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Jul 17, 2008

About 100 families in Tacloban lose homes to fire

By Melanie Bingco


About a hundred families lost their homes and belongings after a fire hit Barangay Sais Santo Niño Extension in Tacloban City Wednesday morning.

The fire started around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The residents quickly evacuated from their homes and tried to carry whatever belongings.

Parents also immediately fetched their children from two schools that were near the area. Department of Education officials quickly suspended classes in two schools near the area of the blaze.

Firefighters of Tacloban City as well as those from nearby towns responded in putting out the blaze.

Among those affected by the fire were students from the University of the Philippines in the city who were living in boarding houses in the area.

City officials quickly assisted affected residents and distributed relief goods.

There were no reports of casualties due to the fire.

Probers have launched an investigation on the cause of the fire.

Jul 16, 2008

10 hurt, 57 families homeless in Tacloban village fire

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- At least 10 people suffered minor injuries when a fire hit a village in Tacloban City Wednesday morning.

The fire that occurred in Barangay (village) 6-A razed the homes of 57 families, affecting over 300 persons.

Senior Fire Officer 2 Nilo Udtuhan of the Tacloban City fire department said the fire started about 8 a.m. and was declared under control at 11:30 a.m.

However, Udtuhan said they have yet to determine the cause of the fire but some residents said the fire could have started at the residence of a Nida Burce.

The city health office treated the injured persons while the city social welfare office distributed rice, sardines, milk and noodles to the fire victims.

The fire department has yet to give an estimate of cost of damage to property.

Jul 15, 2008

PAL revives Eastern Visayas flights

By Sarwell Q. Meniano


TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will welcome the 76 passengers on the inaugural flight of PAL Express, the low-fare brand of Philippine Airlines, to Calbayog City in Samar Tuesday.

PAL Regional Manager Glen Vallecera said PAL President Jaime Bautista would be in the maiden flight that will arrive at the Calbayog City airport at around 10:10 a.m. today.

"The President will arrive in Calbayog City 10 minutes before the arrival of the maiden flight. She will lead in welcoming the passengers," Mr. Vallecera said.

He said PAL Express would also inaugurate its Manila-Ormoc and Manila-Catarman flights on Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, respectively. The last time a PAL plane landed at the Ormoc City Airport was in 1998. The carrier ceased operations in Catarman, Northern Samar and in Calbayog in 1988.

"We expect a reduction in the passenger traffic volume at the Tacloban Airport with these new flights, but we will come up with promotion strategies to attract passengers," he added. PAL Express will fly to Calbayog four times a week. Presently, only Asian Spirit is flying the Calbayog-Manila route and back three times a week.

"The entrance of a new aviation player will accelerate economic activities and result in economic growth not only in Calbayog but in the entire Eastern Visayas region," Calbayog City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento said.

Calbayog City is a first class city in the province of Samar. The city is composed of 157 villages and is the largest city in Eastern Visayas. Based on the 2007 census, it had a population of 163,657 people.

PAL Express, launched in May, serves 30 routes across 21 destinations nationwide.

Jul 14, 2008

Dengue fever cases up 75% in Eastern Visayas

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY—Dengue fever cases in Eastern Visayas rose by 75 percent in the first half compared to the same period last year, the Department of Health reported.

DOH regional sentinel nurse Boyd Cerro said the fatalities from January to June stood at eight, the same number of fatalities recorded in the region for the whole year of 2007.

Cerro said the region’s dengue fever cases for the first half reached 298, a 75-percent increase from last year’s 170 cases for the same period in 2007.

Of the 298 people afflicted with dengue fever, around 60 percent were children not older than 14 years old.

Cerro said the two most recent fatalities, both minors and from Barangay Buenavista in Daram, an island town in Samar province, died in the first and second week of June.

The dengue fever that hit Buenavista, which has 554 residents, started in May and continued until the last week of June.

Cerro said his office had conducted defogging operations in the village on Friday on top of launching an information campaign.

He said the residents were urged to observe cleanliness and destroy possible breeding places of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Jul 12, 2008

Christian group sends poor children to school

By Vicente Labro - Philippines

DULAG, Leyte -- At the beginning of every school year, Allan Valdez would ask himself: What would have happened if he were not given the chance to go to school?

This may seem immaterial now because not only is he a college graduate but he also works in the same institution that had provided him with school uniforms, school supplies, transportation allowance and tuition for 12 years.

Valdez is the program coordinator of the Diadem Development Project (DDP), which sent him to school until he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree from the Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City, 34 kilometers from Dulag town in Leyte.

Diadem is a Christian humanitarian group engaged in child sponsorship, community development, and relief and advocacy work. Directly supported by the World Vision Development Foundation, it sponsors the elementary-to-college education of over 1,000 children in 26 villages of the towns of Dulag, Julita, Mayorga and Tolosa in eastern Leyte.

Of its more than 40 college scholars since the early 1980s, many have degrees in education. Others took accountancy, fisheries and other courses. At present, Diadem has 500 scholars in elementary, 200 in high school, 70 in college, and the rest in preschools based in 15 day care centers.

The DDP is managed by a people's organization called the Magbinuligon Parents Association Inc. (MPAI). "Magbinuligon" is a Waray term for "helpful."

Valdez said he worked with Diadem after graduating from college not just to pay a debt of gratitude but also because he was deeply concerned about the plight of children belonging to poor families. His exposure to Diadem's programs and projects also encouraged him to work with the group.

Hailing from the farming village of San Isidro, Valdez is the youngest of a poor couple's four children.

He availed himself of Diadem's educational program when he was in Grade 4, studying in a village public school. He was supplied notebooks, ball pens, pencils, crayons, paper, bag, uniform, shoes and socks.

He graduated from the Dulag High School in the town center in 1997. His father died while he was in second year high school, but he continued to pursue his college course until he graduated in 2001.

As program coordinator, Valdez supervises seven staff members, including Ronilo Bico, a former scholar and now in charge of administrative matters, such as the release of school supplies to the scholars.

Bico, 25, who comes from the fishing village of San Jose in Dulag, said he joined the educational program when he was in Grade 3. He finished a two-year course as Associate in Computer Science in a school in Tacloban City.

His father died in 2001 and he now helps support his mother and six siblings.

Angeles Marco, 34, chair of the 11-member MPAI board of trustees, said his group had 957 poor families as members. Although child sponsorship is Diadem's core program, the MPAI has livelihood, health and other programs for the parents.

Among the livelihood projects, Marco said, were the rent-to-own pedicab, goat and swine dispersal, carabao milk production and peanut butter making. Recently, the MPAI launched a catering service managed by the youth members.

Marco's eldest child, Treveriz Irene, a senior high school student, has been a Diadem beneficiary since she was in Grade 2. The family pays for the education of four other children.

Valdez said the DDP's beneficiary villages come from fourth to sixth-class municipalities (annual incomes: below P2 million-P21 million), with the scholar culled from a list provided by the local government unit. The DDP validates the list.

Valdez said the Magbinuligon members would be given livelihood projects to help them stand on their own. The World Vision fund for the DDP is expected to end in 2012.

Jul 10, 2008

Eastern Visayas NFA to bring cheap rice to poor communities

By Vicente Labro - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- The National Food Authority is set to pull out its low-priced rice from major public markets in Eastern Visayas starting next week and sell them in depressed communities to ensure that the poor could avail of cheap rice.

Benjamin Marta, NFA regional director, said low-priced NFA rice sold at P18.25 per kilo would be sold only to holders of family access cards in community-based outlets such as the Tindahan Natin (Our Store), Bigasan sa Parokya (Parish-based Rice Granary), and barangay-based outlets (BBO or village-based outlets) that are operated by the local government units, and even by non-government organizations.

"By July 14, there's no more P18.25 (NFA rice) in the major markets (in Eastern Visayas) ... (and) by the end of July there should already be the implementation of the family access cards," Marta said.

He said family access cards would be issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to the poorest families in the region and that these cards should be presented by the beneficiaries when buying rice from NFA-accredited outlets.

The NFA regional manager said they have been refocusing the sale of the "pro-poor" P18.25-per-kilo NFA rice to the communities because the outlet operators were familiar with the buyers and knew if they were the poor who should avail of low-priced rice.

He said the outlets for the cheap rice were stationary, except those run by LGUs, which could be mobile.

Marta, however, said they were recommending rolling stores because these could reach out to interior villages.

But he quickly added that the rolling stores must prioritize the villages to be visited, starting with the most depressed.

"They should never go to barangays that are not depressed, and they are not even to sell in the town proper because there are already outlets there," he stressed.

Marta said they suspected that the long queues at NFA rice outlets in public markets were caused, among others, by unscrupulous people who bought rice so they could later resell it in their villages or in interior communities.

But he added that among those in the long queues were people in the middle-income group who could not afford the cost of commercial rice and were opting to buy cheap government rice.

These people, he added, could now avail of the higher-quality NFA rice priced at P25 per kilo or commercial grade NFA rice, in accredited outlets in public markets. NFA would soon sell its P35-per-kilo premium grade NFA rice, said Marta.

He said the introduction in the market of good quality NFA rice would provide buyers an option between buying cheap government rice and well-milled commercial rice which cost from P42 to P48.

Marta disclosed they would later fortify the NFA rice with micronutrients.

"As noted in Manila, when they have the fortified rice sold in the market the long queue became shorter. It's not easy to divert or sell the fortified rice as commercial rice because it is distinct," he said.

Fortified rice has a yellow tint, unlike the regular commercial rice in the market.

Jul 10, 2008

PAL Express expands with Manila network

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Philippine Airlines' low-fare brand, PAL Express, will start flying to five provincial points from its secondary hub in Manila next week.

PAL said its turbo-propeller unit will begin daily service to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; Virac, Catanduanes; and Surigao City in Surigao del Norte on July 15.

Flights to Calbayog, Samar and Catarman, Northern Samar will follow on July 17. PAL will launch four flights to Calbayog and three flights to Catarman per week.

The flag carrier said the 76-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft will be deployed on four of the new routes except for San Jose, which will be served by the smaller 50-seater Bombardier Q300.

PAL's "Buy 1, Take 1" promo fare on all jet and turbo-prop domestic services will also apply to PAL Express' flights.

Promo sale for the new routes, however, is extended only until July 21 from the original deadline set on July 15.

The promo offers passengers a free one-way ticket for every one-way ticket bought, with all fees and surcharges waived. The complimentary ticket can be used for the return journey or for another one-way flight. Travel is valid between July 15 and October 15, 2008.

In all, PAL Express added 10 new routes from July 1 to August 1, doubling its network in a month.

It recently launched five routes from its main hub at Mactan International Airport in Cebu province.

These were services between Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Ozamiz, Cebu and Dipolog, Cebu and Zamboanga, and Zamboanga and Davao.

From Cebu, PAL Express also flies to Boracay, Bacolod, Butuan, General Santos, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa.

Jul 10, 2008

BFAR to fishery technicians: Teach fishermen to become fish farmers not just fishers

By Ninfa B. Quirante

Philippine Information Agency

Catbalogan City -- Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Juan D Albaladejo urged the fishery technicians to teach fishermen to become fish farmers not just fishers.

This he pronounced in his address to some 45 fisheries technicians who attended the Retooling of LGU-Fisheries Technicians sponsored by BFAR RO 8, BFAR-Samar and BFAR-Regional Fishery Training Center at the Samar State University (SSU) Mercedes, Campus today.

Although Albaledejo admitted that there are some problems in the fishery sector partly due to overfishing, climate change and high cost of fuel still he announced that during the first quarter of the year, fishery in the region posted a growth rate of 10.7%.

He attributed 60% of which to aqua culture.

Presently, he said that there are 15 locators (investors) in mari culture, most are found in the San Juanico area near Tacloban City.

Samar fisherfolks, he added must be taught to become fish farmers by engaging in aquaculture, seaweeds and mollusk farming.

Small fisherfolks will also be taught to develop mangrove nurseries, seaweeds production, marine fish cages and even fish processing, added BFAR RFTC 8 Training Director Norberto Berida.

BFAR Fishery Officer Rolando Ay-ay also added that they had employed fish seeding in the rivers and other water forms of Samar.

As to the destructive modes of fishing, the full implementation of the Municipal Fishery Ordinance (MFO) in all Samar towns is expected to address the problem.

As to rising fuel cost, Berida said that they advise small fisherfolks to sail to the fishing grounds using 'sail' or layag.

It is only when they had done with fishing will they use their 3 or 5 HP motorboats, he offered.

Another suggestion is to organize all fisherfolks and request fuel subsidy from the national government as enjoyed by the transport sector, said one speaker Cylet Lluz.

Despite the odds in fishery, Albaladejo seems not to run out of ideas to boost the fishery industry.

His team is also trying to address the dying mussel industry due to pollution and siltation.

He stressed that mussel stakes should be spaced enough for sea-water to wash out whatever impurities seem to stagnate.

Another technology, the raft method said to be originally developed by Gerardo Malinao is now being adapted by most fisherfolks.

All things considered, the fishery experts are bent on providing fish or marine products in the market for human consumption.

Jul 09, 2008

DA to help Eastern Visayas farmers

By Vicente Labro - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- The Department of Agriculture is moving to help farmers in Eastern Visayas which lost P140 million worth of produce to typhoon Frank.

DA regional director Leo Cañeda estimated the production loss of bananas at P56 million, corn at P34 million, rice at P21 million, fruit trees at P15 million, vegetables at P11 million and livestock and poultry at P3 million.

He said DA 8 and local agriculturists provided technical assistance to farmers in typhoon-hit areas, including the provision of rice seeds and seedlings.

Cañeda said the region would need 10,000 bags of certified rice seeds because local seed growers, whose farms were hit by typhoon Frank (international codename: Fengshen) and by flashfloods in February, produced only 32,000 bags of certified seeds.

Among the provinces in the region, he said, Leyte had the most need for certified seeds since 5,300 hectares of the 8,000 hectares affected by the typhoon were in Leyte.

However, Cañeda estimated that the rice production loss would only reach 8,000 MT, less than one percent of the projected total production of one million MT for 2008.

"The challenge now is how to maintain the (region's rice) sufficiency index of 115 percent," Cañeda added.

Cañeda said government provided incentives to rice farmers such as the subsidized certified seeds sold to farmers at P440 per bag but costs P1,200.

The national government would provide a P500-discount coupon for fertilizer on top of the P1,000 subsidy for fertilizer from the provincial governments in the region.

Jul 09, 2008

'Tahong' production in some Samar towns found declining

By Ranulfo Docdocan

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City - The Regional Office of Bureau of Fisheries And Aquatic Resources confirmed that the mussel industry in Samar is declining due to the deterioration in the condition of its waters.

Affected were mussel "or tahong" farms in the towns of Jaibong, Villareal, Catbalogan and Zumarraga and Tarangnan town which are in Maqueda bay facing the Samar sea.

Ruel Amascual, laboratory analyst, said an 80% decline in the mussel production in some areas were seen.

The phenomenon was first noticed late May and the initial results of laboratory tests on water samples taken from the area showed the presence of pathogenic bacteria.

"We suggested that the sediments found in the mussel farm have caused the presence of bacteria in the area. We are also doing some ways to solve the problem in the place...," said Amascual.

Amascual also added that this is the first time that this has occurred in Samar.

He said however that they would like to inform everybody that "tahong" is safe for human consumption and that the growers could still gather and sell mussel despite the phenomenon.

Samar supplies mussel to different provinces in the Visayas and other nearby provinces.

"We are also encouraging the different local government units of the towns and the provincial government of Samar to help the mussel farmers to recover from this problem, Amascual added.

Jul 08, 2008

P25 NFA rice is commercial grade for those who can afford, NFA clarifies

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City (July -- NFA rice which is sold at P25.00 per kilo is now available in Tacloban. This is commercial grade NFA rice which is of better quality than that which is sold at P18.00 per kilo, Assistant Leyte Provincial Manager Gwendolyn Esperancilla informed.

Manager Gwendolyn Esperancilla made the clarification amidst questions from the public as to why the price of NFA rice was increased to P25.00 per kilo.

The P25.00 NFA rice is being sold at the accredited Bigasan ng Bayan outlets in Tacloban City and in other municipalities of Leyte, Manager Esperancilla said. These are usually located at the markets where all kinds of people, the poorest and the richer ones buy their foodstuff including rice, she added.

In Tacloban City, there are six Bigasan ng Bayan at the Tacloban Supermarket which are selling the P25.00 commercial grade NFA rice. There are two Bigasan ng Bayan at the V and G Talipapa, one along the Fish Shade at Sagkahan, one at the entrance of V and G Subdivision near the Tacloban City Hospital and another near the V and G Subdivision Church.

The P25.00 rice is also available at the Bigasan ng Bayan at Palo Public Market, Manager Esperancilla added.

The P18.25 per kilo NFA rice are intended for the poorest of the poor in the various barangays and are sold at the Tindahan Natin outlets, the NFA Leyte assistant manager informed.

Unfortunately, even those who are not so poor are also buying the same because of the prevailing high cost of commercial rice, Manager Esperancilla said. But this will be solved as soon as the Department of Social Welfare and Development is able to produce the Family Access Cards which will be given to the identified poor families who must present the same before they are sold the P18.25 NFA rice.

Furthermore, Manager Esperancilla disclosed that very soon, the P35.00 per kilo Premium Grade NFA rice will be made available at the Bigasan ng Bayan. This will still be cheaper than the commercial rice, she added.

The different pricing for the NFA rice is dependent on the quality of the NFA rice that is being sold. It will also give the consumers an alternative to the commercial rice which although abundant is becoming more and more unaffordable to the people.

Jul 07, 2008

American, partner held for cybersex den in Tacloban City

By Jenette Fariola-Ruedas

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Police arrested an American national over the weekend for allegedly operating a cybersex den in Tacloban City.

Senior Police Officer 2 Romeo Garrido of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said Mike Sun and his unidentified Filipina live-in partner were arrested after a raid at their cybershop in Barangay San Jose.

Charges for violating Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 will be filed against Sun and his live-in partner.

Garrido said the CIDG raided the American's shop after a week-long surveillance. He said police operatives confirmed an informant's tip that Sun was keeping online prostitutes inside his shop.

Seized from the shop were sex gadgets, desktop computers, modems and other gadgets for electronic payment for cybersex.

Garrido said five young girls were rescued from the American's shop. He said the girls were being forced to work by the American and his live-in partner.

The official said the police will turn over the rescued girls to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Jul 06, 2008

Leyte gov leads ICOT caravan to Tanauan; gives financial assistance for various projects

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho Petilla led the Inter Community Operation Tambulig (ICOT) Caravan which visited and served the people of Barangay Salvador and 21 other nearby barangays in Tanauan, Leyte on July 4, 2008.

Mayor Roque Tiu happily informed that the ICOT Caravan was able to serve more than 1,500 constituents but what makes him doubly jubilant is the fact that even without formal request, Governor Petilla handed in a check in the amount of P500,000.00 for the rehabilitation of roads damaged by typhoon Frank.

Mayor Tiu disclosed that the night before the Governor's ICOT Caravan to Tanauan, he texted Governor Petilla if he could spare some financial assistance for the repair of damaged roads. Knowing the so short notice, however, Mayor Tiu was not really expecting that the Governor will answer his call for assistance that soon and with an amount not really expected.

The Governor has proven once again how sensitive and perceptive he is to the needs of his constituents, a trait which only real leaders possess, Mayor Tiu said.

Mayor Tiu said that Governor Petilla also gave, in the same occasion, financial assistance for various projects, to ten barangays of the municipality.

What makes makes ICOT Caravan distinct from other service mission, is that the most important part of the Caravan is the seminar on preventive medicine, Mayor Tiu said.

The good Governor, Mayor Tiu added, believes that the people must be taught on how they could prevent themselves from being sick. This will save them from unnecessary expenses and pains, he said. This will also save the government a lot of money which is used in buying medicines for the disadvantaged people who are sick, he added.

Governor Petilla time and again has wondered how amazing it is that at this modern time, many people in the hinterlands still believe that when someone has fever, he must be well covered. Many do not know that a sponge bath will help relieve the fever, the governor added.

This is what the province of Leyte through the Provincial Health Office, is trying to endeavor, to teach the people the basic first aid knowledge so that they will know what to do and no lives will be put to danger.

After the seminar, those who are sick get free medical attention and free medicines. This is what the Governor believes as empowering the people. The effect of the ICOT Caravan is lasting.

The Inter-Community Operation Tambulig or ICOT Caravan for short, is part of the Province of Leyte's expanded health program to provide services for free to underprivileged members of the community.

The ICOT Caravan is winning accolades from government executives and the rural folk in every municipality where it renders services.

This latest innovative program during the second term of Governor Petilla, is part of his continuous thrust to give public service a flavorful relevance as it brings the government services directly to the people of Leyte right there where the people are.

More than just a medical and dental mission, it also includes the nutrition component and educating the people on preventive medicine. Moreso, free cosmetology services are also given like free haircut, manicure and pedicure.

Mayor Tiu said that the people of Tanauan will always find a special place in their hearts for Governor Petilla's ICOT Caravan as it was launched in the month of June 2007, in Tanauan, Leyte where thousands of residents from the 54 barangays of the municipality flocked at the Tanauan Gym to avail of the seminars and the services being offered.

Jul 06, 2008

Arroyo to drop by E. Visayas to check on typhoon damage

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may just visit Eastern Visayas to personally check the extent of damage caused by typhoon "Frank" (international codename: Fengshen) in the region.

Angel Gaviola, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense-Eastern Visayas (OCD said his office was asked to prepare a final report on the extent of damage sustained by the region as part of a planned presidential visit.

"We were informed to prepare for her impending visit. She might arrive in Catbalogan (Samar) on July 11. But everything is not final yet," Gaviola said on Saturday.

The President, after her arrival from her 10-day US state visit, visited Iloilo and Aklan, the areas worst hit by typhoon Frank, and has promised to visit other provinces hit by the typhoon.

Last February, the President also visited the region, particularly Eastern Samar and this city, when it was hit by massive flooding that damaged over P500 million worth of infrastructure, killed 16 persons and dislocated 500,000 people.

Gaviola said the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC), chaired by the Philippine National Police regional director, Chief Supt. Abner Cabalquinto, asked him to prepare the damage report in time for the presidential visit. OCD serves as the secretariat of the RDCC.

Gaviola said OCD 8 had yet to complete its report because most of its data directly came from the municipalities and not from the provincial disaster coordinating councils.

He said he already asked the PDCCs to submit to OCD 8 their reports by Monday so the regional report could be finalized in time for President Arroyo's visit.

Based on data so far gathered by OCD, typhoon Frank, which hit the region on June 20, resulted in the deaths of 14 persons and caused injuries to 27 others. Twenty two persons remained missing. The typhoon also dislocated 112,451 families or 563,307 individuals in the region.

Frank destroyed crops and infrastructure totaling P997 million, he said.

The provinces of Leyte and Eastern Samar as well as that of Tacloban City have already declared a statement of calamity.

Leyte Gov. Carlos Jericho Petilla, who chairs the PDCC, said his province lost over P935 million worth of its infrastructure and agriculture while Samar's agriculture and infrastructure damage reached P160 million.

Jul 05, 2008


By Radzini Oledan

Sun.Star, Philippines

DESPITE figuring in four major maritime disasters, Sulpicio Lines continues to evade justice.

In what the International Maritime Organization considers as the biggest maritime tragedy in the world, Sulpicio Lines-owned M/V Doña Paz collided with M/T Vector on December 20, 1987. M/T Vector was carrying Caltex petroleum products when the accident occurred.

MV Doña Paz was overloaded, and 4,375 people lost their lives. In 1988, the Board of Marine Inquiry found M/T Vector solely at fault.

On October 24, 1988, less than a year after the Doña Paz tragedy, huge waves brought by a storm capsized M/V Doña Marilyn, which was sailing from Manila to Tacloban, Leyte. Seventy-seven people were killed.

In 1990, a Special Board of Marine Inquiry found that the sinking of the vessel was due to force majeure.

Almost 10 years after the M/V Doña Marilyn mishap, on September 18, 1998, the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Orient near Fortune Island in Batangas resulted in the death of 70 people. Eighty remained missing.

On June 20, 2008, the M/V Princess of the Stars sailed the rough stormy sea from Manila on its way to Cebu City with more than 700 passengers. The rest became a collective nightmare as the ship transformed into a mass grave.

But the disaster was not an act of God.

It was not fate that dictated the M/V Princess of the Stars to sail the rough stormy sea.

It was the greed of the shipping line.

Sulpicio Lines had their way before; it is not impossible for them to have their way now.

Despite having the worst sea safety record in the country, they have continued operation for the past years.

Along with inept government maritime agency, it continues to mock the Filipino people.

Jul 04, 2008

Kin gather in Tacloban for Imelda Marcos' 79th birthday

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- It was just like the old good days.

After a long while, the Romualdezes came together here to pay homage to their beloved "Madame" Imelda Marcos, who marked her 79th birthday on Wednesday.

The former first lady celebrated her birthday at her palatial house, among the properties of the family deemed by the national government to be part of their so-called ill-gotten wealth.

Marcos was in high spirits on her birthday celebration as her friends dating back to high school and college days, along with her children, siblings and other members of still one of the country's still most influential families, were on hand to greet her.

And as expected, the widow of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos was resplendent with in signature Filipiniana terno and her gold and ruby earrings.

The celebration was held at the Santo Niño Shrine, which was once a Quonset house on Real Street, Tacloban City, but rebuilt by Marcos in 1982 into a grand edifice reportedly at a cost of P200 million.

The building houses several rare art collections, expensive silverware, imported vases, religious icons and memorabilia of the Marcoses, including photos showing Mrs. Marcos hobnobbing with world leaders like Muammar Khadaffy of Libya and China's Mao Zedong.

The Santo Niño Shrine, which consists of 24 huge rooms, is still under sequestration by the Presidential Commission of Good Government (PCGG).

Renoir Dauag of the PCGG said that the former first lady had to ask permission to use the place. "And we granted her request out of courtesy," Dauag said.

Among those who joined the birthday celebration were Imelda's children, Ilocos Norte Governor Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos with his wife Liza and three sons, and daughter Irene Araneta. Imee was said to be in Singapore while another daughter, Aimee.

Mrs. Marcos' brothers Alfredo ("Bejo"), together with his son Alfred, mayor of Tacloban City, and Benjamin (Kokoy), who was with his wife Juliet and children Philip, Marian and Leyte First District Representative Ferdinand Martin, were also around.

Last Tuesday's gathering of the Romualdezes was reminiscent of the good old days when they ruled over the rest of the country.

After the Holy Mass officiated by Monsignor Ramon Aguilos and four other priests, Imelda made a quick tour of the shrine with her children and supporters in tow.

With security escorts always by her side, Mrs. Marcos gave some information about the shrine, which she called her home "at the age of eight years." Imelda and her siblings were then living in Manila but moved back to Tacloban due to the decision of her father, Vicente Orestes, to relocate here.

During the lunch held at the ballroom on the second floor, some of the hundreds of guests took the opportunity to photograph Mrs. Marcos. Kokoy and his son, Ferdinand Martin, also gave packed lunch consisting of rice, fried chicken and apples to large crowd lined up outside the building.

Asked what her birthday wish was, the former first lady said that all she wants is to see Filipinos freed from poverty.

"There is no reason for us to be poor. God has given us so much," Mrs. Marcos said.

The Marcoses have been accused of having stolen from the country $5 billion to $10 billion but she called them part of the "persecution" of their family.

She also said that she still has a mission to fulfill as she reached 79 years of age.

"That is why, I am very grateful to our Santo Niño for giving me a longer life. My father (Orestes) died when he was 70 and Ferdinand died when he was 72," Mrs. Marcos added.

Santo Niño is the patron saint of the city, which celebrates its fiesta in his honor every June 30.

Bongbong said that all he hoped for his mother is good health. "That has always been my wish for her," he said.

Irene declined to say in public what she wished for her mother. "I give all my wishes for her in private," she said laughing.

Mrs. Marcos' brother Bejo said that he hoped that Imelda would eat less to avoid gaining more weight. "But she loves to eat," Bejo said.

Mrs. Marcos marked her birthday in the city for the first time in two years.

Jul 03, 2008

Irrigation systems in
E. Visayas need repair

By Sarwell Q. Meniano


TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) reported that about half of the irrigation facilities in Eastern Visayas region need repair.

NIA Regional Manager Romeo Quiza said in an interview that out of the 56,000 hectares of irrigated farmlands in the region, only half or around 23,000 hectares are now being supplied with water.

"Some canals and structures are damaged. Water cannot be delivered to certain areas because the facility needs rehabilitation. Around 50% of the systems are non-functional and we just started repairing them two years ago, he told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Quiza said the NIA plans to upgrade 90% of the region's existing irrigation facility from 2008 to 2010. As of 2007, the irrigation facilities in at least 4,200 hectares of farms were restored.

But of the over 20,000 hectares with unimproved water system, only 6,000 hectares are programmed for upgrading this year. The NIA regional office here is still waiting for the disbursement of the P300-million budget appropriated for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems this year.

"We have not yet started any improvement project this year since the budget has not been released to us," Mr. Quiza said.

He expressed apprehension that the rehabilitation projects might take a backseat because the Department of Agriculture will prioritize the rehabilitation of areas severely affected by Typhoon Frank.

"Budgetary constraint is the major concern that hinders the government from maintaining the status of our existing irrigation systems. We also have a problem with the collection of irrigation service fees because the poorest here are farmers," he added.

In a Regional Development Council (RDC) meeting recently, local government officials criticized the Department of Agriculture for "inaccurately reporting" that 95% of the rice area in Leyte is supported with irrigation.

"If we want to get funding support from the central government, we have to tell national officials what's the reality. Even in our town, many farms are rain-fed. There's no irrigation," said Leyte Mayor's League President Roque Tiu of Tanauan, Leyte.

Department of Agriculture Regional Executive Director Leo Caneda clarified that their report included both areas with improved irrigation system and those that need repair.

The NIA, on the other hand, said the region has 59,000 hectares of rice farms without irrigation support located mainly in three Samar provinces.

Jul 02, 2008

Dengue, typhoid cases rising in Samar towns


TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- Dengue has killed two people and downed 40 others in the island-town of Daram, Samar, while typhoid fever victims in Villareal town has risen to 69 this week with one death. Both municipalities have no doctors.

Boyd Cerro, Department of Health (DOH) regional sentinel nurse, said the case in Barangay Buenavista, Daram town has reached an alarming level as it takes weeks before residents report the illness. Reports reaching the provincial health office said two patients have died.

Meanwhile, the number of typhoid fever victims in the village of Igot, Villareal town went up to 69 this week from 43 cases recorded by the DOH regional office last week.

The report said the villages' shallow wells triggered the outbreak. The system is the main source of potable water for the residents.

Jul 01, 2008

P46-M palay damage in Eastern Visayas in wake of 'Frank'

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- Typhoon "Frank" (international codename: Fengshen) has destroyed P46 million worth of palay in Eastern Visayas, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office bared.

DA regional director Leo Cañeda also said on Tuesday the destruction to the rice fields affected 9,000 farmers.

But Cañeda said the DA-8's projection of the rice production for the year would not change.

He said the palay production loss would reach only 2,000 metric tons, which represents less than one percent of the total expected production of one million metric tons for 2008.

The agriculture department in Eastern Visayas hoped to pass the one million mark in terms of rice production for the year 2008.

Last year, the region produced more than 987,000 metric tons of rice.

Cañeda said the province of Leyte registered the most damage in rice fields at P27 million since several of its rice-producing areas were submerged in water.

Except for Southern Leyte, the other Eastern Visayas provinces also incurred damages in its rice fields, he added.

Meanwhile, Cañeda said that the DA has started conducting an inventory of available rice seeds, both of good quality and certified seeds, as part of their "immediate relief and rehabilitation program" to help the affected farmers.

He said that the regional office of the National Food Authority has only around 378,000 bags of rice seeds available. To help the affected farmers, the region needs about 900,000 bags of rice seeds, Cañeda added.

Since the DA has focused on the rehabilitation of rice fields in Iloilo, which have experienced heavy losses in agriculture, Eastern Visayas has to find sources of rice seeds within the region.

"(So we're) mobilizing seeds from our own local seeds growers throughout the region and make sure we can mobilize seeds within the region so we can save on transportation costs," Cañeda said.

However, he explained that they could source rice seeds from other regions, mostly from Mindanao.

Jul 01, 2008

7 other passenger ships of Sulpicio Lines found defective


MANILA, Philippines -- Seven other passenger vessels of Sulpicio Lines Inc. have been found defective and must undergo rectification before they are allowed to sail again, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said Tuesday.

Col. Primo Rivera, Marina deputy administrator for operations, said their audit team ordered Sulpicio Lines to comply first with its recommendation before their vessels are allowed to their respective voyages.

Sulpicio Lines is the owner of MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized off Romblon province two weeks ago. The ship was carrying more than 800 passengers and crewmembers.

Already inspected by Marina are the Princess of the South, Princess of the Earth, Cagayan Princess, which are all in Cebu; the Princess of Paradise in Cagayan; Palawan Princess in Baybay, Leyte; and the Princess of the Universe and Princess of Ocean, both dry-docked.

"The recommendation of inspection audit is to check whether the technical aspect has already been addressed," he said without going into details on what types of deficiencies they have seen.

Rivera admitted that the company has complete papers and its vessels are classed by the Bureau Veritas.

Lawyer Arthur Lim, counsel of Sulpicio Lines, reiterated his client's request to allow those vessels that have already been inspected to sail again, saying the company has a commitment to its clients

"Our prayer is that investigation be done expeditiously because we have commitments and bookings," he said.

Lim also said that the grounding of Sulpicio Lines' vessels should be based on a per vessel basis and not on fleet basis, adding that they are studying the possibility of filing a suit against Marina if it continues to ground the vessels that have already been inspected.

Marina has yet to inspect other Sulpicio Lines vessels such as the Princess of the Carribean in Dumaguete; Filipina Princess and Cotabato Princess, both in Manila; Tacloban Princess in Dipolog; Cebu Princess in Tacloban; and Dipolog Princess in Cebu.

Rivera said only the Marina administrator and the secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) have the power to allow the grounded Sulpicio Lines vessels to sail again.

At present, only the eight cargo vessels of Sulpicio Lines are being allowed to sail. The firm has 13 passenger vessels plying the Manila, Visayas, Mindanao routes.

Jul 01, 2008

Leyte gov't continues relief operations in typhoon-affected coastal communities

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- The provincial government of Leyte continues its relief operations to the hard-to-reach coastal barangays which have been hard hit by the recent typhoon Frank.

No less than Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho L. Petilla personnaly led the relief operations using two rubber boats and speed boat in order to easily reach the coastal barangays.

The most recent relief operations was conducted at the coastal barangays of Talairan in the municipality of Capoocan; Culasian in the municipality of Leyte; Ubay in the municipality of Calubian and Taglawigan in the municipality of San Isidro.

These barangays are in the hinterlands and are not easily reached except through water transport.

Governor Petilla personally handed to the affected families the P200.00 worth of relief packs per family, consisting of rice, noodles, canned goods and various first aid medicines particularly ointment for skin diseases and other over the counter medicines.

The affected families usually expressed surprised at realizing that the Governor himself was the one distributing the relief packs to them.

Leyte has about 103,352 families or a total of more than half a million people affected by devastation wrought by typhoon Frank, the worst hit in the Region 8.

About 18,223 houses in Leyte which were totally destroyed and about 74,075 houses which were partially damaged, notwithstanding the millions of damage to agriculture and aquaculture, and infrastructure.

In fact, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has immediately declared a State of Calamity so that the provincial government and the municipal government within its area of jurisdiction can utilize the five percent calamity fund for the relief and rehabilitation of the damages caused by typhoon Frank.

<<< JULY (17-31) 2008 NEWS



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