PIA News Service - Monday, March 15, 2010

Mindanao leaders urge immediate release of P10-B calamity fund

BUTUAN CITY (March 15) - Mindanao leaders on Sunday called on the national government to immediately release the P10-billion calamity funds as the El Nino phenomenon continues to wreak havoc on the power and agriculture sectors in the country, particularly in Mindanao. 

El Nino phenomenon severely hit the agriculture and hydroelectric power plants in the region since late January, this year. 

Represetatives Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City),and Francisco T. Matugas (1st dist., Surigao del Norte), governors and mayors said the calamity fund would be a “big help” to the farmers and the power industry sector. 

“We hope that this calamity fund will be released as early as possible,” said Matugas. 

“I also hope that this calamity fund will be properly distributed,” said Plaza. 

Rodriguez also called for the creation of a multi-sectoral calamity fund management task force. 

The Cagayan de Oro solon said a task force should be created for the purpose of transparency, especially that under the said law, bidding is no longer needed. 

“The Church would be involved aside from the business sector in the planning since the task force will be the one to present and explain where the calamity funds go,” Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez suggested the use of P5.5 billion initial fund to purchase modular generating sets to generate additional capacity of 160 megawatts (MW) in Mindanao. 

The lawmaker said that the declaration of a state calamity in the island would address the problem of power deficiency in Mindanao. 

“I also asked for additional P4.5 billion funds for immediate assistance to farmers affected by the dry spell in Mindanao,” said Rodriguez. 

In Northern Mindanao alone, at least 14,000 hectares of agricultural lands were already badly damaged by the dry spell. 

Rodriguez also said that the declaration of the state of calamity would also enable local government units to use five percent of their calamity funds to address the power crisis in Mindanao. 
Governors Vicente Pimentel (Surigao del Sur), Erlfe John Amante (Agusan del Norte), Oscar Moreno (Misamis Oriental), Khalid Q. Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), North Cotabato Vice-Gov. Emmanuel Pinol and other governors and mayors in Mindanao also voiced the same tune to address the worsening power problem. 

Earlier, the House of Representatives committee on energy, chaired by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, called for the immediate release of P10 billion in calamity funds shortly after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Mindanao under a state of calamity on Thursday. 

This was the resolution of the committee during the public hearing held in Davao City on Thursday where various representatives from the sectors involved in the power crisis in Mindanao attended. 

Arroyo placed the national government's calamity fund at P10 billion, of which P5.5 billion were allocated for the power sector and P4.5 billion for agriculture. 

During the house hearing, Mindanao legislators also tackled the frequent breakdowns of aging power plants. Hydro power plants are under the control of the National Power Corp. (Napocor). 

The people of Mindanao won't just sit by and let the government mess around with billions of pesos in calamity funds needed to address the power outages and the ill effects of drought on the island, said Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) Secretary Jesus G. Dureza. 

"The Mindanaoans are suffering and will never forgive anyone who will fool around with the calamity fund at a time of crisis like this,'' he said. 

The best guard against any fund misuse, he said, would be the private sector in Mindanao, who on Friday proposed to MalacaƱang an initial importation of 20-megawatt "high-speed" generators. 

"There are necessary control systems that can be done. We'd like to invite private sector participation,'' the head of the MDA said, adding that "the private sector will monitor this. That will be one good mechanism.” 

Napocor officials on Saturday feared the imminent shutdown of all the power generating plants in the Agus complex as the water level at Lake Lanao had dropped from the normal 701 meters to 698.9 meters. 

“Because of the current very low water level, hydroelectric plants might temporarily shut down in a few days from now to avert further damage of its turbines that resulted in wide power curtailment in the island, Napocor officials said. 

As a result, Napocor officials and technical engineers had been forced to shut down 11 of the 20 generators at the Agus complex, and only two of the three generating plants at the Pulangi hydropower complex continued to run in Maramag, Bukidnon. 

Napocor said this was why power outages had become longer, from 6 hours up to 8 hours and even 12 hours in some areas in the island. 

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), in its Sunday advisory, said the grid demand was at 1,447 megawatts while the generated supply was only 903 MW. There is a shortfall of 544 MW in the entire Mindanao, NGCP said, adding that industrial activities in such cities as Davao, Butuan and Cagayan de Oro were fueling the increasing demand. (muc/PIA-Caraga)

 
Six out of 10 Caraganons hooked into illegal gambling 'Swertres' 

BUTUAN CITY (March 15) - Six of every 10 Caraga residents were already duped, addicted or hooked into illegal numbers game called, Swertres, a study made by independent groups here, such as the Movement for Good Governance (MGG), said. 

MGG, in a press statement, claimed it was alarmed by the increasing number of minors betting into illegal numbers game Swertres and school children hooked into illegal video games such as fruit games and others in internet cafes. 

"Thus affecting quality of education because some skipped classes just to play their favorite video games in internet cafes with some situated even near public and private school edifices”, the press statement said. 

The group’s press statement, signed by its head convenor Engr. Juanito Dimagiba, claimed that rural public and private elementary and high schools were mostly victimized by proliferation of illegal gambling activities than their urban counterparts. 

The pressing problems faced by urban public and private schools include the proliferation of illegal drugs and fraternities and sororities that sometimes resort to frat conflicts and gangsterism. 

Illegal numbers game Swertres, according to the group, got its three times daily results from state-owned PCSO lotto Swertres games, which are drawn three times a day. 

But the group claimed that the eager Caraga bettors, mostly aging 20 to 50 years old, preferred to bet in illegal numbers games Swertres than in lotto outlets because the former offers cheap betting by as low as P1 than at PCSO outlets which has a minimum bet of P10. 
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“In the 20 years old to 50 years old age bracket hooked into illegal numbers game SWERTRES, majority of them were housewives, sari-sari storeowners, ordinary wage earners, vendors, PUJ, trisikad, jeepney and PUB drivers and others. In short most of the are ordinary folks but illegal numbers game financers were rich traders some were politicians”, the MGG study showed. 

The study further shows that illegal numbers game SWERTRES bettors bet 20 percent of their daily wage earnings, hoping to win but ended frustrated, saying the winning spree was only one out of six bettors in every six months. 

"But since they are already hooked and willing to sacrifice part of their earnings even they knew the chances of winning is very impossible, they still bet almost daily, due to the absence of outside influence mechanisms educating them well to stop”, the study said. 

The study also revealed giving tips aired over local radio stations almost hourly, daily and printed over local newspapers claiming numbers given on air were surefire winning numbers tip from alleged PCSO reliable insiders have contributed a lot to the illegal gambling addiction. 

“Some local radio commentators giving live on air illegal numbers game tip make it as a come on to listeners, at times, it is the only thing listeners listened to their radio program added insult injury to people addicted into illegal gambling”, the study said. 

The MGG study also said that illegal gambling financiers raked in P500,000 to P1 million daily as they don't pay taxes to the government. Illegal gambling financers are actually legitimate local businessmen, mostly rice and wood traders, who refused to pay taxes, except protection money given to government authorities. 

Protection money is also given to a popular radio station known for its combating stance, which claimed to be people protector but is actually illegal gambling financers’ protector, the MGG alleged. 

“The financers are afraid of this radio station because it is feared for its tongue lashing commentaries little knowing that it was only a camouflage as freedom fighter but actually relentless, undoubtedly corrupt”, the statement alleged. 

The group warned that if the untouchable and unabated illegal gambling trade in the region, there will be more Caraga residents addicted to illegal numbers game and by 2012 it will be 9 out of 10 Caraga residents addicted to it. 

The study was made from November 2009 to February this year funded by the group. (Ben Serrano/PIA-Caraga)

 
AusAID projects beef up Northern Mindanao port operations 

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (March 15) – The government projects funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) continued in Mindanao in support for the government’s economic development program in the island. 

In a statement, Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said the government project funded by the AusAID now focused on the airport and seaport in this Northern Mindanao frontier city of Cagayan de Oro as well as the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) located at the Philippine Veterans Industrial Development Corporation (Phividec) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. 

The Cagayan de Oro and MCT-Phividec already received a total of P750,000 equipment and capability building support. 

Leyretana said the allocation is part of the P3.75-million equipment and capability building assistance to priority ports in Mindanao and Palawan such as Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos-Sarangani, Cotabato, and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. 

Dubbed as the "Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area Support", the project specifically donated a P500,000 worth of equipment support to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippine (CAAP) in this city and P250,000 to MTC to support its capability building activities. 

Leyretana said Mindanao and Palawan are gradually gaining momentum towards increasing trade, tourism and investment in BIMP-EAGA by improving the delivery services at ports. 

He added that a secured, coordinated and harmonized operations at ports can attract more investors which plows back more income to the city and generates more job opportunities. 

Port manager Efren Bollozos said the CCTV cameras they received can significantly help them monitor the entry and exit of passengers as well as cargo ships and goods in the seaport premises. 

Bollozos said the installation of CCTV cameras came in time with the security audit of port conducted by the Office for Transportation Security (OTS), the single authority responsible for the security of all modes of public transportation systems in the country. 

"We hope that people would feel secured whenever they enter the seaport premises as they are working very hard to do all the possible means of securing them," he added. 

On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro Port Manager Naga Rascal also thanked AusAID, MEDCo and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for the medical equipment and supplies, fire hose cabinets, hydrants and extinguishers for the domestic airport. 

Rascal said the medical supplies are among the basic needs of passengers at the ports. 

Meanwhile, Engr. Manuel Kionisala of Phividec which manages MCT, said the installation of the radar facility at the container terminal will help ease surveillance and monitoring of port activities. 

The radar, he added, was acquired several years ago yet it remained idle since MTC personnel lack the capability on how to use it. 

The radar is already operating 24/7. The radar system maintains a record of activities of the sea and it monitors maritime security challenges such as transnational crimes, human trafficking, smuggling and illegal fishing, among others. 

Implemented by the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), now known as MinDA, this AusAID support program is a three-year project which is designed to facilitate the increase of trade, tourism and investment in the BIMP-EAGA. (muc/PIA-Caraga)


Earthquake shakes Tandag City

TANDAG CITY (March 15) - Residents in this Pacific Ocean facing city were rattled early Sunday evening after a 5.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the city. 

The earthquake also triggered several residents to run away from their respective houses for fear. 

However, no reported damages or injuries were reported, according to the region’s Office of Civil Defense (OCD). 

The Sunday earthquake occurred at 5:54 p.m. with the epicenter located at 38 kilometers east of Tandag City, in Surigao del Sur province, the office of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. 

The tremor had a shallow depth of 008.0 kilometers and was tectonic in origin, Phivolcs added. 
The tremor in Tandag City Sunday was also felt as intensity 2 in Mati City, Davao Oriental province and Butuan City while intensity 1 in other neighboring areas. 

Last Wednesday, a 3.8 magnitude quake in tectonic origin also recorded in Mati City, in Davao Oriental province. 

At least three tremors already took place in less than three weeks in this southern tip areas in Mindanao. 

On March 1, also this year, a 5.0 magnitude quake also happened, 16 kilometers northwest of Mati City. 

Last Feb. 26, also this year, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake also occurred, 92 kilometers southeast also of that same city. 

Phivolcs said the area is seismically active because of the network of faults in the area that are connected to the complex fault system in the Molucca Sea. 

The OCD said no damages or injuries were reported on these series of earthquakes.
(muc/PIA-Caraga)