Wednesday, 30 September 2009

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PGMA declares state of calamity in NCR, 27 provinces

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared a state of calamity in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in 27 provinces in Luzon in the aftermath of devastation brought by tropical storm “Ondoy.”

The Chief Executive issued Proclamation 1891 on September 26, the day “Ondoy” hit most parts of Luzon and Metro Manila, so the national calamity fund under the General Appropriations Act could be disbursed.

Covered by the proclamation were the National Capital Region; Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and La Union in Region 1; Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela in Region 2; all the seven provinces in Region 3; Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Quezon in Region 4 A; Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro in Region 4B; Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes in Region 5; Mountain Province, Benguet and Ifugao in the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

The Local Government Code confers upon the local government units the power to determine and declare a state of calamity in their respective localities but without a Presidential Proclamation, calamity funds could not be released.

The rains submerged entire villages, cities, municipalities and provinces under water, causing tremendous damage to life and property.

President Arroyo ordered all departments and other government agencies concerned to implement and execute medical assistance, relief and rehabilitation work.

As of 6 a.m. today (Sept. 30), the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that 373,675 families or 2,254,915 persons have been affected by the flooding.

The total number of casualties is 293 with 246 dead, five injured and 42 missing.

Estimated cost of damages is P4,792,309,020 with infrastructure damage pegged at P1.59 billion and agriculture P3.20 billion.

PGMA to visit two towns and Legazpi City in Albay province today

LEGAZPI CITY – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will visit Legazpi and the towns of Polangui and Camalig in Albay to see the progress of the government’s projects there.

From the Legaspi City Airport, the President will motor to Polangui to ground break the rehabilitation of the town’s water system in Barangay Napo.

The rehabilitation of Polangui Water System costs P140. 7 million.

Scope of work includes upgrading of the two existing reservoirs, installation of a 24,148 meter pipeline, power line extension, installation of 5,000 service connections, improvement of the treatment facility and the existing Higiban spring intake, and construction of a pumping station.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda will present to the President one bus load of paramedic volunteers who will help in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of typhoon Ondoy in Rizal province.

In Camalig town, the President will present 240 certificates of ownership to Core Shelter residents at the resettlement site in Barangay Tagaytay in celebration of the Core Shelter’s 30,000th Milestone.

The 145,185 square meter Tagaytay resettlement site accommodates 840 families relocated from the 16 barangays near the slopes of Mayon Volcano.

Each families occupies a house built on an 80 square meter lot.

From Camalig, the President will proceed to Barangay Puro to inaugurate the Puro Seawall Project Phase I and Phase II.

The P47, 498,500.00 Puro Seawall Phase I project was implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The project covers the construction of 240 linear meters of seawall and 240 linear meters of road to include a walkway and/or jogging cum bicycle lane, and is envisioned to be the “Roxas Boulevard” of Legazpi City.

The project links the newly opened Victory-Dapdap-Puro-Lamba Road to the Embarcadero, a tourism commercial/ recreational destination and to downtown Legazpi.

PGMA thanks Albayanos for sending volunteers

POLANGUI, Albay – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today thanked the provincial government of Albay for sending to Rizal province a group of well-trained and battle-tested disaster workers to help in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of typhoon Ondoy.

“Thank you to all of you for responding to my call,” the President said as she led the send-off ceremony for 58 volunteers of Albay Composite Emergency Response Team (ACERT), dubbed as Albay’ elite disaster warriors, on the sidelines of the groundbreaking rites for the rehabilitation of the Polangui water system project.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the sending of ACERT volunteers to help in the relief and rehabilitation efforts in five municipalities of Rizal province is a simple return gesture of the people of Albay for the support the President has extended when the province was hardly hit by typhoon Reming years back.

“Madam President the people of Albay are responding to your call for national unity in this challenging period of suffering,” Governor Salceda said in his welcome statement.

He said ACERT is composed of 20 emergency paramedics, 10 water and sanitation personnel, and 28 search, rescue and retrieval personnel.

The team was trained by the provincial government using a P20 million, budget, P5 million of which came from the Department of Health (DOH) and P15 million from the province, Salceda said.

He informed the President that following the declaration of state of calamity in Metro Manila and other areas directly hit by Ondoy, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has approved the use of P1 million from its calamity fund for assistance to the towns of Baras, Tanay, Cainta, San Mateo and Rodriguez, all in Rizal province.

The check was personally turned-over by Governor Salceda to the President right after the ceremonial lowering of the time capsule signaling the start of the construction for the rehabilitation of the Polangui water system project at Barangay Napo here.

“Congratulations to all benefactors of this water project (sa mga makikinabang sa ating patubig dito),” the President said.

The rehabilitation of the Polangui Water System costs P140.7 million. Scope of work includes upgrading of the two existing reservoirs, installation of a 24,148 linear meters of pipeline, power line extension, installation of 5,000 service connections, improvement of treatment facility and the existing Higiban spring intake, and construction of a pumping station.

Volunteers pour in for ‘Oplan Sagip Bayan’

Answering the call of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a total of 315 volunteers as of late Tuesday showed up at Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang to repack and distribute relief goods for the victims of typhoon “Ondoy” under “Oplan Sagip Bayan.”

According to Cookie Aydinan, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief of staff and overseer of the relief operations, a total of 3,000 relief packs were brought to Ever Gotesco in Quezon City, 1,000 packs to Taguig, 700 bags to the Tanay evacuation center, 500 bags to Montalban, and 600 bags to Taytay. About 1,000 bags were distributed in Malacanang.

Each bag consisted of food items such as rice, sardines, noodles and non-food items like clothes, towels, and blankets.

“It is unfortunate that misguided elements are spreading in the internet the canard that the volunteers are being paid,” said Aydinan. “It is not only untrue, it is unfair, unjust and cruel to the volunteers.”

Volunteers were mostly government officials and employees of PMS, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Office of the President (OP), and Office of the Press Secretary (OPS). Volunteers also came from schools such as Far Eastern University (FEU), Centro Escolar University (CEU) University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, San Beda College, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), San Sebastian College, Philippine Normal University (PNU) and Juan Nolasco High School.

Joining the volunteers were presidential daughter Evangeline Lourdes Arroyo-Bernas, presidential daughter-in-law Maria Victoria Manotok-Arroyo and her daughter Ebie, and the two daughters of Pampanga congressman and presidential son Juan Miguel Arroyo, Mikaela and Monique. Members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) ladies club, the spouses association of PSG officers and enlisted personnel, also went to Malacañang to help in the relief operation.

President Arroyo dropped by the relief center in the evening and personally thanked the volunteers. She was accompanied by PMS head Hermogenes Esperon.

“Oplan Sagip Bayan” is open 24 hours every day and will remain operation for as long as necessary.

Pagasa warns of new series of flashfloods, landslides as new storm nears; urges public to remain vigilant

MANILA, Sept. 30 (PNA) -- The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) warned of another series of landslides and flashfloods as a mightier storm roars in Pacific east and aims for northern Luzon.

"We cannot discount the probabilities (of landlsides and flashfloods) because we expect storms as strong as this to have devastating effects so we urge the public to be alert," Nathaniel Cruz, Pagasa deputy director and weather branch chief, said.

"This is a slightly stronger storm (compared to Ondoy) because it carries strong winds," he added.

Tropical Storm Parma is currently whipping the Pacific some 1,040 kilometers East of Northern Mindanao, still outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with maximum winds of 95 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 120 kph, and tracks west northwest at 22 kph.

Tropical Storm Ondoy left the country with 246 dead and P4.8 billion-worth of damage in infrastructure and agriculture. Hundreds remain missing.

Parma is expected to enter Philippine territory Wednesday afternoon and shall be named Pepeng once it does.

The Pagasa advised the general public not to let their guard down and come prepared when the storm makes landfall Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

Two more cyclones are trailing Parma, but Cruz called for sobriety as these are too far to have direct impact in the country.

Cruz said the effect of storm Parma  will not be immediately felt.

But it continues to gather strength over the warm oceanic waters, its extreme impact probably can be expected Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, he said.

It will also enhance southwest monsoon as it comes near the eastern coasts of the country.

This disturbance, the 16th local tropical cyclone, is expected to enter the PAR.

The Pagasa issued warnings to shipping industry and fisherfolks against rough seas in the coming days.

The surge of the southwest monsoon is expected to affect the western seaboard of Luzon, the Pagasa said in its latest Gale Warning advisory.

"Fishing boats and other small seacrafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves," it said.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PGMA underscores need for preemptive evacuation to avoid loss of lives

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today concerned government agencies to identify danger zones and prepare to implement preemptive evacuation to save lives in future disasters such the recent tropical storm “Ondoy” that left 240 dead.

“Somebody must be in charge of designating the areas,” the President stressed at the Cabinet meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City  today.

The President said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) must coordinate with Regional Disaster Coordinating Councils to effect the preemptive evacuation. She added barangay captains should make sure that people do not build houses on river banks.

She issued the order as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said that another tropical depression is likely to bring more rains on Thursday.

The new tropical depression may hit Northern Luzon before moving in the direction of Taiwan.

The military was also directed to pre-position equipment for rescue operation in disaster-prone areas.

PGMA orders Cabinet members, gov’t agencies to speed-up relief and rehabilitation of typhoon victims

 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains hands-on in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of victims of tropical storm “Ondoy.”

In today’s cabinet meeting at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) office at Camp Aguinaldo, the Chief Executive received an update by her cabinet members on the progress of the rescue, relief and rehabilitation/restoration operations as a result of the devastation caused by typhoon Ondoy.

The President issued several directives to ensure the security, health, sanitation and cleanliness in the typhoon–stricken areas and to help typhoon victims go back to normal life.

It was noted that within the more than 600 evacuation centers, there is a strong possibility that health and sanitation problems will occur. Thus, the President ordered the Department of Health to lead in this endeavor by providing adequate health services.

The President also ordered the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to mobilize barangay officials to look after the cleanliness of the evacuation centers in their area of responsibility.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque volunteered to hire 500 persons under the President’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) to help in the clean –up of evacuation centers, waterways and drainage systems.

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Emmanuel Angeles called on medical schools to deploy their nursing and medical students to help.

He said ROTC cadets and students taking up the National Service Training Program (NSTP) will be deployed to help in the clean-up of streets and schools.

President Arroyo is also set to issue an executive order that will declare a “Clean –up Day” within the week so everyone can help in the clean-up operations. This will be a non-working holiday.

The President also ordered the Philippine National Police to deploy personnel in abandoned areas to avoid looters from taking advantage of the situation.

Noting that many vehicles were damaged by the typhoon, the President ordered Trade Secretary Peter Favila to make representations with car companies, repair /service shops not to take advantage of the situation to increase their prices.

CHED suspends classes in tertiary level in NCR, Region IV-A, some areas in Region III until Friday

MANILA, Sept. 29 -- Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Dr. Emmanuel Angeles on Tuesday announced that all classes in public and private colleges and universities in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other areas hard-hit by flooding brought by tropical storm “Ondoy” will remain suspended until Friday, October 2.

”All classes in tertiary level both private and public in Metro Manila and other affected areas like Region IV-A and other areas in Region III are suspended until Friday,” Angeles said.

There are about 699,474 students enrolled in some 302 colleges and universities in Metro Manila.

At the same time, Angeles ordered school administrators, especially medical and nursing schools to mobilize their personnel and resources to help in the on-going relief efforts to typhoon victims.

“I’m appealing to all colleges and universities from Metro Manila and unaffected areas to send medical mission to these areas identified by the National Disaster Coordinating Council as high priority,” Angeles said.

“Medical students can attend the children and elderly people who are in need of immediate medical attention. We need to help them,” he added.

Angeles also ordered the mobilization of the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) and the National Service Training Program (NSTP) to help in the clean-up drive and the relief efforts.

“I have already told the school administrators to mobilize their students who are taking up ROTC and NSTP courses to assist local authorities in the relief and clean-up drive,” he said.

State universities and colleges (SUCs) in the affected areas, he said are also ready to receive evacuees.

PAL airlifts for free donations for "Ondoy" victims

MANILA, Sept. 29 -- The national carrier, Philippines Airlines (PAL), will airlift for free all relief donations intended for victims of typhoon "Ondoy."

All provincial PAL stations will load on flights bound for Manila any bulk cargo box containing donations addressed to reputable, non-profit, charitable organizations in Manila.

To maximize the cargo load of the aircraft, PAL station heads will be verifying and limiting the contents of the donation boxes to items of value and use, and exclude such donations as expired food and medicines, water, rice (due to weight considerations) and unusable stuff.

Complete information of the consignee organization must be supplied with the cargo box/container inscribed with "care of the PAL Foundation".

Individual donations for private or personal families will not be accommodated.

Meanwhile, PAL passengers whose flight were affected by typhoon "Ondoy" will not be charged any penalties when rebooking for the next available flights.

PAL ticket holders with confirmed bookings from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4, 2009 will have all penalties waived when rebooking. (PNA)

Monday, 28 September 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, September 28, 2009

PGMA orders convertion of Palace into National Relief Operations Center for typhoon Ondoy victims

MANILA, Sept. 28 —President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered on Monday the temporary convertion of the Malacanang Palace  into a national relief operations center.

According to Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, President Arroyo instructed her to conduct a meeting with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III today to convert Malacanang into a national relief operations center.

Remonde said the move was to augment the relief operations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the victims of typhoon Ondoy who remained in flooded areas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Remonde also said, even the members of the First Family were ordered by President Arroyo to evacuate the Palace to give way to convert the official residence of the President into a national relief operations center.

He said Mrs Arroyo also widened the scope of Oplan Sagip Bayan, wherein aside from the Cabinet members, all the government-owned and controlled corporations help in the relief operations of the government.

Remonde also told Malacanang reporters on Monday that he had already met with officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor) and discussed the necessary resources for the Oplan Sagip Bayan of President Arroyo to help typhoon Ondoy victims.

Remonde said that the Social Security System (SSS) had already allocated P100 million fund to augment the relief operations of the government.

The Palace also appealed to its critics to stop fingerpointing but instead help typhoon Ondoy victims.

Mrs. Arroyo on Monday also visited barangays Poblacion and Abangun Sur in Marilao, Bulacan and lead the distribution of relief goods to the typhoon victims.

PGMA cancels Cabinet meeting

MANILA, Sept. 28 —President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday canceled her scheduled Cabinet meeting in Bacacay, Albay to focus more on the relief operations for the victims of typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and adjoining provinces.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said that President Arroyo would hold her Cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Metro Manila, instead of holding it in Misibis Island  resort in Bacacay, Albay.

Fajardo said the President also canceled her other activities in Guinobatan, Albay on Tuesday and her trip to Polangui, Albay on Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Polangui Water system rehabilitation.

Mrs. Arroyo canceled her previous activities to give priority in the relief and rescue efforts for the victims of typhoon Ondoy, Fajardo said.

She also said PGMA also decided to temporarily convert Malacanang into a national relief operations center.

Mrs. Arroyo is also moving out from the Palace and will hold temporary office outside Malacanang to give way for the national relief operations center to move freely in Malacanang.

Earlier, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde also said that even the members of the First Family would move out from the Palace to use Malacanang as the central relief operations center.

Mrs. Arroyo also ordered a wider relief operations through the Oplan Sagip Bayan, wherein she directed all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC’s) to help in government effort to extend all the necessary assistance to the flood victims.

President Arroyo also appealed to public to help one another in this time of calamity and practice the Filipino tradition of “bayanihan”.

Mrs. Arroyo visited the flooded areas of Marikina and Quezon City after she personally lead the distribution of relief goods to Lubao, Pampanga and Marilao, Bulacan on Monday. (PNA)

PGMA condoles with families of Mt. Arayat  landslide victims

BGY. SAN JUAN BAÑO, Arayat, Pampanga -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo condoled last night with the families of those killed after tons of mud and rock cascaded down Mt. Arayat and buried their homes at the height of tropical storm Ondoy on Sept. 26.

The President, fresh from Cainta and Malabon, two of the worst hit-cities in the National Capital Region, arrived at the St. John Chapel here to commiserate with the Dela Cruz, Portacio and Galang families, who lost loved ones in the landslide.

Appropriately clad in a black raincoat over a black dress, the President told Sammy Portacio she felt sorry that he had lost his wife Riza, 28, and their three children Sonny Boy, 8, LynLyn, 5 and Raiza, 4.

From the chapel, the President then went to see Manuel dela Cruz, who suffered the loss of his entire family.

Dela Cruz recounted to the President how he watched in horror as his mother Catalina, 86, his wife Sherly, 31, who was pregnant with their fifth child and their four children Manilyn, 12, Marlon, 11, Maryan, 10, and Mcgyver, 6, were swallowed up by the rampaging mud, rocks and debris.

Last to be visited by the President were Mario and Leonora Galang, parents of Mark, 15, and Marko, 10, who also perished in the tragedy.

In a separate interview, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelie Fajardo said the President was devastated upon hearing the misfortune that befell her cabalen.

She said the President instructed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Philippine National Police and the local government units to investigate the cause of the landslide and to present their findings to her immediately.

The President gave each family two checks amounting to P15,000 for each loved one lost: P10,000 from the National Disaster Coordinating Council and P5,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Pampanga Rep. Dong Gonzales also donated P5,000 for each victim.

After viewing each casket, the President left for the nearby barangays of Sto. Niño, San Miguel, and San Agustin, all in the municipality of San Simon, Pampanga, to distribute food bags to residents.

Each bag, contained P250, worth of canned goods, rice, noodles, coffee and sugar.

RP gets immediate assistance from international community

The Philippine government has received assistance from the international community in its efforts to provide assistance to people affected by typhoon Ondoy that wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and other provinces.

In a meeting at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Camp Aguinaldo  today, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro briefed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Vice President Noli De Castro, and members of the Cabinet that the United States Government has donated $50,000 and provided one helicopter and rubber boats for the rescue mission.

“Our US allies assured us that they will coordinate with us in our efforts,” Teodoro said.

The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has also donated food and non-food items worth to P15.3 million.

The President thanked the international allies for their immediate support to the rescue mission of the Philippine government at the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy.

At the briefing Teodoro stressed that NDCC has already centralized the donation point for the victims of the typhoon. He identified three centers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development where people can make their donations : the National Relief Operations Center, which is located between the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1 and 2 near the Air Transport Office in Pasay City; the Central Office of DSWD right across the Batasan road; and the National Capital Region (NCRF) Crisis Intervention Unit in Legarda, Manila.

No donations will be accepted in Camp Aguinaldo, which has already run out storage space.

At the same briefing, Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza said the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) have been put on a 24 hour operations and are implementing a flat rate P10 fare.

Teodoro also informed President Arroyo that he has declared the suspension of classes at all levels at the NCR and Rizal province Monday (Sept. 28). He, however, leaves it to the local government units (LGUs) and superintendents of schools in other disaster areas covered by the state of calamity to declare suspension of classes in their respective communities and schools.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) likewise apprised the President that Quezon City  received the highest rainfall of 455 millimeters in 24 hours due to typhoon Ondoy.

PAGASA said typhoon Ondoy has already left the Philippine area of responsibility, but warned that a cloud clusters in the Pacific could develop into a low pressure area under the potential of becoming another storm.

The Chief Executive ordered her Cabinet to prepare and monitor the situation.

More bodies found, Ondoy death toll reaches past 100

MANILA, Sept 28 -- Rains loomed in flood-infested areas of Marikina, Pasig  and Rizal threatening search and rescue operations.

This despite the exit of tropical storm Ondoy, which left over a hundred people dead mostly from drowning, following the deluge that caused massive catastrophe across Metro Manila last weekend.

No storm is inside the Philippine Area of Responsibility, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said, but central and southern parts of Luzon can still expect rains due to enhanced southwest monsoon.

As of Sunday, Ondoy was spotted 560 kilometers west of Iba, Zambales as of 10 p.m.

Metro Manila will experience cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms, the PAGASA said.

Western sections of Visayas and Mindanao will also experience widespread rains.

Authorities warn provinces in these region to remain vigilant against flashfloods and mudslides, especially Marikina, Pasig and Rizal.

The Pagasa is monitoring the developments of a tropical cyclone near Guam, which is heading west northwestward towards the Philippines.

It however allayed fears because the weather disturbance is still too far to affect the country - 1,000 kms away - but may further enhance southwest monsoon in the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, television news program Balitanghali said Provident Village residents volunteered to help in the search and rescue operations despite lack of training, saying they want to help find more people, mostly their neighbors, who went missing after the great big flood last Saturday.

Two days after the tragedy, more people are still staying in their roofs with fears of resurgence of flood due to rains Monday morning.

Even Marikina hospital bore the brunt of Ondoy, with equipments such as CT scan and emergency rooms severely flooded with murky rainwater.

Meanwhile, Concepcion evacuation center in Marikina  called for help as many people have been getting sick due to lack of medicines, food and drinking water.

National Disaster Coordinating Council's Office of the Civil Defense officer in charge Anthony Golez said the whole of National Capital Region is placed under state of Calamity along with Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Viscaya, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Isabela, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Cavite, Batangas, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, and Bataan.

Total cost of damage amounted to P60.5M (infrastructure - P41M; schools P19 M and agriculture - P0.212 M) according to NDCC.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

PIA Dispatch - Friday, September 25, 2009

Ilonggos hail PGMA's Botika ng Barangay program

CABATUAN, Iloilo, Sept. 25  -- Thousands of Ilonggo residents braved heavy rains Thursday to welcome President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with enthusiasm as she opened the 15,000th Botika ng Barangay at the Tiring Elementary School in Barangay Tiring here.

The residents thanked the President for the program aimed at providing cheaper but quality medicines for the poor.

Mateo Elementary School principal Erna Arlanza was profused with gratitude as the Botika ng Barangay finally reached their community.

“Since the medicines being sold in the Botika ng Barangay OUTLETS are 50 percent lower compared to branded ones, it is a big help to most of us residents since majority of the people here are poor. The money that will be saved can be added to our daily needs,” Arlanza said.

She said that people, who buy maintenance drugs for hypertension and other diseases, could greatly benefit from this effort initiated by the government.

Tiring barangay chairman Genovevo Montecado praised the program, saying it was to provide affordable but high quality medicines.

Montecado said that residents had a hard time buying medicines in another outlet located three kilometers away because they needed to cross a river just to get there.

The village chief noted that he could now buy his daily dose of multivitamins in the newly-opened outlet and save half the amount for his other needs.

Government's economic reform agenda has kept RP afloat - PGMA

CABATUAN, Iloilo, Sept. 25 -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attributed the country's fiscal resiliency to her administration's sound economic reforms that cushioned it from the effects of the global economic slowdown. 

In a regional media interview hosted by John Sapio of the Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC) Aksyon Radyo here Thursday, President Arroyo pointed out that government’s effective coordination of fiscal and monetary policies proved beneficial to the economy, steering it away from recession.

Speaking in Hiligaynon, the Chief Executive thanked the lawmakers who passed the value added tax reform because the government now has money to invest in human and physical infrastructures.

She added that the economic growth posted in the first semester of this year can largely be credited to the government’s speedy implementation of the Economic Resiliency Plan which included measures aimed at generating jobs through infrastructure spending and supporting the poor through conditional cash transfers.

President Arroyo noted that the country’s labor market has remained resilient despite the global economic downturn because 980,000 jobs were generated in net employment as of July this year.

She noted that a total of 304,933 have been employed nationwide through the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) of the government.

CLEEP is the administration's nationwide effort intended to protect the country's most vulnerable sectors -- such as the poor, returning expatriates, workers in the export industry, and out-of-school youths, from threats and consequences of reduced or lost income as a consequence of the global economic crisis -- by providing emergency employment and funding and supervising livelihood projects.

DOH holds first Philippine generics expo

The fight against high-priced medicines continues.

In line with the implementation of the Cheaper Medicines Act, the Department of Health, together with its partner agencies, the World Health Organization, the Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries, the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines, GTZ, and PITC-Pharma today host the first ever Philippine Generics Expo in Megatrade Hall 1, 5th floor SM Mega Mall, September 25-26, 2009. It is also being held in celebration of the Generics Awareness Month this September. The Expo highlights quality generic medicine companies and their products which people can buy during the two-day event.

“Generic medicines have been our unsung heroes in the fight against costly, expensive, abusively- priced medicines. All these years, these generic medicine companies have competed against their high-priced innovator counterparts. Such competition has forced some of these high-priced medicine prices to go down to more affordable levels, just as it has further improved the quality of generic medicines through the years. If more and more doctors prescribe generic medicines and more and more people use generic medicines, these offer more competition to further force medicine prices to go down,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says.

“As a matter of fact, 5 to 6 of 10 Filipinos are indeed using generic medicines now. This emerging generation of wise consumers is surely increasing and it has caused the reduction of many medicine prices already such as of simvastatin, paracetamol, amoxicillin, and many, many more medicines for a variety of diseases. This is why our theme for this year’s Generics Awareness month celebration is “We Love Generics: Join our Generation!,” Duque added.

Further, to show the benefits of generics, the DOH also signs today an agreement with the Cancer Warriors Foundation to invest 20 Million pesos for the purchase of generic anti-cancer medications that is earmarked to benefit children with leukemia. These medicines that would have benefited only a few patients for the same amount due to the high costs of treatment can now help hundreds of leaukemic patients. The medicines are purchased through PITC-Pharma and are 2 to 5 times cheaper than the innovator counterparts but are of excellent quality.

“We love generics because they have always been in the forefront of our fight against expensive healthcare. Many children with cancer die every day because they cannot afford their medication. Hopefully, we see the heroism of generics through the lives of these children we save,” Duque stresses.

Secretary Duque elaborates that even in the midst of the policies recently adopted to make medicines more accessible to all, such as the imposition of ceiling prices for medicines, generic medicines still give much affordable price and much more savings.

A commissioned study recently done by the DOH and the DTI revealed that generic medicines can be up to 80% cheaper than their innovator counterparts.

The Expo also offers free medical consultation, surprise guests, prizes and giveaways to lucky winners, and many more. Concurrently, a current good manufacturing practice workshop shall be conducted to highlight how generic medicine companies in the Philippines  have complied with international standards of quality. Thus, quality of generic medicines has greatly improved.

“We remain relentless in our pursuit for quality affordable medicines for all. And we invite all our people to join us in the fight, to join us in Generation Generics!” Duque concluded.

9 bidders expected to compete for IPP hydro plants

Nine investors are expected to vie for the appointment of independent power producer administrators (IPPAs) to manage the National Power Corporation’s contracted capacities in the San Roque, Bakun, and Benguet hydroelectric power plants.

This was confirmed by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation after the deadline for the execution and undertaking of a Confidentiality Agreement with PSALM and the payment of the non-refundable USD10,000 Participation Fee lapsed last Tuesday, 22 September 2009.

The government’s power privatization agency also reported that the nine bidders have each received their Bidding Packages, and are currently conducting their Due Diligence on the hydro IPPs. The Due Diligence can be held until two days before the Bid Submission Deadline.

PSALM, which published the Invitation to Bid (ITB) on 07 to 09 September 2009, will hold the Pre-bid Conference for the interested parties on Wednesday, 30 September 2009, to discuss the Bidding Procedures.  The bidding is scheduled on 11 November 2009.

At stake in this particular bidding are National Power’s contracted capacities in the 345-megawatt (MW) San Roque Multipurpose Hydroelectric Power Plant, the 70-MW Bakun Hydroelectric Power Plant, and the 30-MW Benguet Mini-Hydro power plants, which are all located in Northern Luzon.

The San Roque hydro plant is based in San Manuel, Pangasinan, while the Bakun plant is located in Alilem, Ilocos Sur. The Benguet mini-hydro facilities lie in the Cordillera Administrative Region province that is home to the Philippines’s summer capital, Baguio City.

PSALM will adopt the same two-envelope bidding system it uses for its bidding exercises in this auction. The bidders, however, will have to submit three separate bids for each of the contracted capacities to be considered as a qualified participant.

Conrad S. Tolentino, acting vice president of PSALM’s Asset Management and Electricity Trading, said the interested parties “have to bid for all and can win as many as they can” in the bidding for the three hydro facilities. Thus, bidders who will submit an offer for only one or any two of the contracted capacities will be disqualified, he pointed out. Likewise, a joint bid for any of the contracted capacities will not be authorized.

PSALM’s rules stipulate that a qualified bidder may be declared the winning bidder for any one or all of the contracted capacities.

High level ILO mission to the Philippines on convention no. 87 freedom of association and right to organize

  A High Level Mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) will visit the Philippines from 22-29 September 2009 to review matters relating to the application in law and in practice of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (No. 87), 1948, which the Philippines ratified in 1953.

The Philippines was among 25 cases discussed in 2007 by the International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) and, following a number of trade union complaints which had been submitted to the ILO*s supervisory bodies, was invited to accept a high level mission.  In 2009, the Philippine government accepted the high level mission to identify areas in which the ILO could provide support and technical assistance for effective application of the convention.

The Mission will meet with relevant government agencies, workers’ and employers’ organizations and carry out plant level visits.  It will review legislative amendments and house bills pending before Congress as well as legislative gaps to bring national law in line with Convention No. 87.

On legislative issues, the Mission will meet and consult with relevant committees in Congress on steps taken to introduce relevant legislation which the ILO Committee of Experts has observed is not in full conformity with the Convention, such as amendments to the Philippine Labor Code provisions in Articles 234(c), 237(a), 263(g), 264(a), 269, 270 and 272.

The report of the Mission will be made available to the government, employers and workers’ organizations following the mission, prior to the submission of the report to the ILO supervisory bodies. All relevant information, including additional comments, will be brought to the attention of the ILO’s supervisory   bodies.

The mission team includes Ms. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO International Labour Standards Department, Ms. Karen Curtis, Deputy Director of   the ILO International Labour Standards Department and responsible for Freedom of Association and Mr. Tim de Meyer, International Labour Standards Specialist of the ILO Subregional Office for East Asia.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, September 24, 2009

PGMA arrives with 119 repatriated OFW's from Saudi Arabia

MANILA, Sept. 24 (PNA)—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her entourage arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 at around 4:15 p.m. Thursday, bringing home the distressed 119 repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

President Arroyo and her delegation arrived from her visits to Turkey, United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

The repatriated OFW’s from Saudi Arabia, mostly runaways and undocumented migrant workers, were brought to the Overseas Welfare Workers Administration (OWWA) head office for proper investigation to prepare the charges against their illegal recruiters here in Manila.

President Arroyo earlier instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), OWWA, and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the case of the 300 OFWs who live under the Khandara bridge in Jeddah.

The President recalled that since her previous state visit to Saudi Arabia in 2006, the King had pardoned 700 jailed OFW’s.

Mrs. Arroyo also asked the DOLE to strictly implement reforms, which protects the OFW’s particularly the domestic helpers.

Among the reforms mentioned by the President was the implementation of a US$ 400 minimum monthly wage of domestic helpers; the no-placement fee policy and the mandatory skills certification to ensure OFW’s can perform household jobs and the basic culture pre-departure orientation that should enable the workers to adjust to their working environment.

Mrs. Arroyo immediately flew to Iloilo to lead the opening of the 15,000th Botika ng Bayan at Cabatuan town today.

After the opening rites, the President will proceed to a regional media interview and then attend a reception hosted by Cabatuan mayor Ramon Yee, Tiring barangay chairman Genovevo Monticado, and Department of Health (DOH) regional director Ariel Valencia.

Botika ng Bayan is a program initiated by the government since 2001 to reduce by half the cost of medicines commonly bought by the poor and to make them available nationwide, through a distribution network determined by the DOH in coordination with the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC).

It is part of the Half Priced Medicines Program, where the government created the Pharma 50 unit, an adhoc unit that is currently called the National Drug Policy-Pharmaceutical Management Unit (NDP-PMU 50).

Through the Botika ng Bayan program, reduction of prices of drugs and medicines has been achieved where savings can reach up to 62 percent as compared to leading brands.

26 Laguna mayors support 'Gibo's' 2010 presidential bid as FVR vouches for Teodoro's competence to be president

MANILA, Sept. 24 -- Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro’s presidential candidacy is gaining momentum as he won the support of 23 municipal mayors and three city mayors from vote-rich Laguna in the same occasion former President Fidel Ramos cited his competence to seek the country’s presidency.

At a farewell dinner for outgoing country director Klaus Preschle of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation at the Mandarin Hotel Tuesday night, Ramos shook hands with Teodoro, one of the main speakers for the night, and gave the youthful presidential aspirant a big lift.

Asked by mediamen if Teodoro has what it takes to become president, Ramos, smiling, described the Defense Chief as “very, very competent.”

Ramos himself was defense chief of President Corazon Aquino before he entered the 1992 elections, offering a candidacy untainted by traditional politics and corruption and a leadership tested by his leadership at the defense department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In his remarks, Ramos said building a nation requires a “generation of leaders” from the same ruling party to formulate and implement vital public policies.

Lakas and Kampi have produced two presidents — Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — who set the direction for the country for 15 of the last 17 years.

The parties have since merged into Lakas-Kampi CMD and their record is highlighted by the robust economic gains made by the country, increased stability, massive infrastructure building and anti-poverty programs for the poor and underprivileged.

Earlier Tuesday, Laguna Governor Teresita “Ningning” Lazaro presided at a provincial chapter meeting of Lakas-Kampi CMD where Teodoro, the most likely candidate of the ruling party in next year’s election, gained the endorsement of 23 municipal mayors, three city mayors, two vice mayors, four provincial Board Members, two municipal councilors and 14 association of barangay council presidents.

Lazaro said support for Teodoro is growing at a frenzied pace and more local officials from the vote-rich province and region are expected to endorse him soon.

“We see a wave of endorsements for Secretary Teodoro coming from local officials not only from Laguna but from the Southern Tagalog region,” Lazaro said.

“We have heard Secretary Teodoro’s message for the Filipino people. We believe he is the right candidate for president. He is the candidate who can create the future for our country,” she said.

Among those declaring support for Teodoro are Calamba City Mayor Joaquin Chipeco Jr.; Mayors Victorino Rodillas (Majayjay); Nieva Reodica (Magdalena); Bruno Ramos (Bay); Josie Cuento (Sta. Maria); Juanita Manzana (Pangil); Ariel Magcalas (Sta. Cruz); Vipops Charles Martinez (Pakil); Gerardo Fader (Mabitac); Manuel Rondilla (Rondilla); Florcelie Esguerra (Cavinti); Caesar Perez (Los Baños); Isidro Hemedes Jr. (Cabuyao); Nelson Osuna (Nagcarlan); Cesar Sulibit (Liliw); Eladion Magampon (Alaminos); Wilfredo Paraiso; Vice Mayor Edgardo Ramos (Pila); Vice-Mayor Paul Simon Go (Siniloan); and Councilor Arlyn Lazaro-Torres (Pagsanjan). Mayors Magcalas, Paraiso and Ramos are former Liberal Party members, while Mayor Osasuna is a former Nationalist People’s Coalition member.

“I am with Lakas Kampi CMD. No ifs or buts. I will work for its presidential candidate,” said Lazaro-Torres, a former PMP Member.

“If we will be united, we can make Gibo win,” said Mayor Rodillas, summing up the upbeat mood of the gathering, just five days after Teodoro emerged as the ruling party’s consensus candidate for president following a meeting of its Executive Committee.

The choice will be formally ratified by the Lakas-Kampi national directorate next month in a two-step process to choose its standard-bearer.

“What we need is development. We can only attain that through unity, especially under the leadership of Gov. Lazaro,” said Ramos.

“We hope that we will be united so that we can ensure a party win," said Cuento.

“We are happy that the Party representatives are here and this meeting is held because we have long waited to know what our Party wants us to do and who are our candidates,” said Manzana.

“Whoever will be the candidate of PGMA will also be my candidate. Among all the Presidents, it is only during the time of PGMA when there was no cut on the IRA (internal revenue allotment) of the LGUs. It was given in full," Perez pointed out.

"I am very proud to be a member of Lakas Kampi CMD," Chipeco, for his part, remarked

“Walk for Life” kicks off Elderly Filipino Week

The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Steering Committee leads with other government agencies, NGOs and senior citizens associations in the celebration of the Elderly Filipino Week on October 1-7.

More than 2,000 participants from the 17 local government units of Metro Manila, government agencies and NGOs will join the Walk for Life, kick off activity on October 1.

“Walk for Life” ushers in the week-long celebration of Elderly Filipino Week. The participants will traverse in the vicinity of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City  starting at 6:30 am where program will be held at the SM Mall of Music Hall.

The Elderly Filipino Week underscores the important role that older persons as models fore today’s generation.

This significant role is echoed in this year’s theme, Nakatatanda: Dangal ng Bayan,Noon at Ngayon.

Proclamation No. 470 issued by former President Fidel V.Ramos, declaring October 1 to 7 as “Linggo ng Nakatatandang Pilipino,’ or the Elderly Filipino Week, aims to bring the public’s attention to the plight of older persons as well as address their needs. The annual celebration also seeks to recognize the important contribution of older persons in nation building.

Likewise, the Elderly Filipino Week celebration seeks to advocate for the full implementation of laws benefiting senior citizens, particularly RA 9257, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act. It also supports of the passage of Social Pension for Older Persons and other pending legislations for older persons.

Other activities include poster-making contest on October 2; Dalaw Kalinga for Visitorless, Indigent, Sick and Old (VISO) Prisoners at National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City and Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City on October 2-3.The Kimona ni Lola Fashion Show will be held at DSWD Central Office in Batasan Hills, Quezon City on October 3 where older persons ramp on stage wearing their special-designed ‘kimonas’

On the other hand, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) will confer this year’s Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda on Sunday, October 4. Likewise, a public for a on Republic Act 9257, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act will be held at the University of Makati on October 5.

The culminating activity of the EFW celebration will be held at SM City North EDSA in Quezon City as Pensioners’ Day on October 7.

The members of the EFW national steering committee chaired by the DSWD are the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of  Finance (DOF), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE),Federation of Senior Citizen’s Association of the Philippines (FSCAP),SM Foundation, Inc., Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and DZAS- Far Eastern Broadcasting Corp.  

National interest foremost in VFA review -– Adan

MANILA, Sept. 24 -- National interest is the top consideration in the continuing review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), according to Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission (VFACOM).

The VFA review, according to Adan in a media briefing in Malacanang, is necessary to ensure respect for Philippine laws and traditions. It is meant, he said, to assess the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

“The VFA activities that have been conducted over the years serve the national interest. There might be certain procedures or guidelines that need to be refined and we, at the commission level, are constantly looking into that. This is the internal review that is continuously done by the commission,” Adan said.

Adan said the commission respects the views of the Senate which wants to amend the VFA or even abrogate it altogether.

However, Adan added, the government must also consider the stand of local chief executives, from mayors to governors, who have expressed support through council and board resolutions to the joint defense exercises.

“In fact, even the League of Governors of the Philippines has expressed its support to this joint exercises with the US and the support of the US to the Philippines because the arrangement helps improve the quality of life in their communities and upgrade the capability of our Armed Forces,” he said.

For his part, Assistant Secretary Eduardo Malaya pointed out that from 1999 to 2009, US military and defense assistance amounted to 429 million dollars.

In 1995, Adan said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) launched a 15-year modernization program to improve our capabilities after the US bases left in 1992.

“We have a mutual defense treaty with the US, our only security alliance with any nation. And that treaty obliges us to maintain our joint capability to be able to work together, fight together, if necessary,” Adan said.

With or without the VFA, Adan said there is a mutual obligation for both nations to work together and train together to increase military cooperation and enhance security relations between the two countries.

Adan said the joint undertaking is crucial in the preserving stability in the region including the fight against terrorism particularly after intelligence reports have established that the Abu Sayyaf has links with the Jemaah Islamiyah and the al-Qaeda terrorist groups.