municipal Agricultural Officers (MAOs) all over the province to encourage swine production in their areas.

Governor Marquez, for his part, said the low supply of pork meat might have been caused by the high demand of processed meat products in the market, noting that some companies have branches that have sprouted in the region and even in Manila.

He advised these food processors to operate a piggery too to have a sure supply of pork for their business needs. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

PCL regional prexy favors CARP extension

Kalibo, Aklan --The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is a one of the social justice projects of the 1987 Constitution and as a social justice program – the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was able to address the inequality of Philippine Society.

This is according to Atty. Willbert Ariel Igoy, president of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) in Region 6.

"After 20 years, we saw the effectiveness of the program – CARP's land distribution is not yet 100% complete, and assistance has to be provided still to CARP beneficiaries in the form of technical, infrastructure and financial assistance," Igoy said, who, at the time of the interview was OIC-Mayor of Malinao town. Igoy, as one of Malinao's elected Sangguniang Bayan Member also sits in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) as ex-officio member having been elected as PCL provincial president.

In praising CARP, Igoy cited the improvements the program brought to his town.

According to him, before the arrival of CARP in his area, Malinao is the dead-end of Aklan in that part of the province. After the construction of the Timbaban Bridge, however, linking Malinao to Madalag, their town is no longer the dead-end.

"Transportation from Kalibo to Malinao and Madalag became easy. DAR organized the Fatima Agrarian Reform Community (ARC), irrigation, farm-to-market roads were constructed making it easier for farmer-beneficiaries to bring their products to the markets", Atty. Igoy said.

Being in favor of CARP extension, Atty. Igoy said he is one of the co-authors of an SP resolution requesting Congress to extend the program of CARP for another five years.

"Food security is the number 1 concern of Malinao. The technology on food production brought by DAR through CARP is a big help to us. The non-extension of CARP will be a big loss to us. Besides, CARP is not only land distribution, but assistance. After receiving land titles,DAR's programs are still needed.

In Malinao, CARP beneficiaries, the likes of Vicente Nicor, Delia Renacido, Caridad Roberto and countless others are all for the extension of CARP.

"CARP has helped us a lot. We have sent our children to college, we had better income, and we learned much technology from the seminars and lectures we have attended through CARP. We will all be saddened if CARP will not be extended", they said. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan governor see need to monitor rice outflow; to issue executive order soon

Kalibo, Aklan -- There is a need to monitor the outflow of rice from Aklan, to assure constituents of enough supply in the coming lean months.

This need was expressed himself by Governor Carlito Marquez here during the meeting of the Local Price Coordinating Council (LPCC), prompting him to request the council of passing a resolution so he can issue an executive order for the creation of a task force to monitor the movement of rice and to regulate its outflow from the province.

The National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) assured the council here that Aklan presently has enough rice, however, due to typhoons which affected some provinces which might render them to be short of the staple, the group felt the need to implement this measure to protect Aklan's supply.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), council secretariat, has assured that the resolution would be out this week.

The LPCC here is composed of members coming from national and provincial offices like the Department of Trade and Industry, National Food Authority, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Office of the Provincial Veterinarian, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Coconut Authority, Provincial Health Office, Department of Health, Philippine National Police, Land Transportation Office, Department of Justice, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, Philippine Information Agency and from the manufacturing, consumer, retail and producer sectors. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan governor see need to monitor rice outflow; to issue executive order soon

Kalibo, Aklan -- There is a need to monitor the outflow of rice from Aklan, to assure constituents of enough supply in the coming lean months.

This need was expressed himself by Governor Carlito Marquez here during the meeting of the Local Price Coordinating Council (LPCC), prompting him to request the council of passing a resolution so he can issue an executive order for the creation of a task force to monitor the movement of rice and to regulate its outflow from the province.

The National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) assured the council here that Aklan presently has enough rice, however, due to typhoons which affected some provinces which might render them to be short of the staple, the group felt the need to implement this measure to protect Aklan's supply.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), council secretariat, has assured that the resolution would be out this week.

The LPCC here is composed of members coming from national and provincial offices like the Department of Trade and Industry, National Food Authority, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Office of the Provincial Veterinarian, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Coconut Authority, Provincial Health Office, Department of Health, Philippine National Police, Land Transportation Office, Department of Justice, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, Philippine Information Agency and from the manufacturing, consumer, retail and producer sectors. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Two Aklan schools welcome LEP enrollees

Kalibo, Aklan -- Two Aklan schools offering Ladderized Education Program (LEP) need enrollees this school year who will enjoy free tuition fee for the first semester.

These schools, according to Ely Arensol, Technical Education and Skills Development Specialist of TESDA here, these schools are the Panay Technological College (PTC) and the Aklan Polytechnic College (APC).

Under the Ladderized Education Program, a student enrolled in school taking for instance a Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) course will enjoy free tuition for one semester. After the first semester obtaining qualification (bartender, food and beverage etc.), he or she can get an assessment from TESDA and will be issued a National Certification (NC II) if he passes. The student can already apply for a job according to his/her qualification in the country or abroad, or continue studying.

The government offer enables students to obtain employment soonest.

For LEP enrollees, PTC offers Hotel and Restaurant Management while the APC offers BS in Marine Transportation course.

For HRM, a student will automatically enjoy first semester for free (P5,000 government assistance) while for BSMT, a student will enjoy P10,000 for two semesters, as Arensol said the qualification for this course could be obtained in two semesters.

Arensol also said many Aklan schools are applying to offer courses under the LEP and are still awaiting approval from TESDA.

Besides the LEP, TESDA also facilitates the granting to students of government educational assistance through the Private Education Student Financial Assistance (PESFA) which, just like LEP, offers one qualification to qualified students.

Under the program, students who have an average of 80% general average in high school are qualified for screening.

"TESDA will conduct the screening, which is ongoing. We have already set a deadline, but due to the bad weather, we have extended it. Hopefully, the screening will be over in time for the school opening," Arensol said.

Arensol said that due to the current program of only giving one qualification and one free semester, there are lesser applicants for PESFA scholarship, due to the misconception that courses offered under this program are not as competitive and high-income earners as computer or nursing courses.

The government is also offering the PGMA Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) intended for applicants who wanted employment here and abroad, according to TESDA. These schools in Aklan are New OFW School, Sampaguita Gardens, Northwestern Visayan Colleges and Verde Grande, a commercial cooking school. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

PHILVOLCS-Aklan: no instrument can predict earthquakes

Kalibo, Aklan -- There is a possibility that a strong earthquake could hit the Philippines but as to when exactly this would happen, nobody, and no instrument could predict, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) here.

The clarification was aired over the radio here by PHILVOLCS-Aklan OIC Engr. Arlo Sabar in answer to text messages that circulated all over the country about a prediction by a certain "US Geological Society" of a "Magnitude 6.8 earthquake to hit Philippine plate tonight purportedly issued by the "Hawaii State Emergency Preparedness Office".

"Nobody can predict the exact time of the earthquake and its magnitude, say 6.8 – that is impossible", Engr. Sabar said.

Engr. Sabar said even Japan which is filled with seismographs cannot predict the exact time and location in the country that the earthquake may hit.

"Earthquake occurrences depend on the movement of plates under the earth," Engr. Sabar stressed.

Engr. Sabar appealed that instead of circulating misleading text messages, people should resort to doing useful things.

"We advise the people to practice preparations not only for earthquakes but for other natural calamities. We should be aware of natural calamities to reduce their disastrous effects. We cannot stop natural calamities from occurring but we can implement risk reduction measures. For instance, here in Aklan, rain has continuously poured for days, so we should brace for flashfloods", Engr. Sabar said.

In a clarificatory message from PHILVOLCS sent to PIA provincial offices of Region 6, it emphasized that "there is no organization currently capable of predicting earthquake which is very specific in terms of magnitude and the date. There is no "U.S. Geological Society", only U.S. Geological Survey but this agency does not issue immediate predictions especially for areas outside the United States of America".

"Past experiences showed that rumors of a predicted strong earthquake are common after disastrous earthquakes in nearby countries," PHILVOLCS bared. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Help one another, DOLE appeals to Aklan employers, employees

Kalibo, Aklan -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here is appealing to employers and employees to help one another, so Aklan will sustain its peaceful labor situation status.

DOLE-Aklan Provincial Head Joselito Dela Banda issued this statement as workers and employers alike are awaiting announcement of wage increase this month from the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

De la Banda said the wage increase consultation for Panay employers and workers was conducted yet April 30 of this year while Negros Occidental had its consultation last May 6-7.

Some 80 participants in Aklan, representing employers and employees in Kalibo and in Boracay Island, attended the consultation who managed to air their respective sentiments on the proposed wage increase.

According to DOLE, wages in Panay are not classified by province but by capitalization, industry and number of workers.

Unlike other regions wherein RTWPBs have already announced that workers in their areas will be getting wage increases by June 1, the Board in Panay Island has no specific date yet, although there was a proposal that the requested wage increase be given together with the May 1 increase as mandated by Wage Order No. 5, according to De la Banda.

De La Banda emphasized that under Wage Order No. 5 issued last year, workers are still scheduled to receive the third installment in the staggered wage increase October of this year.

Besides the wage hike, DOLE revealed that some employees group are also requesting for non-wage benefits to help them tide over these difficult times. These non-wage benefits, according to DOLE, include housing, food, sacks of rice, tax exemption and transportation allowance.

For workers in Boracay Island, DOLE advised that even as much progress is seen in the island, some big establishment edge out smaller ones, resulting to less income of the latter, and so workers could not expect much from these smaller establishments to give them a bigger wage increase.

Other sectors in Aklan which are asking for wage increase are in the food business and health care facilities.

Despite these concerns, De La Banda said there are no significant changes yet in the labor situation in Aklan, as presently, the office has not receive an alarming number of complaints.

Meanwhile, Acting Labor Secretary and National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) Chair Marianito Roque is confident that workers from the private sector will start getting higher wages starting June 1 this year.

The labor secretary said the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPB) in the National Capital Region have already completed their consultations with both the labor and employers sectors, and will soon begin with their public hearings.

As soon as the new wage order has been issued, Roque said a 15-day publication period will follow, so the workers could expect their wage increase by June 1.

The NCWPB reminded the workers that the expected salary increase in June should not, in any way, adversely affect the business sector. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

DepEd-Aklan on 'Brigada Eskwela's' positive effects

Kalibo, Aklan -- When public schools open this June, pupils could go straight to their classrooms for their classes. They need not stay outside to clean the school premises, or repair things inside their classrooms.

After a long vacation, returning to school will be exciting – with the newly painted walls and desks, and garbage-free surroundings to meet their eyes on their first day of school this year.

These, according to the Department of Education here are some of the positive effects of the 'Brigada Eskwela', a practice observed by parents, pupils, local government officials and teachers for years now, to prepare the schools for the opening of classes.

DepEd-Aklan Asst. Schools Division Supt. for Elementary Dr. Napoleon Allones said that in 'Brigada Eskwela', there is a marked improvement in the attitudes of both parents, pupils, local officials and teachers, who have shown concern in the physical environment of the schools in their communities.

Cleaning the school premises is also seen by school officials as well as parents as a way to prevent illnesses in children, because tall grasses, untrimmed shrubs or stagnant water could host insects like mosquitoes, which might bring diseases like dengue.

"Brigada Eskwela has borne very positive results. It has revived the spirit of Bayanihan in parents and local government officials. It has spawned unity, cooperation and the civic-mindedness of the people and is already a welcome yearly activity in Aklan, as in other public schools all over the country," Dr. Allones said.

This attitude, according to Dr. Allones, might be one of the reasons here why a public elementary school here, Kalibo Elementary School District II was adjudged as one of the national awardees for conducting a successful Brigada Eskwela last school year, and is set to receive the award this May 16 in Manila.

The awarding, according to Dr. Allones, will be held at the Meeting Hall of the BSP Executive Business Center. The award will be received by KES II Principal Remia Donguines.

Dr. Allones emphasized that no budget is involved in the conduct of 'Brigada Eskwela' Paints and other materials will be contributed by parents and local officials in the communities.

The activity in Aklan is set on June 2-7, according to Dr. Allones.

With 'Brigada Eskwela', school officials, teachers and parents foresee that the school opening here June 10 will be welcomed by happy pupils' faces – eager to return to a clean, conducive and safe environment for another year of studies. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Peak harvest season lowers palay buying price – OPA-Aklan

Kalibo, Aklan – The coming of the peak harvest season for rice triggered the decrease in the buying price of palay here, as more supply was brought for sale to private traders this period by farmers.

This assessment was contained in the Monthly Price Monitoring Report submitted by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) here, through Officer-in-Charge William B. Castillo which he submitted to the office of Governor Carlito Marquez, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

"The price of palay has dropped from P15.00 per kilo to P14.40 for clean and dry palay because this month is our peak harvest season," Castillo said in his report.

As to prices of other agri-commodities, Castillo said there was no significant price movement in agricultural products this period in almost all covered public markets, and if there were any, they were minimal and containable in the consumer's end.

Castillo said that generally, prices of agri-commodities remain within the prevailing price trends. The price of rice sold at markets has increased to more or less two pesos per kilo per rice classification as compared to previous month's prices, however.

In the report, milled NFA rice is sold at P18.25 per kilo while special milled rice is now sold at P31-34 per kilo. Ordinary milled rice is sold now at P26-30 per kilo.

On the other hand, prices of meat and poultry by-products remain stable, comparable to previous month's prevailing prices in almost all market areas covered for price monitoring.

Meanwhile, with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo looking on, 13 respondents in six rice diversion cases filed by the joint Anti-Rice Hoarding Task Force of the Department of Justice-National Bureau of Investigation-National Food Authority (DOJ-NBI-NFA) filed recently their counter-affidavits at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The President visited the DOJ on Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila, the third time in eight days to look into the progress of the NBI-NFA investigation of the rice diversion cases.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales told the media that the task force had completed the preliminary investigation of the rice-diversion cases.

"All those who did not (file) are considered to have waived their right to file their counter-affidavit based on the rules of court," said the DOJ Secretary who added that the "next step is for the panel to resolve the cases based on the complaints, as well as the counter-affidavits." (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

More international flights soon at Kalibo Airport

Kalibo, Aklan -- Another airline is set to land its first international flight direct to Aklan at the Kalibo International Airport soon, presently considered one of the busiest airports in Panay Island.

According to the office of Kalibo Mayor Raymar Rebaldo here, this time, the international flight will come from Taipei, Taiwan.

Air Transportation Officer Manager Engr. Percy Malonesio said the flight from Taiwan through Mandarin Airlines will arrive at the Kalibo International Airport on May 31 bringing in some 168 Taiwanese passengers on board Boeing 737 Series Turbo Jet.

It is seen that the flights from Taiwan will be arriving twice a week which will further boost and enhance Aklan's tourism industry with Boracay Island as the main attraction and Kalibo with its many attractions like the Kalibo Sto. Nino Ati-atihan Festival, its Bakhawan Eco-Park and its Manggad it Kalibo tour package.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo underscored recently the importance of promoting tourist destinations and the availability of vital infrastructure to attract more tourists and achieve government's goal of hosting five million tourists by 2010.

The President vowed full government support in the two concerns – promotions and accessibility in a three-in-one interview with local and national media at the Gota Beach at Caramoan Island.

She said good roads and airports are vital for tourists to reach their destinations thus the government has gone into a surge in infrastructure.

Promotion is equally important, she said, as there is a need for tourists to be informed of the natural beauty spots of the country, such as the Caramoan Island, which she described as "paradise …the Boracay of Bicol."

The President stressed that there is a need to develop cultural tourism aside from eco-tourism thus she ordered the tourism department to coordinate with non-government organizations to come up with a tourism masterplan for the Caramoan and Lahuy islands, which are considered poor and the remotest areas in the region.

The government has identified the tourism sector as one of the biggest contributors to the government's goal of creating six to ten million jobs until 2010. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan has no rice hoarders – NFA

Kalibo, Aklan – There are no rice holders in Aklan.

This is according to National Food Authority-Aklan Information Officer Judith T. Tindog over a radio interview at a local radio station here.

"Aklan has no rice hoarders. We only have grains businessmen who operate for service with social concern. If farmers keep their palay produce for now, it is for food security, or maybe reserving their stocks so come enrollment time, they have something to sell for their children's schooling," Tindog said, in answer to the query if there are rice hoarders in Aklan, and if there were apprehensions already.

Tindog said that the NFA is now buying palay from individual farmers and farmers' cooperatives for P17 per kilo – composed of the government price of P11.00/Kg. and additional special procurement incentive of P6.00/kg. for clean and dry rice with 14% moisture content.

At the NFA warehouse as of April 30, Tindog said there are 4,857 bags of palay and 14,052 bags of imported rice of good quality.

"Based on an average 398 bags/day NFA rice consumption, the stocks at the warehouse could last for 43.2 days," Tindog said.

Tindog said NFA rice is readily available at Bigasang Bayan in public markets and Tindahan Natin outlets in barangays.

NFA is now encouraging local government units to operate Bigasang Bayans in their municipal markets. Tindahan Natin outlets' rice allocation is regulated. This, according to Tindog, is for outlets to provide the average need of households in the area only for a given period, and not to give the impression of stocking on supply, so other outlets could also be given their share for the consumption of other households.

The NFA is also calling on households to conserve rice, and for consumers to buy the staple food in kilograms and not by the gantas.

Buying by the gantas is still practiced in barangays here, but the NFA said this practice is already punishable.

"Buy rice in kilograms. If you have a limited amount of money, you can buy a kilo of NFA rice or a variety of your choice, and still manage to buy fish to go with the meal. If you buy in gantas, you will only be able to buy rice and nothing else to go with it because a ganta of rice costs higher than a kilo," was Tindog's appeal to Aklanons. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

SSS-Aklan now receiving payments

Kalibo, Aklan -- The Social Security System (SSS) here in Aklan has now opened its tellering service – which means it can now receive payments for loans and contributions of members in the province.

SSS-Aklan Branch Head Isaias C. Leyson said that with this latest offering, members need not line up for long hours at banks receiving payments, as this service is available already in the office from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

"Aklan has now more or less 30,000 self-employed SSS members while those who have employers number more or less 20,000, so the implementation of the tellering system is very timely," Leyson said in an interview over a radio station here.

The SSS here, according to Leyson, is already "on-line", meaning a member who works in Manila or any part of the country can look into his records in Aklan through the computer, and could avail of services offered by the system.

In Aklan, people flock to the office everyday to file different claims like retirement, disability and death claims, as well as to apply for membership and loans.

"The SSS serves its members from cradle to grave – starting from giving maternity benefits to mothers, helping members and their dependents when sick, giving pensions when retired, and burial benefits when the member dies. The surviving spouse and minor children below 21 years old also get pensions," Leyson said.

Leyson also said that before, people are not so interested to apply for SSS membership. Now that people are aware of the many benefits the system offers to private employees and their dependents, he said many are now eager to apply for become members.

Acknowledging too, that Boracay Island in Malay Aklan is a big source of potential members, SSS has started to send a staff there every Tuesday at D' Mall in the island to accept membership applications as well as to answer various queries concerning benefits and services to members.

In Malacanang, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently ordered the SSS to extend the condonation period for its various loan programs to lighten the load of personnel employed by the private sector as the world reels from a world-wide rice and oil price crises during the tripartite labor conference she presided.

SSS assistant vice president Luz Generoso of the loans Program Division had vowed to the President for the SSS to study the President's proposal, as SSS president Cora dela Paz was not able to attend the conference.

The SSS' present Penalty Condonation on Member Loans includes both long-term (housing) loans, and the following short-term loans: salary, calamity, emergency, educational, study-now-pay-later plan, VocTechStudent, Y2K, Stock investment, and privatization fund.

The SSS had extended a total of P34 billion in short-term loans to 6.6 million members, with a total of 6.2 million members having "delinquent" accounts." (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

Aklan's camote production enough – BAS

Kalibo, Aklan -- Aklan produces enough camote and other root crops to help stave off hunger and as rice substitute, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) here.

BAS-Aklan Provincial Agricultural Statistics Officer Manuelito Delegencia said in a radio interview here that besides camote, Aklan is also a surplus producer of cassava, which is in demand in the market as main component of cassava cakes, cassava pudding and other food delicacies.

"Aklan's camote produce increased by 2% for this period, but this supply is more than enough for the province' needs, and will be augmented by subsequent produce in the next quarter," Delegencia said.

Delegencia said Aklan's camote and cassava producing municipalities include Numancia, Balete and Altavas.

Last month, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo advocated the consumption of camote and other rootcrops to Filipinos as rice substitute in the wake of rising prices of rice, even as the government has assured that there is enough rice supply in the country.

The province of Aklan is a rice surplus producer, as assured by provincial officials here led by Gov. Carlito S. Marquez.

As the official statistics arm of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Delegencia revealed that for the period January to March of this year, Aklan has an estimated 38,583 metric tons harvested from 13,462 hectares of rice fields. Of this area, 6,786 hectares are irrigated while 6,676 are rainfed.

In households, Delegencia said farmers all over Aklan, as of April 1, have a total of 27,270 metric tons in rice form.

"If there is no rice movement out of Aklan, our rice stocks here will last until Sept. 15. By that time, there will already be ongoing harvest, as some farmers have started planting rice in the second week of April in 2,500 hectares of rice fields – 1,000 of which are irrigated, and 1,500 rainfed. Also, based on our interviews, some farmers are also planning to plant rice for the period April to July in 12,600 hectares of rice fields", Delegencia said.

Very recently, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo urged Filipino households to practice eating root crops like "camote" as a substitute for rice.

Inspired by the "Saksak" or "Sinanduloy" ( mix of rice and camote) campaign, the President said it's time for Filipinos living in urbanized communities like Metro Manila, to eat camote and other root crops, to reduce the burden of the global rise in the price of rice.

The President said that if the current rice situation continues, the country will most likely concentrate on producing more rice rather than importing it for our needs.

The president said this is the government's long-term solution to the rice supply problem. In the short term, the Arroyo administration hopes to put food on the table of every Filipino through rice importation by the National Food Authority (NFA). (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

NFA ups palay buying price

Kalibo, Aklan -- The National Food Authority (NFA) here is now buying palay from individual farmers and cooperatives at P17.00 per kilo this Summer Season Crop.

NFA-Aklan Provincial Manager Pablito Gemarino said the new palay price offer will be up to December 31, 0f this year.

Gemarino also said the P17.00 buying price per kilo of palay is composed of government support price of P11.00 per kilogram and the additional special procurement incentive of P6.00.

The approved price is for clean and dry palay with 14% moisture content.

The NFA also enjoins Aklan farmers to use the food agency's palay drying facilities. Farmers and farmers' groups who opt to used the mechanical dryers and sell their palay to the NFA will only pay P12.00/bag of 50 kilogram input with maximum moisture content of 26%, while the full cost of P89/bag of 50 Kg. input of the same moisture content will be charged to farmers who will not sell their palay to the NFA.

The NFA also said that farmers who will use the NFA drying facilities and who sold their palay to the NFA under the Farmers Option to Buy Back (FOBB) program will pay the difference of approved drying fee of P89.00/bag and initial mechanical drying fee of P12.00/bag if they withdraw their palay from the NFA warehouse.

Businessmen who use the NFA Mechanical Dryers will pay the full cost and will be the last priority to use the dryers.

This time, the NFA will be accepting 'payment in kind' from farmers for using the mechanical dryers, like palay.

The local food agency's mobile procurement team is also prepared to go to production areas in Aklan to buy palay from farmers.

NFA Information Officer Judith T. Tindog said farmers who want to sell their palay to the NFA could inform their office that there is enough volume of palay for procurement in their area.

Tindog said NFA's procurement truck has a capacity to load 80 bags of palay. Payment to farmers will be in cash or in check depending on the nature of transaction of the farmers.

Presently, NFA is reminding Aklan farmers to visit the office so they could revalidate their farmers' and master passbook. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)

This big Philippine flag is now prominently displayed in front of the Provincial Capitol Building in Kalibo, Aklan to mark the launching of the “Paggalang Sa Watawat” campaign which kicked off May 28 and will be observed until June 12 of this year as mandated under Republic Act 8491 - the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. In Aklan, the launching was held at the Provincial Capitol Grounds through a flag-raising ceremony led by Aklan Governor Carlito S. Marquez and Vice Governor Gabrielle V. Calizo and joined by hundreds of provincial and national government employees holding offices in the Provincial Capitol Grounds. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)