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Sep 17, 2008

Tacloban experiencing
boom in construction

By Joey A. Gabieta

Leyte Samar Daily Express

Workers continue their work at the new Gaisano Building located along Justice
Romualdez Street. The City Engineer's Office has noted a construction boom in the
city this year. (Lito A. Bagunas)

TACLOBAN CITY -- This city is experiencing a construction boom which indicates that it's economically growing and attracting investors.

"We never experienced this kind of thing before," says Engineer Concepcion Esperas, chief of the constructions and maintenance division of the City Engineering's Office.

Based on their records, close to 300 building permits were issued by their office since January up to last week.

The issuance of business permits resulted for the city government to earn over P6.69 million for the fees it asked from those undertaking the constructions.

And among the biggest constructions that are ongoing in the city are the two shopping malls, the Gaisano Mall and the Robinsons, which are expected to operate early next year, Esperas said.

According to Esperas, the 297 building permits that their office has so far issued this year include residential construction, about 40 percent of them are into various constructions which include shopping malls and other business establishments.

"Tacloban is actually growing economically. The construction boom that we are experiencing right now is but just an indication that the city is really growing and developing," Esperas stressed.

She said that with the construction boom that is now being experienced by the city, problem on employment is actually addressed.

"It generates employment as construction workers are hired by these companies," Esperas said.

The on going constructions of the two giant shopping malls in the city are employing more than one thousand individuals, Esperas added.

"Of course, with these constructions, the city government is also benefiting from it with the fees and licenses that they are paying to the city government," she said.

So far, the city government was able to generate P6,691,746 from the building permit fees that it collected from the owners of these construction works.

Esperas, however, could not provide data covering last year's collection and the number of business permits it approved. "But still I can say that this year is higher compare to last year and in previous years," the city engineer said.

Esperas also said that she believes that the more and more building constructions could be expected to happen in the city.

"In fact, we have received reports that another big shopping mall is seriously thinking of putting up their branch here in the city," she said.

According to her, with big shopping malls coming in to the city, she expects that other known establishments catering other services like hotels and restaurants would do business in the city.

"Especially so that we are bidding to become a highly urbanized city which means that Tacloban has a huge market. Big population is one of the prime considerations of these big establishments in putting up their business in a certain locality.," Esperas said.

The city, through Mayor Alfred Romualdez, is pushing for the reclassification of Tacloban into a HUC as it already met the needed requirements like population and income.

Sep 13, 2008

Alfred says there's no clustering of barangays

By Fred Padernos

Leyte Samar Daily Express

TACLOBAN CITY -- In three separate meetings recently with the 138 Barangay executives in this soon to be Highly Urbanized City, Mayor Alfred Romualdez made it clear that there will be no clustering of the existing barangays, from 138 to 50 only, to meet the 5,000 population per barangay, allegedly as a requirement in the City's HUC bid - there is no such thing, he said.

Reports on clustering of the barangays were being circulated apparently to ignite action from the to be affected barangays officials, who would lose their positions, and campaign against the HUC, it was learned.

But in front of the barangay chairmen, Mayor Romualdez dismissed these rumors, saying these are only desperate moves of his opponents in politics who will surely be affected politically once the city becomes a highly urbanized.

"Walang clustering or merger ng mga barangays kahit maging highly urbanized na tayo - hindi ko gagawin ‘yon," he said.

Rather, according to the mayor, under a highly urbanized city, if it so decides to add or create another barangay, the required population is five thousand, and this will go through the normal processes.

On the other hand, Councilor Eden Chua Pineda, President, Association of Barangays Councils (ABC) said that there are no moves for clustering or merger- and she should know, she said, because it will be her that would sponsor a resolution in the City Council for the purpose. These are only misinformation being circulated by people to serve their motives, she added.

Book III of the Local Government Units, Chapter I- Role and Creation of the Barangay, Sec. 385 Manner of Creation, provides; A barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, by law or an ordinance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, or Sangguniang Panlungsod, subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite to be conducted by the COMELEC in the local government unit or units directly affected within such period of time as may be determined by the law or an ordinance creating said Barangay.

Sec. 386. Requisites for Creation - of the Local Government Code of 1991 further provides that, A barangay may be created out of a contiguous territory which has a population of at least two thousand (2,000) inhabitants as certified by the NSO, except in other metropolitan political subdivisions or in highly urbanized cities where such territory shall have a certified population of at least five thousand (5,000) inhabitants.

Sep 13, 2008

Increasing number of
pedicabs noted

By Mary-An P. Ufemia

Leyte Samar Daily Express

TACLOBAN CITY -- It has been found out that the number of pedicabs for hire in the city is nearing 2,000 in spite of the ordinance in 2000 that limits the number of pedicabs to only 1,000.

In accordance with this issue, the city council passed an ordinance that will set fare rates, color coding and boundaries of pedicabs.

"In last ordinance in the year 2000, the fare rate was only P2 plus 15 centavo for the succeeding kilometers," Councilor Jerry Yaokasin said.

As of now pedicab drivers are collecting fare more than the minimum fare rate for pedicabs in the city.
"Right now pedicab drivers collect a fare of P5 and sometimes P10. Some also collect P20 pesos if a passenger asked for ‘pakyaw'," Yaokasin added.

Yaokasin wanted to solve this problem of pedicabs because some of them are colorums. They are not registered for color coding.

"We are putting the right to the public who is at risk because if ever accident happens to the passenger, may habol sila," he added.

The city councilor proposed that there will be a set of boundaries and routes for pedicabs and he files an ordinance of having a frame matrix for every pedicab in Tacloban City, and a fare rate of P4 for every half kilometer plus P.50 for the succeeding half kilometer.

This ordinance is already passed for public hearing and they are going to meet personally the pedicab association of every barangay to know their situation.

Sep 13, 2008

1,500 Tacloban residents
avail of Barangayan

By Jose Rodriguez T. Señase

Leyte Samar Daily Express

TACLOBAN CITY -- More than 1, 500 city residents coming from five barangays availed of free dental, medical, and other services during the city-sponsored "Barangayan" held at Barangay 31, Pampango District, this city, on Friday, September 12.

The beneficiaries, most of them coming from Barangays 31, 35-A, 35, 48, 48-B,also availed of free haircut, civil registration, and veterinary services, courtesy of personnel from the City Population Office (CPO), City Veterinary Office (CVO), and other departments of the city government.

Also, during the "Barangayan," the beneficiaries were lectured on proper hygiene, reproductive health, and effective barangay operations, among others.

In his message, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez stressed that he sees the need for conducting the "Barangayan" as he promised to continue serving the people through the program, which is now in its fourth year.

Speaking in behalf of the beneficiaries, Brgy. 31 Chairman Rene Celis thanked the city government for initiating the activity, which, according to him, benefited many people, especially indigents.

The "Barangayan" was started by former Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez way back in 2004 and adopted and continued by his son Alfred, the incumbent city chief executive.

The "Barangayan" is a program wherein basic services like civil registration and medical services are provided for free to the people in the host barangay and nearby areas. All the 138 villages in the city benefited the program.

It is spearheaded by office of Mayor Romauldez in cooperation with other departments, including, City Health Office (CHO), Tacloban City Police (TCP), City Agriculture Office (CAO), Department of Education (DepEd) City Division, and the City Nutrition Office (CNO).

Sep 12, 2008

NBI arrests fake doctor in Eastern Samar town

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Eastern Visayas arrested on Wednesday a 35-year-old man for illegal practice of medicine.

Lawyer Antonio Pagatpat, NBI regional director, identified the arrested man as Randy Gebana, who has been operating his clinic in Barangay Lugay, Guiuan town, Eastern Samar, since May this year.

In a press conference held Thursday morning, Pagatpat said Gebana, a native of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, was arrested 6 p.m. on Wednesday in an entrapment operation involving one of the NBI agents, Bienvenido Panican, posing as a patient.

Gebana charged Panican P200 as professional fee, Pagatpat said.

He said authorities learned about Gebana's illegal practice after the members of the Philippine College of Physicians-Eastern Visayas chapter complained about it last month.

Pagatpat said the NBI placed Gebana under surveillance and confirmed that he was pretending to be a doctor.

The NBI also learned from the Professional Regulations Commission that Gebana was not a licensed doctor, he added.

Gebana also failed to produce a certificate of registration issued by the Medical Board of Examiners to prove he was a duly licensed medical practitioner, Pagatpat said.

Gebana admitted he has been practicing the profession since May of this year.

"But I was doing it generally for free," he said, denying he charged P200 in fees.

Panican said he stayed for about an hour inside the clinic of the suspect as the bogus doctor examined him for possible high blood pressure.

Gebana said he was a graduate of Medicine at the Far Eastern University and "adventure" brought him to Guiuan town.

He declined to give more information about himself.

Sep 11, 2008

Cebu Pacific offers Cebu hub and Manila-Busuang seat sale

Peanuts! Low Cost Airline News

Cebu Pacific is offering a promotional sale for all of domestic services from its Cebu hub and its daily Manila-Busuanga flights after it announced that it will base two ATR aircraft in Cebu.

The seat sale will run from 11-Sept to 15-Sept-08 and is valid for travel from 01-Oct to 17-Dec-08.

One-way ‘Go Lite' all-inclusive fares for Manila-Busuanga and services from Cebu to Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, Iloilo, Ozamis, Surigao, Tacloban start at PHP488; and passengers with bags will just add PHP200.

Moreover, ‘Go Lite' one-way ‘all-in' fares for flights from Cebu to Manila, Boracay (Caticlan), Davao, Clark, GenSan, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga start at PHP788; and guests with check-in items will add P2HP00 upon booking.

Candice Iyog, CEB vice president for marketing and distribution, said, "We are confident that this promotion will stimulate business and leisure travel to various islands in Visayas and Mindanao especially now that we are basing two brand new ATR 72 aircraft in Cebu"

She added, "This will also provide many first time flyers the opportunity to see the other cities in the Philippines since our fares are comparable and competitive with the fares for buses and ferries."

She concluded, "We encourage the public to act fast and make their bookings for the upcoming school break and last quarter of 2008."

Sep 11, 2008

Bagulaya: Still to make stand about HUC issue

By Joey A. Gabieta

Leyte Samar Daily Express

TACLOBAN CITY -- Leyte Vice Governor Mimiette Bagulaya clarified earlier reports that she has thrown her support on the bid of Tacloban to become a highly urbanized city.

The vice governor made this clarification yesterday, saying that she has yet to make a "definitive stand" about the issue.

"That is why, I am making this clarification. When I was asked regarding it, the question was whether the city could gain any benefits on being an HUC or not," Bagulaya said.

A report had indicated that Bagulaya, who was once the vice mayor of Tacloban, had thrown her support to this HUC bid that is being pushed by Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

According to the city mayor, he is pushing for Tacloban to become an HUC to make it more attractive to investors.

The city mayor also said that there is no reason why the bid of the city would fail considering that it has met all the legal requirements enumerated under the Local Government Code of 1991.

Under the said code, a city could be reclassified as HUC if it has a population of 200,000 and an annual income of about P50 million which was later amended to P100 million.

At present, Tacloban has 217,199 population with about P500 million income.

Vice Governor Bagulaya said that she is making the clarification in order to set the record straight as she has yet to make a clear stand about the issue at hand.

"But I knew that there are advantages for Tacloban if it becomes an HUC," she said.

She said that the reclassification of Tacloban could indeed be put into good use by city officials in attracting more investors.

"But it really depends on its leadership. If they think that becoming an HUC will benefit the people, then why not," the vice governor said.

Asked if the reclassification move of Mayor Romualdez smells politics, the vice governor declined to comment.

She, however, admitted that if Tacloban would become an HUC, it could be a big disadvantage to her politically.

"If Tacloban will become a HUC, it will be to my disadvantage as I consider it as (one of my) bailiwicks," Bagulaya said.

One of the effects if Tacloban will become an HUC, it will no longer be administratively considered part of Leyte as its voters will be prohibited to elect provincial officials.

Aside from being a former city vice mayor, Bagulaya was also elected as member of the city council. In 2001, she ran unsuccessfully as mayor of the city against Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez, the father of the incumbent city mayor.

The issue on the HUC has turn into a word war between Mayor Romualdez and Governor Jericho "Icot" Petilla as the former accused the latter for undermining his plan.

Romualdez claim that the governor is opposing to the HUC bid of Tacloban for it stand to lose P90 million on its share on internal revenue allotment as population is among its basis.

The governor, however, strongly denied this claim of the city mayor.

Sep 10, 2008

NFA preparing to buy more palay from farmers as harvest nears

By Sarwell Q. Meniano


TACLOBAN, Philippines -- The National Food Authority (NFA) has mobilized buying stations to buy palay (unhusked rice) at P17 per kilo from rice farmers in Eastern Visayas in preparation for the harvest season this month.

Benjamin Marta, NFA regional chief, said the agency has intensified its procurement program with the national government raising the goal to 42,000 bags from 6,700 bags for the second half.

"Because of the President's mandate to buy 500,000 metric tons of palay nationwide, our regional target has significantly increased," Mr. Marta said. Palay procured for the main cropping season will be used to augment rice stocks for local consumption.

To encourage farmers to sell to the government, the food agency grants the P1,800 fertilizer incentive to NFA-accredited farmers and farmers' organizations. This incentive will be given for every 50 bags of clean and dry palay at 50 kilograms per bag.

"This incentive will be used to purchase fertilizer and will be given to farmers in cash so that they can immediately purchase their fertilizer requirement in time for replanting," Mr. Marta told BusinessWorld.

The region has 17 warehouses serving as major buying stations. "We will send mobile buying stations as the need arises," Mary Agnes Militante, NFA regional spokeswoman, said.

During a dialogue with farmers in Alangalang, Leyte recently, Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap instructed the NFA regional manager to reach out to more farmers.

The buying price for palay was raised to P17 from P12 per kilo to encourage farmers to sell to the government. Despite the higher price, farmers have continued to prefer private traders because of the latter's simpler procurement process.

During the first semester of this year, the food agency purchased only 382 bags of palay out of the target of 7,300 bags for the period.

"The government process is tedious because we want to safeguard public funds. Our process is objective buying. Many farmers prefer the private trader's scheme which is known as street buying, but for us in the government, there must be a [different] price [for] wet and dry palay," Mr. Marta said.

Yu Kian Ong, manager of the Burauen Marketing Corp. based in this city, said in a telephone interview that private traders won't buy at a higher price even if the government has raised its buying rate.

"We cannot compete with the government. We will maintain our buying price of P12 to P13 per kilo. It's up to the farmers now where they want to sell their harvest," he said.

Sep 09, 2008

A Filipina finds her family
thru cyberspace

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- Losing contact with her family due to Pinatubo eruption, a Filipina found her family thru the Cyberspace after her 18-year search.

Maria Christina "Christy" Saldana Warren, 44, of Galena, Missouri, lost contact with family members in Angeles City, near Clark Air Base when Mount Pinatubo erupted.

"My husband and I got orders to report to Japan only days before Mount Pinatubo erupted. I heard all the horrible stories and saw some pictures of the ash in angeles City. I tried everything to find my family. I talked to any Filipino or Fililpina who mentioned that they had been to Angeles City hoping against hope that they know my family. I wrote letters that were not answered and didn't get returned," Christy said.

Christy didn't lose hope. She routinely visited Philippine website trying to find a clue about any member of her family. One day, she found the Tanauan, Leyte government website.

"I found the Tanauan-Leyte government website," Christy said. "I studied the web page. I couldn't find any email address. I asked my husband Sam if I should sign the Guest Book. He said, go for it."

On August 27, 2008, at 2:39 in the afternoon, Maria Christina Saldana Warren signed the Tanauan, Leyte Guest Book. To the question what is the title of your website, Christy wrote, "Filipina On a Mission - To Find My Family in the Philippines."

August 27th 2008
02:39:46 PM
What is your name? Maria Christina Saldana Warren
What is the title of your website: "Filipina On A Mission - To Find My Family In The Philippines"
Type a quick description of your website: A page with information and photos about me
How did you find this website? Internet Search Engine
Where are you from? Originally, Camire, Tanauan, Leyte, Philippines. I currently live in Galena, Missouri in the United States.
Please enter your comments?

My husband and I left Clark AB the month that Mount Pinatubo blew up in Angeles City. I lost all contact with my family. I have been searching for my brothers, sister, neices and nephews ever since. If anyone knows Sunny, Peter,Rafael,RamonSaldana, Rose and Willie Nanquilada, Fe Saldana and Esmeralda Saldana please ask them to email me.

I am the granddaughter of Peter, also known as Pedro Saldana, of Camire. If anyone knows my brother or sisters please contact me or ask them to..

My email address is

My webpage is

Maraming Salamat Po

In Tanauan, Leyte, Mr. Eugene Ramos, the webmaster of the Tanauan website, informed Mayor Roque Tiu about Christy. Mayor Tiu instructed Mr. Ramos to immediately go to Barangay Camire to find out the whereabouts of Christy's family.

"I checked my email, a couple of hours later, to find a reply from Mr. Ramos," Christy said.

"I was so excited and also a little frightened. I didn't know what to expect," Christy added, "Mr. Ramos talked to my brothers, Rafael and Ramon and he gave me the whereabouts of the rest of my family."

With tears streaming down her face, Christy re-read the email three or four times. Finally, she had her husband read it aloud to her to make sure she wasn't dreaming.

Eugene Ramos, an IT staff of the Municipal Government of Tanauan, Leyte arranged a phone call for Christy to speak with one of her brothers.

When she heard her younger brother, Ramon, on the telephone, Christy cried so hard she had the trouble talking.

"My heart was beating so fast. My hands were shaking I could barely stand up," Christy exclaimed. "It was so nice to hear his voice."

Christy's brothers, Rafael and Ramon Saldana are farmers in Camire, Tanauan, Leyte. Christy has talked to her baby sister Maria Fe Saldana Roa who operates a sari-sari store in Pastrana, Leyte.

Although she has not talked to the rest of her family yet, Christy now knows that her brothers Sonny and Peter live in Bulacan. She also knows that her sister Rose still lives in Angeles City and that her sister Esmeralda lives in Palo, Leyte.

"I do not know if I can be at the Saldana Family reunion in Tanauan in December," Christy said, " but I look forward to visiting my brothers and sisters and meeting for the first time some of my nephews and nieces, sometime soon."

"My prayers were answered. My birthday is in August and this year, I got the birthday present I wanted - to be able to find my family. I am truly grateful to Mayor Roque Tiu, Mr. Ramos and the local government of Tanauan for all their efforts to reunite me with my family after my 18-years search. Maraming Salamat po," Christy said.

Sep 08, 2008

Death clock launched in Tacloban to dramatize urgency of Daza-authored picture-based health warning bill

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- A "Death Clock" was launched in Tacloban City, at the corner of Justice Romualdez Street and Magsaysay Boulevard, on Friday, September 5, 2008, with the City Officials and the officials of the Department of Health in attendance.

The 'Death Clock' was installed in coordination with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), to remind Congressmen and Senators of the accumulating number of deaths due to smoking-related diseases as they delay the passage of the Picture-Based Health Warning Bill which was submitted by Northern Samar Congressman Paul Daza on December 20, 2007.

Called the Picture-based Health Warning Act, the bill's proponent lamented that the existing text warning "Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to your Health" is not enough to educate or warn the public about the real dangers of smoking.

The said law mandates the use of picture warnings instead of the existing text warnings, occupying not less than 50% of both the front and back sides of every cigarette packages. The picture-based warning is aimed at presenting a more accurate depiction of real-life debilitating diseases caused by tobacco addiction.

In addition to the picture-based health warning, cigarette packages as well as other tobacco product packages should have information about the picture-based health warning.

The bill also intends to remove from cigarette packages misleading or deceptive descriptions that create false impressions that cigarette smoking is still safe, like "low tar," "light," or "mild."

Studies have shown that at least 10 Filipinos die every hour from the tobacco epidemic. To address the problem, lawmakers filed a measure seeking to make picture-based health warnings printed in cigarette packages mandatory.

Since Northern Samar Congressman Paul Daza submitted House Bill 3364 in December of 2007 up to the present, it is estimated that tobacco-related deaths already reached about 70,000.

The 'Death Clock will be updated daily to broadcast the number of tobacco-related deaths until Senate Bill 2377, filed by Senator Pia Cayetano, and House Bill 3364 is passed into law.

Sep 07, 2008

E. Visayas NFA won't sell P18.25/kilo rice starting Oct

By Ranulfo Docdocan

ABS CBN News - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The National Food Authority in Eastern Visayas has confirmed that it will no longer sell P18.25 per kilo rice in the region by next month.

Instead, the NFA said government-subsidized rice will be sold directly through Tindahan Natin outlets and all stores in the villages that are accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

However, NFA assistant regional director Mario Gonzalez said the P25 per kilo variety will still be sold in markets through the agency's retail outlets.

In Metro Manila, the withdrawal of the P18.25 per kilo NFA rice in markets is already being implemented.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, said that despite the new policy, the region has enough supply of rice for the people's needs.

Sep 05, 2008

Self-medication for typhoid fever worries officials - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Department of Health (DOH) has monitored a spike in the number of typhoid cases in the barangay Betaog, Lawaan town, Eastern Samar, in August, and efforts to contain the cases have been complicated by the people's penchant to self-medicate.

The DOH regional office said yesterday that 47 persons have been ill with typhoid fever since August 11 in the village of Betaog in Lawaan, 80 kmfrom Tacloban City. Out of the 47, 33 were confined at the Albino Duran Memorial Hospital located at the town proper, six kilometers from from Betaog, said DOH regional sentinel nurse Boyd Cerro.

But Cerro admitted there could be more persons afflicted with the typhoid fever since the number they reported was based on those confined in the hospital and those reported to the DOH.

He said there might be persons relying on self-medication.

"While we can say that the situation in the village is now under control, we expect new cases to occur there unless they take into their hearts our call for them to either boil or chlorinate the water before they drink it," Cerro said.

Sep 03, 2008

No immediate tax hike once Tacloban becomes HUC

By Jose Rodriguez T. Señase

Tacloban City Government, Official Website

TACLOBAN CITY -- Mayor Romualdez emphasized these during a City Hall-initiated forum about making Tacloban City highly urbanized held recently at the Leyte Normal University (LNU), this city. Several hundred LNU faculty and students attended said forum.

Mayor Romualdez said that Tacloban has met the three requirements-land area, income and population-to qualify as a highly urbanized city. The conversion only needs the people's approval,the mayor said.

Tacloban City sits on a 5,712.8 sq. km land area and hosts more than 200,000 population, based on the latest census.

Both meet the requirements for conversion,the mayor said

As for its income, the city government now earns more than P500 million annual income, according to the mayor. The income requirement for a component city to qualify as an HUC is only P50 million yearly income.

Asked by a participant during the forum whether becoming an HUC means an automatic tax increase, the mayor replied that it is not the case.

`It is not true that there will be an automatic tax increase, as any increase needs the approval of the city council, the concurrence of the mayor and a public hearing,` Mayor Romualdez stressed.

`In addition, the Local Government Code of 1991 provides for a moratorium on tax increase within the first five years after a component city is converted into an HUC. It means that the city cannot raise taxes in the first five years after conversion. It is only on the sixth year thereafter after conversion that an HUC can raise real state taxes and other fees, but only up to ten percent maximum,` he emphasized.

Sep 03, 2008

Mayor Romualdez optimistic PGMA will declare Tacloban as HUC

By Sarwell Q. Meniano

Leyte Samar Daily Express

TACLOBAN CITY -- City Mayor Alfred Romualdez voiced optimism that the Office of the President will declare Tacloban as the region's 1st and the country's 34th highly urbanized city before September ends.

The city mayor hinted that the proclamation was delayed as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gives more attention to the conflict in Mindanao.

"I'm just waiting for the President's declaration. All the documents have already been submitted. I'm looking that she will act on this matter within the month of September. I understand that efforts are now concentrated in Mindanao," Romualdez said in an interview.

The city government turned in all the necessary documents to Malacañang early last month. The President is set to decide within a month after the submission of documents from the city government. A majority of residents will vote for it in a plebiscite 90 days after the proclamation.

"We have surpassed the qualifications in terms of population and income. I don't think the President will not favor our bid," he added.

Under the 1991 Local Government Code, a city can be reclassified as highly urbanized if its population is 200,000 based on the latest population census and it has an income of P50 million certified by the Bureau of Local Government Finance.

Currently, the city has a population of 217,199 and with an annual income of P500 million to include the internal revenue allotment share.

Meanwhile, Romualdez denied rumors that he will push for clustering of barangays once the city is converted from being a component city to a higher category.

"Clustering barangays is not in our agenda. That is the farthest thing in our mind among the things that we're going to do. Barangays that are existing will remain as it is. We cannot cluster barangays without legal basis," the city chief executive pointed out.

Romualdez claimed that many barangay chairmen are in favor of the city's conversion to a higher level. "It's prestigious to be a barangay official of a highly urbanized city than a component city."

He also clarified that there will be no increase of taxes that will be implemented by the local government as feared by the city's business community.

"Under the law, newly categorized city cannot adjust taxes within five years. Businessmen should be worried if our bid will not be approved because we can raise taxes," the city mayor stressed.

Romualdez urged Taclobanons to set aside rumors and focus on the positive impact of being a highly urbanized city.

"The basic question here is that whether we want Tacloban to be under the Office of the President or remain under the supervision of Leyte province. Putting politics aside, it's better to be under Malacañang because they have more resources," he said.

Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho Petilla earlier said that he does not oppose the city's bid for reclassification as long as majority of the city residents are in favor of it.

Romualdez denied that the city is not capable of being a highly urbanized city as he pointed out that "it's the national government that will extend help to the local government and not the city government helping the central government."

Sep 03, 2008

Tindahan Natin outlets in Region 8 sell NFA rice at P18.25

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- Tindahan Natin outlets in Region 8 continues to sell NFA rice tagged at P18.25 to consumers whose names are included in their respective Rice Allocation Ledger.

This was learned from National Food Authority (NFA) Region 8 Manager Ben Marta who informed that there is now a shift in the determination as to who would qualify to buy the government subsidized P18.25 NFA rice.

Director Marta said previously, the determination was population-based which means that every Tindahan Natin outlet must be able to list down 250 families. This was found to be not a good system because there is no way of knowing whether all those listed are poor. In many instances, most of those listed are those who can afford to buy commercial rice, Manager Marta added.

In July, however, DSWD Director Letecia Corillo already sent a communication to all local government units for the Municipal Social Welfare Officers to prepare a listing of those who are qualified to buy the cheap rice based on food-poor threshold or families whose income is P5,000. below and with 5 family members.

Director Marta said that when the new Record Allocation Ledger Listing has been completed, then this will be the basis of NFA in releasing rice to the Tindahan Natin outlets.

Everytime, a family buys rice, the authorized family member signs in the ledger. This way, the Tindahan Natin outlet is able to determine whether a family is over-buying rice already. For NFA, this is important too, because it is able to know the rice requirement that is needed for a certain period, Manager Marta said.

This method is used pending the Family Access Cards that are supposed to be given to deserving families. The Family Access Cards system is right now still being piloted in Metro Manila only, Director Marta added.

When reached, Mr. Germanito Mangalo, the DSWD Project Evaluation Officer, confirmed the statement of Manager Marta saying that many of the local government units have already complied with the listing.

The directive is to give one copy of the listing to DSWD and the other copy is submitted to the National Food Authority as this will be the basis for the Tindahan Natin's withdrawal of cheap NFA rice.

Sep 03, 2008

Cards for buying cheap rice out in provinces by Oct. 1

By Emilia Narni J. David and Sarwell Q. Meniano


MANILA, Philippines - Cards that will allow the poor to buy state-subsidized cheap rice will be out in the provinces starting Oct. 1.

Rex C. Estoperez, National Food Authority (NFA) spokesman, said in a forum sponsored by the Catholic Bishops' Conference, that the so-called Family Access cards will allow the poor to buy NFA-subsidized rice at P18.25 per kilogram.

The cards were given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to families whose monthly income does not exceed P5,000.

Over 260,000 families in Metro Manila have so far availed of the benefit scheme.

Mr. Estoperez said aside from the P18.25 rice, NFA rolling stores will still sell rice at the subsidized price of P25.

"We're refocusing [the supply to] those with Family Access cards despite the cost to us," said Mr. Estoperez.

Mr. Estoperez said the NFA's inventory is good until the second quarter on 2009 due to good harvest.

"The NFA is not currently importing any rice because our inventory is strong," Mr. Estoperez said.

He added the NFA is working with relief institutions to provide rice to victims of clashes between the government and Moro rebels in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the NFA reported that the prices of commercial rice in Eastern Visayas has declined as state-subsidized rice flooded the market.

Benjamin Marta, NFA regional manager, said the retail price of well-milled rice per kilogram has gone down to as low as P36.67 based on their latest monitoring.

Regular milled rice is lower at P32.50 per kilogram. Prices of rice surged to between P40 and P50 per kilogram in the first half.

Mr. Marta said traders who purchased huge volumes of unmilled rice, or palay, in anticipation of higher demand during the off-harvest season were unable to unload their stocks because of the availability of government rice in the market.

A rice trader said the oversupply of NFA rice caused sales of commercial grains to decrease by around 50%.

"Majority buy NFA rice. We have no choice but to bring down the price in order to sustain our business," said Yu Kian Ong, manager of Burauen Marketing Corp. based in Tacloban City.

The management of A1 Milling Corp. also said they were forced to lower prices because of competition posed by the NFA rice.

Sep 03, 2008

Man, 2 sons murder wife in remote Leyte village

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- A man, aided by his two teenage sons, strangled to death his 39-year-old wife, in a remote village in Pastrana town, Leyte on Sunday.

However, the police have yet to establish the motive for the killing.

The police identified the victim as Erlinda Germanes, who was killed by her 43-year-old husband, Melchor, and sons Melboy, 19, and Michael, 18, inside their house in Barangay Socsocon, about 5 km from the town proper of Pastrana.

SPO1 Gregorio Gerilla, of the Pastrana police, said one of the barangay residents went to the police station to report the murder. When the police arrived at the Germanes' hut, the victim was already dead.

Melchor and his sons did not resist arrest.

The couple has two daughters, Mary Grace, 16, and Mary Rose, 12, who also witnessed the killing.

Gerilla said they have yet to determine the cause of the strangling.

"Some say they were possessed by evil spirits. We really don't know yet," Gerilla said.

Mary Rose, the youngest daughter, said that days before the murder, her father and two brothers were behaving strangely.

"They said that they have to kill my mother to offer a sacrifice," said Mary Rose.

Mary Rose also explained that she and Mary Grace could not help their mother because their father and brothers were very strong.

However, their maternal grandfather, Epifanio Dagami, believed that poverty could have driven his son-in-law to kill his daughter with the help of his grandsons.

Sep 02, 2008

Tanauan coast fast becoming sanctuary of sea turtles

Philippine Information Agency

Tacloban City -- A big green sea turtle with the DENR tag PH-0983B TAG 00-Right, was released Monday morning, September 1, to its natural abode, off the coast of Tanauan, Leyte.

This green sea turtle is the latest in the already long list of sea turtles caught in the shores of Tanauan by local fishermen who are aware that pawikan or sea turtles belong to the endangered species and must be returned to the sea after being tagged by the DENR.

Mayor Roque Tiu informed that the green sea turtle which is 62 centimeters in length and 58 centimeters in width was caught by a fisherman by the name of Esteban Leonido from Barangay Cabuynan, in Tanauan on August 30.

Aware of the local government's policy on the conservation of natural resources, the fisherman turned over the green sea turtle to the town's Bantay Dagat who informed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources about it.

Mayor Tiu lauded the fishermen in Tanauan for their awareness in protecting the endangered species, the sea turtles. He said that sea turtles are referred to as the only living remnants of the dinosaur age, but maybe not for long. Unless sincere efforts are undertaken, sea turtles might follow the dinosaur to extinction.

Sea turtles, popularly known in the Philippines as pawikan, belong to the sub-order Cryptodira, and to the families Dermochelyidae and Cheloniidae. There are more than 220 species of turtles in the world, but only seven are considered marine (saltwater). Five of these species are present in the Philippines. These are the Green (Chelonia mydas). Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea).

So far, two of the five species have been found in Tanauan, the green sea turtle which is the most common species in the Philippines and is found in all tropical and sub tropical seas; and the olive ridley which of the five species is considered carnivorous.

Mayor Tiu said that fast decline in the sea turtle population in the world has been caused by the so-called pawikan trade where thousands of sea turtles were plucked out of the wildlife to supply the heavy demand for turtle by-products such as wall décor, jewelry pieces, guitars, bags and shoes.

Sadly, despite the government's Pawikan Conservation Project, pawikan hunting will remain unabated elsewhere unless people in the area cooperate, Mayor Tiu added.

Sep 02, 2008

Tacloban's bid for cityhood causes word war

By Joey A. Gabieta - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- Tacloban's bid to become a highly urbanized city (HUC) has triggered a word war between its mayor, Alfred Romualdez, and Leyte Gov. Jericho Petilla.

Romualdez has accused Petilla of derailing his administration's drive to get public support and join the roster of highly urbanized cities in the country.

The mayor claimed the governor was opposing the city's reclassification because the province would lose millions of pesos of its share from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) once the city is no longer under its jurisdiction.

Petilla has strongly denied Romualdez's accusation, saying that not once did he talk in public about the issue.

"Unlike him, I never went on public to speak for or against the HUC bid of Tacloban. Neither am I making a house-to-house campaign like him," Petilla said.

Money matters

The amount of IRA share distributed to the local government units depends on its land area and population.

Romualdez said that once the city became an HUC, it would no longer be considered a part of Leyte, thus reducing the provincial government's IRA share by as much as P90 million. Leyte receives about P700 million annually from the national government as its IRA share.

Petilla insisted that he would not stand against Tacloban's wish. But he acknowledged that the province would indeed lose P90 million in IRA share.

The amount, he said, would go to the rest of the provinces and not to Tacloban.

Petilla belied the claim of Romualdez that once Tacloban became an HUC, it would also mean an increase in the city's IRA share, which stands close to P300 million.

Romualdez is pushing for reclassification, saying that aside from the fact that it already met the requirements, it would help attract more investors.


Based on the 1991 Local Government Code, a city can be reclassified into an HUC if it has a population of 200,000, as certified by the National Statistics Office, and an annual income of P100 million, as certified by the local treasury and Bureau of Local Finance.

Tacloban's population is now 217,199, with an annual income of P500 million.

Its HUC bid has the support of the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council and the League of Cities of the Philippines. At present, the country has 32 HUCs.

Under Section 453 of the Local Government Code, only the President can declare a city highly urbanized.

However, the proclamation also provides that the bid must be ratified by the city's voters in a plebiscite to be held within 120 days after it is issued.

Sep 01, 2008

Typhoid fever downs 47 Eastern Samar residents

By Ranulfo Docdocan

ABS CBN News - Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY -- Forty-seven residents of Barangay Bitaog in Lawaan, Eastern Samar have been affected by typhoid fever, municipal nurse Helen Grace Elacion confirmed Monday.

She said the victims exhibited symptoms such as fever that aran between 39-40 degrees Celsius, stomach pains, headaches and loss of appetite, Elacion said.

She added that the disease outbreak started on August 11.

An initial investigation report said the disease may have been rooted from the community's water supply.

A team from the Department of Health's regional office is on its way to inspect the the village.

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