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May 14, 2008

House to probe extrajudicial killings in Eastern Visayas

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The House of Representatives' committee on human rights, chaired by Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III, will conduct a public hearing here into alleged extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in Eastern Visayas.

Lawyer Desiree Pontejos, officer-in-charge of the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said the public hearing set for May 30 would be a positive step in addressing the issue of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the country and that national and regional officials of the agency would be attending.

"While [the hearing] will not end extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, it will somehow minimize such cases with Congress enacting appropriate measures," Pontejos said.

CHR records show about 50 extrajudicial killings in different parts of the region since 2005, Pontejos said.

"Many of these cases occurred during the time of [retired major general Jovito] Palparan and remain unsolved," Pontejos said.

Palparan served as commanding general of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division (ID) in 2005.

Militant human rights groups have accused Palparan for the killings and disappearances of civilians and activists. Palparan has denied the allegations.

Military and human rights group officials welcomed the slated congressional public hearing.

"But it would be better if Congress would give more teeth and independence to the Commission on Human Rights by giving the office prosecutorial powers," Fara Diva Gamalo of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Visayas (TFD-Visayas) said.

Gamalo said extrajudicial killings and human rights violations have continued under the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

She counted 15 extrajudicial killings, 40 cases of illegal arrest, four cases of disappearances and three cases of torture in the Visayas last year alone.

During the first quarter of 2008, TFD-Visayas monitored nine extrajudicial killings and 19 illegal arrests.

Major Armando Rico, 8th ID spokesman, said they welcomed the public hearing but added that any investigation into extrajudicial killings and human rights violations should look at all possible perpetrators.

"They should focus not only on complaints filed against the Army or the police but even those involving complaints of abuses committed by the members of the New People's Army," Rico said in a phone interview.

He said that in 2007 alone, they monitored 150 abuses allegedly perpetrated by NPA members.

The latest unsolved extrajudicial killing in the region involved a pastor of the United Church of Christ, Felicisimo Catambis, who was shot dead by still unidentified armed men last January 23 in Barangay Balucawe, Abuyog town, Leyte.

Eastern Visayas is composed Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar and Southern Leyte.

May 14, 2008

Most of Guinsaugon landslide orphans quit school -- DepEd

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- Only 44 of the 103 students orphaned in the Guinsaugon landslide who availed of the Department of Education's scholarship program have continued their studies, a report from the DepEd Eastern Visayas office shows.

Maria Getalado, regional coordinator of the Project Guinsaugon: Tabang Kabataan, states in a report that out of the 44 remaining scholars under the program, eight are in college, four are in the elementary while the rest are in high school.

"We are really sad and disappointed," she said on Wednesday, referring to students who were no longer benefiting from the scholarship program set up by the regional education department just months after the February 17, 2006 landslide that killed about 1,000 persons and buried the entire village of Guinsaugon, in Southern Leyte's St. Bernard town.

Getalado said some of these scholars either left St. Bernard to join their relatives in other places or chose to simply stop their studies.

Getalado said that majority of those who stopped going to school were still in the elementary at the time of the tragedy.

The "Project Guinsaugon: Tabang Kabataan" was founded on March 2007 upon the initiative of DepEd regional director Sol Matugas and aims to help the orphaned children continue their studies.

Each scholar receives P500 in monthly allowance personally given to them by the DepEd office every month.

As of May, out of the total P2.28 million raised by the DepEd-8 for the program, over P991,000 were disbursed and released to the scholars. The funds came from different private and public organizations.

Filipinos living abroad like in Virginia, US, also sent donations to the scholarship program.

Getalado said they just hoped that those who stopped their studies would return to school.

"They can still avail of the scholarship so long as they will continue to study in St. Bernard or anywhere else in the region," she said.

Leo Dizon, one of the scholars of the program, said he felt sad that several of the scholars chose to stop their schooling.

"We were given this chance by the DepEd for us to be able to continue our studies. (I) hope they will realize that their decision to stop their studies is wrong," he said.

Dizon, 19, said that he would be forever grateful to those who helped him continue his studies.

He is now a second year college student taking up Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management at the Leyte State University, Tacloban City. Dizon resides at the dormitory of the DepEd here.

May 14, 2008

No tuition hike in private tertiary schools in EV - CHED

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City -- Unlike the five private high schools in Leyte which were given approval by the education department to increase their tuitions this June, private colleges in Region VIII will not impose any tuition hike.

This was learned through Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Regional Director Maria Rita Castillon-Ortiz.

Ortiz said that they did not receive any petition from private tertiary schools in Eastern Visayas for any increase in tuition for this coming school year.

Ortiz said he believes that despite the economic problems, the schools could still manage their resources.

There are 117 colleges and universities in the region, 54 of which are privately run.

May 14, 2008

2nd Leyte Heritage Festival

Sun.Star, Philippines

LEYTEÑOS wowed guests and locals as it hosted the opening of last year's National Heritage Month.

Using a full menu of songs, dances, literature, gastronomic delights, and indigenous products, Leyte has delighted spectators.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

The also presented their province's architectural treasures, and age-old traditions.

This year, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Filipino Heritage Festival (FHF), the Province of Leyte, and the Leyte Provincial Tourism Culture and Arts Council have prepared yet another exciting roster of activities for the 2nd Leyte Heritage Festival in May and the Tacloban City fiesta in June.

"The Filipino Heritage Festival will revisit the culture-rich province of Leyte which started celebrating its own Heritage Month last year. Every time a province declares its own heritage month is a great success for all of us who are working to ensure the heritage reaches Filipino consciousness," said FHF director Anna Maria Harper.

Joycie Alegre, the festival organizer, said: "The heritage events in May include Catholic heritage masses in the various parishes of the archdiocese of Palo, Leyte.

A tour of eight select heritage sites in Samar and Leyte, a heritage food symposium, a tuba concoction contest, Samar banig exhibit, multimedia arts exhibit with banig as motif, Leyte-Samar tatu seminar and contest, heritage awards, performing arts festivals, and the Grand Santacruzan are also in the offing."

The FHF will also highlight on National Heritage Month -- the linambay (komedya), tatu (tattoo), banig, and tuba.

On May 18, at 8 p.m., Leyte's homegrown talents will perform excerpts from the Linambay Orihinal at the Leyte Heritage Performing Arts Festival.

The almost-extinct linambay will be colorfully revived by members of the Barangay Libas Community Center who continue to pass on the one-of-a-kind performance from generation to generation.

From the time Spanish colonizers introduced the komedya, the play, replete with real bolos and carefully choreographed moves, has been unwaveringly staged by the group to display their devotion to Santo Niño.

Ancient tattoo symbols will be topic of a symposium on May 19 at 9 a.m. at CAP building.

Philippine Tattoo Artists Guild president Aleks Figueroa alias Tattoo Tulisan will discuss the significance of heritage tattoo symbols and lead an exhibit and video presentation on tattoo motifs.

A Henna body tattooing competition among Visayan visual artists and tattoo artists will cap the day.

From May 19 to 21, various designs of traditional banig will be on display at CAP building. New forms of banig for practical use will also be part of the three-day exhibition.

Banig weaves from Basey, Samar will demonstrate the process of weaving -- from preparing the tikog grass to the final stages of implementing a design.

A number of mananggiti (tuba gatherers) will be in the same venue to demonstrate the process of making tuba, an alcoholic drink made from the sap of the coconut tree. A tuba concoction contest will also be held.

The Leyte Heritage Festival is spearheaded by the Leyte Heritage Society.

The society is composed of the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College, Leyte Normal University, Department of Tourism regional office in Eastern Visayas, Department of Trade and Industry provincial office in Leyte, archdiocese of Palo, and Holy Infant College.

The United Architects of the Philippines Metro Tacloban and Leyte chapters, Philippine Information Agency-Eastern Visayas, Leyte Visual Arts Group, Runggiyan Social Development Foundation, artists, educators, and cultural workers are also partners.

"More cities and towns are striving to protect what they have. We are happy to note that many have come to the realization that they have so much to protect, and so, have declared the entire month of May as Heritage month," FHF president Armita Rufino said.

Backing the National Heritage Month festivities are major sponsors Air21, Air Philippines, ANC, Philippine Airlines, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Security Bank Corporation and Tanduay Distillers, Inc.

For more information on National Heritage Month, visit the Filipino Heritage website at, or call 892-5865.

May 13, 2008

Officials investigate suspected typhoid outbreak in Leyte town

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City - Thirty residents of Matag-ob town in Leyte were found to have had fever for several days while one fatality has been reported.

Health authorities said they suspect this to be the result of a typhoid outbreak but until now doctors and other health officers are still conducting an investigation to find out if the victims have contracted typhoid fever.

"Fecal samples were already taken from the patients and are now under laboratory examination," said Dr. Linda Astorga, Provincial Health Office officer-in-charge of Leyte.

Medicines for fever relief and antibiotics were already sent to the town by health authorities and the provincial government of Leyte.

Typhoid fever is a communicable disease caused by a bacteria. It is usually contracted through the ingestion of contaminated food and water.

May 13, 2008

Nat'l gov't has appropriated funds for Tacloban Airport,
ATO 8 says

Philippine Information Agency

Nat'l gov't has appropriated funds for Tacloban Airport, ATO 8 says

Tacloban City -- The National Government through the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has allotted funds for the rehabilitation of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, Air Transportation Office Region 8 Manager Merla Negradas told the PIA in a phone patch interview Monday afternoon.

In fact, the 2007 budget appropriated for airport improvement in the amount of P80 Million is now being implemented, Manager Negradas said. The funding is particularly for the asphalt overlay in the airport runway, she added, even as she stressed that the project is being implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Also ongoing is the shore protection project which is also being implemented by the DOTC, Manager Negradas intimated.

The Air Transportation Office meanwhile, is putting a roofing to cover the baggage carousel, she added.

For 2008, Manager Negradas disclosed that P130,000.00 was appropriated for lot acquisition and site development of the Tacloban Airport. This means widening of the airport and transfer of the airport terminal building.

It is not true therefore, that Presidential Assistant for Eastern Visayas, Secretary Victor Domingo is blocking the rehabilitation of the DZR Airport better known as Tacloban Airport, Manager Negradas said.

Manager Negradas was reacting to allegations from some sectors that Secretary Domingo is blocking the rehabilitation of the Tacloban Airport and is only working for the rehabilitation of the Guiuan Airport.

It would be recalled that Secretary Domingo denied the allegations that he was only working for the rehabilitation of the Guiuan Airport, in a private media press conference over the weekend.

May 12, 2008

NSO gets more customers despite higher fees

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City - Like any other National Statistics Office (NSO) branch that issues birth, marriage, and death certificates as well as other documents, charges for the request of these documents have increased by P15.

However, despite the higher charges, hundreds of people still flock to the NSO office every day.

NSO Tacloban Information Officer Marife Molon said they normally serve 500 people every day, but now they serve up to 700 customers a day.

"This could be because it's enrolment time and some, if not most schools, are requiring NSO certified documents, like birth certificates. Plus, there are also offices requiring NSO certificates, so we really have a lot of people coming in," said Molon.

NSO has raised its charge for all requests for issuance of certified and/or authenticated birth, marriage, and death certificates, including endorsed documents and Certificate of No Marriage or CENOMAR in compliance with Section 173 and 188 of the Tax Code and Revenue Memorandum Order No. 13-2008.

The office started imposing additional P15 for the Documentary Stamp Tax since May 1 this year.

May 12, 2008

Tacloban City bars non-residents from fishing in its waters

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City -- Members of the city Bantay Dagat team on Monday warned fishermen from other towns that entering the city's water territories is strictly prohibited.

"We don't want fishermen from other towns to be benefitting from the bounties from the sea in our place. We want our fisherman to have it because it's ours," said Noel Ligtas, Bantay Dagat team leader.

Three fishing boat owners from Basey Samar were warned by the team early Monday morning after they were caught fishing at San Pedro Bay, which is still part of Tacloban.

However, the authorities gave the fishermen a chance and took them to the permits and licensing office of the city to ask if they could become members of Tacloban's marginalized fisherfolk.

Bantay Dagat had earlier apprehended fishermen who failed to show them any permit to do fishing activities in the marine protected areas of Cancabato and San Pedro Bay, while some were caught doing illegal fishing.

May 12, 2008

Eastern Visayas wage board to decide early June on wage hike

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Eastern Visayas started its public consultations on the wage issue last Friday.

The first of the three public consultations was held in Calbayog City, Samar, while the next two would be held in Ormoc City on May 14 and in Tacloban City on May 20, RTWPB secretary Florencio Aguilos said.

The regional wage board would evaluate all proposals submitted by the labor and management sectors during the final deliberation, Aguilos added.

"The board believes that (by the) early part of June, we will be able to wrap all these things because we understand that there is a really a need to address the situation," he said.

By that time, Aguilos said, the eight-member wage board would be able to decide whether to adjust wages and by how much.

In its wage order issued December 16, 2007, the RTWPB set the daily minimum wage at P228 for the employees in the private sector in the region.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement, KMU) in Tacloban City submitted a proposal for P125 across-the-board increase.

But the members of the Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), an organization of Leyte-based businessmen, opposed any wage increases as they favored the granting of tax exemptions to workers.

During the RTWPB public consultation in Calbayog City, the management sector in Samar said they would be willing to negotiate with labor for a wage increase, Aguilos said.

The management sector also expressed support for a pending bill filed at the House of Representatives to grant tax exemptions all wage earners, he added.

On the other hand, the labor sector in Samar has yet to submit a proposal for a wage increase.

"But they told us that they will submit their proposal on May 20 during our public consultation here in Tacloban," Aguilos said.

He also said that the management sector in Samar asked the regional wage board to set the daily minimum wage by province instead of region-wide since the economic situation in the province was different from other provinces in the region.

The labor sector called for an increase in the daily wages after prices of rice and fuel increased.

But RTWPB chairman Forter Puguon said that any wage adjustments would depend on factors like the financial capacity of the business owners to absorb any wage increases and whether an increase would lead to the retrenchment of workers.

May 10, 2008

Leyte showcases rich cultural heritage in Nat'l Heritage Month of May

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- The province of Leyte is set to showcase its rich cultural heritage in a month-long celebration dubbed as Leyte Heritage Festival, in the month of May which is also commemorated as the National Heritage Month.

Through the Leyte Provincial Tourism, Culture and Arts Council under the leadership of Governor Jericho Petilla, various cultural activities and tours in the province's six architectural heritage sites, aimed at evoking the people's consciousness in the love and respect for the legacies of Filipino cultural history, will highlight the month-long festivities.

The Leyte Heritage Festival which is in consonance with the National Heritage Month celebration, will feature cultural heritage tour, visual arts exhibit, cultural performances of traditional dances, music, poetry and drama and other exhibits.

For the Architectural Heritage Tour, the locations to be visited are architectural heritage monuments and houses in the municipalities of Tanauan, Dulag, Hilongos and the City of Baybay.

A must-see place in Tanauan is the Parish Church of Our Lady of Assumption. Newly restored, the brick walls of the rectory, the pulpit and fortress ruins are still part of the original church. What is also noteworthy is the Spanish terra cotta Via Dolorosa.

Another Architechtural Heritage site, Dulag is one of the earliest Christianized towns in Leyte, with its Christianization dated back to 1595. At the center of the town lies a most prominent historical spot, the 1595 Jesuit Seminary Ruins where the Our Lady of Refuge Parish Church is presently situated.

As an Architectural Heritage site, the municipality of Baybay must have originated as a little pagan tribe with natives scattered from the seashore and over the hills before the Spaniards had arrived. This newly declared City is known for its numerous heritage houses and the Immaculate Conception Parish Church that was built 157 years ago.

The last but not the least Architectural Heritage site to be visited is Hilongos which is located in the southwestern part of the province of Leyte facing the Camotes Sea. Hilongos boasts of the 17th Century Church and "cota" (fort) located in the heart of the urban center. This "cota" or fort is only one of the six existing forts in the country, according to the records available at the National Historical Institute.

President Arroyo mandated the creation of Filipino Heritage Month under Proclamation 439 on August 11, 2003, declaring the month of May of every year as National Heritage Month. The event recognizes the need to create among the people a consciousness, respect and love for the legacies of Filipino cultural history.

May 10, 2008

Kuratsa Festival searches for best kuratsa dancers in
Region 8

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- The 2008 Kuratsa Festival Committee is now scouting for the best Kuratsa dancers in the different municipalities of Leyte and Samar islands, to become contestants in the June 26, 2008 Kuratsa Festival.

Mr. Julito Mendones, the festival chairperson, informed that after the successful conduct of the 2007 Kuratsa Festival last year, the Province of Leyte and the Leyte Heritage Festival Committee have included the 2008 Kuratsa Festival in the calendar of events in the celebration of the National Heritage Month in the month of May until the end of June.

An added feature in the Kuratsa Festival 2008 is the Kuratsa Dance Forum which aims to provide a venue where academicians, culture scholars, and kuratsa dance enthusiasts from all over Region 8, can discuss the heritage and artistic value, and the socio-cultural relevance of the kuratsa.

The Forum, which will be conducted on June 26 at the UPVTC AS Conference Hall from 1:00 o'clock to 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, will also put on record Kuratsa's value in the Eastern Visayan culture. The Kuratsa Forum will be held in partnership with the UP Visayas Tacloban College's Leyte Samar Heritage Center.

Two paper presentations on Kuratsa of Leyte and Samar, will be the highlight of the Forum.

The Kuratsa Dance Competition Opening Ceremonies will be held from 1:00 o'clock to 6:00 o'clock in the afternoon at the UPVTC Multi Purpose Building.

Invited are contest participants from all municipalities of Leyte and key cities and municipalities of Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte and Biliran. Mr. Mendones said that the deadline for submission of contestants' registration forms is on June 20, 2008.

The Final Round of the Competition and Awarding Ceremonies will be at 7:00 o'clock in the evening of June 26, at the RTR Plaza, Tacloban City, Mr. Mendones said.

Kuratsa is a courtship dance that highlights every important occasions in the Eastern Visayas communities. It depicts the courtship between the rooster and the hen.

JUNE 26TH, 2008
The best Kuratsa dancers in the different municipalities of Leyte and Samar islands are the contestants in the Kuratsa Festival.

The Kuratsa is a Filipino traditional Dance of Courtship where the male approaches and courts a lady in a form of a dance. It depicts the courtship between the rooster and the hen.

Invited are contest participants from all municipalities of Leyte and key cities and municipalities of Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte and Biliran.
Click HERE to read more..

May 10, 2008

Eastern Visayas orients non-health workers on dengue prevention

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- In order to arrest the current trend of dengue cases and deaths which has been increasing in the Philippines in the last couple of years, the Department of Health Regional Office 8 is coming up with a Dengue Orientation for Non- Health Workers on May 22, 2008.

Department of Health Regional Office 8 Director Director Teogenes Baluma informed that the Orientation will be held at the Leyte Park Hotel, Tacloban City, with participants from the various government agencies and non-government organization invited.

Director Baluma added that resource persons who have been invited by the DOH Central Office will share their expertise during the conduct of this orientation training.

The Department of Health believes that in order to effectively participate in the efforts to prevent the increase of cases in the respective localities, people from all walks of life must be well informed about the prevention and control strategies for the dengue menace, Director Baluma stressed.

The meals during the orientation training will be provided by the Asian Development Bank through the Pacific Rim Innovation and Management Exponents, Inc. (PRIMEX), the consultancy firm assisting DOH in the conduct of the activities, Director Baluma added.

There has been recent escalation of dengue cases in the Philippines. In Region 8, there were 1,231 cases of dengue and 8 deaths reported in 2007.

At least 67 people have died from dengue in the first three months of 2008 in the Philippines, up by 36 per cent from the same period last year, the health department said. A total of 6,653 people were afflicted with dengue from January to March 2008, compared to 5,453 cases in the same period in 2007, the department added. In the same period in 2007, 49 people died from the disease.

The health department said the cases and deaths were still within manageable levels, but urged households to keep their surroundings clean to prevent contracting the disease.

Dengue, or "break-bone fever", is a tropical disease carried by a specific mosquito. People who are infected have high fever, severe muscle and joint pain, and can also suffer internal hemorrhaging or shock.

May 10, 2008

Region 8 media holds summer sportsfest olympics

By Gay B. Gaspay

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- To strengthen camaraderie among media practitioners in this part of the region, a Summer Sports Olympics on May 11, 2008 at the Leyte Park Convention Gym.

The sports olympics is part of the several activities lined up to celebrate the May 4 e 42nd World Communication Day.

Archdiocesan Media Director Rev. Fr. Amadeo Alvero who is behind the organization of the event said that the forthcoming olympics will be participated in by four teams: the Yellow team which is composed of the AM stations; the Red team for the cable and TV stations; the Green team is composed of the print and the Blue team is for the FM stations.

Fr. Alvero said that the activity is being sponsored by the Presidential Assistant for Eastern Visayas Sec. Victor Domingo and the Provincial Government of Leyte thru Leyte Gov. Carlos Jericho Petilla.

The media practitioners will be competing in several games such as basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton and several parlor games.

The sportsfest Fr. Alvero added will start with a thanksgiving mass, short program, game proper and the awarding of prizes to the champions.

It would be recalled that the media practitioners from the private and government media gathered last Sunday, May 4, to celebrate the 42nd World Communication Day and World Press Freedom Day. Activities included a concelebrated mass officiated by Archbishop Jose Palma, followed by a motorcade around the city, wreath laying at Monching Noblejas junction and Parlor games socials.

The activities were participated in by all the tri-media outfit in the Region together with the government media headed by the Philippine Information Agency Director Erlinda Olivia P. Tiu. Information Officers from DENR, DILG, DAR, DSWD, DOH, DOST, Phil. Airforce, PIA, and NNC.

May 10, 2008

Wage hike for EV workers expected to come out in June

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City -- A series of consultation meetings with various stakeholders will be launched this May by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) to address the clamor for a wage hike by workers in the region.

This after the National Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board approved the RTWPB resolution to lift the ban on creating another wage order within one year.

A consultation meeting was conducted Friday in Calbayog city to find out the needs of laborers in Samar area. Similar consultation meetings are also slated in the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban.

Results of the meetings will be the basis for RTWPB's decision on how much the wage increase would be.

The regional wage board also promised they would consider the petition earlier filed by activist labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno that asked for a P125 across-the-board wage hike.

"We will try to do things as fast and as efficient as we could, so that by June we could issue another wage order," said RTWPB secretary Florencio Aguilos.

May 08, 2008

Cebu Pacific to add flight to Tacloban


TACLOBAN CITY -- Budget carrier Cebu Pacific will add effective today an additional flight from Manila to Tacloban to address increasing passenger volume.

In a statement, the airline said it would use its 179-seater Airbus 320 for the mid-day Tacloban flight.

Merla Negradas, manager of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, said the additional flight means extended working hours for airport controllers, who will have to report for work one-and-a-half hours earlier at 3:30 a.m. and leave work 30 minutes later at 6:30 p.m.

From January to April, Cebu Pacific recorded 101,043 incoming and outgoing passengers at the Tacloban airport, higher than Philippine Airline's (PAL) 72,867 passengers.

The total passenger volume for both PAL and Cebu Pacific almost doubled to 510,566 in 2007 from a year earlier.

Cebu Pacific resumed operations in Tacloban with two flights from Manila in early 2007. The additional flight brings to four the daily flights from Manila to Tacloban.

The Tacloban airport is being improved to accommodate air traffic until 2015. Ms. Negradas said the government has programmed P280 million this year to develop the new passenger terminal, P130 million to acquire more land, and P20 million to protect the shore. The airport is also overlaying the runway with asphalt, which costs P80 million.

May 07, 2008

Eastern Visayas schools hold off tuition increases

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- Private schools in Eastern Visayas offering college education have not applied for tuition increases, despite the surge in the prices of commodities that could eventually have an effect on their operations, according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) in the region.

CHEd regional director Maria Rita Ortiz said on Wednesday private colleges have not been applying for tuition hikes in the past three years.

"Maybe these schools chose not to increase their fees because despite the (economic) problem, they could still survive and could manage with their own funds, which is just good, because this is an advantage to our students and their parents as well," Ortiz said on Wednesday.

Lawyer Edward Chua, chief operating officer of the Asian Development Foundation College, said their school did not implement any tuition increase for the past three years for fear that their enrollment figures would decline.

The Asian Development Foundation College, located in Tacloban City, is the biggest private school in the region offering elementary, high school and college education. Chua said they were holding off any tuition increases in acknowledgement of the economic difficulties being faced by families.

He said they have been competing with government-run schools, which opened college courses previously offered only by private schools.

Chua noted that the government-run schools have been charging lower tuition rates than those of the private schools.

In the region, 54 of the 117 colleges and universities are privately run. These schools have more than 15,000 students.

Ortiz explained that schools have been required to submit their application for tuition increases starting January and before the start of classes in June.

However, she said that CHEd would monitor all private schools in the region to ensure that these would not implement tuition increases without CHEd's permission.

She also urged the students to inform CHEd of any unauthorized tuition increases.

May 07, 2008

DENR leads celebration of Philippine month in the Ocean

By Marivic Alcober

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- Centered on the theme "Manage our Ocean for Mankind's Survival", Philippine Month in the Ocean is currently being observed this month of May and is spearheaded by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) nationwide.

On the local level, DENR-8 through the leadership of Regional Executive Director Alfredo S. Pascual organized a series of activities relative to the observance of said event. Identified by DENR as the focal point for the prepared activities is Barangay 88 of the Fisherman's Village, San Jose District, Tacloban City.

It was learned that as part of the observance, DENR will facilitate the conduct of Training on Mangrove Management and Rehabilitation. Likewise, a Garbage Collection Contest will also be conducted in order to enhance awareness among the village residents protection of the environment against rubbish and pollution. Said Garbage Collection Contest will be open to all the residents in the village and the one who will be able to collect the most garbage will be declared winner.

To add color to the occasion, it was bared that DENR's Coastal Marine Management Division will sponsor a number of parlor games after which the different activities will be concluded by a banca race to be participated in by members of the Sangguniang Kabataan at the Fisherman's Village.

According to DENR, the Philippine Month in the Ocean is observed and celebrated annually per Presidential Proclamation No. 57 issued in 1999, in order to create awareness that the bodies of water and the marine resources that thrive therein are not only a source of food, but likewise a means of livelihood for our fisherfolks.

May 06, 2008

American national faces child abuse charges in Tacloban

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

The Tacloban City Prosecutors' Office has filed child abuse charges against an American national who was nabbed for cuddling two minors inside a hotel room.

Michael David Vogt was slapped with violation of Section 6 (Attempt to Commit Child Prostitution) of the Republic Act 7610 or the Children Protection Act after he was arrested in his hotel room with two girls aged 16 and 17.

"Other cases mentioned in the affidavit of the victims which includes acts of lasciviousness and rape will follow regular preliminary investigation," said Assistant City Prosecutor Ma. Liza Jorda.

Vogt, however was able to post bail of P80,000 for his temporary liberty but the Prosecutors' Office was quick to get a hold departure order against him from the court.

The hold-departure order will disallow Vogt to leave the country while the case is pending in court.

A team jointly led by the National Bureau of Investigation and the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) arrested Vogt during a raid in his hotel room.

The arrest was a result of information received by the NBI regarding frequent visits of minors in his hotel room.

The two girls disclosed that they met Vogt in the Internet through chat sessions in the house of a pimp. When the foreigner visited Tacloban, the pimp brought them to his hotel room.

The girls also admitted that Vogt touched their private parts and took photos of them in exchange for money.

The minors further disclosed that there were 13 of them who frequented Vogt's room but only the two of them were in the room during the raid. They also said the American was deciding who to marry from their group.

The City Government of Tacloban and other private organizations promised to help protect and resolve the alarming cases of minors victimized by alleged pedophiles.

"We don't want this kind of "sex tourism" to happen in our city," said Councilor Cristina Romualdez.

For his part, Mayor Alfred Romualdez has issued a stern warning to hotel owners and operators who will fail to report any illegal operations in their establishments especially those involving minors.

He also ordered the City Council to pass an ordinance disallowing minors who are not accompanied by parents or guardians to enter hotels, motels and lodging houses in the city.

"We will not tolerate this kind of activities to happen in our city. I don't care if you are a local or foreigner, (if you violate the law) walang pinapatawad dito," he said.

Local members of women's group, Gabriella also said pledged to ensure that the rights of the minors are protected while the Citizen's Against Crime challenged authorities to look into the roots of the case.

The Catholic Church also promised to extend moral and spiritual help to the victims.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is waiting for Vogt to file his extension since his stay in the country expires Tuesday.

The BI said it will file a case of over-staying against the American should he fail to file for an extension.

"If found guilty, Vogt will have to serve the sentence as provided by law and afterwards, he will be deported," said Milagrosa Repulda of the BI's Field Office 8.

May 05, 2008

Tacloban qualifies for new class as highly-urbanizid city

By Melanie L. Bingco

ABS CBN News - Philippines

Tacloban City is now qualified for the classification of a highly-urbanized city, results of the 2007 population census said.

Tacloban has a population of 217,199 and an income of more than P300 million on top of its P200-million internal revenue allotment (IRA).

The Local Government Code of 1991 requires that a city should have an income of P50 million before it could be classified as highly-urbanized.

The local government of Tacloban is happy with the qualification since this would mean more industry-building opportunities and more progress to the city.

City population officer Cielito Esquibel, however, said that the increase in population is alarming because urbanization always comes with consequences like pollution and urban congestion.

Esquibel said that the question now is on how the city will manage its population and the assurance that basic services will be delivered to every citizen.

He suggested that proper coordination of the city government and the barangay officials would help a great part in managing the population in a highly-urbanized city.

At present, the country has 32 highly-urbanized cities.

May 04, 2008

Tanauan town distributes certified seeds, irrigation pumps to farmer beneficiaries

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- In order to mitigate the effects of the recent calamities brought about by the continuous heavy rains in the first quarter of 2008, and in line with the continuous focus on agricultural programs to improve the farmers' quality of life, the Local Government of Tanauan, Leyte will distribute certified seeds and irrigation pumps to farmer beneficiaries on Monday, May 5, 2008.

Mayor Roque A. Tiu thanked the Department of Agriculture in the Region under the dynamic leadership of Executive Director Leo Caneda, for providing 50 sacks of certified seeds for the farmers of Tanauan. These are not enough for all the farmers in Tanauan, the Mayor said, but he said he understands the situation of the Department takes care of all the farmers in the entire Region.

Mayor Tiu informed that the LGU has a financing program for the purchase of irrigation pumps. Upon the request of the farmers, the LGU purchases from NIA provincial office, irrigation pumps which are given to the requesting farmers on soft loan basis. The farmers pay after every harvest season, Mayor Tiu said.

Mayor Tiu disclosed that only 20 to 30% of the municipality's rice lands are irrigated, the reason why irrigation pumps are provided. This is the same reason why farmers hesitate to plant hybrid rice.

However, Mayor Tiu said that the Local Government Unit will make the irrigated lands in the the municipality as the model or show window for the hybrid rice production in the municipality. He hopes that through this, the other farmers will follow suit once they realize that they will have more production and more income if they plant hybrid rice.

Mayor Tiu added that although there are already certified seeds growers in the municipality, the Local Government Unit sees the need for more farmer certified seeds growers.

The LGU is also into dispersal of cows, carabaos and hogs, Mayor Tiu said. Very soon, he added, the LGU will already include the dispersal of sheeps, goats and turkeys.

Mayor Tiu disclosed that the local government unit has an Animal Farm at Barangay Sacme, where the sheep, goats, turkeys, cows, carabaos and hogs are being raised before they are dispersed to the farmer beneficiaries.

The dispersal of pigs, cows and carabaos have been ongoing since he became mayor in 1992, Mayor Tiu said. He said that the LGU gets one piglet, carabao or cow when the animal dispersed gives birth. This will ensure the sustainability of the project, Mayor Tiu said. This will also give others the opportunity to benefit from the dispersal project, he added.

Furthermore, Mayor Tiu informed that the LGU is maintaining a techno-demo farm at Barangay Maribi where continuous training of farmers on modern farming technology and high value crops are conducted. Even women and volunteer workers have already been trained so that they could plant vegetables and fruits right in their own backyards.

There is really no reason why people in the provinces will experience hunger if only people will use their time and resources wisely, Mayor Tiu said.

All of these are under the Food Available In The Hope (FAITH) program, in consonance with the national government's food security program, Mayor Tiu added.

May 02, 2008

Tacloban has enough rice supply, says agriculture exec

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Department of Agriculture in Eastern Visayas has assured the Tacloban City council members that the city would not experience a rice shortage because it is near rice-producing towns.

Agriculture department regional director Leo Cañeda, who briefed the city council during its regular session on Wednesday, said Tacloban City has 318 hectares allocated for rice production.

However, Cañeda said the city's rice sufficiency is "very, very low" so it has relied on the neighboring towns in the first district for its supply of rice.

He added that the city has an annual rice requirement of 24,000 metric tons but its farmers can produce only 2,000 tons every year

Tacloban gets most of its rice from Palo, Tanauan, Sta. Fe and Alangalang, which are considered to be among Leyte's rice granaries. These municipalities have combined agricultural lands of more than 14,000 hectares with over 80,000 metric tons of rice production.

But Cañeda said that Tacloban City should find ways to increase its rice production since the four towns have to meet their own requirement first before they could sell outside their areas.

He suggested that Tacloban City provide irrigation for the city's agricultural lands to maximize their potential.

Cañeda asked the Tacloban City council, presided over by Vice Mayor Arvin Antoni, to pass a resolution for the irrigation of agriculture lands in the city, which remained dependent on rain for the water requirement.

The local government need not spend huge amounts of money to address the inadequate irrigation, Cañeda said, since they could just set up water impounding facilities in these areas to help address the problem.

Tacloban City Councilor Robert Hernandez, for his part, said that they would ask the city agriculture office to study Cañeda's proposal.

He also agreed with Cañeda's observation that the city did not have any rice shortage, only high prices of rice.

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