(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Wednesday, 28 October, 2020) At 3:00 AM today, the eye of Typhoon MOLAVE (formerly QUINTA) was located based on all available data at 500 km Northwest of Kalayaan Islands, Palawan (14.0°N, 110.7°E) (outside of Philippine Area of Responsibility) with maximum sustained winds of 155 km/h near the center and gustiness up to 190 km/h. It is moving West Northwestward at 20 km/h. Caraga Region will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers due to Localized Thunderstorm. Possible flash floods or landslides during severe thunderstorms. Light to Moderate winds coming from Northeast to Southeast will prevail and the coastal waters will be Slight to Moderate with wave height from 0.6 to 2.5 meters.

Friday, October 9, 2020

COVID-19 testing lab to rise in Surigao del Norte

By Venus L. Garcia

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte, Oct. 9 (PIA) -- Per statement from Surigao del Norte Assistant Provincial Administator and Spokesperson Simeon Vicente Catrence, a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing laboratory will soon rise in the province. Through a collective support, the Taganito HPAL, Taganito Mining Corporation, Cagdianao Mining Corporation and Platinum Group Metals Corporation mining firms have donated a total amount P18 million for the establishment of said molecular lab which will be manned by the Philippine Red Cross.

Upon approval of the board of the Surigao State College of Technology under a usufruct agreement, the required 2,000-square meter lot was also made available to concretize the plan.

“This molecular lab can process for up to 2,000 swab specimens per day collected from patients suspicious of COVID-19. All materials are ready and hopefully by November of this year we could start with the operation,” said Castrence.

He said the medical technologists are currently undergoing a proficiency training in molecular diagnostic techniques. So, in time with the completion of the laboratory construction and as soon as they finished and passed, they will immediately start delivering their services.

“Amid this crisis, the local government makes all efforts not only to lessen our anguish but to address all issues and concerns of Surigaonons. The LGU is working for you. Gov. Lalo Matugas would also like to convey to everyone that he and the rest of partner stakeholders are really doing everything to contain, if not eradicate, the virus,” said Castence. (VLG/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

DILG-13 orients 2,500 new contact tracers


By Venus L. Garcia

BUTUAN CITY, Oct. 9 (PIA) -- To intensify the contact tracing efforts in the Caraga Region, more than 2,500 newly hired contact tracers have attended the simultaneous orientation conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) - Caraga in this city and other provinces.  

"If we have a large number of contact tracers, we can also speed up the identification of close contacts,” said director Charissa Guerta of the DILG-Butuan City.

Upon identifying the close contacts of the persons who tested positive of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the contact tracers will then immediately notify them of the necessary isolation or quarantine protocol.

“They will start with their services very soon. They will sign the contract of service for contact tracers for immediate deployment,” said DILG-Caraga regional director Lilibeth Famacion.

Given the extent of exposure and risk among these contact tracers, Famacion assured the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment.

They will take charge of the conduct of interviews, profiling, and perform an initial public health risk assessment of COVID-19 cases and their close contacts.

“This will be our way of giving service to the government, the people. We are here to assist in the contact tracing efforts and to fast track the identification of those who are exposed to the virus,” said Haydee Elen, contact tracer.

Raul Cuenca, Jr., also a contact tracer, underscored the essence of ‘Bayanihan’ where everyone has to do something to help avert COVID-19 transmission.

Famacion also reminded the residents to strictly practice the minimum public health standard and to remain in their residences at all times, except when buying essentials and doing vital transactions. (VLG/PIA-Caraga)


Youths in Dinagat Islands join in tour operation, management contest

By Venus L. Garcia

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte, Oct. 9 (PIA) -- As part of the festivities during the celebration of the 14th Charter Day of Dinagat Islands, the youth leaders participated in one of a kind tour operation and management contest.

“This is the first-ever competition done for the making of tour packages. If we learn to understand our special connection with the environment, we will do our best to protect and preserve it especially when we do tourism. The exploitation of the environment happens when we human beings treat ourselves separate from it,” said regional director Mary Jean Camarin of the Department of Tourism (DOT) – Caraga.

The competition aims to promote the concept of conservation in Dinagat Islands’ brand of tourism by involving the youth as the future leaders of the province.

Dinagat Islands bears the tagline “Biyahe sa Dinagat Islands, Biyahe sa Kalikasang Buhay” which seeks to boost tourism and its abundant natural resources that made it known as the mystical and rising paradise in the Caraga region.

“Here and now, in the paradise we know as the province of Dinagat Islands, we are giving birth to something that will breathe new life to our island ecosystem. Community conservation tourism! And this kind of tourism entails not just having tour guides who will tell us where to go. We will develop tour guides, our own people, who will fulfill what truly a tour guide means – one who knows the essence of conservation tourism, creating communities that are conscious of the nature surrounding them,” emphasized Dinagat Islands Gov. Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao.

The solon further pushed for measures that advocate conservation. She also wants to create a kind of tourism that highlights conservation and guides the communities and visitors. This, she means learning while exploring, understanding the nature while swimming or island hopping.

“I am certain that our partners in the region will also act as our guide as they support us with this endeavor. We have to look at conservation as a form of activism, as a way to fight against capitalist greed that leaves the marginalized hungry and impoverished,” said Gov. Bag-ao.

The team Cagdianao was awarded first place for being the Best in Itinerary and Package Development and Best in Tour Package Implementation. Team Loreto as the second-place winner for Best in Tour Package Promotions and Marketing. Team Tubajon also garnered the third-place award while Dinagat was adjudged as the fourth-place winner. 

The SK participants also went through several skills development workshops on tourism management, tour packaging, and tour guiding.

“We not only limit in training the youths. We want them to become accredited tour guides,” said Camarin. (VLG/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

AgNor LGUs recognized in this year’s ANGELL Awards

By Jennifer P. Gaitano

BUTUAN CITY, Oct. 9 (PIA) -- Amid the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the recognition of local government units in the province of Agusan del Norte was held recently dubbed as the Accelerating New Dimensions on Good Governance and Excellence in Local Leadership (ANGELL) Awards.

The ANGELL Awards was aimed to recognize the exemplary performance of the LGUs, institutions, barangays, and employees who continue to deliver their services to the constituents despite the risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the ANGELL Awards also served as an inspiration to the LGUs for them to excel and continue to provide quality programs and services to the public.

Agusan del Norte second district Representative Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba highlighted that those who work harder are worth to be recognized. The provincial government acknowledged the LGUs that continue to provide quality programs and services to the public even during the crisis.

“All our good practices may be replicated by other agencies and LGUs. The barangays are very important, in fact, they are the backbone of our governance. Good governance will not stop even during a pandemic,” said Matba.

Being a consistent awardee, Mayor Jovette Calo of Carmen, Agusan del Norte took this as a challenge and vowed to enhance their performance in public service.

“We have more to do for our municipality. We are really working hard and this COVID-19 is a test of our leadership. People would see how serious we are in providing public service during crisis such as this,” Calo shared.

Other programs in the province that were recognized included the disaster-resilient LGUs, best performing anti-drug abuse councils, barangay nutrition scholars, most persons with disability (PWD)-friendly LGUs, and ecological solid waste management, among others.

The ANGELL Awards is now in its 6th year and is expected to continue to recognize the performing LGUs in the province. (JPG/PIA-Caraga)

Army, BHWs facilitate medical care to 3 pregnant FRs, 30 children

By 1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang

BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte, Oct. 9 -- The 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion (23IB), Philippine Army facilitated the provision of medical care and assistance to three pregnant former rebels (FRs) and 30 children of former Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) through the medical services activity held at the battalion headquarters at the Jamboree Site, Purok 6, Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista on October 2, 2020.

The medical activity, which included free deworming, immunization and pre-natal check-up was conducted in partnership with the members of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) of Alubihid headed by Jasmine Millagracia, the barangay nurse. The success of the activity was also made possible through the collaboration of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the local government unit (LGU) of Buenavista who are part of the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) of the government.

 The said health activity is among the regular programs being done by the 23rd IB to monitor the health situation of the FRs, including their children at their halfway house called “Happy Home” inside the battalion headquarters. It is also aimed to protect the FRs and their families from the threats of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Alias “Jannah,” a pregnant FR was among the beneficiaries of the medical activity who thanked the Army and the government for providing them and their children the much-needed health interventions.

She also added in her testimony that the proper care she received from the soldiers since she surrendered will help her prepare to reintegrate back to her family and community.

Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, the commander of 23rd IB expressed his full support to the activity and thanked the partner agencies and the LGU concerned for the support they extended to the former CNT combatants and their children.

He also condemned the CNTs for the continuing act of injustice that they do to the families and children of their combatants who, for years, were denied of the access to the health services of the government.

“When you returned to the fold of the law, among the primary services that the government has provided you is health care. The Army, the line agencies, and the LGU want you to be in good health, especially your children,” Paulo said.

He also emphasized that the provision of regular health services will also ensure the physical growth and development of the children of the FRs who are considered as the future leaders of Agusan del Norte, Caraga Region and in the whole country.

“These children are our future leaders. We condemn the CNTs for denying them the right to access to health services. We are aware that here in Agusan del Norte and the rest of the region, hundreds of children, whose parents are still enthralled by the false ideology and claims of the CNTs are suffering from malnutrition and other life-threatening ailments,” Paulo said.

He also urged the remaining CNT members in Agusan del Norte to make one and concrete decisions to abandon the communist movement and go back to the government.

He also pointed out that the government has been giving favorable treatment to former rebels who wish to change their lives and face a renewed future. (CMO Officer, 23IB, 4ID, PA/PIA Agusan del Norte)

Newly appointed PRO-13 chief strengthens ties with Army in Caraga

By Maj. Francisco P. Garello, Jr.

BUTUAN CITY, Oct. 9 (PIA) -- Newly appointed Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 chief PBGen. Romeo Caramat, Jr. reaffirmed the Caraga police force's ties with the 402nd Infantry “Stingers” Brigade, Philippine Army during his official courtesy visit to the Brigade Headquarters on Wednesday, October 7. 

The region’s new top cop was accorded with foyer honors by BGen. Maurito Licudine, commander of 402nd Infantry Brigade, and the army brigade’s officers and enlisted personnel for his first official visit, followed by the signing of the guest book and tree planting. Scribbled on the tree guard is the police brigadier general’s name to signify the brigade’s esteemed partnership with PRO-13.

PBGen. Caramat, Jr., assumed the position on September 17 after former PRO-13 regional director PBGen. Joselito Esquivel's retirement.

The PRO-13 regional director conveyed his sincerest gratitude to the brigade, underscoring the enduring partnership between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Army in Caraga region. He affirmed the long-standing commitment of the whole PNP force to the Philippine Army as the two organizations pursue its common goal in ending the local communist armed conflict in Caraga region.

In his statement, BGen. Licudine cited the ‘outstanding partnership’ between the police and army forces in the region, which enables them to “complement its functions and achieve successful joint operations in maintaining the peace and security in the region.”

“Rest assured that the 402nd Brigade is steadfast in supporting the PNP. We have a firm belief that we can thrive successfully if we work together. Thus, the visit of PBGen. Caramat signifies the reaffirmation of the partnership as our organizations both continuously perform our mandate to serve the people and protect the communities," BGen. Licudine added. (402nd Brigade/DMNR/PIA-Caraga)

Mahigit 2,500 bagong contact tracers sumailalim sa orientaton ng DILG-13

By Venus L. Garcia

LUNGSOD NG BUTUAN, Oktubre 9 (PIA) -- Sabay-sabay na sumailalim sa orientation sa magkakahiwalay na venue dito sa lungsod at iba pang probinsiya sa rehiyon ang mga bagong hire na contact tracers kontra coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Bahagi sila ng mahigit 2,500 na mga bagong hire na contact tracers sa Caraga region. 

Sinimulan ng Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) ang hiring ng 50,000 na mga contact tracer sa buong bansa matapos mapirmahan ni pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or Bayanihan 2 Law.

“Kung marami ang bilang ng contact tracers, mabilis natin ma-trace ang close contacts. At kung malalaman natin ang close contacts, agaran silang maiisolate at maiquarantine,” sabi ni director Charissa Guerta ng DILG-Butuan City.

Kapag natukoy na nila ang close contacts ng isang nagpositibo sa COVID-19 ay agad nilang aabisuhan para mai isolate o mai-quarantine. 

Kung kailan naman magsisimula ang mga bagong contact tracers sa kanilang serbisyo, sinabi ni DILG-Caraga regional director Lilibeth Famacion na kailangan nilang magsimuka agad.

“Kaya mayroong orientation para maideploy na kaagad sila. Pinoproseso na ang pag-acquire ng mga personal protective equipment. Hindi natin maiwasan ang panganib kaya sumunod lang palagi sa minimum health standards,” ani Famacion.

Pag-iinterview, profiling, at initial public health risk assessment ng COVID-19 cases at close contacts - ilan lamang ito sa mga isasagawa ng contact tracers kapag sila’y naideploy na.

“Ito na rin yung paraan ko ng pagbibigay serbisyo sa gobyerno at kapwa. Mapadali namin yung paghahanap sa mga nakontak ng nagpositibo,” sabi ni Haydee Elen, bagong contact tracer.

Binigyang diin din ni Raul Cuenca, Jr., isa rin sa mga bagong hire na contact tracer, ang kahalagahan ng ‘Bayanihan’ kung saan kinakailangang magtulongan ng bawat Pilipino para masugpo ang COVID-19.

Sa patuloy na pagdami ng kaso ng local transmission sa rehiyon, pinapayuhan muli ni director Famacion ang publiko na sumunod sa minimum public health standard at manatili sa loob ng bahay kung walang importanteng lakad o gagawin sa labas. (VLG/PIA-Caraga)

Dinagat Islands, inilunsad ang 'tour operation, management contest’

By Venus L. Garcia

LUNGSOD NG SURIGAO, Surigao del Norte, Oktubre 9 (PIA) -- “Biyahe sa Dinagat Islands, Biyahe sa Kalikasang Buhay” – ito ang tagline ng probinsiya ng Dinagat Islands kung saan matatagpuan ang mala-paraisong mga lugar na sagana sa likas na yaman.

Kaya naman, sa pagdiriwang ng 14th Charter Day ng probinsiya, inilunsad ang natatanging ‘Tour Operation and Management Contest’ na sinalihan ng mga Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leader.

“Ito ang kauna-unahang kumpetisyon ng pagsasagawa ng tour packages. Kapag alam nating tingnan na tayo ay iisa sa kalikasan, gagawain natin ang lahat para maprotektahan at mai-preserve ito lalung-lalo na ang turismo,” sabi ni regional director Mary Jean Camarin ng Department of Tourism (DOT) - Caraga.

Layunin ng kumpetisyon na isulong ang konsepto ng ‘conservation’ bilang brand ng turismo sa dinagat islands.

Sumali rin ang lahat ng mga alkalde ng iba’t ibang munisipalidad sa lalawigan sa isinagawang pagpupulong at napag-usapan nila ang mga pangunahing batayan at aspeto ng ‘ecotourism’ na makatutulong anya sa pagkakaroon ng mas higit na pang-unawa sa direksiyong tatahakin ng probinsiya sa pagpapalago ng turismo.

Nasungkit ng team Cagdianao ang first place bilang Best in Itinerary and Package Development at Best in Tour Package Implementation. Second place winner naman ang team Loreto bilang Best in Tour Package Promotions and Marketing. Third placer ang team Tubajon at fourth place winner ang Dinagat.

“Ngayon, dito mismo sa alam nating paraiso ng Dinagat Islands, bigyang-buhay natin ang ecosysytem. Community conservation tourism! Itong klase ng turismo ay hindi lamang pagkakaroon ng tour guides na magdadala sa atin sa magagandang lugar sa isla kundi may kaalaman at kasanayan din sa pagtuturo sa mga turista sa kahalagahan ng pangangalaga ng kalikasan. Learning while exploring, understanding the nature while swimming and island hopping,” sabi ni Dinagat Islands Gov. Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao.

Sumali rin ang mga SK leader sa skills development workshop gaya ng tour packaging, tourism management, tour guiding, at marami pang iba.

“Hinda lamang tayo matatapos sa pagti-training ng mga SK. Gusto natin makitang accredited tour guide sila,” ani Camarin. (VLG/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

Why mechanize: insights from SAAD abaca-planter

By Mark Angelo Pineda

Using mechanized equipment hastens the stripping of abaca stacks and improves the quality and market price of abaca fibers. Take it from Gil Gabales, abaca-planter for 20 years, who switched from wide stripping (laguras) to mechanized stripping for almost a year now.

Manong Gil, 43 years old, a native of Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, is a beneficiary of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Caraga. The abaca production project (worth P1.9M) included four abaca stripping machines shared among 41 members of the Culiram SAAD Abaca Farmers Association (CUSAFA) in Talacogon, Agusan del Sur.

“There is a huge difference in output and income between manual and mechanized stripping,” expressed Gil. “With the machines, an individual can strip around 30 to 40 kilos of abaca fibers, which is thrice the reach of manual labor in a day. Plus, machine-stripped fiber is priced high in the market, almost double the price of manually processed fibers,” said Gil.

Manong Gil had an existing abaca plantation before the SAAD Program arrived in Barangay Culiram. While waiting for the SAAD-funded abaca plantlets to mature by 2021, he and members of CuSAFA have been utilizing the stripping machines to boost their production.

According to Manong Gil, about 1,111 abaca plants can fit in one hectare of land. From the said piece of land given one cropping season, he harvests an estimate of 925 kilos of abaca fibers.

With high-quality abaca fibers, Manong Gil’s profit per harvest runs around Php 70,000/hectare, which is 35 percent more than manual labor. Under the same condition, his annual profit will amount to P280,000/hectare because abaca trunks replenish themselves after 3-4 months.  

The income potential of abaca fibers

Abaca, also known as Manila hemp (Musa textilis Née), is native to the Philippines. According to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), abaca fibers are the strongest among natural fibers making them more marketable over synthetic fibers.

With abaca fibers worldwide consumption predicted to increase over the years and the Philippines being the top exporter, the potential for Filipino farmers to capitalize on the commodity has become more pressing. But to maximize this potential, mechanized stripping should complement their production.

As of writing, in Agusan del Sur, machine-stripped abaca fibers are priced at P92/kilo while hand-stripped produce is at P57/kilo. The reason behind the 35-peso difference is the former’s produce being white ivory while the latter is dark brown.

Farm modernization is among DA’s eight paradigms to level up agriculture. It ensures that agricultural production is sustainable and efficient such that farmers can move from subsistence farming to market-oriented farming.

When asked what advice Manong Gil would give to abaca farmers alike, he said, “If you have access to stripping machines, try as much, as possible, to use them. In our community, we encourage our fellow farmers, especially non-members, to borrow our stripping machines provided they spend for the fuel and maintenance. All in all, this will increase their profit.”

As has been emphasized by the Department of Agriculture, farm modernization plays a crucial role in the pursuit of a food-secure Philippines.

The case of CuSAFA, with Manong Gil leading the group, shows that local farmers are capable of putting their best foot forward if provided with adequate resources and knowledge.

“Abaca is a promising commodity. But for us farmers to succeed, we should not be afraid to try new ways even if it requires putting away our long-established ways for better-yielding machines. This is the challenge that we have to face. Nonetheless, we have to mechanize our production to keep up in the market,” Manong Gil added. (DA-SAAD13/PIA-Agusan del Sur)

Poultry: farmers’ hope on heavy rains in SurSur town

By Mark Angelo Pineda

Rice and corn production have been the primary livelihoods of the Cancavan Corn Growers Association (CCGA), a Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD)-funded farmers’ group in Carmen, Surigao del Sur. The first half of the year beginning March is for corn planting while rice is November. While these practices are fixed in the community, they leave some farmers idle when heavy rainfall floods the lowland areas.

The climate in Surigao del Sur is characterized by year-round rainfall with annual precipitation of 4175 mm. This phenomenon results in light to moderate flooding beginning in November and ending in June that only rice can withstand, according to association president Rezie Mollaneda. 

“In Cancavan, most lowland areas suitable for rice and corn are flooded by the end of the year. This is the reason why we readily take any opportunity, be it producing other crops in upland areas or raising animals, to support our families’ needs,” shared Mollaneda.

This is where the Native Chicken Production Project of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program of the Department of Agriculture - Caraga has proven useful. Part of assisting small farmers in establishing income-generating livelihoods, the program introduces small farmers to manageable and sustainable livelihoods that can endure the driest or wettest days. 

In December 2019, CCGA received 90 native chickens, a poultry house with a perimeter fence, feed, incubator, water plastic drum, and drugs and biologics all amounting to Php 516,000.00.

As of August 2020, they have earned Php 19,529.00 from eggs and chicks’ sales. Rightfully, it is poultry that assures CCGA members have income even on rainy days.

Making it work

 Introducing poultry in a corn-dominated area is not far-fetched; chickens feed on corn, after all. But because the project was relatively new to the community, some locals had their share of reservations.

Mollaneda recounts that incorporating poultry into their daily routine proved to be challenging. “At the start, the majority of CCGA members were reluctant. Though government support is not new to us, this is the first poultry in the community. It’s not entirely laborious, but it took us time to get the hang of it.”

As found, both economic conditions and community factors affected the success of the interventions. Inputs-wise, CCGA is sufficient with SAAD-funded farm inputs that will cover its production until 2021. Turns out, that the cooperation of the community was another hurdle that CCGA had to face. 

“It did not help that people outside the association have had doubts as to the success of the project,” added Mollaneda. “Here, some locals had inherent doubts with government-funded projects. They were all ears waiting for our downfall. And this affected the mindset of some members. To date, almost half of the members have withdrawn from the project.

From the original 35 members, the CCGA has been reduced to 20 members (17 males and 3 females), nine months after the poultry kicked off. However, they only need the existing committed members to stand the test of time. 

Among the ones who remained committed to the project is Edilberto Frias— a senior, who spends an hour a week at the site to fulfill his tasks.

“I’m a widower and have been advised to take less-demanding tasks. So, I take part in feeding our chickens and in maintaining the poultry house well kept. This is my spare-time activity aside from gardening,” expressed Frias.

According to Mollaneda, poultry is easy, but you have to invest your time and effort for it to thrive. “As the president, I take it upon myself to lead my members. We have implemented a schedule for everyone to participate in the labor. We have the inputs necessary for production. It is time and effort that are required of us, especially in monitoring the chickens,” shared Mollaneda.

As to the status of the project, Mollaneda admits that they have just begun. “We are through with the adjustment period. With the steady income coming in, we’ll eventually fulfill our goals that include joining the leading suppliers of native chicken products in CarCanMadCarLan (the northernmost quarter of SDS).”

Later this year, the group will receive additional 160 native chickens, which they needed to boost their egg production. These inputs are on top of the vegetable and corn seeds (OPV and hybrid) and fertilizers (complete and ammonium sulfate) which they acquired earlier this year, totaling to an amount of Php 203,594.77.

Diversifying farm produce, which the association is pioneering with the poultry in their community, is an important component of economic growth that also helps achieve food security and increases employment in rural areas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

For most small farmers, all it takes is an opportunity to leap of faith. Truly, CCGA is on the right track. (SAAD/DA-Caraga/PIA-Surigao del Sur)