PHOTO: Pop rice vendor in Dagatkidavao, Valencia City

MOBILE VENDOR. Pop rice and baked products vendor Roberto Dahay, 60,
fixes his goods after
his delivery in Purok Logdeck, Dagat Ki Davao, Valencia City
BUKIDNON NEWS Photo

Zubiri admits to ‘management lapses’ amid COA probe

MALAYBALAY CITY – Former Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, now vice governor, admitted to lapses in management amid a Commission on Audit probe on allegations of irregularities during his term as governor.

The COA 10 Regional Office is investigating a complaint filed by a group who called themselves the Northern Mindanao Concerned Citizens Against Graft and Corruption questioning Zubiri for alleged graft and corrupt practices.

Zubiri denied the allegations when asked by reporters but admitted to “lapses in management” ahead of the release of the COA special audit team’s final report.

Hesselinda Valencia, COA supervising auditor, via telephone on July 15 confirmed the probe but declined to give details pending the release of the final report. The probe opened in January 2011, sources at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, where Zubiri is presiding officer, said.

COA refused to provide a copy of the order for the special audit team and the complaint lodged against Zubiri pending the release of the final report.

Valencia confirmed that the team met with Zubiri and the others involved in an exit conference at the Malberry Suites in Cagayan de Oro City on July 14. The conference was moved from a venue in Malaybalay City in the morning allegedly due to security concerns on the side of the audit team.

The investigation covered alleged fraud in the release of at least P600 million of the province’s 20 percent development fund from 2007 to 2010; the release of at least P80,000 extra bonus or the performance enhancement incentives to regular employees; alleged anomaly in the implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s fertilizer program in the province; the management of the province’s indigent health program, and two other items.

Zubiri denied committing fraud in any of the allegations lodged against him, which he said he welcomed even if it was an “unsigned complaint.”

He said when he received the COA letter informing them of the unsigned complaint; he wrote back and told COA to proceed.  He claimed a political vendetta was behind the complaint.

Zubiri told Bukidnon News Wednesday the province lost no money in his administration’s transactions.

“The money went to the people, not to my pocket,” he added, referring to the development funds he released as financial assistance to Bukidnon’s 464 barangays and to the extra bonuses for Christmas.

On the development funds, Zubiri said the COA team found the releases were made despite the lack of supporting documents like the memorandum of agreement (MOA), local resolutions requesting the release of funds for the projects, and program of work.

On the extra bonuses, he said the releases were approved by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through the Department of Budget and Management for those released before 2010. The same is true, he said, of the Christmas 2010 extra bonus under the Aquino administration. DBM, he said, approved the release because of their surplus. He said they were allowed because they did not exhaust their limit for personnel expenses.

He denied ill practice in the release of fertilizers from the DA, adding the master list was with the municipal agriculture officers (MAOs).

But Zubiri admitted to some management lapses in allowing the release without the documents.

“I plead guilty for the lapses of management,” he said.

He added that for the development funds, he was rushing to hand the checks to the barangays whom he promised the projects.

But he denied any irregularity and stressed that he was against any irregular practice during his administration.

He said he initiated procedures that saved money for the province like construction of school buildings that are cheaper than the usual cost. He said he also did not use his P25 million per year intelligence fund “to avoid the temptation.”

“But I’m not perfect. I am not God to have no lapses (in management),” he added.

He challenged his detractors to find proof of their allegations.

“If you can find an iota of evidence then I will voluntarily resign as vice governor, proceed to detention even without due process,” he added.

Zubiri vowed to provide a copy of final report when the COA releases it possibly next week. (Walter I. Balane)

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Next headache after floods – leptospirosis – DOH Sec. Ona

MALAYBALAY CITY – The next headache communities might face after flooding is leptospiroris, Health Sec. Enrique Ona said.

Ona told Bukidnon News the communities should be prepared also of the disease brought by rats in flooded areas.

He cited the flooded areas in Mindanao such as Cotabato, Davao, and other cities as prone to the disease especially those with high population of rats.

He stressed the DOH’s advice for the people to prevent leptospirosis by avoiding to wade in floodwaters, and to wear protective wear if unavoidable.

Leptospirosis, an infection usually transmitted to humans from water contaminated by animal urine commonly rats, comes in contact with cuts in the skin, eyes, or with the mucous membranes.

Among the symptoms include fever, chills, intense headache. Complications could be meningitis, renal failure, respiratory distress, may arise and lead to death.

The Department of Health put this year’s nationwide cases of leptospirosis as 65.4-percent higher compared to the same period last year, wherein 315 cases were reported with 38 deaths.

Ona was in town to visit the Provincial Government of Bukidnon’s health systems, including provincial hospitals and the Provincial Indigency Health Program, which he said, were “very impressive”. He accompanied Dr. Shin Young Soo, the Western Pacific Regional Director of the World Health Organization to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical
Center.

The two officials attended the Universal Health Care Conference for Northern and Western Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro City this week. (Walter I. Balane)

 

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Bukidnon boosts teachers’ training for IP-based education

MALAYBALAY CITY – The Department of Education Division of Bukidnon is doubling the number of teachers trained to pursue the Mother Tongue-based Multi-Lingual Education for indigenous peoples with additional teachers to be trained this month, Dr. Ingrid Racoma, DepEd-Bukidnon schools division superintendent, said.

In 2009, DepEd Bukidnon trained at least 43 teachers to pilot the MLB-MLE in the towns of Talakag, Impasug-ong, and Damulog. She said the three towns have big population density of IPs.

She told the Bukidnon Press Club Tuesday they will bring the number of teachers to 100 at the end of month after a series of training sessions.

Racoma said DepEd Bukidnon has consulted tribal chieftains of their implementation of DepEd Order 74, which changed the languages of instruction in basic education from the bilingual to a trilingual one using the mother tongue, Filipino and English.

“It is important to make it easier to facilitate learning especially in the primary school level,” she added.

She told Bukidnon News that the effort is the local initiative to respond to the needs of school children in indigenous communities who find it difficult to learn because of the language barrier.

DepEd Order 74 mandates that multilingual education “shall be institutionalized as a fundamental educational policy in the whole stretch of formal education including pre-school and in the Alternative Learning System.”

She said DepEd Bukidnon has translated the primary education curriculum into the dialects of the province’s seven tribes.

But she said some of the tribal chieftains expressed fear that they might lose their culture even with the translated lessons and the trained teachers.

She added that the DepEd curriculum in areas where MTBMLE is piloted includes the promotion of their culture. Racoma said the chieftains have helped them come up with authentic educational materials.

Among the interventions, she said, is the hiring of teachers from the indigenous peoples themselves and the training of more non-IP teachers already hired.

DepEd Bukidnon has 4,339 elementary school teachers, she said.

But she said they have a problem with the funding and welcomed DepEd Bukidnon’s inclusion as the pilot schools division in Northern Mindanao for DepEd’s Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education (PRIME), a project with the Australian Agency for International Development AusAID).

She said the selection of the province does not come as good news from the surface.

Racoma said aside from the fact that Bukidnon is home to the largest IP population density in Region 10 and its poverty index, the selection also means the schools division of Bukidnon has “poor educational performance.”

She said it shows that the division, which excludes the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia, has poor performance in different indicators; low participation rate, high drop our rate, and low performance in the National Achievement Test among others.

“But in the end, we are given an opportunity to improve. Our selection to the program is one more chance,” she added.

Of the at least 100 schools divisions in the country, Racoma said Bukidnon is in the bottom 40, using performance assessments made in 2007. (Walter I. Balane)

 

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Bukidnon keen on collection of DMPI P105-M tax arrears

MALAYBALAY CITY – The provincial government of Bukidnon still did not sign or authorize a compromise deal with Del Monte Philippines, Inc. over the latter’s real property tax arrears, Jeffrey Sayson, provincial legal officer, told Bukidnon News recently.

Sayson, who was also provincial administrator until July 1, said if any negotiation exists, this will go through the provincial board, which passed on Wednesday  Resolution No. 2011-048 strongly recommending the implementation of the collection of the whole real property tax from 2006 to 2010 as assessed in March 2011. Former Malaybalay City councilor Provo Antipasado assumed on July 1 as the Capitol’s new administrator.

Lawyer Marco Parpan, DMPI plantation labor relations and legal services manager told Bukidnon News on July 9 that DMPI has submitted a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on July 8 (Friday) “asking for reconsideration or recall of the demand letter.”

Parpan declined when asked for details of the firm’s position. “Our position is articulated in the letter,” he added.

According to the Provincial Treasurer’s Office’s June 7, 2011 notice of distraint to DMPI, a copy of which was obtained by Bukidnon News Friday, the provincial government is collecting P105.23 million, the whole real property tax the firm owed to the provincial government from 1992 to 2010. Bukidnon News earlier reported that the firm owes P26 million, But Sayson said it was amount, which they computed as the tax
due for the last five years, if in case the firm seeks for a compromise.

The provincial board resolution recommended “appropriate remedies” for its collection if the same is not paid voluntarily on July 7. Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. suggested garnishment against the firm. The Provincial Treasurer’s Office issued a 30-day notice of distraint to DMPI on June 7, which expires on July 7. Sayson said DMPI has the option to file a temporary restraining order in court or submit a compromise proposal to the provincial government.

As of July 1, Sayson said, no such proposal was sent. Bukidnon News has continued to try reaching DMPI but no comment was obtained as of July 7.

In the firm’s letter to the provincial government on June 23, 2010, the firm said they are exempt from paying the real property taxes as they don’t own the lands they are using. They said they leased it from the Del Monte Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (DEARBC), who the provincial government should tax as the owner.

But they cited that the cooperative is also exempted from paying the real property, assessed as of June 2010 at P95.94 million.

“Under the Local Government Code and the new Cooperative Code of 2008, real properties owned by duly registered cooperatives such as DEARBC, are exempt from real property taxes,” DMPI said in the two-page letter signed by Luis F. Alejandro, general manager and chief operations officer.

DMPI quoted the Cooperative Code of 2008 as saying that cooperatives with accumulated reserves and undivided net savings of not more than P10 million from “all national, city, provincial, municipal, or barangay taxes of whatever name or nature.”

The firm showed that DEARBC only has P2.81 million accumulated reserve fund, thus exempted.

DMPI even cited then that the Department of Finance – Bureau of Local Government Finance (BOF-BLGF) affirmed the firm’s position that they are tax exempt.

Sayson stressed, however, that the provincial government is asserting collection based on the beneficial use principle. He said Supreme Court decisions invoke the principle of collecting tax from the one who is actually using the land, in this case DMPI, not the DEARBC.

Sayson added that the province, however, is not keen on going to court that is why the computation of P26 million emerged. He said prescription rule of coverage for collection of real property tax allows only five years.

“It (P26 million) could be the compromise tax the provincial government can accept based on the law,” he added.

But Sayson said DMPI must first admit their tax liability so they can work on the negotiations. He said DMPI might still cling on to its tax-exempt position.

He added that the P8 million alleged compromise tax due emerged after the present DMPI management allegedly inquired about the tax due in the last two years.

Sayson admitted it was a quote in response to the inquiry, not a tax compromise as no such process exists as of July 1.

Roger Guillermo, of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office, was summoned to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week to clarify on the firm’s tax arrears from 2006 to 2010 when Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. told the provincial board of an alleged negotiation with the Capitol.

Guillermo said the treasurer’s office has already issued a notice of distraint or a levy on tax debt covering personal and movable assets of the company.

Zubiri said the firm allegedly negotiated to pay only for two years at P8 million. He cited that Gov. Alex Calingasan allegedly informed him about it in a text message earlier, prompting him to ask the position of the other members of the board.

Board member Jay Albarece told Bukidnon News that Guillermo admitted that the tax arrears were under negotiation. Zubiri told Newswatch before leaving the session on June 29 that the provincial government may waive interests and penalties but not the net of a tax due. (Walter I.Balane).

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Bukidnon nixes Indophil, et al mining exploration applications

MALAYBALAY CITY – The Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan disapproved the request of Indophil Services International Pty. Ltd and two other applicants for an endorsement of its application for a mining exploration permit in the province citing the province’s stand against mining.

The provincial board decided Wednesday to inform the applicants through letters of the disapproval reiterating that for now, Bukidnon will not budge on its position not to allow large scale mining.

Indophil wrote to the provincial board for “appropriate action,” for its exploration permit filed at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau at DENR Region 10 for not quantified areas in Kitaotao and Quezon towns. The firm informed the board that the two-year exploration will be limited to the search for mineral deposits, which included geological survey, geographical survey, geochemical survey, and exploratory drilling.

The firm stressed that exploration does not include mineral extraction and mining development.

But the provincial board did not buy the firm’s claim.

Board members argued about their position but eventually decided not to grant their request.

On motion of board member Jay Albarece, the board decided to express their opposition even if board members Ranulfo Pepito and Manuel Dinlayan said it might be worth calling the applicants to the session to explain about their plans.

But majority floor leader Nemesio Beltran, Jr. and board member Alfeo Baguio, who chairs the board’s committee on environment invoked the province’s anti-large scale mining stance.

The position applies to the other applicants, Makati-based San Christo Mineral Exploration Corporation, which intends to explore 13, 756.68 hectares in Iglugsad, San Fernando, Bukidnon. The applicant has been previously denied an endorsement by the board. The other applicant, Vicentico Buta, has expressed intention to conduct mining exploration in Gango, Libona, Bukidnon.  (Walter I. Balane)

 

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Bukidnon to combat low TB detection with multi-sector alliance

MALAYBALAY CITY– The Bukidnon Provincial Health Office is spearheading the formation of a Bukidnon multi-sectoral alliance for the control of tuberculosis in the province.

Dr. Teresita G. Damasco, provincial health officer has announced that they are holding consultations in line with the move to create the alliance, a measure prescribed by the Department of Health to control TB.

“The alarming condition of TB cases in Bukidnon needs special attention from the local officials in every municipality or city,” she added.

In 2010, Bukidnon reported 131 deaths attributed to TB. But only 43, or 33 percent of the cases, were reported from the Rural Health Units or health stations, Barrera said. She said 88 of the patients, or 67 percent, died without even getting treatments.

The LGUs and all stakeholders’ commitment, she added, (are needed) to strengthen implementation of measures to improve TB detection rate in the province.

She said a joint provincial government, DOH, and stakeholders consultation should be

held.

Damasco scheduled a consultation meeting on June 14, a date set after Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. flared up upon hearing Bukidnon has the lowest detection rate for tuberculosis in Region 10.

Bukidnon News reported earlier that the Province of Bukidnon has a lackluster record in detecting tuberculosis cases. It is, in fact, at the bottom in Northern Mindanao with only a 55-percent case detection rate (CDR) compared to the national cut-off of 70 percent. The rate is alarming situation that deserves “full attention” considering that the province has been at the bottom at least since 2004, said Marilou Gecosala, Northern Mindanao regional nurse TB coordinator.

Gecosala told Bukidnon News at the end of a forum on Program Implementation Review On Tuberculosis Control and other concerns at the Folk Arts Theater last month that the low performance could be attributed to the province’s geography and also the commitment of health workers and the patients’ “health-seeking” behavior.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs with condition known as pulmonary tuberculosis; it also has effect on other portions of the body, like the bones joints, intestines, liver, kidneys, and the heart, according to the Health Promotion Handbook distributed during the event.

Bukidnon’s cure rate, or the number of patients cured among those detected with TB, is 82 percent. Still it falls short of the national cut-off of 85 percent, said Emmanuelita R. Barrera, Bukidnon’s nurse TB coordinator.

Misamis Occidental, the best in the region for both detection and cure rates, has 104 percent and 94 percent, respectively. The detection and cure rates are based on performances of the province’s 24 TB directly observed treatment (DOT) facilities. Only four of Bukidnon’s 20 towns and two cities have passed the national standards in cure rates: Maramag (104 percent), Don Carlos (100 percent), Malitbog (79.17 percent), and Damulog (70.86 percent).

The municipality of Don Carlos was listed in the areas with TB DOTS that has “high cure rates”. Barrera said the 2010 figures at least show an improvement compared to the 2007 figures. Four years ago Bukidnon’s detection rate was only 43 percent while its cure rate was at 60 percent.

Based on estimates from a detection formula, if Bukidnon has 1.06 million population, it must have at least 1,006 cases in 2010. But only 975 cases were reported in the province, Barrera said.

“Where did they go? Most of these people are ashamed of their conditions, are self medicating or have poor health-seeking behavior,” she added.

Barrera warned that each patient has the possibility of infecting 10 to 15 other people so they must not self medicate.

She said those who take medicines without going through the protocol in recognized treatment centers stand the risk of acquiring multiple-drug resistant TB cases. She added that many TB patients are ashamed and afraid to come out when there is nothing to be ashamed or be afraid of.

TB drugs are free in rural health units in the province’s 24 TB treatment facilities. TB is the eight biggest cause of deaths in Bukidnon in 2010. Nationwide, TB is the sixth leading cause of deaths and illnesses and accounts for 7 percent of the total deaths. About 75 Filipinos die of TB everyday.

Barrera said there is no alternative to going through the province’s 24 TB DOT facilities. Barrera said the review is one of the initiatives to address the province’s poor performance in TB detection and cure. She added that the problem in TB detection and cure is not drugs and facilities. “One major concern we are addressing is the information and education drive,” she said. (Walter I. Balane)

 

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Bukidnon LGU illegally operating training school – TESDA

MALAYBALAY CITY -  The Municipal Government of Maramag, Bukidnon had been operating a technical vocational training school since 2007 without government permit, according to Dr. Catherine M.R. Galapon, provincial director, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA-Bukidnon).

Galapon informed the Bukidnon provincial board about this during the regular session on June 8, where she was asked to shed light on the state of technical education in the province.

Galapon said the Maramag Polytechnic College, owned and ran by the municipal government did not secure Certificate of Program Registration (CPR) for all its skills training courses, at least nine of them.

Among the courses offered by the school included automotive, electronic services, welding, food trade and commercial cooking, computer hardware services, and health care services.

She told Bukidnon News the school’s brochure also made it appear they were registered with TESDA because they used qualification titles (QTs) TESDA uses for courses registered with them.

In the brochure, the school indicated that after the short term courses, the students will get an NC2 credit or National Certificate Level 2.

Galapon said another violation of the school is that they charged tuition of P2,500 when it is supposed to deliver free training as a “community training” center.

Maramag mayor Alicia Resus told Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr via telephone during the session that they just patterned their operations after the Lugait Technical Vocational School in Misamis Oriental.

But Galapon, who was previously assigned to Misamis Oriental until April 2011, told Bukidnon News the school, also ran by the municipal government is a TESDA-accredited school.

She said past TESDA directors failed to close the school because the municipal government kept on indicating they will initiate registration.

“But they never pushed through,” she added.

She said she will give the school a chance to comply with the requirements to obtain a CPR for each course they offer.

She said they could also shut down the school if they refuse to register their programs.

Galapon said the Bukidnon Technical Institutes Association (BukTIA) has complained against the local government owned school’s illegal operation.

She said it is important that the public should know about the illegal operations of such schools because their graduates will not be allowed to take the TESDA skills assessment tests, required in obtaining special orders and other certificates required for local and foreign employment.

Bukidnon has 23 accredited technical vocation schools, 21 of which are privately owned. (Walter I. Balane)

 

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Bukidnon anti-crime body folds up too soon

MALAYBALAY CITY – Even before it could meet for the first time, the newly created Provincial Anti-Crime and Drug Abuse Force or Task Force Laban sa Krimen“ has now died a natural death.” Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan told Bukidnon News Wednesday he will no longer push through with the project after his appointed task force chair and vice chair declined to accept their appointment.

Calingasan has ordered the creation of the Provincial Anti-crime and Drug Abuse Force or Task Force Laban sa Krimen, according to an executive order dated May 17.

Executive Order No. 44 named Vice Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. to head the task force whose task is to “investigate, evaluate, review, assess, and gather information to stop illegal activities or crimes
[in the province]”. The governor appointed provincial board member Rogelio Lago as vice chair of the task force.

In a letter on June 2, Zubiri declined the position following a tussle with Lago during the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session on June 1. Zubiri said in his letter that an ordinance is necessary for him and the board members to accept the post to avoid liability for “ultra vires acts” (beyond their authority). Lago wanted the provincial board to defer discussion on the proposed ordinance as they need to act first on Calingasan’s executive order. Nemesio Beltran Jr., provincial board majority leader, told Bukidnon News
there was a verbal tussle that ensued when he told Lago it was not for the board to act on executive orders.

Eventually, Lago expressed he would decline the position. The provincial board suspended discussion on the ordinance. Zubiri declined the following day.

The anti-crime body was tasked to formulate an anti-crime and public safety plan.

Calingasan issued the order in the aftermath of the New People’s Army attack early in May of the police station in Malitbog town, where the police were reported to have offered no resistance. The incident led to the sacking of the provincial police director, the town’s police chief and 20 of his subordinates.

The task force shall report to the governor and is placed under the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC).

But the governor said he would return the supposed role of the task force to the PPOC.

Calingasan cited in the executive order that the PPOC meets only once in a quarter.

Also named to the task force were provincial chiefs of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Land Transportation Office, and representatives from the public transport, religious, business, labor, and academic sectors.

The provincial police office said in a report that as of May 2011, various forms of illegal gambling exist in the province. However, Supt. Canilo A. Fuentes, deputy director for operations of the provincial police office, told the provincial board there is no jueteng [in Bukidnon]. He also clarified that illegal suertres, which is based on the results of a lottery game sponsored by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, is being carried out via guerrilla-type operations.

But Fuentes admitted that the entire province is “practically affected with the illegal drug problem” with marijuana and methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) as the most abused drugs. He said on top of the list are the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and eight other towns.

Bukidnon is considered a big producer of marijuana.

Fuentes added that seven crime syndicates are operating in the province.  (Walter I. Balane)

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Bukidnon gov forms anti-crime body

MALAYBALAY CITY – Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan ordered the creation of the Provincial Anti-crime and Drug Abuse Force dubbed as Task Force Laban sa Krimen, appointing Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. to head it.

Through Executive Order No. 44 issued on May 17, Calingasan named Zubiri to head the said task force, created primarily to “investigate, evaluate, review, assess, and gather information to stop illegal activities or crimes in the province”.

The task force is also tasked to formulate an anti-crime and public safety plan, according to a copy of the order obtained by Bukidnon News from a source at the Capitol.

The task force is mandated to report to the provincial governor and is under the auspices of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, which is chaired by the governor.

Calingasan cited in the executive order that the PPOC, mandated by the Local Government Code to aid the provincial administration to keep the public safe, meets only once in a quarter.

He cited that the provincial government is duty-bound to protect Bukidnon’s residents from “crimes and syndicates such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, child and women abuse, prostitution, white slavery, and other crimes within its territorial jurisdiction.”

Calingasan appointed an ally from Bukidnon’s northern district, board member Rogelio Lago, to be the task force’s vice chair.

The order enumerated 11 other members of the task force including the provincial chiefs of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Land Transportation Office, from the public transportation sector, a representative of the Bishop of Malaybalay to represent the religious sector,  a representative each from the of the business, labor, and academe sectors.

The provincial board has eyed to pass an ordinance lending authorization to members of the board in taking executive functions as provided in the task force.

But sources at the Capitol said the task force might be on the hang at the moment with the reported tussle at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which showed task force chair appointee Vice Gov. Zubiri and vice chair board member Lago at odds over a legislated authorization for the task force.

The order was issued in the aftermath of the New People’s Army attack early in May of the police station in Malitbog town, where the police were reported to have offered no resistance. The Bukidnon police director, the town’s police chief, and 20 other police personnel have been relieved.

Based on Bukidnon Provincial Police Office’s report as of May 2011, that illegal gambling exist in the province particularly “illegal booties or suertres,” illegal cards game, cara y cruz, and “tari-tari.”

Supt. Canilo A. Fuentes, the BPPO’s deputy director for operations, in his appearance at the provincial board, denied the existence of jueting and clarified that suertres is operated via a guerilla type operation.

He also admitted that the entire province is “practically affected with the illegal drug problem,” which “continues to pose threat to the populace.”

Fuentes reported that Marijuana and Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu) are considered “most abused drugs in the province” especially in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and eight other towns.

Bukidnon has been considered a big producer of marijuana. Fuentes also cited seven crime syndicate groups operating in the province.  (Walter I. Balane)

With community support, Bukidnon can control schistosomiasis – DOH official

MALAYBALAY CITY – The Department of Health can control schistosomiasis in Bukidnon with the help of the community using a mix of ways, primarily mass treatment, Dr. Ricardo Reyes, DOH provincial health team leader said.

He said there is a need to focus on mass treatment as an intervention to address schistosomiasis in the province where there are 53 out of its 464 barangays considered to be endemic or where there are observed prevalence of cases.

Reyes gave his reaction when asked about a provincial board resolution requesting the World Health Organization (WHO) to intervene and provide financial assistance for the rehabilitation of the Matin-ao Spring Resort in Bangcud, Malaybalay City to “contain and eliminate schistosomiasis.”

The resolution sponsored by lawyer Nemesio Beltran Jr., seeks the assistance of WHO to declare the spring as a pilot area where they can pour scientific, medical, and financial resources to prevent schistosomiasis.

“The problem is too complicated that we have to ask them to intervene. The provincial government does not have the money and technical expertise to solve the schistosomiasis problem,” he told MindaNews last week.

But Reyes said schistosomiasis in Bukidnon has dropped to 3.5 percent prevalence rate in 2010 compared to the 4.72 percent rate in 2.72. This is far from the 15.81 percent in 1981, the year when the highest number of infections in the province was recorded.

In 2010, DOH reported a total of 495 schistosomiasis cases out of 13, 877 stool samples they tested in Bukidnon. The top four of the seven towns and two cities where the cases are located  were traced to Valencia City (104), San Fernando town (98), Malaybalay City (61), and Quezon town (28).

Among the 53 endemic barangays, the most numbers are traced to Valencia and Malaybalay cities.

But the barangay with the highest number of positive cases in 2010 is San Jose in San Fernando town with 54 positive cases of the 340 examined.

Of the 53, five were considered to be “highly endemic” areas (10 percent above, prevalence rate), and 18 “moderately endemic” (5 to 9.99 percent rate). The rest, th3 30 barangays have below 5 percent rates or are “low endemic” barangays.

He said the DOH and the local government, with the help of the community and other stakeholders can control schistosomiasis in Bukidnon.

Matin-ao resort, a favorite destination of both foreign and local tourists, has reportedly been contaminated and infected with schistosomiasis in the last 10 years.

The provincial government has prohibited bathing in the resort inside its seven-hectare property, but visitors manage to sneak in and bathe in the spring resort’s cool waters.

He added he will also file another resolution to include in the piloting the Atugan Resort pool in Manolo Fortich.  “It is also contaminated,” he said, a statement refuted by the DOH schistosomiasis control team. The DOH said the municipal government of Impasug-ong has assumed responsibility after a DOH team inspected the area, found snails in the area, but cleared it of schistosomiasis at the moment.

Both resorts have remained open to the public.

Dr. Vincent Raguro, DOH Bukidnon schistosomiasis control team leader, said the DOH marked the Matin-ao spring site as infected since 2005 warning the public against bathing in the resort. But he said reports point to vendors who allegedly removed the concrete signage.

He said only two of the 11 springs in the area where there are colonies of schistosomiasis carrying snails have remained infected.

But he said it has not yet been cleared from infection.

As early 2005, he said, they have pushed that the spring resort be closed from public use because of the infection. But he said barangay officials invoked a resolution declaring the resort a tourist destination in their opposition. BukidnonNews is yet to reach barangay officials of Bangcud for comments.

Dr. Jose Tiongco, chief executive officer of the Medical Mission Group Hospitals and Health Services Cooperative-Philippines Federation, told MindaNews a major aspect to consider is open defecation in infected areas.

He said other areas have considered building public toilets. But in most cases the public has to pay to use the toilets. He said in some areas it is the government who pay the users because the human waste are used to produce biomass energy.

According to the WHO, schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms of the genus Schistosoma.  Larval forms of the parasites, which are released by freshwater snails, penetrate the skin of people in the water.

“In the body, the larvae develop into adult schistosomes, which live in the blood vessels. The females release eggs, some of which are passed out of the body in the urine or faeces. Others are trapped in body tissues, causing an immune reaction,” it said.

“In urinary schistosomiasis, there is progressive damage to the bladder, ureters and kidneys. In intestinal schistosomiasis, there is progressive enlargement of the liver and spleen, intestinal damage, and hypertension of the abdominal blood vessels,” the WHO website said.

Control of schistosomiasis is based on “drug treatment, snail control, improved sanitation and health education.” (Walter I. Balane)

Business trainings offered to help Bukidnon enterprises

MALAYBALAY CITY – Trainings intended to support Bukidnon’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will be offered to help support the growth of these establishments, Fam Villanueva, of the Department of Trade and Industry Bukidnon, said.

She said DTI-Bukidnon will conduct the series of trainings in June in preparation for the MSME Week in July.

Villanueva said the trainings will be offered for free starting June 2, and every Thursday thereafter.

Among the topics include Entrepreneurship, Costing and Pricing, Basic Computer Skills and Online Marketing.

But Villanueva said the trainings will be offered only for existing MSMEs, which needed support for specific fields.

She said interested entrepreneurs are advised to apply and submit to an evaluation process starting this week.

Villanueva said MSME trainings have been conducted in the past but has been on and off.

The June trainings were organized as follow through of recent MSME Caravan.

“We received feedback about the need for more trainings and follow up of past trainings (to sustain MSME growth),” she said.(Walter I. Balane)

Cane Cutters in Don Carlos, Bukidnon

More photos courtesy of Earl Bolivar @ http://bukidnonphotojournal.blogspot.com/2011/05/tapaseros-in-bukidnon.html

ERC probes Buseco over ‘other charges’ case

MALAYBALAY CITY – The Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a show-cause order to Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative (Buseco) on March 23 asking the power distribution firm to explain why they should not be charged administratively for allegedly imposing other charges, including reconnection fee, without prior approval from the ERC.

The Commission ordered Buseco to submit an explanation under oath “why no administrative penalty should be imposed or criminal action be instituted against its Directors and Officers for imposing such charges.

The ERC noted that Buseco was reported to have increased its reconnection fee, beyond what was approved in their Unbundling Decision on December 29, 2003 in ERC Case No. 2001-929.

From P40, Buseco was reported to have collected P625.34 and P 943.77 since 2010. The ERC noted that this is not in accordance with the approved “Other Charges.”

“This constitutes a clear violation of the aforementioned decision of the Commission particularly on Items I.C and II.B.5,” it added.

The order, signed by Francis Saturnino C. Juan, Executive Director III of ERC, was issued on March 23, 2011 in Pasig City.  A staff of the firm’s legal counsel told Bukidnon News they only received the order earlier this month.

Buseco denied having violated their approved ‘other charges.’

“BUSECO did not increase its Reconnection Fee of P40.00 which remains the same, what was recovered by BUSECO was merely the actual incidental costs and expenses necessary to effect the disconnection and reconnection,” the firm said in its response to ERC, a copy of which was furnished to Bukidnon News, Friday.

“The Board did not defy nor violate the Order of this Honourable Commission by the passage of the policy,” they added.

They argued that the overriding objective is that the firm will not absorb actual costs for materials, labor and overhead which it could not recover thru the rates.

“And at the same time prevent the members-consumers from taking for granted the demand to pay their accounts on time due to the very low reconnection fee at the expense of the cooperative.

The firm dressed down the ERC case as a demolition job.
“It is a smear campaign against BUSECO by some incumbent members of the Board and former member of the Board who will not stop at anything in order to oust the General Manager and wrest control of the cooperative..,” it added.

The firm alleged that their detractors “have forum shopped before the Regular Courts, the Media, the Roman Catholic Church, even the Congress of the Philippines, and now before this Honourable Commission”.

Buseco explained in its response signed by counsel Eleuterio Diao IV that their board approved the policy for “non recurring charges” related to the disconnection and reconnection.

The firm explained that in order to break even and recover the actual cost of the disconnection and reconnection, they are collecting for items, which have not been considered as part of the Distribution, Supply and Metering Charges (DSM) “but will necessary be incurred in effecting the disconnection and reconnection.”

The firm maintained the P40 reconnection was “maintained and not touched”.

They said it is the board’s opinion that since these activities were not included in the rate structure as non-recurring and possibly one time charges only, and neither were these activities taken into account in the determination of the disconnection and reconnection costs, then the Board deemed it proper that the adoption of a policy is sufficient to recover actual costs.

Buseco added that after the policy was implemented “there was a material decline of disconnections.”

Buseco asked the ERC to withdraw its show cause order for “being without factual and legal basis”

Bukidnon News contacted Buseco general manager Edgardo Masongsong and board president Charlie Castillanes for comments but their legal office instead sent a copy of their reply.

The violation constituted penalties if proven.

In her letter on May 16, Malaybalay City councilor Perla Rubio urged the City Council through Councilor Jay Warren Pabillaran, chairman of the Committee on Public Utilities for an appropriate action in reference to the order letter of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

The council, however, decided to wait for the update of the compliance of BUSECO to such order and the action of ERC after the given period (Walter I. Balane)

Malaybalay inmates train on livelihood, open savings accounts

MALAYBALAY CITY – Inmates of the Malaybalay City Jail have opened savings accounts with the First Community Cooperative after attending the cooperative’s membership seminar in the jail premises, Jail Inspector Guy Jason Reyes, jail warden, said.

Reyes told Bukidnon News Sunday they have opened the opportunity for the inmate to learn how to save while behind bars so that when they go free, they will have something to start from.

The membership seminar was held on March 30, 2011 where 25 inmates and 13 personnel of the city jail registered to be members of the firm.

The City Jail, awarded most outstanding in the Philippines in 2010, has initiated livelihood programs for inmates.

Reyes said among those who earned from the livelihood projects, they will have a savings account in the cooperative.

“Before, visitors give money to the inmates, now it is the inmates who can be a source of money with the savings account,” Geffourd Doydora, 27, one of 20 inmates who so far have opened account. He showed to Bukidnon News his own “bank book” and those of the others who are yet to claim their copies.

As one of the inmates who has been designated as a trustee (an inmate that gains the trust of prison managers) he was assigned to help in the livelihood project of the jail.

The project was initiated by Reyes in cooperation with the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System.

Paul Sombilon, Ficco Malaybalay branch manager, encouraged the inmates to save their money through the cooperative so that while they are behind bars they can still make value of their money for future purposes.

He also encouraged the inmates to manage their finances.

Aside from the coop membership, Reyes said they have also trained the inmates on giving first aid, reflexology, and proper food handling, among the more recent trainings.

About 23 inmates completed 220 hours of training for reflexology, he added.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has chosen the Malaybalay City Jail as the Philippines’ best for 2010, a citation that came 18 months after suspected members of the New People’s Army raided it and carted away arms, ammunition and radios.

Reyes told Bukidnon News then that the award is given to a jail that has provided quality
services to its personnel and inmates, which he considered a major deterrent to
jail breaks or escapes.

Reyes said he has employed five cardinal rules in the 260-inmate city jail including normal treatment of inmates, clean jail facility, landscaping and beautification, zero escape and special programs and services for the detainees.

He also cited that aside from zero escape, they were also able to achieve physical improvements and cooperation among the inmates.

He said getting the inmates’ cooperation means providing better services and opportunities for them to earn and learn.

Reyes said he made sure they could produce their own food such as root crops, fish like hito (catfish), and livestock such as goats and turkeys. Portions of the jail compound are being utilized as gardens, fishponds and grazing areas for this purpose.

He said they also initiated handicrafts like flower vases made of recycled paper, bracelets and other native accessories, and improvised lampshades.

He said he is presently arranging with a local exporter of industrial boots to subcontract a portion of their assembly line to the inmates.

Aside from livelihood projects, Reyes said he has also initiated an internal Alternative Learning System with the Department of Education.

“I want the illiterate inmates to learn so when they leave the jail they will be better individuals,” Reyes said.

He said he also welcomed missions and outreach programs of religious groups, which had been disallowed prior to his assumption.

He said the groups helped provide psychosocial, spiritual, and even medical and other support services to the inmates.

Reyes said the city jail today is very open to visitors and the general public.

He also attributed the changes to the support of the city government which poured in support after seeing his initiatives.

He said they are maintaining the jail like a retreat house or restaurant and urged the public to drop by in Barangay Patpat to see for themselves. (Walter I.Balane)

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