Thursday, July 20, 2017

DOT exec winds up gov't service with Bicol as PH's Top 10 tourist destination

LEGAZPI CITY, July 20 -- Seventeen years after a “roller-coaster-ride” and hard work, Bicol tourism director Maria “Nini” Ong-Ravanilla has bowed out of service after making the region the Top 10 tourist destinations in the country.

In the past decades, Bicol lagged behind but with Ravanilla at the DOT helm, the region transformed as among the country’s top destinations with 1 million tourists registered in 2016.

Ravanilla reported to tourism stakeholders in Bicol that she will be leaving behind Php9 billion worth of completed projects and a Php23-billion budget for Bicol region tourism development for 2018 to 2022.

“From 2018 to 2022, our office in partnership with DPWH endorsed 26 projects worth Php23 billion. Fifteen (15) out of 26 projects were approved. Road access is very important for tourism development. We’re building more projects and access roads for investors to come in and for them to development its product,” she said.

Ravanilla explained that the role of the government is to strengthen the governance and the community for transformation as the human capital.

“We started a roller-coaster-ride when we started 17 years ago, from the second bottom to Top 10 tourism destinations in the country," she said.

Ravanilla said Camarines Sur is Top 3 and Albay is Top 6 among tourism destinations in the country in the province category with the helped of their Bicol local officials, media and tourism stakeholders.

When Ravanilla took her post, there were only two flights in Legazpi, but to date, there are more than 10 flights per day excluding the two night flights, owing to the influx of tourists and businessmen here.

In 2016, the Legazpi City National Airport was upgraded as Albay International Gateway for Chartered Flights to accommodate more visiting Chinese tourists.

Ravanilla said that after 17 years and six months of working so hard to sell the wonders of Bicol specifically Albay, it was finally chosen by foreign tourists to become a new major destination in the country.

“Bicol is now the country’s top tourism hub. The only problem is that we don’t have a direct flight from Korea and other countries. Koreans and Chinese tourists are clamoring for a direct flight from their respective country to Legazpi. Hopefully, the construction of Bicol International Airport will be fast tracked to accommodate direct and international flights here,” she said.

Ravanilla also cited that through tourism promotion and development, the cities of Legazpi and Naga are the country’s most competitive cities with two aggressive chief executives promoting tourism here.

“With Mayor Noel Rosal, Legazpi City is the number one most competitive city in the country and Naga City ranked second under Mayor John Bongat. They are very aggressive mayors with a vision to accredit more establishments. These two cities are recognized as the most competitive in the country,” she said.

Under Ravanilla’s helm, Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon (ALMASOR) covering three provinces in south Bicol generated more tourists as triumvirate package.

Another tourism promotion here is the so called Triple C, representing the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes Island in north Bicol suited for surfing and wakeboarding events.

“We’re leaving a legacy behind of remarkable development the Almasor and the Tripple C for Bicol governors. I hope the new DOT director will be enjoying a lot. This will be my legacy. Before bowing out in my office, I will be working and bid in US for us to host the annual BNAA convention in Bicol next year,” Ravanilla said.

“I think the wonderful ride comes to a close. Along the way, it was not a smooth ride it was the roller-coaster ride but with your remarkable help specifically my partners in media we made Bicol as Top 10 tourist destination in the Philippines,” Ravanilla said.

Ravanilla is the longest serving director in Bicol region. She was appointed as DOT director in Bicol during the administrations of Presidents Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Aquino and reappointed again by President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Her term of office was extended again by Duterte six months after her retirement age. (Rhaydz B. Barcia/PNA)

BSP holds economic, financial forum in Legazpi

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 -- Hundreds of stakeholders from the government, business, banking and academe sectors met here Tuesday for three days of economic, financial learning sessions sponsored by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Legazpi Branch, a BSP official said.

The “Economic and Financial Learning Session” now in its third year is an event that highlights the observance of BSP’s 24th anniversary, said Sharon Moyano, BSP Senior Research Specialist, and branch spokesperson.

Moyano, in an interview Tuesday, said the learning session is aimed at spurring public understanding and appreciation of relevant economic and financial issues shaping the country’s economic growth.

Highlighting the event were presentations and discussions of economic and financial issues which include : Investing for Your Future: Understanding Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA); Overview of E-Banking and E-Money in the Philippines and How to Avoid Related Threats and Scams; and Recent Economic Developments in the Philippines and the Bicol region.

Moyano said BSP resource persons including other banking experts presented and discuss the topics among the multi-sectoral participants.

The PERA account, she noted, is an investment and insurance plan similar to what the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System are offering to government and private employees, respectively.

But unlike the GSIS and SSS, the PERA investment and pension account would be available in private banking institutions accredited by the BSP, Moyano explained.

Currently, the BDO and BPI are accredited to offer this pension plan to either government and private employees including overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who wish to avail of the plan.

She said, "the financial and insurance account refers to a voluntary retirement account established for the exclusive use and for the benefit of the contributor.”

Under PERA account, contributors such as employees and self-employed persons would shell out P100,000 a year in maximum investment while Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) could invest with a maximum amount of P200,000 a year.

Contributors would receive their return on investment (ROI) upon reaching the retirement age of 55 years old.

Earning or gains from the PERA account are either in cash, treasury bonds and share of stock. These are tax-free from the regular 20 percent withholding tax, while subscribers who plan to sell their shares upon maturity would be exempted from paying the capital gains tax.

PERA is a financial framework introduced by the BSP, and made into law by RA 9505 otherwise known as PERA Act, Moyano said.

For the E-Banking and E-Money and how to avoid related threats and scams, BSP banking experts relayed the various threats and scams prevailing in the banking operations including: the malpractices such as scheming and phishing. (Mar Arguelles/PNA)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

North-bound boulevard soon to rise in Legazpi City

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 -- Construction of phase one of the seawall cum boulevard project in the northern portion of Legazpi City has started as part of the P2.1-billion master flood control project being supervised by the Department of Public Works and Highways in cooperation with the City Engineering Office, City Mayor Noel E. Rosal said in an interview on Tuesday.

Rosal said the project is considered as another mega tourism infrastructure with a total road length of 2.70 kilometers traversing the coastal villages of Sabang, Pigcale, Baybay and San Roque, all facing the Albay gulf.

The project is not only a boulevard but also a seawall designed to protect the lives and properties of the villagers from the impact of storm surge especially during typhoons and other forms of natural calamities, he said.

Rosal said this project would also serve as an alternate route of the motorists going to the first district of Albay and portions of Camarines Sur.

"This road project would also serve as a primary solution to traffic congestion at the major thoroughfare in front of the regional government center in Barangay Rawis, he added.

He said these coastal villages in north of this city would be the next haven for investment that is being anticipated to boost the economic activities by bringing more employment opportunities to the people in the villages.

Rosal said this project will also be useful for jogging, running, walking and other forms of physical exercises as part of promoting healthy lifestyle to the people.

The mayor said this concrete road would also serve as another venue for leisure as well as for recreation and entertainment for all the visitors and residents.

Upon completion of this phase one project, the next will be the civil works or the phase two that will include the construction of the 380-meter long reinforced concrete deck girder (RCDG) four-lane bridge; and also for the utilization of the 24,000-linear meter foreshore land to pave the way for the construction of road right of way that will connect the boulevard across Tibu and Yawa rivers going to the regional government center, Rosal pointed out.

The project came out through the master plan prepared by the Legazpi City Planning Office that was submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in Bicol for inclusion in the investment program in Region 5.

Based on the study prepared by the city planning office, the construction of the boulevard includes the putting of core rocks, backfill, grouted riprap, foundation, retaining wall, construction of a two-lane all weather concrete road, sidewalks and bike lanes, construction of concrete fence, bridge approach and railings, solar street lights, landscaping, greens, and buffer zones. (Emmanuel Solis/PNA)

DA-Bicol selects taro, pili, abaca and pineapple as priority products for ASPIRE

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 -- Bicol’s local products made from gabi (taro), pili, pineapple and abaca handicrafts were showcased during the recently held Agribusiness Support for Promotion and Investment in Regional Expositions (ASPIRE) project launched by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol in Naga City, an agency top official said Tuesday.

Elena de los Santos, DA regional director, said the ASPIRE exhibits would look for potential investors that would promote and market the region's priority commodities such as gabi, pili, pineapple, and abaca products abundant in Bicol.

De los Santos said that the project aims to bridge the gap between the farmers, producers, processors, and consumers and to build a simpler supply chain where everybody would benefit from the product commodities.

During the exhibit, Delos Santos said, shoppers from different walks of life were awed by the different agribusiness commodities and products.

These included elegantly packed Pili confectioneries, organic products and supplements, Pineapple fiber products such as Pinya clothes, handicrafts, processed marine and agricultural products, and low priced organically grown agricultural commodities and planting materials, which were sold like hotcakes, the director pointed out.

Engr. Leandro Gazmin, DA Assistant Secretary for Agribusiness and Marketing who led the launching in Naga City, said, “this exhibition is the very first of its kind in the country and it is a very vibrant partnership among government and the private sector.”

Gazmin said that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between the DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) marking the start of a convergence among the key players in agribusiness and industry sectors.

Gazmin said, “We want to build a simpler supply chain para madaling makabili ng raw materials ang mga processors/suppliers within an area. Dahil laging sinasabi ng processors na walang raw materials, at sabi naman ng farmers ‘walang market’. We aspire for the farmers, processors and consumers to all be happy in a healthy industry, kung saan hindi na madedehado ang farmers. We will look at Bicol’s priority commodities and strengthen value addition of quality products.”

Carolyn Castro, OIC Director of Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) who gave the project overview, said the project aims to integrate market development services to farmers, fishers, micro small and medium enterprise (MSME); promote regional commodities to showcase strong backward and forward linkages with farmers and fisherfolk; develop the capacities of local farmers and fisherfolk and MSMEs to optimize market opportunities; and promote/advocate investment opportunities to encourage market investments.

ASPIRE has four driving components, namely: production support; enterprise development and industry support; investment promotion; market promotion and development.

Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat, for his part, said that the city government puts a lot of premium on the role of agriculture in the overall growth of the city and has allocated a big chunk of the city’s annual budget to agriculture.

But he said this move will have no bandwagon effect to the communities without the inspirations being stirred by the Bicol Business Month which is on its 30th year now. He added that the best message of the month-long celebration is value-adding in agriculture. (Connie Destura/PNA)

Legazpi water firm to increase rates in August

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 -- The Legazpi City Water District (LCWD) is set to raise its water rates starting next month.

LCWD Customer Accounts Division officer-in-charge Richard Atun in an interview Tuesday said the current rates could no longer meet the increasing cash requirements of the water district in its operation and maintenance.

The last water rates hike was in 2010 and there’s now a need for additional funds to carry out projects that would improve water supply facilities and expand services, Atun said.

When the water rates increase takes effect, there will be at least 10 percent increase for 0-30 cubic meters’ consumption. One cubic meter is equivalent to 1,000 liters. So, a minimum consumption of 10 cu. m. or 10,000 liters will amount to 2 centavos per liter for residential connections using the new rates.

With the new rates, the LCWD expects about P281 million in revenues this year. Last year’s collections totaled P248 million while disbursements reached P250 million.

The LCWD is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) and yet it does not receive subsidy from the national and local government unit. The funds being used for its operation and projects only come from the payment of consumers using and consuming LCWD’s water supply.

In her presentation, Engr. Barbie Vonette Borromeo, engineering and operations department manager, said that for the past three years, the LCWD has invested P82 million in its water supply development projects, including reduction of non-revenue water – P5.26 million; effective pressure management – P5.5 million; and growth in service connection – P7.27 million.

The LCWD would also invest some P608 million in future projects until 2021 which will include expansion of water coverage and building up service capacity, she said.

The water rates increase was not met with resistance from the consumers. However, complaints about low supply, bad odor, rust and sand as well as water potability were raised.

Arch. Ranulfo Imperial, LCWD Board chair, said that they had been pressuring PhilHydro to cope up with the demand of coming up with clean water. He said the management had even threatened to tap other bulk suppliers if it fails to improve water quality.

PhilHydro which has been depending on Yawa as its source, was questioned before when the supposed water rates increase in 2013 did not push through due to water quality problems. Maynilad reportedly intervened when tests were conducted by the University of the Philippines and the Department of Health.

Since the LCWD was established in 1981 with only close to 500 residential consumers, it is now servicing some 23,000 households, or a population of 135,718 all over the city. It currently supplies 33.93 million liters per day.(Edgar Alejo/PNA)

Legazpi City bags Child-Friendly Local Governance Award

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 -- The city government of Legazpi bagged the Best Local Government Unit award for its implementation of a child-friendly program in the entire region.

Legazpi Mayor Noel E. Rosal on Tuesday morning received a plaque of recognition from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Bicol at La Roca restaurant in this city.

Rosal said that one of the most priority agenda of his administration is the child welfare program as part of protecting the children from abuses and encouraging them to finish their studies for their good future.

The city government of Legazpi has constructed elementary school buildings in different villages here and Special Program for Education (SPED) Centers, all located at the down town areas of this city, Rosal added.

He noted that the 13 school buildings established by his administration would serve as an instrument for improving the high quality education of children particularly those residing in far-flung areas of Legazpi.

City Councilor Vince Baltazar III, author of the City Children’s Rights and Welfare Code enacted by the members of the City Council, said that based on the Code, Legazpi must be a conducive place for the holistic development of children residing in this city to make sure they are always protected from all forms of abuses.

Baltazar noted the city administration should always protect the rights of the children for their survival and development.

According to the code, the city government shall support the family as a basic social institution by giving assistance to children in various forms and providing trainings to parents to make them more capable of rearing healthy children during the earliest stages of infancy to adolescence, Baltazar pointed out.

He said the city government should encourage private and people’s organizations and other non-government groups to sponsor programs and projects designed to promote health as well education and general welfare of the children.

Other LGUs of Albay that received the same awards were Ligao City and the Municipalities of Guinobatan, Camalig, Polangui, Santo Domingo, Malilipot, Malinao, Tiwi, Bacacay, Daraga, Jovellar, Libon, Oas and Rapu-Rapu. (Emmanuel Solis/PNA)