P-Noy urged: Spare ‘ukay-ukay’; BOC to burn P22 million goods

>> Thursday, September 18, 2014

By Erwin Beleo and Eileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government here urged President Aquino to allow the “ukay-ukay” activity (sale of used clothes, clothes or items) to continue in this city following crackdown conducted by the Bureau of Customs recently.

Councilor Leandro Yangot, in a resolution, said the city’s “ukay-ukay” or “wag-wag” business be given consideration because like any business activities operating here, the “ukay-ukay” traders also get business permits, and pay local taxes and fees.

More than 2,800 bales of smuggled goods worth P22 million intended for sale in used-clothes shops or “ukay-ukay” arrived in San Fernando City Monday from Baguio with Bureau of Customs officials saying these would be burned since these could contain infectious diseases.

The confiscated goods, mostly second hand clothes, comforters and other garments, were brought to the BOC office at Poro Point after these were seized in a series of raids conducted first week of September by BOC agents.

A personnel at the La Union District Collector’s office said the seized bales, which packed the BOC offices to the ceiling, will most likely be “burned for fear of diseases.”

This developed even as Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. questioned why the BOC conducted the raids on the alleged ukay-ukay warehouses when these goods had already passed BOC scrutiny.

“Those items already went through the BOC, so why still the crackdown?” he asked.

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, likewise, took a swipe at the BOC for zeroing in on the businessmen engaged in “ukay-ukay” instead of clamping down on the smugglers at the country’s ports-of-entry.

“It is unfair to our businessmen because they are not the importers but only the retailers. Why can’t (the BOC) run after the smugglers?” Domogan said.

He said that Baguio, considered the country’s “ukayukay capital,” could reel from the effects of the crackdown.

BOC agents went on a lightning raid through nine warehouses in Baguio and Trinidad Benguet on Sept 2 and confiscated at least 2,800 bales of used clothes, mostly branded apparel from the United States and Canada.

The agency said the seized goods, meant for sale at the city’s hundreds of ukay-ukay stalls, were declared as scrap fabric intended for manufacture and subsequent export as rags.

The massive crackdown is expected to affect the city’s ukay-ukay industry as there are 2,500 registered stalls while there are 500 ambulant vendors who ply used clothing and other goods at the Baguio night market.

“We need to ensure that legitimate stakeholders in the local garments industry should be protected and illegal importations of clothing,” said Bonifacio de Castro, BOC District Collector.

Garcia noted that the proliferation of entrepreneurs selling used clothes has adversely affected the local garments and clothing industry, eating into the profitability and competitiveness of many retailers and manufacturers.

Even with this, Domogan appealed to the BOC for consideration of the plight of the  “ukay-ukay” traders.

“I hope the BOC will give consideration to these ukay-ukay vendors as they were not the importers of these items but were merely buyers and it was not their obligation to pay the customs duties and taxes for these goods,” the mayor  said.

BOC operatives raided a total of 11 wagwag warehouses located in Hilltop, Bonifacio St. and Magsaysay Avenue and confiscated over 3,000 bales of smuggled used clothing, comforters and other garments.

The warehouse owners were given three days to show proof of legality of the shipment of said items.

The mayor said the BOC should go after the importers of the goods even as he urged the warehouse owners to cooperate with the BOC in the identification of these contacts by providing details and any helpful information even if most of their transactions are done only through the electronic means.

He expressed hope that BOC will give respite to the local traders through a compromise settlement to address their plight and to prevent any adverse effect in the business which has thrived in the city for many years now.

These warehouses are suppliers of most wagwag retail businesses in the city including the flourishing night market.

The mayor also said the city government should not be blamed or accused of tolerating this illegal act.

“The issue here is not the sale of these second hand goods which we do not prohibit in the city.  The issue is that these items got through and got in the country without the payment of customs duties and taxes.  So the BOC should also check how this happened and investigate its own backyard,” the mayor said.

BOC information and assistance division acting chief CharoLagamon, in a press statement, said the seized articles are “mostly branded apparel from the United States and Canada… believed to have entered the country through locators at the Subic and Clark Freeport zones as well as the Cavite Export Processing Zone in Rosario, Cavite as scrap fabric intended for manufacture and subsequent export as rags.”

“An investigation by the Bureau’s Intelligence Group, however, found that certain locators inside economic zones use their privilege to import raw materials tax-free to smuggle used clothing in the guise of scrap fabric. These locators then sell the used clothing dealers who then supply local ‘ukay-ukay’ business owners;

“Export Manufacturing Enterprises registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and located at PEZA Zones are allowed tax-free and duty-free importation of raw materials, capital equipment, machineries and spare parts. They are also exempted from paying wharfage dues and export tax, impost or fees;

“However, Republic Act Number 4653 (An Act to Safeguard the Health of the People and Maintain the Dignity of the Nation by Declaring it a National Policy to Prohibit the Commercial Importation of Textile Articles Commonly Known as Used Clothing and Rags), which has been in effect since 1966, bans the commercial importation of used clothing.”

She earlier said the seized used clothing will be “subjected to seizure and later, forfeiture proceedings in favor of the government. Follow-up operations will commence to identify and file cases against the erring importers and traders.” 


Vehicle falls down Benguet ravine; 13 killed, 3 injured

BUGUIAS, Benguet –Canaos are now being held and smoke billowing out in this vegetable town in grief over the passing away of 13 people, almost all high school students, who died when the vehicle they were riding in fell into a 300-foot ravine here around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sitio Banbanayen in Poblacion, this town along  Buguias-Kabayan-Bokod road.

Three others were seriously injured, said Supt. Davy Vicente Limmong, spokesman of the Cordillera Region police office while eight of the fatalities that included driver EfrenDalisdis died on the spot.

Four others were declared dead at the Lutheran District Hospital.

Three of the injured victims were transferred to Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center while another one was taken to Lutheran District Hospital.

“All victims excluding the driver are students of Poblacion National High School in Buguias,” Limmong said.

He identified the seven others who died on the spot as Jera Flair Mayao, 15; Maricel Basatan, 13; Jera Madiano,15; Jeribeth Simeon, 12; JasminLestino, 15; Nenerva Menzi, 16; and Angie Aguien, 15 and those who were declared dead at the Luteran Hospital in Buguias town as Meljoy Agustin, 15; IvonneBestre, 13; John Ray Dalisdis,16; and Mari Faith Lamsis, 16.

The 13th fatality, 15-year-old ChareeBestre, succumbed to serious injuries while undergoing treatment in the hospital.

Limmong said the Ford Fiera (ABF-436) was negotiating an uphill portion of the road in Barangay Bangbangayen when it began going backwards before falling off.

This, as Senior Supt. Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr., Benguet provincial police director, identified the injured high school students as ReyshanLatuwed, 18; JameroseBankin, 15 and ElejoyAgyapas, 17.

Probers disclosed the ill-fated vehicle was on its way to Barangay Amlimay.

“Upon reaching an ascending portion of the road, three high school students who were walking home flagged down the vehicle for them to ride,” Azurinsaid.

After the students boarded the vehicle, Azurin disclosed its engine suddenly went off causing the vehicle to move backwards as its brakes also went off until the vehicle plunged into the deep ravine on the left side of the road.

He said rescuers and first aid responders immediately responded to the accident scene but they had a difficult time retrieving the bodies of the victims considering the depth of the ravine where the vehicle fell.

Most of the victims sustained multiple fractures on their head and different parts of their bodies which could have caused their untimely demise.            

Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan expressed his heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and relatives of the victims and wished the injured students to immediately recover from their respective injuries.

“We will be extending financial assistance to the accident victims upon the assessment of our provincial social welfare and development office,” Fongwan said. 

Fongwan appealed to motorists plying roads in the province to make sure their vehicles are in good running condition to prevent similar incidents. – With a report from Dexter A. See


Court orders: Stop all small scale mining in Mt Province

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The Regional Trial Court here recently ordered stop of all small scale mining activities in the province particularly Barangay Mainit here and directed concerned officials and government offices to enforce the order as these were illegal.

RTC judge Joseph D. Patnaan, in his order, gave credence to plea of the heirs of Elizabeth G. Okoren represented by Edward C. Okoren as petitioners for issuance of writ of continuing mandamus and permanent protection order to stop Mainit mining activities.

Petitioners said illegal mining intruded on their lands and posed danger not only to them but also to the community. Lawyers PablitoSanidad Sr. his son Pablito Sanidad Jr. and Francesca Claver handled the case for petitioners, said Edward Okoren.

Respondents included Christopher Culalad, Donald Sagudang and Herman Fawayan as alleged operators of Mainit mining operations.

Also named as respondents were Manuel L. Pogeyed in his capacity as provincial environment natural resources officer, Cornelio Diego as environment natural resources officer and engineer Fay Apil as then officer in charge regional director of Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources- Cordillera  Administrative Region.

Apil is now the head of the regional Geo-Sciences Boardand Provincial Mining Regulatory Board chair.

Other respondents were Gov. Leonard Mayaen, Benjamin Challoy as Bontoc chief of police, former regional police chief Benjamin Magalong(now national Criminal Investigation Detection  Group head) and Bureau of Internal Revenue-CAR representative Eduardo T. Bajador.

Edward C. Okoren, who represented petitioners, said in their petition that sometime in April 2013, they learned certain individuals were digging mine tunnels underneath their property and other parts of the barangay.

Okoren said he inquired from Apil if mining permits were issued by the MGB or the PMRB over the area particularly at Avoo-os, Mainit wherein the latter said there were none.

Following this, an inspection done over the area by a team led by engineer Gilbert Ayugat of MGB and Archibald Tabbang and Alexander Kediam of CENRO found there were indeed illegal mining activities in the area.

In his ruling, Patnaan ordered the setting up of checkpoints in Mainit to be manned by environment and police officers and avert and environmental disaster.

He noted there were no arrests and charges filed against illegal miners, operators or financiers considering they have been hauling out ore and precious materials like gold and copper out of the province.

“To effectively stop illegal mining activities which result to untold danger to human lives and irreparable impairment of the environment, actions and measures beyond stoppage orders must be implemented with urgency such as setting up check points to apprehend and file charges against transports of ore without permit, apprehension of illegal loggers and confiscation of illegally cut timber and filing mining and filing charges against them, and constant inspection and monitoring to ensure that illegal mining and illegal cutting of trees and other illegal activities destructive of the environment are stopped.

In sum, the failure of the public respondents to stop the illegal mining activities at Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Providence coupled with the doctrine of intergenerational responsibility enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Oposa relative to environmental concerns which mandates that the present generation must ensure that the next generation yet unborn shall enjoy a healthful and balanced ecology, the evidence clearly showing that indiscriminate, unsupervised, and crude illegal mining activities and illegal cutting of trees pose extreme danger to life and limb of the miners and members of the community, the urgent need to prevent further impairment of the environment and to put in place measures for the proper development, utilization, and proper conservation of natural resources compels this court to grant the write prayed for.

“Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the public respondents to stop all illegal small scale mining activities and other illegal activities destructive of the environment at Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province.”

Patnaan also ordered public officials to make an inventory of illegal small scale miners of Mainit and issue stoppage orders.

Patnaan cited the petitioners for their stand in taking action for a healthy and balanced ecology in the area and taking the issue to court when they felt these were not being addressed.   


RTC clears CJH chairman of P1.15 billion estafa charges

By Dexter A. See 

BAGUIO CITY - The Chairman of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo), Robert John "Bob" Sobrepeña, was cleared by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City of charges of estafa filed by Arnel Casanova for the State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

In a decision dated September 3, 2014, the Pasay Court ruled that BCDA failed to establish probable cause in its accusation that Sobrepeña falsely represented to BCDA that CJHDevCo is incapable to pay rentals due for the operation of the 247-hectare Camp John Hay Special Economic zone.

BCDA argued CJHDevco deliberately chose not to perform its rental obligations to BCDA despite knowledge of such and in spite of the existence of retained earnings and other revenue.

However, the Pasay Court ruled, "To the mind of the Court, it is not the alleged misrepresentation by the accused Sobrepeña that impelled or induced complainant BCDA in the execution of the three MOAs as above quoted."

After paying lease of P425 million in its first year, due to several factors including the delay on the part of BCDA to demolish structures inside Camp John Hay and to issue the requisite Environmental Compliance Certificate, CJHDevCo and BCDA signed a memorandum of agreement on August 5, 1999 where a joint committee comprised of senior officers of both CJHDevCo and BCDA agreed to defer lease rental payment for the second year.

A MOA dated July 14, 2000, acknowledged the delay by BCDA and John Hay Poro Point Development Corp (JPDC) in the demolition of structures inside Camp John Hay resulting in the long delay in turning over possession of portions of the leased area; the effects of the Asian economic crisis; and the need for CJHDevCo stakeholders to resort to borrowings to continue development of the leased area, among other factors authorizing deferred rental payments.

The third MOA dated July 18, 2003, acknowledged that the Office of the President approved the July 14, 2000.

The Pasay Court said BCDA acknowledged problems encountered by CJHDevCo, partially caused by delays on the part of BCDA, which led to CJHDevCo's requests for deferment of payments.

The Court also noted that it was a joint committee comprised of officers of both CJHDevCo and BCDA that ruled to allow the deferment of payments.

The decision stated, "If there was misrepresentation as to the financial condition of CJHDevCo, the officers/directors of BCDA who are members of the committee might have been remiss, if not fell short, of their duty to determine the financial capacity or incapacity of CJHDevCo to pay its obligations."

The Court also noted Sobrepeña's transparency with BCDA. The decision emphasized, "There is no evidence that accused Sobrepeña concealed the corporate records and financial statements of CJHDevCo to BCDA. There is no evidence showing that accused Sobrepeña persuaded, if not insisted, BCDA to enter into the said contract. The very stipulations of the MOAs appears to be a product of negotiations, verification and careful, if not meticulous, evaluation ... The July 14, 2000 MOA was even approved by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and by the Office of the President."

"At the onset, we knew this was a harassment case," said CJHDevCo executive vice president and chief executive officer Alfredo R. Yñiguez. "The board was cleared of charges by the prosecutor in June so it was odd that a case was still filed against Mr. Sobrepeña. This decision only emphasizes that Mr. Sobrepeña and CJHDevCo have always been upfront and transparent in our dealings with BCDA."

Camp John Hay Development Corporation holds a 50-year lease agreement for the administration, operation and maintenance of the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic zone for its eventual conversion into a multi-use tourism oriented forest reservation.


Cosalan files bill to compel firms to pay taxes to LGUs

By Dexter A. See 

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - A lawmaker wants companies developing and utilizing the national wealth to directly remit to the host local governments their 40 percent share from the national wealth tax.

Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan authored House Bill (HB) 910 known as “Direct Remittance Law” in order to allow local governments hosting mining, power generation among others to immediately submit to the barangay, city, municipal and provincial treasury offices their respective shares from the operation of the said companies.

The bill seeks to amend Section 293 Chapter 2, Title 3 of Republic Act No. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government code of the Philippines which explicitly mandates companies developing the country’s national wealth to directly submit to the national treasury the 100 percent national wealth tax, before the national government gives back the 40 percent share of the host local governments upon the discretion of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)

“The current practice now is that host local governments have to literally beg for their 40 percent share from the national wealth tax to be released. In the meantime, development and other priority projects for the host communities have to be deferred until such time such share is released,” Cosalan stressed.

He cited host local governments are confronted with a situation wherein the national wealth of a host community being exploited of its natural wealth but without the host community immediately enjoying the benefits of such development and utilization of the wealth.

“This bill seeks to correct this inequity by mandating the direct remittance of the share from the development of the national wealth to the local government unit concerned,” Cosalan said.

He explained immediate passage of the measure will enable host local governments to undertake its priority projects for the benefit of the people living in the said places.

Under the Local Government code, the 40 percent share of the host local governments shall be allocated to the province which is guaranteed 20 percent, host component city or municipality will receive 45 percent and the host barangay shall get 35 percent. In cases where the national wealth is located in two or more local governments, their share shall be computed based on land area that will make up 70 percent and population accounting for 30 percent.

Cosalan said provincial, municipal and barangay officials from local government units hosting mining and power generation companies have a difficulty of getting their shares from the national wealth tax because the DBM requires them to submit their list of priority projects that will be funded by the said share instead of giving the local governments autonomy to be the ones to allocate their share based on their priority needs.

If amended, Section 293 shall provide “any person, whether natural or juridical, including government-owned or controlled corporation, engaged in the development and utilization of the national wealth, shall directly remit the 40 percent share of local government units as provided in Section 292 hereof, to the provincial, city, municipal or barangay treasurer concerned within five days after the end of its quarter.


Solon warns against special treatment of school shooter

By Liezle BasaInigo and Eva Vizperas

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Pangasinan Second District Rep. Leopoldo N. Bataoil warned police Teusday against extending any form of special treatment to Police Officer 3 Domino Alipio, detained for killing three teachers and a civilian in a shooting rampage at the Pangasinan National High School (PNHS), here, recently.

A former police official, Bataoil warned: “If I learn that he (Alipio) is being given special treatment, I will hold those policemen responsible.”

The congressman said policemen who break the law should be treated no different from common criminals.

Alipio has been transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Dagupan City, charged with four counts of murder and three counts of frustrated murder.

This, as classes resumed Tuesday at the Pangasinan National High School (PNHS) where a police officer shot dead three teachers and a loan collector over alleged unpaid debts last week.

School principal FloranteTamondong urged students and teachers not to allow fear to overwhelm them.
“Let this experience unite us,” Tamondong said.

He said for the next two weeks, the students will undergo counseling for them to overcome their fear.

The teachers have gone through a similar activity, Tamondong said.

PNHS has 205 and 25 teaching and non-teaching personnel, respectively, and 4,962 students.

Florante said he instructed their guards to tighten security. 

He denied reports that the gunman, Police Officer 3 Domino Alipio, escaped from the Lingayen police detention cell.

The school official said Alipio was transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Dagupan City.

Killed in last Monday’s incident were Florenda Flores, a teacher form the Labrador National High School in Labrador town; PNHS teachers Acidello Sison and Linda Sison, and Jonalito Urayan.

Flores was Alipio’s alleged agent in extending loans to the teachers while Urayan was a collector of the suspect.

Three others – teachers Ferdinand Entimano, Jovito Jimenez and Juliet Molano – were wounded in the incident.


Ousted mayor’s supporters block dismissal order

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan – Supporters of ousted Mayor Jefferson Soriano barricaded the city hall Tuesday to prevent representatives of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) from delivering a dismissal order handed down by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We respect the rule of law, but (the DILG) should also show equal respect by delivering the order to the mayor himself,” Soriano’s wife, Eleanor said.

Soriano is in Manila to file his appeal on the ombudsman’s order removing him and city administrator Ronald Brillantes for grave abuse of authority for allowing the operation of a street fair without authorization from the city council.

Eleanor said she was informed the DILG was set to serve the order.

Wearing blue ribbons, Soriano’s supporters vowed to hold a vigil at the city hall premises to prevent the DILG from delivering the orde


Abra clashes rage on; 10 killed including female NGO engineer

By Freddie G. Lazaro

LACUB, Abra–Army troopers and communist guerillas are still doing tactical operations on mountains here poised for more clashes even as death toll from recent clashes reached 10 including an army trooper and a civilian.

The longest of the series of encounters started Sept. 5 at 9:35 p.m. and ended 5 a.m. the next day here at the boundary of the town proper and the village of Guinguinabang

Rebels ambushed army troopers transporting the body of a rebel slain in the Thursday encounter, killing Private First Class (PFC) John Kevin Manuel, of the army’s 41st Infantry Battalion (41IB), said Lt. Col.Virgilo Noora, 41IB commander.

Caught in the crossfire was civilian Noel Viste, a resident of Barangay Poblacion, Lacub, who died on the spot, added Noora.

He said two other NPA rebels were killed in the overnight gun battle.

Noora also confirmed that three soldiers were wounded and identified them as Corporal Gilbert Ba-awa, and PFCs James Ericson Danao and Randy Sayaan.

“The wounded soldiers are now being treated in a hospital in Bangued, Abra,” Noora said.

Another civilian, engineer Fidela “Delle” Salvador,  staff of Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera and CORDIS, both nongovernment organizations was also killed allegedly by military troops during operation in  Lacub participated in mainly by the 41st Infantry Battalion deployed in the area.

A CDPC press statement said Salvador was in the area to oversee livelihood projects of their NGO when she was killed.   

“Aside from Engr. Delle, Noel Viste  – another civilian of Poblacion, Lacub was killed in the said military operation.  Noel Viste was among the 24 civilians who were coerced by the 41st IB as human shields in the conduct of their operation,” the statement said.   

“Delle was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects implemented by CORDIS in Lacub when she was killed. Delle was a civilian and a non-combatant. She had dedicated most of her life, her skills and expertise in bringing much-needed services to the neglected, far-flung communities in the Cordillera. She was a staunch advocate of indigenous peoples’ rights, a strong believer in peace and human rights.” 

The Army reported captured firearms from rebels increased to 15 after the soldiers recovered M16 and M14 rifles in the last encounter.

Six NPA rebels were killed when the encounter broke out morning of Sept. 5 while 13 high-powered guns were recovered.

On Sept. 4, soldiers from the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion clashed with around 50 rebels in Guinguinabang. The encounter left five insurgents dead. 

Five NPA rebels, one of them a ranking leader of the insurgent group, were earlier killed in the Sept. 4 clash.

Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the Army’s 1st Civil Relations Group (CRG), said eight firearms were recovered that day by the soldiers from the Maoist rebels.

According to Garcia, the gunbattle broke out around 5 a.m. at Barangay Guinguinabang.

Killed was Arnold Jaramillo alias “Ka Mando”, secretary of the Abra provincial party political committee and NPA leader in the province.

Garcia said Army troops from the 41st Infantry Battalion led by Captain Dionizer Mark D. Delos Santos were conducting combat operation in said barangay when they discovered a temporary encampment of the rebel group.

There were reportedly about 50 fully-armed NPA members, including at least 15 females, in the encampment which is reportedly being used as a training site for the new recruits of the rebel group.

Prior to the firefight, the military received reports from the local populace about the presence of armed men passing through some villages collecting foodstuff, money and enticing young folks to go with them.


Cops axed over exec’s slay case

SAN LEONARDO, Nueva Ecija – For allegedly failing to respond to the killing of a barangay chairman here on Sept. 4, policemen stationed in a police community precinct here have been relieved and ordered investigated.

Senior Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, Nueva Ecija Police Provincial Office director, has replaced the police force in Barangay San Bartolome over operational lapses and for failing to assist relatives of slain barangay chairman Rodante Interior-Garcia shortly after he was shot.

He vowed to clean up the police force of inept officers.

Nieves replaced the police officers for failure to respond to the killing of barangay chairman Rodante Garcia.

The village leader was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men in front of his house, which is 50 meters away from the police community precinct last Sept. 5.

Nieves said he has ordered Chief Insp. Alexander Aurelio, chief of the municipal police, to solve the murder in three weeks.

Police have yet to determine the motive for the killing. – Manny Galvez and Sheen Crisologo


P850 M Ifugao water project done by 2016

ALFONSO LISTA, Ifugao – More than 2,300 hectares of agricultural lands here will be fully irrigated once the P850 million Alfonso Lista pump irrigation project will be completed in the next two years, an official said here.

Engr. John Socalo, regional irrigation manager of the Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR), said the pump irrigation project is a multi-year locally-funded project that aims to provide sustainable agricultural development in the town by providing substantial and timely water supply for irrigation to agricultural lands in three barangays.

He said the pump facility will draw water from the 360 megawatt Magat dam reservoir which will be diverted to the service area through the put up and installation of pump and pump house, transbasin or conveyance system, reservoir dam and canalization.

“The service area of the new pump irrigation project will benefit around 2,800 farmers in barangays Sto. Domongo, Namillangan and Calupaan who will be ensured abundant water supply for irrigation during the dry season for them to be able to propagate their agricultural crops,” Socalo said.

He said canal works, including the 7.9-km main canal, the 23.12-km lateral canals and the 2.28-kilometer service and access roads and project facility buildings are being completed right in time for the possible operation of the pump irrigation facility.

Socalo said pumping out of water from the Magat dam reservoir will not significantly affect the plant’s power generation capacity considering that appropriate feasibility study was done that resulted in the approval of the construction of the facility purposely to provide irrigation for more agricultural lands in the town to boost their rice and corn production annually.

“We have to maximize the irrigation potentials of the Cordillera so that our farmers will be able to significantly contribute to the country’s food security in the future,” Socalo said.

He said funds for the project were sourced out from the regular budget of the NIA and the pump irrigation facility was programmed to be completed by 2016 in order to provide adequate boost to the local agriculture industry considering that the low-lying town is a purely agriculture area.

He said rice farmers will be able to have two to three cropping seasons nice the irrigation project will be put in place thereby resulting to increased income and better and improved living condition for the families of the farmers.

Socalo said based on the program of work for the project, the pump house will be constructed by next year and the water pump will be purchased and installed during the later party of 2015 right in time for the projected operation of the facility paving the way for robust economic growth of the municipality and the province as well.

He appealed to farmers in the area not to interfere with the already constructed canals for the irrigation since everything is being done by the agency in order to ensure the facility’s full operation as scheduled for them to be able to realize good produce and steady supply of agricultural products for the local markets. 


DPWH hit over road mishaps due to construction projects

By Liezle BasaInigo

CALASIAO, Pangasinan — A series of accidents in District 3 of this province over the past weeks has put the Department of Public Works and Highways in a bad light as residents and local media criticized pending road widening projects as the cause of the deadly mishaps.

Local television and radio stations in the province have received complaints from the public that pending infrastructure works like the Mancup-Malabago road-widening project in this town lacks warning signs.

Callers to the radio stations in Dagupan City lambasted District Engineer Marieta Mendoza and even Mayor Mark Roy Macanlalay for supposedly turning a blind eye on road accidents blamed on unfinished roadworks.

“Signages or warning signs and reflectorize light are important in the said area especially with the ongoing project but nothing could be found,” said Kenneth, a motorist. “Baka napagod nasi mayor kakasabi sa DPWH.”

“Ano ba naman sila (DPWH), wala ba talaga siyang puso at hindi maasikaso o mapagsabihan ang kaniyang mga tauhan para maglagay ng signages?” said Peter, a van driver who had stopped to help a victim of another accident at the road project last week – a woman who had blood oozing out of a wound in her head.

On a personal account, this reporter had documented through photographs four vehicular accidents at the Mancup-Malabago road widening project on June 12, Aug. 31 and Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, all at nighttime.


Bond derails P2B Mountain Province irrigation project

By Dexter A. See

PARACELIS, Mountain Province – The imposition of separate surety and performance bonds by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to a fellow government agency, the National Irrigation Administration, will derail the realization of the P2.04 billion Upper Botique irrigation project and deprive over 1,830 hectare of farmlands in four barangays here the benefits of sustainable irrigation, an irrigation official said here.

 Engr. John Socalo, NIA-CAR regional irrigation manager, said tribal leaders in the towns of Natonin and Paracelis already favorably endorsed implementation of the newest irrigation project but the sudden inclusion of the surety and performance bond requirement by the NCIP Mountain Province as a pre-requisite to the issuance of a favorable endorsement by the agency will affect the completion of the project.

He said NIA-CAR and other implementing agencies have no specific budgets for the posting of surely and performance bonds for their irrigation projects that is why he is questioning why the NCIP is mandating the implementing agency to post suchy bond for the irrigation project.

“When we secured the endorsement of the NCIP Apayao for our Marimay irrigation project in Flora, we were not required to post surety and performance bonds,” Socalo said.

He said posting of surety and performance bonds which was fixed by the NCIP Mountain Province at P10 million each for the irrigation project should be required from the winning contractor once the project will be awarded and not from the implementing agency which has not budget for such requirements.

Socalo said the Upper Botique irrigation project was proposed way back in the 1990s and was named by the proponents Upper Botique Small Reservoir Irrigation Project, referring to the upstream area of barangay Botique here, the proposed site of the reservoir.

He said the project’s main feature shall be a zoned earth-fill dam which shall be built along the water source, the Siffu river traversing the towns of Natonin and Paracelis, Mountain Province.

When completed, Socalo cited the project, which is the first of its kind in the province, shall benefit around 732 farmers and is expected to boost irrigation growth and food production in the province considering that over 1,830 hectares of agricultural lands will be irrigated.

The NIA-CAR official said major components of the project include a 33-meter high zone earth-fill embankment dam, access roads and service roads to cater to the irrigation requirements of the beneficiaries in barangays Bananao, Botique, Palitud and Anonat, all in Paracelis, Mountain Province.

He appealed to NCIP Mountain Province officials to reconsider the imposition of the surety and performance bonds on the implementing agency to allow the realization of the irrigation project for the sake of improved food security in the province in the future.

Under the NCIP conditions, the NIA-CAR is required to post the surety and performance bonds in the amount of P10 million each after the issuance by the host indigenous peoples of their resolution of consent but before the start of the project construction to answer for damages or violation of the terms and conditions of the endorsement which the indigenous peoples may suffer and claim on account of the project.  


Pastor hunted for molesting 7 girls

TUBA, Benguet — A pastor of this town is now being hunted by police for allegedly molesting seven young girls from his flock, the Police Provincial Office reported said.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr., PPO director, confirmed warrant is out for Pastor Felimon Gragasin, charged with seven counts of acts of lasciviousness before the Benguet Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The case filed earlier before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in La Trinidad had been elevated to the family court presided by Judge Francis Buliyat.

Records showed that in January this year, the parents of the minors discovered that Pastor Gragasin had allegedly been sexually molesting their daughters.

Shocked and distraught that someone who had been teaching them the word of God could allegedly do such a crime, the families filed a case against the pastor who has since been nowhere to find.

“May impormasyon kami na nasa Isabela ito at umaasa din kami sa tulong ng mga concerned citizens ay mahuhuli natin ito (We have information that he is in Isabela and are hoping that, with the help of concerned citizens, we shall arrest him),” Azurin said.


Benguet solon pushes low retirement age of miners

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The retirement age of surface mine workers from 60 to 50 years old would be lowered to conform with retirement age of their underground counterparts once a bill filed in Congress would be approved.

House Bill 5125 authored by Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan seeks to amend the provision of Republic Act (RA) 8282 or the Social Security System (SSS) Law to lower retirement age of underground and surface mine workers.

Republic Act 8558 amended Section 287 of Presidential Decree No. 442 known as Labor Code of the Philippines to reduce retirement age of underground mine workers or employees from 60 to 50 years old because of their exposure to hazardous elements and risk which are inevitable when working in mines, making them vulnerable to health problems and danger. 

“Even mill plant workers and those who worked as support services such as mechanical, electrical and tailings pond personnel who are classified as surface mine workers are likewise susceptible and vulnerable to the same hazards, hence, the need to also reduce the retirement age of surface mine workers in order for them to be able to be given similar treatment as their underground counterparts,” Cosalan said.

Cosalan said in the rules prescribing retirement age of underground mine employees as issued by the labor department, the said agency reduced retirement age of underground mine workers to 50 years old, in compliance with RA 8558.

The lawmaker’s proposed bill to include the surface mine workers in the lowered retirement age of their underground counterparts is now pending before the House committee on labor.

However, Cosalan said SSS officials requested for time to fully implement the lowered retirement age for underground mine workers because the significant reduction in the retirement age would be detrimental to the financial status of the SSS.

 As partial compliance to RA 8558, the lawmaker said SSS revised its implementing rules and regulations and reduced retirement age of underground mine workers to 55 years old with the agreement that it would reduce the same to 50 years old to comply with the law in the future.

Cosalan disclosed underground mine workers aged 50 had to wait for five more years before being able to avail of their retirement benefits and that the same went on for more than a decade.

Cosalan said a clarification of RA 8558 should be made to prevent any future legal consequences which may be considered unfair and unnecessarily detrimental to the hardworking underground and surface mine workers, thus, the passage of the measure is sought to address all queries and for the surface and underground mine workers to retire early and enjoy the remaining years in their lives. – Dexter A. See


Power supply in Luzon returns back to normal

Power supply in Luzon returned to normal last week, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.

 The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said the grid’s capacity stood at 8,068 megawatts against a demand of 7,515 MW. This translated to reserves of 553 MW.

On Monday, the Luzon grid went on red alert because of forced outages of some plants, including the 600-MW Calaca coal-fired power plant in Batangas. A red alert means there is severe power deficiency.

A gas supply restriction at the deep water to gas Malampaya facility also tightened the output of the Ilijan natural gas power plant.

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor, implemented one-hour rotating blackouts in its franchise area on Monday.

Petilla said the Calaca plant went online on Monday afternoon at 3:41 p.m.

In an advisory yesterday, Meralco said there were no scheduled blackouts even as power reserves remained thin.

It was not the first time power plants went on forced outages, but it highlighted the problem of aging power plants.

Aging power plants are also being blamed for the growing incidence of emergency and extended maintenance shutdowns of the country’s power plants, highlighting the need for new power facilities, officials said.


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