Tuesday, 3 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, May 30, 2014

Ochoa bares inroads in Aquino administration’s disaster monitoring systems, preparedness

The government is close to completing the integrated flood warning system (IFEWS) covering 18 leading river systems around the country and the installation of some 1,000 automated weather sensors along rivers and watersheds that will give local government units and communities at least a six-hour warning for impending floods, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Friday.

Speaking before participants of “Iba na ang Panahon: Science for Safer Communities-Early Warning, Early Action” gathering, Ochoa noted the inroads the administration made in the field of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in response to President Benigno Aquino III’s policy to tap science-based tools to reduce the impacts of calamities in the country.

The DOST, in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), has started the information, education and communication campaign in the National Capital Region as part of efforts to enhance the capacity and ability of local government units and disaster managers in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the face of the increasing occurrence of mega disasters, including Super Typhoon Yolanda last year.

According to Ochoa, the public can expect the completion of IFEWS – a direct result of DOST’s initiative under PAGASA, Project Noah and DREAM – in two years. “This is quite a feat considering that in the past 40 years only five river systems had a flood warning system in place. What has not been done in the past 40 years, we will complete in just two years.”

The completion of IFEWS is crucial in providing DRRM officers, LGUs and communities the ample time to prepare and a graphical understanding of the full extent of the floods that may come their way, he said.

Additionally, Ochoa said the DOST has established its Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) that will provide a dramatic lift in government’s national capability in making forecasts more predictive and relevant in terms of predicting impacts on communities. Through the IOC, a storm’s path can be projected and laid over thematic maps containing vital information that can give a view of the potential damage a storm would bring to affected areas.

“This will be helpful in arriving at a forward estimate of how much relief goods need to be prepositioned or even how many GI sheets need to be in stock even before a storm arrives,” Ochoa said.

The Executive Secretary also noted the establishment of the Philippine National Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring and Communication System by the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) which is deemed to serve as an early warning protocol using state-of-the-art equipment.

To date, PHIVOLCS has 69 seismic network covering the entire country, which will be increased to 85 seismic network by 2016 and to be supported by smart sensors for earthquake monitoring.

Under the tsunami early warning system are the tsunami scenario database, tsunami hazard mapping for Metro Manila, Bolinao Tsunami Detection, Lingayen Warning System, Corregidor Tidal Gauge Station and the sea-level detection sensors.

“We continue to find better solutions for an effective disaster risk reduction management system. To be successful in our efforts to mitigate disasters, we must remain steadfast and proactive by bringing down science-based knowledge products to the communities at risk,” Ochoa said.

At this point, Ochoa challenged LGU executives and local DRRM officers to continue to play their crucial roles in times disaster and crisis.

“Now, the challenge rests on our shoulders. We now have all these science-based tools and technologies. But these are all nothing if we do not use them,” he said. “Remember that you perform dual responsibilities: that you are the first receiver of information and you are also the first responder in times of crisis.”

NEDA board approves nine major projects

The Aquino administration has approved nine major projects in infrastructure, transportation, water supply, and health care worth P62.3 billion, during a marathon meeting in Malacanang on Thursday.

In a statement issued on Friday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the projects were approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board on Thursday during their meeting that began at 1 p.m. and ended at almost midnight. The NEDA Board is chaired by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Approved were the P18.7 billion Kaliwa Dam project and the P5.8 billion Angat Dam water transmission project that will address the water supply needs of Metro Manila, Coloma said.

The Kaliwa Dam project involves the construction of a dam that will produce 600 million liters of water per day, and a water conveyance tunnel with a capacity of 2,400 million liters per day in anticipation of the future construction of the Laiban Dam.

The project will cover portions of the municipalities of Tanay, Antipolo, and Teresa in Rizal province and the towns of General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon province.

The project will be implemented through public-private partnership (PPP), under variants of the build-lease-and-transfer (BLT) scheme.

Meanwhile, the Angat Dam water transmission project, which will be financed through a $60 million Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan, aims to improve the reliability and security of the Angat raw water transmission system through the rehabilitation of existing conveyances from the Ipo Dam to the La Mesa treatment plant, Coloma said.

The NEDA Board also approved the development of local water districts through the approved implementation of the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) initiative and a $60 million (P2.7 billion) ADB loan facility.

Three pilot projects will jump-start the expected upgrading of facilities and services of some 60 local water districts nationwide. These will be implemented in Koronadal City and in the metropolitan San Fernando City-Pampanga area and 15 water districts in Bulacan.

Also approved was the National Irrigation Administration’s (NIAs) Malinao Dam improvement project in Bohol that will double the impounding capacity of the existing dam for irrigation needs of the underserved areas of the Bohol Integrated Irrigation System. The project is estimated to cost P653 million.

The P10.6-billion Cebu bus rapid transit project was likewise approved for implementation, the Palace official said. The project, which will be completed in 2017, will address Cebu's need for a mass transport facility in its bustling metropolis.

It will be financed through loans from the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development-World Bank through its clean technology fund.

The government is also allocating P4.1 billion to improve the runway and modernize facilities at the Busuanga airport in Palawan.

This is expected to boost the growth of tourism in Palawan, given the 47 percent average annual growth in passenger traffic in Busuanga and Coron, Palawan, Coloma said.

Also approved for implementation was the LRT 2 operations and maintenance project, estimated at P16.5 billion, to increase operating efficiency from the present level of 67 percent (or six out of 18 train-sets) operational daily to 95 percent availability of the total LRT 2 fleet.

The NEDA Board also approved the P1.2 billion Laoag airport road link project that will provide easier access to the Laoag international airport and the Currimao port in Ilocos Norte, to boost trade and tourism. The project will be funded from the general appropriations of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The government will expand and modernize the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, the largest maternity care and birthing facility in the country, to increase its capacity from the present 447 beds to 800 beds.

The P2 billion project will be borne by DOH from general appropriations.

Also approved Thursday was the Clark Green City project that will cover the municipalities of Capas and Bamban in Tarlac province.

Initially approved was the disposition of 1,300 hectares, constituting phase one of the project.

The recent groundbreaking of the proposed University of the Philippines campus in Clark is part of this initial implementation phase, Coloma said. PND (as)

Office of the President still studying Bangsamoro Basic Law: Palace

The Office of the President is rigorously studying the Bangsamoro Basic Law so that it could pass legal scrutiny, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Friday.

It was reported that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is worried that the draft bill would not come out on time and that the Palace would release a watered-down version.

Coloma however allayed the commission's fears, saying the Palace merely wants to ensure that the Bangsamoro Law has legal basis.

"Ang pinagtutuunan ng pansin ng legal staff ng Tanggapan ng Pangulo ay ang pagsusuri sa mga probisyon ng Bangsamoro Basic Law upang matiyak na ito ay naaayon sa Kostitusyon at maaaring maisabatas sa dalawang kamara ng ating Kongreso," he told reporters.

"Alam din nila na mayroong urgency ang pagpapasa nito dahil sa naitakda nang timetable doon sa ating roadmap to achieving the full fruition of the Bangsamoro political entity."

He said the Palace's legal staff is studying everything, so that the President could come up with an informed decision when the draft law reaches his desk.

After the President's approval, the Palace will immediately forward it to Congress, he said, adding that the legislators are likewise studying the draft law’s provisions.

"Ang ating mga mambabatas sa Kongreso ay nagsasagawa na rin ng kanilang preparation, nag-aaral na rin sila ng iba’t ibang probisyon ng Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at patuloy naman ang ating pagsisikap na maganap ito sa takdang panahon para masunod pa rin ang itinakdang timetable, he said. PND (as)

PCGG still committed to recovering Marcos' ill-gotten wealth, says Palace

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has not wavered in going after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, the Palace said on Friday.

The Palace's comment came after the House of Representatives released a list that showed Former First Lady now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos as the richest congresswoman.

Some quarters have said that this means the government has failed to go after her wealth, which was acquired through illegal means.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said it is not a surprise that Mrs Marcos belongs to the richest lawmakers in the country.

"Yun namang binanggit ninyo na pagsisiyasat tungkol sa ill-gotten wealth, patuloy namang isinasagawa ‘yan ng ating PCGG," Coloma told reporters.

"At kung tutunghayan ang record ng PCGG, may maipagmamalaki naman silang mga significant achievements na natamo na sa kabila ng maraming hamon at balakid," he added.

Despite the hurdles, Coloma said the PCGG continues to do its mandate of recovering the illegally acquired assets of the Marcoses.

This week, the House of Representatives released the statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) of its members.

Professional boxer and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao is the lone billionaire in the lower House, declaring a net worth of P1,345,499,575.

Imelda Marcos is the second richest lawmaker in the House of Representatives with a net worth of P922,800,000. She is followed by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., with P819,749,339.

Marcos' nephew, Leyte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, made it to the top 10 with a declared net worth of P475,002,017.59. PND (as)