Sunday, December 29, 2013

Loose implementation of the law will not stop sales of oversized firecrackers

Despite the personal inspection by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima of firecracker and pyrotechnics manufacturers in Bulacan, sales of illegal and oversized firecrackers continue to boom.

“It is all for show, and good for nothing,” remarked Celso Cruz of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc., (PPMDAI).

Cruz said that at this time of year, everything has been set in motion, including the sale of illegal pyrotechnics products in preparation for the New Year revelry.

What is not set is the full implementation of the 21-year-old law that is supposed to be implemented by the PNP, he said.

Cruz said the PNP chief should not have visited Bocaue yesterday. The town of Bocaue is dubbed the firecracker capital of the country.

Cruz said Purisima should have ordered his men to just do their job well, beginning with the full implementation of Republic Act 7183 or the Act Regulating Sale, Manufacture, Distribution, and Use of Firecrackers and other Pyrotechnics Devices.

Cruz pointed out the implementation of the law should start with issuance of license to manufacturers of firecrackers. He said this was hardly followed.

Cruz said that once a manufacturer is issued a license, they could purchase raw materials and chemicals that are all controlled substances like nitrates, potassium and sulfur.

This is followed by the actual processing and manufacturing which, Cruz said, is hardly monitored by the PNP.

He also lamented the PNP’s Firearms and Explosive Unit (FEU) does not have a database on how much chemicals a manufacturer has purchased and how much they manufactured.

“It is a very sad fact, the PNP is the administrator of the law and the one enforcing it, but what they are doing is less than to be desired on behalf of the industry,” Cruz said.

The result of this loose implementation of RA 7183, Cruz said, has led to the decline of the firecracker industry that the PNP is supposed to protect and regulate.
He explained that RA 7183 legalized the manufacture of pyrotechnic products to provide livelihood and to regulate the industry to improve product quality.

However, 21 years after the law was approved, the industry is in decline, Cruz said.

“The sad state of the industry lies in the fact that in Bocaue alone, 50 percent of pyrotechnics products are imported masquerading as locally manufactured, 30 percent are illegally manufactured and only 20 percent are legal and locally made,” he said.

Part of the problem is the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) product standard licensing that only takes into consideration finished products but turns a blind eye on the manufacturer’s processing and manufacturing facilities.

“That’s the reason why it is suggested when we are revising the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) that the PNP and DTI must require every manufacturer to present samples of their products before the issuance of the license,” he said.

With regards to the emergence of oversized products like “Goodbye Napoles,” “Super Yolanda,” “Pacquiao” and others, Cruz said the problem lies with the fact that their sales are tolerated by the local police.

“Manufacture of pyrotechnics products takes a while, and if only police will conduct regular monitoring in every barangay in Bulacan, we will never have oversized and destructive products like Napoles and Yolanda,” he said.

Before the Yuletide season began, Cruz said he suggested to police regional director Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta to issue a strict policy order to all police chiefs in Central Luzon to seize all oversized and illegal pyrotechnics products.

Cruz, however, said he doesn’t know if Petrasanta heeded his advice.

He also said that while the PNP-FEU is serving as clearing house of all raw materials for the manufacture of pyrotechnics devices, the police unit must be headed by a person familiar with the firecracker industry. –Dino Balabo

(First published by the Philippine Star ( on Sunday, December 29, 2013 under the title "Mirriam wants firecracker ban in residential areas".  )

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Don't buy smuggled, illegal pyrotechnics products

PPMDA's Celso Cruz shows legal fireworks products

MALOLOS CITY—Bulacan fireworks manufacturers warned buyers against smuggled pyrotechnics products which penetrated more than 50 percent of the Philippine market.

As this developed, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) office in Bulacan released names of pyrotechnics manufacturers in the province with product standard (PS) mark and license, while the Department of Health (DOH)continue warn the public against use of firecrackers.

Joven Ong of Dragon Fireworks based in San Rafael, Bulacan said local buyers must carefully check pyrotechnics products that they are buying in preparation for the holidays.

He told DZMM radio in an interview yesterday that smuggled pyrotechnics products has penetrated more than 50 percent of the domestic market.

Ong added that smuggled products are sold at lower prices because its manufacturers and dealers did not pay taxes.

“Our biggest advantage is our quality, hindi namin basta ibinebenta ang aming products, we follow strict quality control,” he said.

As one of the biggest pyrotechnics manufacturers in South East Asia, Ong said that Dragon Fireworks continue to innovate with new products every year.

He also reminded pyrotechnics users to be more responsible by reading instruction before and after lighting fireworks and other pyrotechnics products.

As this developed, DTI-Bulacan released a list of pyrotechnics manufacturers in the province which secured a PS mark and license for their products.

Rhine Aldana, head of DTI-Bulacan said that PS mark is one of the guarantees that a product is of high quality.

For pyrotechnics products, she said that it means that the manufacturers strictly followed guidelines in the manufacture of firecrackers and fireworks.

The PS mark and license recipients in Bulacan based on the DTI list are  Diamond Fireworks in Pulilan town, Dragon Fireworks in San Rafael, Platinum Fireworks  and Phoenix Fireworks in Santa Maria, Tiger Fireworks in Angat, Nation Fireworks in Baliwag, Pyrokreation Fireworks in Sta. Maria, SPM Fireworks in Bocaue, Double L Fireworks in Pandi, Ercy’s Fireworks in San Ildefonso, RF Fireworks in Bocaue, ZN Fireworks, A. Santiago Fireworks, Purity Fireworks all in Baliwag town and Yanco Fireworks in Bocaue town.
Illegal and oversized firecracker

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Enrique Ona reiterated his call against the use of firecrackers during the holidays to avoid injuries, while encouraging community based fireworks displays.

In an interview with DZMM radio,Ona also called on parents to watch their children ansd advised them not to pick unexploded firecrackers.

Earlier, Bulacan Police Director Senior Superintendent Joel Orduna warned buyers and sellers  of oversized and illegal pyrotechnics products.

He said that they have deployed plainclothes police officers who are specifically tasked to act a buyer and illegal pyrotechnics products and arrest sellers.  Dino Balabo

NLEX-SCTEX braces for holiday rush

MALOLOS CITY—The Tollways Management Corporation (TMC) is bracing for increase in traffic volume along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) due to holiday rush.

Francisco Dagohoy, media relations specialist of the TMC, a subsidiary of the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) and operator of the NLEX said that in the past four weeks they observed increase of traffic volume by at least five percent.

They estimated that starting Monday, December 23 traffic volume along the NLEX will increase by 20 percent from their daily average.

“Traffic is expected to  build up  in the early afternoon until late in the evening of December 23. On the other hand the heavy volume of vehicles going back to Manila is seen on the afternoon of January 1 and morning of January 2,” Dagohoy said in an official statement issued yesterday.

To address increasing traffic volume, NLEX Toll Operations will beef up its manpower during the said days.

Ambulant tellers will be deployed at the Balintawak, Mindanao Avenue and Dau Toll Plazas to facilitate lane transactions.

Spare lanes will also be used to shorten queue of vehicles during peak periods. The Bocaue Toll Plaza will also have ambulant tellers on January 1 and 2 in anticipation of the heavy volume of vehicles going back to Manila on these dates.

NLEX Traffic Operations will also deploy ten stationary patrol vehicles in selected areas in order to keep the road safe and traffic to flow smoothly.

Motorcycle riders and roving patrol vehicles will be ready to assist in the Interchanges in case of traffic build up.

Dagohoy said traffic is expected to build up at the Bocaue Toll Exit in the last week of December.

To manage this, TMC deployed additional manpower in the area beginning December 16.

At SCTEX, the same level of service can be expected. Traffic build up going to the provinces is expected at Tarlac Exit, San Miguel Exit and Tipo Exit as early as December 20, the weekend before Christmas.

Volume of traffic entering the Mabalacat Toll Plaza will even increase on December 23 as well as December 28 and 29.  The affected toll plazas will be adequately manned to address the influx of motorists.

Manual and counter flow lanes will be placed at San Miguel and Tarlac Exit respectively to accommodate the high volume of traffic while Tipo Toll Plaza will also have standby manual lanes in the event that the volume of motorist will increase. 

Heavy volume of Manila bound motorists is expected on the afternoon of December 25 and January 1 and in the early morning of December 26 and January 2 at the Mabalacat Toll Plaza.

Motorists can expect sufficient number of personnel and equipment to shorten the queue at the plaza and maintain the best level of service possible.

Manual toll booths will be deployed at the said toll plaza to address the high volume of traffic.  SCTEX traffic during the holidays is expected to increase by as much as 25% from the normal daily average.

Dagohoy said motorists can also expect adequate number of patrol crews along the carriageway and at the toll plazas to assist in during vehicle breakdown and conduct traffic management. 

Ambulances and tow trucks will be strategically deployed for faster response during incidents.  Also no major maintenance works will be conducted during the holidays so as not to disrupt the traffic flow. 

Portalets will also be stationed at Mabalacat Toll Plaza (before the entry), Tarlac Toll Plaza (after the exit) and two at the Subic bound (Km 21 and 29) portion of the SCTEX.

Advance toll fee collection for vehicles going to the Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEX) will be implemented at the Mabalacat Toll Plaza. Thirteen collection points in the area will be deployed from December 20 to 28.  Dino Balabo

Saturday, December 21, 2013

MNTC ready to take over SCTEX, and bid for CALA

MALOLOS CITY—Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) is ready to take over operation of the 93-kilometers Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).

A unit of infrastructure conglomerate Metro Pacific Investment Corporation (MPIC), MNTC is also among the top-bidders who recently pre-qualified for the proposed 40 kilometers Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALA).

Ramoncito Fernandez, president and chief operating officer (CEO) of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation said that President Benigno Aquino is happy with their proposal on the take over of the SCTEX.

“We are ready anytime. We are just waiting for the formal announcement of Malacanang,” Fernandez said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the NLEX-SCTEX first short film contest on Monday.

Part of the MNTC proposal is the 50-50 sharing of revenues and expenses in the operation of the SCTEX, between the MNTC and the government.

Fernandez said that even the rehabilitation of the damage embankment on the Pasig-Potrero River will be shouldered by MNTC and the company.

He added that part of their plant in the full operation of the SCTEX is the integrated toll collection system

Earlier, MNTC offered a P20-Billion concession to the government for the operation of SCTEX which remains under the management of Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).

As this developed, Fernandez also announced that MNTC is among the four bidders who prequalified for possible operation of the 40 kilometer CALA.

He said that CALA will stretch from Kawit section of the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) and will pass through Silang town to Sta. Rosa in Laguna  and will eventually interconnect with the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

The new toll road is seen to shorten travel time to Tagaytay, but Fernandez said that its main targets are motorists wanting to cross from SLEX to Cavitex and vice versa.

Fernandez said they are hoping that bidding for CALA will be implemented by April.  (Dino Balabo)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Iron Man’ brings cheers to Yolanda victims

JOY TO SURVIVORS. Clad in Iron Man’s suit, call center supervisor Zamora of Cebu City posed for a souvenir picture with children at the MacArthur Park in Barangay Baras, Palo, Leyte. (Dino Balabo)

PALO, Leyte—Silently. he slipped into this calamity ravaged town in Visayas, but his maroon and gold suit is easily recognizable.

As he get off his family van, children shouted “Iron Man” and he started distributing candies and chocolates.

Yes, the maroon and gold suit is Iron Man’s, but the man inside is no man of iron, but of a soft heart. He is Paul Vincent Zamora, a 31-year-old call center supervisor from Cebu City who along with his wife visited his in-laws in Tacloban City on Saturday.

It was Zamora’s second visit to Tacloban City since Supertyphoon Yolanda ravaged the city. However, it was his fi rst time to wear his three month- old “Iron Man” suit.

“I just want to bring joy to people especially to children since Christmas is approaching,” said Zamora in an Interview at the General Douglas MacArthur Park in Barangay Baras here on Saturday.

Zamora was chanced upon by members of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ) visiting Leyte and Samar provinces over the weekend.
Iron Man with PNEJ members
He said he had just visited two villages in Tacloban City and handed chocolates to children while clad in “Iron Man” suit.

After visiting Tacloban, he went to MacArthur Park here for his wife to shoot photos of him at the park.

The suit was made from rubber materials and was painted with maroon and gold colors.

According to Zamora, a friend from Cebu City made the suit for him, and he has been wearing it in their house in Cebu.

He said that his friend is a good artist who used to produce costumes for local movies. Dino Balabo

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Malolos, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Plaridel

Angat Dam break flood map--Hagonoy, Calumpit

FLOOD MAP: Bustos, Plaridel, Pulilan, Baliwag

Due to limited space on Facebook, some copies of the extracted flood/inundation are hardly readable.

I this regards, PromdiNEWS and Mabuhay Online decided to post the extracted maps from the bigger map both on both sites.

We hope that posted maps will be more readable on both sites.

Posting of the series of maps on both sites is part of a campaign to help Bulakenyos realize the presence of danger in order to be able to make necessary preparations in case of Angat Dam break.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bulacan flood map: Angat, San Rafael area

Due to limited space on Facebook, some copies of the extracted flood/inundation are hardly readable.

I this regards, PromdiNews and Mabuhay Online decided to post the extracted maps from the bigger map both on and

We hope that posted maps will be more readable on both sites.

Posting of the series of maps on both sites is part of a campaign to help Bulakenyos realize the presence of danger in order to be able to make necessary preparations in case of Angat Dam break.

Bulacan flood maps: Pulilan, Baliwag, San Rafael

Due to limited space on Facebook, some copies of the extracted flood/inundation are hardly readable.

I this regards, PromdiNews and Mabuhay Online decided to post the extracted maps from the bigger map both on and

We hope that posted maps will be more readable on both sites.

Posting of the series of maps on both sites is part of a campaign to help Bulakenyos realize the presence of danger in order to be able to make necessary preparations in case of Angat Dam break.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Are we prepared for possible dam break?

by Dino Balabo
Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan

MALOLOS CITY—If the Philippines is not prepared for super typhoon Yolanda that left about 6,000 in casualties, it is surely not prepared for a dam break that can kill at least 100,000 in Bulacan alone.

This is due to the fact that the country is inexperience for such kind of tragedy, but experts and officials alike said its impacts can be minimized with proper preparations.

As this developed, Bulacan is gearing up for a locally initiated earthquake and dam break drill in preparation for possible breach of the giant Angat Dam which experts says is sitting near the Marikina West Valley Faultline (WMVF).

Noel Ortigas, Executive Vice President of the Engineering and Development Corporation of the Philippines (Edcop) told PromdiNEWS in an interview that 50 to 60 percent of Bulacan will be affected in case of Angat Dam break.

A Filipino owned company, Edcop partnered with New Zealand-based Tonkin and Taylor International in conducting a $1-Million dollar feasibility study on the integrity of the dam from late 2011 to early 2012.

Findings in the said study showed that 21 towns and cities in Bulacan will be affected rushing water from the dam along with three towns in Pampanga and three cities in Metro Manila.

During the interview, PromdiNEWS clarified Ortigas’ estimate by converting it into population.

Based on the 2007 census of population, Bulacan’s projected population by this year is about 3-million.

It means that at least 1.5-Million Bulakenyos will be affected based on Ortigas’ estimate of 50 percent to be affected.
Noel Ortigas, EdCOP
“Hindi naman lahat na yun ay fatal,” he said after PromdiNEWS clarified his statement.

When asked on how many is likely to die in Bulacan in case of Angat Dam break, it took a while for Ortigas to tell figures.  He later said about 100,000 could die.

Ortigas explained that the depth of water that will rush out of Angat will be different from town to town.

Based on the simulation study of Edcop and Tonkin, they estimated that 10 to 30 meters of water will rush especially on villages on the banks of the Angat River from Norzagaray town to Angat San Rafael, Bustos, Baliwag and Plaridel.

He said that as rush away from the dam, it will spread and it meant shallower flood in other towns.

Based on their estimates, floods in Pulilan and Calumpit towns will be between five to 10 meters deep; in Malolos City and other towns it will be less than that; but in the coastal town Hagonoy it might be between three to five meters.

However, other experts and officials do not necessarily agree with simulation study estimates.

Engineer Roderick Dela Cruz, a Bulakenyo dam safety expert based in California said in an earlier interview that Edcop must clarify the margin of error in their estimates.

Citing records from two previous dam release aggravated flooding in Bulacan, Dela Cruz said that Edcops estimates are very conservative.
Gov. Alvarado and Engr. Dela Cruz

He said, “in 1978, Angat Dam spilled 5,000 cubic meters per second (cms) of water and the province was inundated by deep flood, and more recently in 2011, Angat Dam spilled 1,500 cms and flood rose to more than one meter in Hagonoy.”

Dela Cruz stressed that in two previous incidents, water spilled from Angat Dam is minimal compared to possible 850-Million cubic meters of water that will rush out in case of Angat Dam break.

 He said that possible dam break could be more fatal due to the inexperience of the country in addressing similar disaster.

As lead dam safety engineer of Southern California Edison (SCE), Dela Cruz explained that two primary causes of dam breaks are earth quake and over topping which is usually caused by heavy rains.

However, Dela Cruz said that statistics showed that more dams in the world were breached due to over-topping caused by heavy rainfall.

For his part, Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado is not taking the issue lightly.

He also agreed with Dela Cruz that Edcop’s estimates as conservative and likened the aftermath of the dam break into a nuclear explosion.

“Hindi na nananakot tayo, we are just stating facts because the risks are real and was confirmed by different studies.  That is the reason why we are trying to prepare the Bulakenyos,” he said noting that the provincial government is preparing for the first locally initiated earthquake and dam break drill this month.

Citing records from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), Alvarado said that the MWVF can move anytime and generate a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

He said that the same study was used by Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to justify the conduct of a feasibility study on the integrity of the Angat Dam in preparation for its rehabilitation.

President Aquino has allocated P5.7-Billion for the said rehabilitation last year, however, bidding for the actual rehabilitation has been stalled several times.

Delays in the said bidding left Alvarado with no choice but the invoke the old teaching of the Church which says,” nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.”

He explained that while God remain merciful to Bulakenyos by not allowing a breach on the Angat Dam, the people have to do their part.

The governor said that aside from prayer, the only other thing they can do improve preparedness in Bulacan citing the 2009 advise of Phivolcs Executive Director Dr. Renato Solidum  saying “Bulacan must prepare for the worst.”

“We will conduct our own regular earthquake and dam break drills,” he said.

For her part, Liz Mungcal, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) said they are preparing an emergency action plan for the Angat Dam break.

The said action plan will be presented to local mayors in the province for them to come up with similar plans for their own towns and cities.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

$14-B Green Fund to be operational by 2014

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

MALOLOS CITY—If there was any positive effect coming from Supertyphoon Yolanda, it would most surely be the operationalization by 2014 of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the Climate Change Consciousness Week conference at the SM Convention Center on Tuesday, November 26, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) has put more pressure on representatives to the recent 19th Conference of Parties (COP) held in Poland to implement the GCF.

“At least $14 billion will be operational by next year,” said Salceda, the elected co-chair for the GCF Board. He disclosed that European countries like Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK), and Australia
have expressed interest in putting the initial donations.

The GCF, Salceda explained, was first conceived in the COP held in Copenhagen in 2009 wherein developed nations were asked to contribute a total of $30 billion per year from 2009 to 2015; and $100 million from 2015 to 2020.

However, the GCF was not put into operation until it was formally created in Cancun, Mexico where the COP16 was held in 2010. The following year, the GCF was finally formed in Durban, South Africa. Salceda said operationalization of the GCF can be finally approved in the United Nations’ General Assembly (UN-GA) by September 2014.

“It is good news in itself, because it means that we are moving forward,” said the governor who also spoke during a parallel workshop on climate change for journalists. When asked by PromdiNews if the said fund can be availed of for victims of Yolanda, Salceda said that it is open for developing countries to address risks of climate

“GCF is an instrument of the family of nations to enable developing countries in performing their functions in adaptation and mitigation, so hindi lang sa calamity, risk based yan,” he said. At present, the GCF board is finalizing requirements for accreditation of countries interested in availing the fund.

In an earlier statement, Lawyer Mary Ann Lucille Sering, secretary of the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines, said the “the swift operationalization of the Green Climate Fund is critical to helping developing countries adapt to and cope with the worsening impacts of climate change.”
Sec. Sering (L) with Vice President Binay.
Sering added that “we are committed to exercising leadership and ensuring the essential requirements are fulfilled by September 2014 so money will start flowing to countries that are in need and most vulnerable.

Many of our countries have put in place policies and domestic financing strategies to make our economies resilient, rebuild communities better and in a transformational manner – but we need international support to help us bridge the gap and make this transition towards climate-resilient low-emission development.”

The GCF’s purpose is to make a significant contribution to the global efforts to limit warming to two degrees Celsius by providing support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Dino Balabo
Members of  Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NFA to looters: Share rice to other typhoon victims

by Dino Balabo
NFA warehouse in Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo by Shane Velasco, PIA.

MALOLOS CITY—The National Food Authority (NFA) vowed not to go after to those responsible in looting their warehouse in Alangalang, Leyte last week.

Instead, the food agency called on those involved to share the rice they took from the warehouse with fellow victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

In an interview with Radyo Bulacan yesterday, NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said that typhoon Yolanda left an extraordinary situation that left some people to do extraordinary steps.

He said that while NFA personnel in Leyte were able to get plate numbers of vehicles like jeeps, pick-up trucks and tricycles used in the looting, they will not file charges.

“Sa mga ganoong pagkakataon, hindi pases na gutom ka ay gagawa ka ng masama, pero ang pakiusap namin sa mga nakakuha, eh i-share na lang sa mga nabiktima rin,” Estoperez said noting that “ito ang panahon ng pagtutulungan.”

Based on records, NFA lost 33,000 bags of rice in the said looting, along with 16,000 bags of rice and another 96,000 bags of palay that got wet during the typhoon.

Estoperez, however , made assurance that despite the above loses, the NFA have enough inventory of rice for calamity stricken areas in Visayas,including in areas like Bohol which was hit by an earthquake, Zamboanga which suffered from an armed conflict and areas in Luzon damaged by typhoon Santi in early October.

The NFA spokesman also said that since November 14, the agency has been releasing an average of 15,000 bags of rice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for repacking in Manila.

The said volume is in addition to 53,000 bags being re-packed daily in Tacloban City.

NFA will stop releasing rice to DSWD today (Sunday).

With regards to rice supply in the coming weeks, Estoperez said that the NFA Council has approved importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice which is expected to arrive in the country before the end of December.

For next year, he said that an initial 350,000 metric tons of rice will be imported.

He explained that decision if the country will import more rice next year depends on the fourth quarter assessment of rice harvested in the country.

“The NFA will still to decide on whether to import more rice or not for next year,” he said noting that arriving imported rice in December was meant to address needs in calamity stricken areas.

Citing NFA records, Estoperez said that rice producing areas in the country were affected by calamities.

This includes Samar and Leyte provinces which he said produces a third of rice produce in the country.

Other rice producing areas are Cagayan Valley in Region 2, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan in Regon 3, along with provinces in regions 4, and five and areas in Mindanao. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Journalist recalls Yolanda ordeal

How Samar Weekly Express' Editor -in-Chief Ricky Bautista survived Yolanda's onslaught is a miracle. How he will continue his job as a journalist is another story.

MALOLOS CITY—Days before Super Typhoon Yolanda pummeled the island of Samar with devastating ferocity, 39- year old journalist Ricky Bautista of the Philippine Star was busy reinforcing his house located at Sitio Bangon, Barangay Canmanila in Basey town.

At 7 a.m. on November 8, Yolanda unleashed her wrath on Basey and nearby areas leaving indescribable damage aggravated by 10- to 30-meter- high storm surges. In a series of text messages sent to this writer, Bautista described his experience noting that his reinforced house felt like being massively pelted by stones and sand when Yolanda passed through.

“Sa lakas nito (Yolanda) parang buhawi na anytime ay pwedeng liparin ang bahay ko,” he said noting that he secured his wife and two boys aged 5 and 7 by staying under their dining table, praying.
Days after Yolanda.
Bautista was reached by PromdiNews on Sunday after getting his contact number from Ariel Sebellino, the executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI).

A journalist for 18 years who covered a number of disasters including the aftermath of an earthquake in Bohol, Bautista said that Yolanda was different and its devastation comparable to hurricane Katrina in the United States.

“This is the most tragic and devastating natural intervention I have seen, it can be compared to (hurricane) Katrina in the US,” he said Bautista’s description of devastation left behind by Yolanda is not without basis.

He said that in his village, only four houses were left standing, including his. “In my village at least apat lang bahay na natira nakatayo including mine. Sa coastal Barangay ng Bacubac and San Antonio, both facing Tacloban City, 90 percent of houses, of light materials and concrete were wiped out. In Barangay New Road, ganun din, in Jinamic island, it is reported na konti lang ang naka-survive,” he said.

The devastation came despite the preparations of local government units. Bautista said: “Obviously our town and the rest of Samar are prepared for the typhoon Yolanda. All LGUs and local DRRMC have readied rescue, relief, evacuation centers.

But we were caught off guard by the storm surge with waves as high as 10 to 15 meters or lampas pa sa taas ng niyog or kasing-taas ng two-storey building.” He added that if not for the storm surge, Basey would have less damage and casualties. “Kung lakas ng bagyo lang, baka walang ganoong patay.

Pero dahil sa storm surge or tsunami-like waves, marami ang namatay. Our town of Basey was wiped out by water. Public market, tourism office, municipal hall, PNP building, evacuation centers, commercial establishments were all wiped out,” he said.

Indeed, Basey and the rest of Samar island are still mourning but the agony is far from over, more than a week after the storm. Bautista said, “it’s been more than a week, dead victims are still left untouched in some areas, some are buried like dogs in Basey. No proper accounting of dead bodies, some areas are still asking for relief from government.”

Bautista (L) with fellow journalist and survivor Rommel Rutor (R).
He also said that not only residents fell victim to the storm, as it also took its toll on community press and journalists. He himself was not able to send any stories for the Philippine Star after November 7 because power lines were down, which might take three to six months to restore.

This means, community newspapers and radio stations will have to wait a little longer to resume operations.

“Local papers and radio are still off to this time. They have problem on management personnel, working press, office supplies, machines, and electricity,” he said.  Dino Balabo

Sunday, November 17, 2013

US-based company vowed to match Fil-AMs donations

MALOLOS CITY—As the number of victims of super typhoon Yolanda climbed to 4,460 in the Visayas, a US-based power company vowed to match donations of its Filipino-America employees.

But donations are not limited to Filipinos living in California, but to other nationalities as Southern California Edison (SCE) joined the relief campaign by its Filipino staffs.

The campaign was even posted on SEC’s website and facebook account along with a story encouraging people to donate.

“To assist the people in the Philippines, SCE’s parent company Edison International will be kicking off a Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief Campaign on Nov. 15 in which the company will match each employee-donated dollar up to $25,000. The campaign will go through Feb. 28, 2014. There will also be a Facebook campaign through Nov. 21 for the community where Edison International will match “likes” up to $5,000,” the story said.

The story which was posted on the SCE website added, “contributions from employees and customers will be donated to Doctors Without Borders,  Gawad Kalinga USA and American National Red Cross, nonprofits equipped to help with the immediate needs of those devastated by the typhoon including providing food, water, shelter and medical care.”

It also quoted Janet Clayton, the senior vice president of Corporate Communications for Edison International and SCE saying  “we have a strong Filipino presence in our employee base who may have family and friends impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. It is in times like these that we are reminded that natural disasters can occur anytime and so we need to be prepared.”
Dela Cruz (R) with Vice Gov. Fernando (L) and ex-Vice Governor Plamenco
For Filipino employees of SCE like engineer Roderick Dela Cruz, the images of the devastation Typhoon Haiyan has brought to his home country of the Philippines is heart-wrenching.

However, Dela Cruz is thankful his family resides in Bulacan in the northern part of the country, and was spared any major loss.

A senior engineer with SCE who for the past four years has been working with the Philippines government on dam safety, Dela Cruz was quoted saying  “the magnitude of [the typhoon], it’s really surprising “I was not expecting it — it’s mind-blowing.”

Another employee identified as Antonio Manimbo, a telecommunications engineer was also mentioned in the story.

It said that Manimbo was watching a Filipino news channel, when reports started coming in about “the biggest storm ever” to hit his homeland. When the video footage started pouring in, he immediately made calls to his family back home.

Fortunately, his family lives in northern Philippines and were not affected.

But sadly, some of his fellow members in FilBarkada, an SCE Filipino American employee resource group, have still been unable to reach family members back home.

“They still can’t get in touch with them,” said Manimbo, who also serves as president of FilBarkada.

As this developed, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that as one of the largest catastrophes to ever hit the Philippines, super typhoon Yolanda has displaced over 900,000 people and affected more than 11.8 million people.

Citing reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the OCHA said there were a reported 4,460 deaths as of November 14.

However, Malacanang said the next day that casualties are below than what OCHA reported. Dino Balabo

Revive Robredo's vision on disaster preparedness

MALOLOS CITY—Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s vision on disaster preparedness must be revived, a Balik-Scientist Program (BSP) awardee said in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.

It is a very good program and I think it will be the key in community resilience against disaster,” said Engineer Roderick Dela Cruz, a lead dam safety engineer of the Southern California Edison (SCE) in the United States.

A BSP awardee earlier this year, Dela Cruz was referring to the unimplemented Seal of Disaster Preparedness (SDP) for Floods launched by Robredo at least three months before his death in 2012.

The SDP was meant to motivate local government units to put disaster preparedness on top of their priority development agenda.

If implemented, SDP,dela Cruz said could have improved capabilities of local government units in addressing and mitigating impacts of disaster, along with creating greater awareness and conscious on the ranks of community members.

“In the US, the Federal Government have established disaster preparedness program  enjoining not only government units but business corporations as well to comply,” Dela said in an Skype interview yesterday.

The said program, he explained is implemented all year round and government along with members of the business community are given certificate of compliance every year.

“It is very similar to what Robredo would like to achieve,” he said referring to the late secretary’s vision of institutionalizing disaster preparedness for floods.

As a dam safety expert who provided free consultative services to Bulacan Provincial Government and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on the proposed Angat Dam rehabilitation, Dela Cruz highlighted Robredo’s focus on floods.

“I think the late secretary understood that the biggest risk to us Filipinos is water, that’s why he focused SDP on floods,” he said.

He explained that water related disaster risks in the Philippines have manifested in recent calamities.

This includes typhoon induced flood in Metro Manila in 2009, Bulacan from 2011 to 2013, in Mindanao in 2011 and 2012; and more recently in the Visayas which was hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
“We really have to put our heads on how to address water risks,” Dela Cruz noting that even landslide is triggered by heavy rainfall, along with possible dam break.

He said that while earthquake is one of the leading causes of dam break in the world, data showed more cases of dam break due to overtopping caused by heavy rainfall.

Based on data posted on the DILG website, it cited records from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and River Basin Control Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that 1,127 out of 1,634, or 69 percent of cities and municipalities are susceptible to river or flashfloods.

The said data also noted that from 2009 to 2011 alone, more than P55-billion worth of infrastructure and properties were damaged water related risk due to typhoons like Ondoy, Pepeng and Sendong.

It added that around 1,200 people, mostly in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City, also perished during due to flooding caused by typhoon Sendong in 2011.Dino Balabo