Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Images from PGMA's Calbayog stopover

As announced, President Gloria Macapagal - Arroyo was in Calbayog yesterday. The President had three Samar destinations in her itinerary for that day.

After her arrival at the airport, President Arroyo took the chopper for her visit to the Northern Samar Municipality of Silvino Lobos. After the said visit, she was back at the Calbayog airport for a luncheon meeting with some Samar officials. Then the President visited Lope DeVega. She proceeded to the said municipality (and back to Calbayog) by land - from Brgy. Trinidad (airport) to Oquendo and the right river area - through the now cemented highway which connects Northern Samar to Calbayog. After Lope DeVega, the President flew to Eastern Samar where she is expected to hold her Cabinet meeting.

Let me give you some pictures taken by Vaugn Calvara at the airport.

Mayor Mel Sarmiento with City Schools Division Superintendent Edita Paculan (rightmost), ASDS Angelo Gelera (to the mayor's left) and other DepEd officials as they await the President's arrival.

President Gloria Arroyo being welcomed by Mayor Mel Sarmiento and other Samar officials (l-r) Cong. Reynaldo Uy, Gov. Raul Daza, Cong. Ann Tan and Gov. Mila Tan.

Cong. Reynaldo Uy as he exchanged pleasantries with DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus.

Mayor Mel Sarmiento as he welcomed Secretary Lapus.

Secretary Lapus with SDS Edita Paculan and some DepEd officials.

Monday, September 29, 2008

PGMA in Calbayog City

(September 24, 2008) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo addresses the opening of the 63rd United Nation General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City.
(JERRY CARUAL/PCPO) (photo taken from http://www.op.gov.ph/photogallery_230908_01jc.asp)

President Gloria Macapagal - Arroyo will be in Calbayog City today. The City is part of her many stops in Samar where she will be staying in the next three days.

As of this blog update, the President is expected to have luncheon meeting with Mayor Mel Sarmiento and other officials at the Calbayog City Airport. Afterwhich she is expected to proceed to some areas in Northern Samar to inspect some government projects, especially the ones she mentioned in her last SONA.

Among the officials who will be with the President is Department of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus. Sec. Lapus will be spending time with the officials of DepEd Calbayog.

This is the 8th time that the President will set foot on Calbayog as President.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mayor Mel Sarmiento participates in the United Nations (UN) Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York.

Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento was in New York September 22 – 25, 2008 as the Philippine Representative during the Side Event on Local Poverty Reduction and MDG Localization. The said activity was part of the United Nations High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Sarmiento, who is also the Secretary-General of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and the Chair of the Regional Development Council (RDC-8) participated in the first Round-Table Session which discussed “The Localization in tandem with national scaling up efforts: Bridging the gap between local and national levels”.

In that session, the Philippines, Brazil and Uganda made their presentations on MDG localization and national scaling up efforts. The presenters tried to answer some critical questions like the major challenges for policy alignment for MDG planning and implementation at national and local levels; and how those challenges have been overcome? They also discussed the effective ways to sensitize local government and parliamentarians on MDG and the key elements of success in bridging the gap between national and local levels in scaling up MDG implementations.

Mayor Sarmiento’s presentation entitled “Local Poverty Reduction and MDG Localization: Scaling Up the Achievement of MDGs” focused on the partnership between local and national level governments for MDGs. Most notable in that report are the following points:

On the Environment for Localization:
At the local level, Goals 1-5 and Goal 7 are devolved functions to local government units (e.g. health, safety, social justice, employment, environment, etc.). Philippine law has mandated the LGUs as primarily responsible for providing basic social services (RA 7160). LGUs are also responsible for the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Anti-Poverty Action Agenda in their respective jurisdictions (RA 8425).

At the national level, the 10-Point Agenda of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo mirrors the MDGs. And The Philippines remain strongly committed to the Millennium Declaration. This commitment is not mere lip service because in fact MDG targets are mainstreamed in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (2004-2010). However, National Government Agencies have limited capacity to support LGUs who remain as the frontliners in the delivery of basic services to the people.

Taking a cue from his personal experience in Calbayog and that of the 13 other pilot LGUs, he enumerated the characteristics of an MDG-Responsive LGU:
- First, local plans include specific MDG-related targets and budget. The plan should show increased or increasing allocation for MDG-related services.
- Second, improvements in the delivery of social services are adopted. Those that have been identified as best practices, at the international, national or local level, are replicated.
- Third, monitoring systems are in place to track down effective and efficient utilization of resources. The monitoring system should also welcome feedback from the community.
- Fourth, institutional reforms are pursued. This could involve governance reforms at the barangay (village) level.
- And finally, local leadership makes the MDGs a performance commitment. And the local chief executive reports on this performance to his constituencies.

In answering the issue on bridging the gap between the national and local levels, Mayor Sarmiento enumerated the basic MDG localization process followed in the Philippines:
- Advocacy campaigns
- Institutionalization of the MDG Localization process
- Baselines – Minimum Basic Needs Survey, Community Based Poverty Information System –
- Local Poverty Indicators and Monitoring System
- Setting Local Targets, Indicators, Programs, Projects and Activities
- Mainstreaming local MDG targets in short and long term plans
- Measuring Results, Evaluation and Tracking Outcomes

Mayor Sarmiento also informed the event participants that in the Philippines, MDG localization means bringing the MDGs down to the individual child. For MDGs to make a real difference in people’s lives, they cannot remain to be the concern of the national government or the LGUs alone. The MDGs have to be understood and owned by the individual families. The meaning of the MDGs has to be translated to its significance in the daily life of an individual child.

The report concluded with the Mayor enumerating the key elements for success. He cited the three most critical elements based on the Philippine experience:

First, it is strategic to institutionalize the engagement and ownership by all levels of stakeholders (city, village, neighborhood and family) in program development, implementation and monitoring – in all the process of development.

Second, it is fundamental to make the MDGs meaningful to the families especially the vulnerable sector. Instead of considering them as “beneficiaries” as is the traditional thinking, they should be harnessed as “development partners”. Their capacities should therefore be developed as such partners.

Third, information is a key in poverty profiling and establishing development baselines using accurate household level data. City-wide mainstreaming of MDG targets in the LGU’s Medium-Term Development Plans, Executive and Legislative Agenda and Annual Investment Plans should be facts-based and knowledge-driven.

The event happened around the same time when heads of states started to arrive in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly. It resulted in the last-minute change of venue for the event. As per request by the Secret Service, the presentations and discussions were moved to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan.

Other countries invited to the event included Rwanda, Vietnam, India, Kenya and Liberia. Key messages in presentations will be used to inform the MDG localization agenda and will be transmitted to the Office of the UN Secretary-General. The agencies that coordinated the event included the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), among others.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

more on the Palayamanan Project

Let me give you some more of the Palayamanan Project I told you about in my column last Monday.

The Project has the following objectives:
- To package, integrate and validate rice and rice-based technologies and other farming ventures to suit the local production system.
- To enhance capabilities of farm families and the inmates as their alternative livelihood.
- To increase farm productivity, cropping intensity and profitability of farm families in the fragile environment.
- To develop feedback mechanisms to researchers and development workers on field performance of technologies.

The vision of the project is as follows:
- To integrate and validate rice-based technologies and farming systems models adaptable to the local conditions geared towards increasing productivity, profitability and sustainability of the farm families.
- To enhance capabilities of the inmates in the comunity where they belong after they served sentence.

Here are some basic facts and features of the Project:
Project Name: An Palayamanan San Siyudad San Calbayog
Location: Sitio Tomalon, Brgy. Gadgaran, Calbayog City
Collaborating Agencies: Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), LGU-Calbayog City, Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit 8 (DA-FU8) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)
Distance from the highway: 3 kms
Distance from the city proper: 11 kms
Mode of transportation: by land
Avalable communication: Mobile Phone
Water System: Deep Well
Total land area: 5 has.
City Jail area: 1 ha
Ownership: Government-owned.

Let me give you some pictures taken during the Farmers' Field Day and FFS graduation:

Mayor Mel Sarmiento delivering his message

The City Mayor and some guests checking on the produce on display

Monday, September 22, 2008

3 Catholic Bishops in Samar Island spearhead SIPPaD forum

(Before he left for New York, Mayor Mel Sarmiento went to Catarman, Northern Samar where he joined the three Catholic Bishops of Samar and Gov. Raul Daza for the 8th SIPPaD Assembly. Let me give you the report of LSDE's Garry Vacunawa on that Assembly. This report appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Calbayog Mayor and RDC Chair Mel Sarmiento (2nd from the right) with (r-l) Calbayog Bishop Isabelo Abarquez, Governor Raul Daza, Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance and Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez (extreme left) (Photo by Vaugh Calvara)

CATARMAN, Northern Samar - The three Catholic Bishops in Samar island spearheaded the 8th Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development (SIPPaD) forum at the Ibabao Hall, Capitol Building here last Sept. 19.

The three who actively initiated the SIPPaD Forum were Bishop Emmanuel Trance of the Diocese of Catarman, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of the Diocese of Calbayog and Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese of Borongan.

The SIPPAD forum gave way to the discussion of three major areas - good governance, peace and order and environment protection. Representatives from various government and non-government agencies attended the forum.

Two of the prominent persons who composed the panel of speakers were Governor Raul Daza and Calbayog City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento who is the current chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC).

Gov. Daza talked about good governance. He admitted that there was a gap between good governance and incidence of poverty in his province. He particularly mentioned the latest report of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Based on its report, Northern Samar is the number one poorest province in Eastern Visayas Region and number seven in the entire Philippines. In 2003, during his first term, the same agency rated Northern Samar as number two in the entire country in terms of good governance.

He explained that good governance could not guarantee better economic condition of the people. On the other side, we could not conclude that the improved economic situation of a certain province was due to good governance of its leaders.

Daza told the participants that he is continuously looking for some means to reconcile the gap between his good governance and the poor economic condition of his constituents.

Earlier, in a press conference, Daza’s son, Congressman Paul Daza, blamed the geographical location of Northern Samar for its being poor. Cong Daza told local reporters that N. Samar has “geographical disadvantage” compared to other provinces which have improved economic climate.

Cong. Daza explained that the province belonged to the country’s typhoon belt and it was far from business capitals in the Philippines like Leyte which was also the source of electricity supply. The far distance from Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant to Northern Samar caused the frequent brownout in the province. (GARRY A. VACUNAWA)

SIPPaD sidelight. Governor Daza giving Bishop Trance and Mayor Sarmiento a tour of the Governor's Office. (Photo by Vaughn Calvara)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

October 16, 2008, a non-working day in Calbayog City

It's official, Malacañang has declared Thursday, October 16, 2008 as a special (non-working) day in Calbayog.

Proclamation No. 1624 dated September 17, 2008 and signed by the Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was received (via fax) today by the City Mayor's Office.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Assistance for the Urban Poor

Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento today handed over a check amounting to Ten Thousand Pesos (Php 10,000.00) as financial assistance to the Sta. Cruz Homeowners Association (SCHA) of Brgy. Rawis. Said assistance will be used by the group for relocation survey and related activities aimed at providing security of tenure for the association members.

The 53-member association is one of the more than 50 homeowner associations composed of informal settlers which were organized by the City Government through the City Urban Housing Division (CUHD).

Mayor Mel Sarmiento handing out the check to SCHA President Marlon Fortaleza. Looking one are Rawis Brgy. Captain Isidra Oriendo (to the Mayor's left), Bebot Oquendo of the CUHD (extreme right) and the SCHA officers.

For a short background on how the program came to be, let me give you a paragraph from my blog update on the City winning the KAME in 2006. (for related posts, please check these: link 1, link 2 & link 3)

. . . As in many urban centers, Calbayog City is beset with an increasing number of rural migrants and informal settlers. While most urban local governments are unable to address this problem effectively, the City Government faced this squarely by creating a City Urban Housing Development Division which work closely with informal settlers, organizing them into homeowners associations and forming a federation among such associations. The federation collaborates with the City Government in the planning and implementation of housing projects for the informal settlers. To date, it has facilitated the preparation and release of 3,000 land titles to beneficiaries. The City Government promoted he bayanihan system in the development of these sites to bring down costs and to foster strong community - local government partnership.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bangon Falls Power Plant Project

Exactly a week ago today (yup) during the City Fiesta, the City Government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SAMELCO I and Clean & Green Energy Solutions Inc. on the Bangon Falls Power Plant Project.

MOU signing. Mayor Mel Sarmiento (seated center) as he signed the Memorandum of Understanding with (l) Mr. Jose Ocampo Ilagan of Clean & Green Energy Solutions, Inc. and Mr. Rodel Lim of SAMELCO I. Looking on are Vice Mayor Ronald Aquino and Councilor Ina Rabuya.

Let me give you Eleen Lim's report on the actvitity:

Posible nga sa siyahan nga bahin san masunod nga tuig 2009 pagtitikangan an konstruksiyon san Bangon Falls Power Generation Project, an proyekto nga mag poproduce san kuryente tikang san tubig sa nasabi nga falls.

Ini an ginpahayag ni Jose Ocampo Ilagan, Presidente san Clean n Green Energy Solutions Inc., an kumpaniya nga mao an mag tutukod ngan mamamahala san nasabi nga proyekto. Sumala kan Ilagan gagamiton nira an nahibibilin nga parte san yana nga tuig agud makakuha san kadugangan nga fundo para san nasabi nga proyekto, ngan agud ig verify pa an nahi-una nga evaluation nga iginhimo san C. Lotti Associates.

An rapid technical and financial evaluation nga iginhimo san C. Lotti Associates nagpapakita nga mahihimo makag-develop san 2.88 ka megawatt san mini hydro power plant sa nasabi nga falls.
Igindugang pagpahayag ni Ilagan nga maabot ngadto san tikang 14 ngadto sa 15 ka bulan an magigin construction sini nga proyekto, sanglit kun masusunod an schedule, posible nga pag abot san kabutngaan san tuig 2010, magigin operational na an nasabi nga planta.

Kasumpay sini, igin klaro ni Ilagan nga waray angay nga igkabaraka an mga molopyo san Calbayog kabahin san possible nga karat-an nga mahidudurot san proyekto ngada san aton kapaligiran.

Dida san nakalabay nga Lunes nga adlaw, igin-pirmahan san siyudad san Calbayog, SAMELCO I ug san kumpaniya ni Ilagan an Memorandum of Understanding kabahin san pagtukod na san nasabi nga proyekto, ug an magigin obligasyon san kada partido. Sa panahon nga mahuman ug magin operational na an nasabi nga planta, mahatag an Clean n Green san 5% san ira kita ngada san siyudad komo nananag-iya san Bangon Falls, ngan 3% naman nga kita ngadto sa SAMELCO I nga mao an maghahatag san 13.2 ka kilovolt nga distribution line ngadto sa Bangon Falls.
An Samelco I la liwat amo an igintagan san katungod nga makapalit san kuryente tikang san nasabi nga proyekto, agud ig distribuer naman ngada san mga kunsumidor.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Delayed Flights

(Mr. Eli Cinco wrote about Calbayog in his column for yesterday's edition of the Manila Bulletin. Please Chech this link. I have also featured the whole article in today's blog update)

CALBAYOG CITY – This metropolis of almost 200,000 inhabitants is sort of a blessed place. It faces the calm Samar Sea to the west which is abundant in marine life, and to the east are low-lying hills and fruitful fields fertile to every variety of rice, coconut, and vegetables.

(I’m here on my semi-annual visit to the place of my birth.)

"Who cares about shortage of NFA rice, we don’t eat it anyway," says Ricardo Sagrado, gentle and healthy-looking peddler of variety of plastic toys, hawking his wares round the periphery of tree-adorned Nijaga Park. Popular Manila fast-food chain outlets are just across the park.

Calbayog is the birth place of many exceptionally talented people who have achieved national prominence in virtually all fields of professions and vocations, earning it a catchphrase, the Talent Bank City. I will mention some of them in subsequent columns. The late playwright Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero who taught English and drama during summer classes at the revered Colegio de San Vicente de Paul in the mid-1950s, complimented: "Calbayognons are such gifted people. They are so talented."

Back to present-day realities: The most persistent complaints are those coming from traders, employees, and visitors who take round-trip flights on board the recently opened PAL Express and the mainstay Asian Spirit. Passengers are aghast over the airlines’ abrupt cancellation of flights, as well as delayed flights.

"We’ve lost business opportunities, mainly because of those irritants which the airline companies seem to take lightly," says Gertie Capistrano who owns a manning firm in Manila.

I sympathize with those businessmen. I myself was a victim of those erratic scheduling of PAL Express. My flight coming here last September 4 was supposed to take off from the new NAIA Terminal-3 at 5:50 a.m.

Following their expressed instructions where domestic passengers are to check-in 2 ½ hours before scheduled departure, I did so even earlier – at 3:15 a.m. But the problem was there was nobody from PAL Express to appreciate my punctuality. All counters were devoid of personnel, compared to those of Cebu Pacific across which were a beehive of activities.

Then at exctly 4:15 a.m., three still-sleepy check-in counter clerks, one was a cashier, took their places. They were 55 minutes late.

My boarding pass said my departure gate was No. 131, another foul-up. Calbayog- bound passengers, said a voice from the PA system, were to wait at Gate No. 132. Okay at this point. Then a girl at a movable counter who also came in late said our plane would be delayed for 30 minutes because "they are still servicing the plane." Servicing? Not a few yawning passengers asked.

Finally, we were bussed to a nearby apron where other PAL Express planes were parked awaiting irrate passengers. Our flight No. PR 91 took off at 7:08 a.m., a delay of one hour and 18 minutes.

Arriving in Calbayog Sabang Airport at 8:20 a.m., I missed a jeepney to the town of Gandara which I would have taken, but it left earlier, to visit an aging maternal uncle.

The irony of it all was, that delayed flight on September 4 to Calbayog had PAL VIPs on board.
Plane Always Late? Back to the old sarcastic derision of the PAL acronym? There’s a newer interpretation – "Pirme Atrasado an Lupad." One does not have to be a Waray to understand what this means.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Party's Over

We were at the downtown area earlier today, and this is what we saw - some LGU employees doing their job removing the banderetas that festooned the city during the recent fiesta.

If I may borrow a line from a broadway classic, "...the party's over". We now look forward to another big event - Calbayog's 60th Birthday on October 16, 2008.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Fiesta 2008 Parade

Following tradition, a parade was held yesterday in observance of the City Fiesta. As with the previous years, the hermanas mayores were invited to the activity. Three of the four hemanas were present. Mrs. Lor Obong - Fresnedi did not make it for the fiesta celebration because of some urgent business in the U.S.

Also present during the event were the City Officials led by Mayor Mel Sarmiento and Vice Mayor Ronald Aquino and some Department Managers.

Mayor Sarmiento, Vice Mayor Aquino and the two hermanas mayores Marie Acuesta - Sauz and Minda Tabones Llamas watched the parade from the City Hall stage . . .

. . . while the third hermana, Dr. Zoraya Zuñiga - Macaraig settled for the area below the stage to take pictures.

For more images, please check the following: link 1, link2 and link 3.

‘Our Lady’s Nativity’

(Mr. Eli Cinco wrote devoted his column for today's edition of the Manila Bulletin to the Calbayog fiesta celebration. He gave me permission to feature the said column in this blog. Check this link. If it doesn't work, do read the whole article featured below)

CALBAYOG CITY – The Parish of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, patroness of this city, is celebrating the 316th annual observance of "Our Lady’s Nativity" today. This religious event is the centerpoint of the feast day that is commemorated by one of the earliest parishes in Eastern Visayas or what is administratively known as Region 8.

A fiesta event like today's basically a religious event. So all the major activities starting with the nine-day novena last August 30 which ended yesterday, and the feast day proper today are spearheaded by parish clergy officials and supported by the parish pastoral council composed of lay people.

The highlight of the commemoration is the concelebrated High Mass at 9 this morning, with Most Reverend Isabelo C. Abarquez, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Calbayog as main celebrant and homilist. His con-celebrants are diocesan, religious clergy and visiting priests which normally number around 20. The mass itself ordinarily lasts one hour and forty-five minutes, incorporating the homily, sermon proper, offering of sponsors and city officials, and other relevant hymnal ceremonies.

Rev. Fr. Julio Gaddi and Fr. Anthony Mahinay are masters of ceremonies.

The concelebrated high mass is always looked up to by parishioners, visitors from Manila, balikbayans, and guests from various parishes and dioceses of Region 8.

It is held at the cavernous St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, a huge cathedral with five altars (its main altar with a high retablo easily measuring 50 feet in height) cross-designed that can easily accommodate more than two thousand sitting worshippers. Its interiors have been given a fresh coat of paint by the feast day sponsors.

This year’s feast day sponsors are cousins and normally they share all expenses incurred during the fortnight celebration, the snacks for novena reciters, flower decoration of altars, the wherewithals during the procession, and concededly the most lavished of all is the dinner and entertainment for "hermanas pasadas" (past sponsors), visiting Calbayognons from Manila and abroad. It is said that expenses for all these activities could easily run up to half-a-million pesos.
Sponsors are prepared to shoulder all the costs, not only because they are financially capable, but because of their "saad" (pledge or "panata" to Tagalogs) to the Blessed Patroness. It is tacitly confirmed that the patroness reciprocates by helping the sponsors with spiritual upliftment, peace of mind and enhanced family relationships.

On the other hand, the city government is just as enthusiastic staging the civic participation in the celebration. Civic and corporate establishments do their share in enlivening up the two-week celebrations.

Focal point of the civic affairs is the staging of the famous "Sarakiki" festival and parade. This costumed and choreographed presentation with a cast of more than 100, has been winning accolades and prizes in street dancing competitions in Manila, Cebu and Tacloban. It is one of the native cultural achievements of City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento who has a number of citations and acknowledgements given him by the Department of Tourism.

Other cultural fronts that attract hundreds of onlookers are the Hadang 2008, a potpourri of musical and stage productions. It was staged last Friday at the fastidiously decorated Nijaga Park.

Already an institution, in one way or the other, is the holding of Anyag beauty and brains competition annually undertaken by civic clubs. Anyag is an old Calbayog waray term for beauty or radiance. Pretty young girls from various high schools and colleges in Samar (Western) eagerly vie for the title the grand-winner of which receives cash prize, trophy and other valuable rewards. Runners-up also receive cash and worthy items.

Proclaimed as this year’s Miss Anyag Friday night was a college girl of 18-years from Catbalogan, the capital town of the province.

Calbayog has a population of almost 198,000, but for the past week that figure has doubled, what with the influx of well-wishers, visitors, guests from everywhere, including nearby island towns, highway towns and even from the southern areas of Masbate.