Thursday, January 28, 2016

Duterte files CoC for Davao City Mayor

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has just filed his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for mayor, far from the expectation that he will run for president now that his daughter Sara Carpio has given her blessing.

Duterte's  CoC was handed over to the Commission on Elections (Comelc) at 2:40 p.m. by his Chief Executive Assistant Christopher Lawrence “Bong”  Go and City Administrator Melchor Quitain.

Go's shirt carried Duterte's message to his supporters which read: “Sinabi ko na, ayaw ko. Ang titigas ng ulo niyo”.

A political strategist of Duterte earlier admitted the last-ditch efforts are being done by Duterte’s family, friends and supporters to convince him to run for president even after his latest public announcement that he has no ambition to become president.

“Yes, I am confirming that following the latest public announcement of Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte that his options were retirement or staying on as Mayor, there were frantic efforts by people close to the family to save the Presidential dream,” former Governor Emmanuel Piñol wrote in his Facebook account Tuesday.

Piñol said he does not want to raise false hopes “but I would consider myself extremely insensitive if I do not share with the millions of Filipinos the latest updates on the Duterte Presidency.”

“And the efforts appear to be paying off,” he said, with his daughter Sara posting positive lines in her social media account that seemed to endorse Duterte’s presidency.

He said that as of yesterday, it appeared that things were going smoothly and that the family could settle the question on who would take over the leadership of the city. While Duterte is pushing Sara to run for mayor, there is always a possibility that Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte would take over considering Sara’s continued refusal to be lured back to politics.

“Everything seems to be falling into proper places and even Duterte's bitter political enemies in the City, the Nograleses, appear to be helpful in resolving the problem,” he said.

Congressman Karlo Nograles, son of former speaker Prospero Nograles filed his CoC for Congress Monday, putting to rest rumors that he would challenge the Duterte’s hold at City Hall.

“The only issue that is going to be addressed now would be the question raised by Mayor Duterte himself when we were almost at the verge of convincing him to backtrack from his earlier pronouncements rejecting the Presidency and announcement that he was heeding the people's call,” he said.

He said Duterte was worried about the people’s reaction if “after saying twice (thrice including Monday's press conference) that I would not run for President, I suddenly face the people and say Ok, I'm running?,"

“I assured Mayor Duterte that the only people who would not like to see you backtrack from your earlier pronouncements would be the people who don't like you to become President," Piñol said.”I told him that there would be a greater number of Filipinos who would prefer that he changes his mind and declares that he was yielding to the call of the people,” he added.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Davao's Badjao fisherfolk proving Bucana is not just a warzone

Fishing is almost effortless for Carleo  D. Arquillano, Purok Leader of St. John in Bucana and his fellow fishrfolk who, with the help of non-government organization Mindanao Land (MinLand) and the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), erected early this month a 14-feet deep fish coral known locally as “bungsod”, a few meters away from the shoreline.  Made of bamboo, net and nylon, the bungsod traps the fish that dare to venture near the municipal waters.
“Our first harvest yielded around 50 kilos of herring (tamban), slipmouth fish and bigeye trevally,” Arquillano said.  For the past two days’ harvest, they were able to raise P3,000 which will go to the coffers of the DAPSA Fisherfolk Association. The wives of their members sell the fish to the nearby areas and if there is a surplus, it is sold to the traders who bring it to the market.

Bgy. Bucana has gained notoriety in the city because of its reputation as a lair of illegal drug peddlers.  However, Arquillano said they are trying to change this by organizing volunteers to monitor and dissuade drug users and dealers in the area. 
The effort seems to be paying off, he said, but they are still faced with the problem of poverty which they hope to remedy through the establishment of various livelihood programs in the barangays such as fishing. 

The area is considered one of the success stories of MinLand which identified the Badjaos in the area for their community governance and disaster resiliency project. Of the almost 2,837 purok population with 900 households, there is an estimated 70 Badjao households.  

“A study by the city show that the number one hazard faced by the city is flooding and the Davao River facing Bucana is one of the coastal communities usually affected by flooding,” Miraflor Austria, MinLand Urban-Project Team Leader said. Out of the seven watersheds in the city, the Davao River has been identified as the most critical.

Austria said the Badjaos immediately asked for a banga so they can fish but MinLand encouraged them to shift to other methods of fishing and to adopt new fishing technologies since “they have been used to the pana-pana method which may no longer be feasible now given climate change and the reduced marine resources.” 

“We always experience flooding here not only when there are typhoons but even during monsoons,” said Francesso Bantayan, a trisikad driver who has lived in the area for most of his life. 

While the seasonal reverses of the wind can be scary and inconvenient for the community, he said they have become accustomed to this way of life. He said he would grab any offer of relocation but said it has to be where they can continue with their livelihood. 

The community tried to plant mangroves along the shoreline to protect them from monsoons and typhoons but almost all the trees they planted were wiped out by strong winds and the waves which came with sand due to the siltation in the area. 
“MidLand formed a group of Badjaos and gave them an incentive to plant the mangroves which we provided,” said Milagros Nakahara, Environmental Management Specialist of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

 Nakahara said they planted one hectare with mangroves in November 2014 but only survived for a year. Only one mangrove has been left standing and this too is in danger because the informal settlers have erected structures near the tree.  

Jose Longno of the City Fishery Office said rehabilitation of the mangroves is out of the question because the area is not really feasible for planting mangroves. He suggested the planting of Malibago trees which have been existing in the area for years since it seems to be the most resilient tree given the nature of the location. 

“We also need to declare the area as a fish landing area so that we can protect it from future claimants and from informal settlers,” Punong Barangay Rolando Trajera said. There is also a need to delineate the area and to limit the number of bungsod considering that other people would want to take advantage of the fish catch.

BFAR XI Regional Director Fatma idris said the increasing fish population in the area shows that the yearly declaration of the Closed Season for Pelagic Fishes in the Davao Gulf from June to August is very effective. Davao City ordinance No. 093-08, also known as the Fisheries Code of Davao City, already prohibits the “Catching or selling of Juvenile Fishery Species or Gravid Spawners” even without the Closed Season. Open fishing season in the region has been declared for the months of September to May.

The Closed Season in the Davao Gulf has been implemented only for the past twoyears but has reportedly increased the fish catch in the region by 26% from September to December in 2014 compared to the same period last year. BFAR data shows that the fish catch of the municipal fisherfolk versus the commercial fishers has increased from 25-75 percent prior to the implementation of the Closed Fishing Season to 34-66 percent after the Closed Season.

BFAR National Director Asis Perez said an increase in the country’s fish catch can be expected with the implementation of Republic Act 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines which became effective on October 10, 2015. Mr. Perez said the implementation of the Amended Fisheries Code will also strengthen the country's fight against Illegal, Unreported and Uncontrolled Fishing (IUUF).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SPMC:striving to give the masa quality healthcare

“Marginalized people deserve the best too, especially in health care because they do not have a choice but the government hospitals.”

Dr. Leopoldo J. Vega, Chief of Hospital of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) lived by this mantra ever since he took over the reign of the hospital.  After six years, the SPMC stands at par with even the best hospitals in the city in terms of facilities and services.

SPMC has come a long way from a 25-bed capacity hospital along San Pedro St. where it was known as the Davao Public Hospital, to a 1,200-bed capacity hospital which was transferred to J.P. Laurel and through Republic Act 1859, renamed Davao Regional Medical and Training Center. Republic Act 09792, which was enacted in November 19, 2009, however changed the hospital’s name to the Southern Philippines Medical Center. 

The SPMC has recently undertaken an estimated P75 million modernization and expansion project and is now equipped with modern facilities. With the limited funds available, the renovation was done gradually in a period of six years. Today, the SPMC is equipped with facilities that can rival even the best private hospitals in the city and the world, with much-improved operating rooms, diagnostic machines and a separate heart center capable of conducting heart surgeries.

While the hospital has a 1,200 authorized inpatient bed capacity, it regularly caters to an additional 900 people on an outpatient basis and up to 750 patients at the emergency room on a daily basis. Around 75% of SPMC’s patients are from Davao City while the rest are from the rest of the region.

“Up to 80% of our patients here are marginalized and indigent patients who have no other access to healthcare,” he said. With the government’s universal healthcare program, SPMC is now able to provide healthcare even to these indigent patients while sustaining its operations.

Vega said the common belief that SPMC offers free healthcare is not really true since majority of those who cannot pay are given financing through PhilHealth. He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is trying to enroll as many indigents to the government’s healthcare program because “free is no longer tenable.”

“We also enroll our patients to PhilHealth if they come to us without the capacity to pay but they have to be qualified first,” he said. The social workers assigned at the hospital will have to verify the qualification of the indigent patient and the SPMC pays for the P2,400 premium for one year. Surprisingly, SPMC is actually earning from PhilHealth with 80% of its financial income coming from the government health fund.

SPMC’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for the last five years has remained at a rate of P55 thousand per year but the hospital’s electricity expenses alone is pegged at P48 thousand annually. The hospital has not received a share from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for its capital outlay for the last five years and has only received an infrastructure and capital outlay of P120 million this year.
“We thus have to make sure that we are operating sustainably,” he said. The Davao City government is providing a P20 million annual assistance through the Lingap Para sa Mahirap Program of Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte.  The 1,200 bed capacity of SPMC requires 3,500 regular plantilla employees but even if it is servicing twice this number, it only has 745 plantilla employees augmented by 1,500 contractual employees.

“There is a big gap in the number of regular plantilla personnel but we manage thanks to the city’s assistance especially in the hiring of contractual workers,” he said.

Mr. Vega is also very proud of the hospital’s computerized hospital information system which allows doctors to see a patient’s x-ray and other laboratory results in any desktop. The hospital’s portable electronic capability allows the medical records of its patients to be fully digitalized such that the hospital can easily check a patient’s hospital records from 10-15 years ago.

While SPMC also caters to patients who are financially capable and get the same facilities and services enjoyed by the indigent ones, Vega said it is the latter which matters most to them since these are the patients who have no other alternative when it comes to health care. “I am more fulfilled in providing care for these people,” he added/

The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) was officially awarded by the TUV-SUD-PSB with an ISO 9001:2008 certification making it at par with even the best hospitals in the world.

The TUV-SUD-PSB is an internationally accredited certification body known for its expertise in auditing and certifying a wide range of internationally recognized management systems related to health, safety and environment among others.

“The ISO has been planned two years ago and we have attained it three months ago. We are now given a status of an institution that provides standard of care that is at par with the best hospitals in the world,” Vega said. However, the hospital management is now more concerned in maintaining such accreditation. 

The ISO 9001 Quality Management System is the most popular quality improvement standard worldwide. It is in fact the only standard in the 9000 family of standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that can be used for the purpose of conformity assessment.

Friday, January 15, 2016

BFAR XI release crablets

TAGUM CITY-The city government  successfully concluded the 1st Crab Seeding Ceremony at the Tancuan Creek in Barangay Bincungan.

More than 500 crablets of Mud Crab, also known as King Crab or Mangrove Crab (Scylla serrata) were ceremoniously released at the mangrove reforestation area where they will be grown until they reach the appropriate size and weight.

“The newly-released crablets were hatched from the P2-million Multi-Species Hatchery in Barangay Liboganon which was inaugurated in September last year,” said BFAR XI Director Fatma M. Idris. The hatchery is capable of hatching up to 76,800 crablets per quarter.

While BFAR provided the funding for the hatchery, it will be managed by the city government. The land where the hatchery stands is the city's counterpart to the project.

City Agriculturist, Engr. Harold S. Dawa said in just seven months, the crablets could already weigh 1.5 Kilogram (kg) to 2 kg which can be sold at P400 to P600 per kg.

Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo P. del Rosario, who was also present during the ceremony, said Tagumenos have no choice but to make the mud crab industry competitive considering that the ASEAN Economic Cooperation (AEC) has started and this product is expected to be one of those that will be meet with huge demand in the market.

"The fingerlings from the hatchery will be distributed to the fisherfolk so that we will have sufficient supply of crabs in the future," Del Rosario said. It is also expected to be an income-generating project for the fisherfolk in the area.

Del Rosario said raising mud crabs or soft shell crabs is very profitable not only because of the increasing demand in the local but also in the international market. Among the countries already importing the crabs are Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Europe and the United States. 

In Davao del Norte, the growing of soft shell crabs is pioneered by AB Maningo Farm which is included in the Tagum City River Cruise which aims to promote eco-tourism in the area. Among the few countries that produce the crabs are Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Most consumers prefer the soft-shell crabs since these are not only available whole year round but can be eaten whole once cooked.

The hatchery, which will not only focus on mud crabs but other fish species as well, took ten years of intensive planning before it was finally realized. The hatchery is equipped with a larval tank, algal tank, a reservoir, a power supply system and a nursery.

Tagum City Mayor Alan L. Rellon said the release of the crablets does not only signal the beginning of the mud crab production in the city but it will also pave the way for the realization of the city’s dream of making Tagum the crab capital in this part of Mindanao.

Dawa said the hatchery plans to release some of the crablets to the wild every production season so it is also expected to increase the number of wild crabs along the Creek which would be advantageous to the fisherfolk who could make a living out of it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Zamboanga back in tourism map

Call it nostalgia or déjà vu but one can’t help but be brought back somewhere in time when the Spaniards reigned in the country, the moment you step down at the Zamboanga International Airport. It used to service international flights to Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia until it was cut off due to the Asian financial crisis. 

But still, the airport which sports a very distinctive Mindanao design, is kept busy by domestic flights to and from Davao and Metro Manila especially this October with the month-long celebration of the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival which is being held in honor of the miraculous Our Lady of the 
UZAMBOANGA CITY-Bienvenidos! The moment you hear that word which means welcome, you realize that you have indeed arrived at Asia’s Latin City. And once you experience the Chavacanos’ charm then you learn to just let go of your fears and inhibitions.

Call it nostalgia or déjà vu but one can’t help but be brought back somewhere in time when the Spaniards reigned in the country, the moment you step down at the Zamboanga International Airport. It used to service international flights to Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia until it was cut off due to the Asian financial crisis. 

But still, the airport which sports a very distinctive Mindanao design, is kept busy by domestic flights to and from Davao and Metro Manila especially this October with the month-long celebration of the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival which is being held in honor of the miraculous Our Lady of the Pillar, the patroness of Zamboanga City.

But that was not the case after the September 2013 siege of Zamboanga when Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces landed in the city, forcefully took over the city, hostaged residents of Barangays Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina and Mariki and engaged the Special Operations Group of the Philippine Navy in a firefight which resulted to the death of civilians, military and the MNLF themselves.

“Zamboanga is going to be back in the tourism map judging from the number of visitors in this year’s festival specifically the Regatta de Zamboanga,” said Councilor Vincent Paul A. Elago, chairman of the City Council committee on tourism at the sidelines of the vinta competition conducted along R.T. Lim Boulevard which sued to be known as Cawa-Cawa. While the kilometer stretch of the boulevard used to be occupied by families, mostly Badjaos who were displaced during the siege, the tents are gone and replaced along the shores by traditional vintas with colorful sails. 

Mr. Elago estimated the spectators, who stood from end to end of the boulevard to cheer for the Regatta, to at least 50,000 including foreign visitors.  The Regatta de Zamboanga, a traditional race of colorful vintas, also had a record-breaking number of participants with 180 bangkeros trying their luck this time and vying for the P20,000 first prize and the P7,000 and P5,000 for the second and third prizes respectively.

“The vintas are one of the most popular icons of Zamboanga but most of the Badjaos who used the vitnas for fishing have started to look for other means of livelihood in the city so we feared that the vintas would disappear,” Mr. Elago said. Fishermen in the area have ceased to use their vintas for fishing and have become middlemen and traders. He said the local government hopes to bring back the art of fishing and of sailing the vintas through the holding of the Regatta de Zamboanga every year.

Hajad M. Hamid, who used to be a fisherman but now works at a state university here, and his brother Danny paddled and steered vinta number 006 to victory, making them the undisputed winner of the Regatta for the past consecutive years now. “It took me almost a month to practice whenever I have free time,” he said in the dialect.

“Zamboanga’s vibrant tourism industry suffered a setback because of the siege but we have recovered and are rebuilding tourist confidence in the area,” Department of Tourism (DOT) IX Director Mary June G. Bugante said. Convincing tourists to visit the city was a big challenge considering that the months after the seige was already the peak months for the city’s tourism.  

While the region’s tourist arrivals dived after the siege by almost 50 percent to 344,000 from 658,000 in 2012, the tourists have started to come back with 370,000 arrivals last year, most of them domestic travelers.

Eleven Islands

Ms. Bugante admits that the top attractions of Zamboanga remain to be its culture and beaches. Zamboanga’s vibrant culture is easily recognized with the vivid colors of the vinta sails. The area was already a trading center as far back as the 13th century but Spain’s influence is best seen not inside the museums of Zamboanga but at Fort Pilar which was built in 1635. Fort Pilar used to be a military fortress but now it houses a Marian Shrine and the regional museum of the National Museum of the Philippines which continue to attract tourists and devotees up to now.

Fort Pilar is a National Cultural Treasure as declared by virtue of Presidential Decree 260 issued on August 1,1973. 

With so many beautiful islands in Zamboanga, it is not surprising that Mr. Elagois pushing for the development of the Eleven islands in the east coast as additional tourism products of the city. Ms. Bugante is fully supporting the development of the Eleven Islands as tourism brings many benefits to the people including the improvement of their economic status.
“The Eleven Islands could be our next attractions but we have to make sure they are developed sustainably,” Ms. Bugante said. While each of the islands have fine white sand and crystal clear waters, she said each has its own unique beauty that will surely attract nature lovers.
Culture and heritage

A tour of Zamboanga City is much like a walk back in history starting with the Zamboanga City Hall which was built by the United States to house the American Governors during World War 1 including Governor John J. Pershing who started the construction of Pasonanca Park in 1912. The City hall is made with adobe stones exterior walls, red terracota roofs and hardwood interiors. The belfry-like tower of the building is easy to spot.

A few minutes away from the City Hall is the Pettit Barracks, which was named after James S. Pettit, a United States Army Colonel who used to be commanding officer of the Second Military District and later Inspector General and officer-in-charge of Civil Affairs, Zamboanga. History lovers would have a grand time walking along the Pettit Barracks which has been declared by the National Historical Institute as a heritage zone not only because this used to be the station of the US Army’s 43rd Infantry Regiment and the defense headquarters of the Japanese after that but the streets are also lined with heritage acacia trees that are more than a hundred years old that have been properly strapped with a metal plate showing their scientific and local name, date of declaration, approximate age, registry number and location. These trees are considered “ecologically, historically and culturally valuable.” 

With its rich history, culture and charm, it easy to say Quiere yo contigo (I love you) Zamboanga. The very same reasons why you cannot help but keep coming back to Zamboanga again and again.

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