Sen. Escudero agrees to call for gov’t workers as “bearers of good news”

MALAYBALAY CITY – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero supported Malacanang’s call for government employees to help spread the good news.

In a press statement dated April 4, Escudero said he agreed the call as long as it’s factual and does not consist of pure embellishments. He said the government should recognize the real and existing problems and address it accordingly.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte recently said everybody has to pitch in. She said the job is not only for Cabinet secretaries, but also for undersecretaries and public information offices (PIOs) of agencies.

“This is actually the job and primary responsibility of the Communications Group in the palace which they have not been able to do effectively for the President. I hope they are not simply passing the buck so to speak,” Escudero said.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III recently said there is a need for more information dissemination to the general public from his Communications Group. Aquino cited this might be one of the reasons why his satisfaction ratings had fall slightly in the recent survey.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

Valte said it’s not entirely the mistake of the communications group. She said all that needs to be done is to understand the functions of Secretaries Sonny Coloma and Ricky Carandang. She added the office of Carandang is task of forming the message and the dissemination part rests on Coloma through government-run media – NBN-4, RPN-9, IBC-13 and dzRB.

Secretaries Coloma, Carandang and Edwin Lacierda all acknowledged they have to be more aggressive in disseminating achievements of the nine-month-old administration of Aquino.

Aquino lamented that some good achievements of his administration failed to make it to the front pages of newspapers. Aquino cited on the Atlantic Gulf and Pacific’s $10 billion in contracts. Reportedly, about 4,000 engineers displaced from Libya could be hired on the project.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

“I would like to think instead that they are asking for help from fellow officials and co-workers in government to bring the President’s accomplishments and message of hope closer and more understandable to our people,” Escudero further said.(Mel B. Madera)


Privatization a non-issue vs Mindanao power shortage – Guingona

DALWANGAN, Malaybalay City – The privatization of the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power complexes is a secondary issue compared to Mindanao’s power shortage, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said here today.

Guingona said the deferment of the privatization has been the recommendation of the Department of Energy on the issue.

The senator is in town to turn over a P15-million mini-dam for the water system here and in the villages of Pat-pat and Kalasungay, which was funded from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He said the more important issue is for Mindanao to have enough power supply that is “reliable” at a “reasonable” cost.

This was his reaction on the proposal of groups pushing to file a bill in Congress deferring the privatization of the two power complexes. The privatization, mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), is to take effect this year after an earlier 10-year deferment.

The EPIRA provides that the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes may be privatized this year even if these were excluded from among the generation companies that were initially privatized.

The law says the privatization of the two power plants will be left to the discretion of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp., in consultation with Congress.

Guingona said Mindanao should pursue more hydro-power generations despite oppositions. “There will always be opposition but the people have to make up their minds (about what they really wanted),” he added.

Lumads in the province are opposing the proposed 300-megawatt Pulangi V project in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato.

Guingona said with the opposition to nuclear power and coal, Mindanao is left with no other choice but to tap its hydro resources.

In an advertisement published in the Mindanao Business Week last month, a group of electric consumers from Bukidnon expressed their “strong opposition” to the privatization. They argued that it will increase the power rates in Mindanao and will only “benefit the rich, to further enrich themselves.”

“The privatization or sale is actually selling the Filipino people to the capitalists at the extent of the poor, which is the majority of the Filipino people,” they added.

Signed by 280 electric consumers, the ad called on the government to stop the “all-out” effort of the Department of Energy, PSALM and the National Power Corporation to “fast-track” the privatization.

They called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “order” Congress to pass a law banning the privatization of the two power complexes.

They also asked Aquino to direct the DOE, PSALM, and NPC to rehabilitate the two complexes through desiltation or dredging and intensive reforestation program, among others.

In a meeting here last month, the Power Alternative Agenda in Mindanao (PALAG) expressed its opposition to the privatization, saying the two complexes no longer have debts and are no longer incurring losses.(Walter I. Balane)


Photos of a solar-powered community in Sitio Payao in Pay-as, Kadingilan, Bukidnon. The project dubbed as Solar Power Technology Support (SPOTS) to Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) is initiated by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The project aims to alleviate poverty incidence in remote communities by providing them access to basic services. (Photos by Earl Bolivar)
See more photos here.

BUKIDNON’S PRIDE: Maramag HS student among PH’s top ten: “Let’s not waste opportunities”

DOLOGON, Maramag, Bukidnon – Since Grade 5, he has worked errands at someone else’s home. The future was not clear then if he could continue studying. His father, a sugar cane farm laborer, said he has no capacity to send his children to school.

But 19-year old Jeffrey Manhulad, one of his three children, held his ground. As a working student for an elementary school teacher’s family he has to do household chores for a living and study at the same time.

On graduation day on April 1, he will be honored as Dologon National High School’s class valedictorian and one of the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Public School Students for 2011.

Jeffrey’s story is one out to prove that poverty is no match to a person with hard work.

The Kabayan Ten Outstanding Public School Students organizers, initiated by the former vice President Noli De Castro, choose him as the Mindanao awardee.  He received a plaque and a P20,000 cash prize. But aside from the honor and accolade, the award’s most important gift is a full scholarship for college education at a university in Northern Mindanao that he will choose.

Now, Jeffrey looks at a brighter future.

His teachers in DNHS said Jeffrey deserved the prize.  Despite his status as a working student, he has become a consistent honor student, Divina Quimba, his 4th year class adviser said.

The Manhulads is a family of farm laborers in Maramag. When Jeffrey was still four years old, his parents got separated.  The family faced hardships that took its toll in the children’s separation, too.

Jeffrey recalled that separation from family at an early age was a difficult and lonely ordeal.

But he said he was fortunate to have lived with the family of his elementary school teacher Mrs. Fe Jubay in Musuan. Mrs. Jubay took him in as a working student.

He credits his achievements to the family’s generosity. Even if they were not relatives, he added, the family dealt with him like family.

Jeffrey worked errands and did household chores like washing the dishes. But the Jubays made sure that he had study time after dinner. Unlike other working students, Jeffrey was allowed to join extra-curricular activities in school just like the regular students.

Mrs. Quimba said he was an honor student who also spent time attending leadership seminars.

“But he was very focused on his studies,” she added.

It was Edwin Gurrea, DepEd Bukidnon social studies supervisor who encouraged DNHS principal Yvonne Catli to submit a nomination for the Kabayan TOPS award. She hesitated at first, but she later nominated Jeffrey.

The rest is history. Jeffrey was selected among the nominees from Mindanao. He has earned his key to a college education.

When DepEd Bukidnon superintendent Dr. Ingrid Racoma received information of Jeffrey’s inclusion to the top 10, she got excited and did not hesitate to attend the awarding ceremonies in Manila.

She said Jeffrey’s academic excellence award is another feather to the cap of the schools’ division.

“It is a proof that poverty cannot be made an excuse for not being able to succeed in school,” she told a press conference with the Bukidnon Press Club on March 30.

Hernando Manhulad, the man who almost lost hope about sending his children to school now see certainty in Jeffrey’s future. He is thankful to the Jubay family for taking care of his son’s needs.

“It is my pride, even if we seldom see each other, to see my son in his situation now. I am also thankful to God for the courage he gave to face our difficulties in life,” he said in vernacular.

Jeffrey was also very grateful to his guardians, Mrs. Jubay and his father. “I will make sure I can finish schooling for all those who showed concern for me,” he said.

Jeffrey has appealed to students and children who come from poor families, like him.

“Let us not waste the opportunities that come our way. Let us help our family and all the people who help us secure a better future,” he said. (Walter I. Balane, with reporting by Melodina Molejon from Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon)

Maranao participation in Bukidnon’s IPs’ Month celebration pushed

MALAYBALAY CITY (31 March) – A member of Bukidnon’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan is pushing for the Maranaos’ participation in the province’s Indigenous Peoples’ Month celebration scheduled in October.

Board member Rogelio Lago, a “Balik Islam” (Muslim convert) from Baungon town, said the Maranaos should be considered as part of the province since the Bukidnon residents have already accepted them in their communities.

“They should be included also for harmony, and for peace and order in the province,” Lago told this reporter.

Lago chaired the board’s committee on peace and order from 2007 to 2010.

He said the Maranaos can be included in the cultural presentations. They should also be accommodated in the bazaars and other economic activities, he added.

Lago admitted, however, that he expects opposition from some members of the board.

“But I will defend this proposal to promote harmony and to help prevent peace and order problems,” he added.

In February, the community of Muslim traders in Malaybalay and neighboring Valencia City complained that the provincial government excluded them from displaying their products at the capitol grounds because it was reserved for the Lumad and the booths from the local government units.

Ma. Carmen Unabia, then provincial administrator, told reporters they were not excluded but were only relocated to the Plaza Rizal.

Mandangan Ali, vice president of the United Muslim Association, decried the decision as a disregard of the role of the Muslims in the economy and in maintaining peace in the city. He said they have been part of previous Kaamulan celebrations.

Ali denied they were threatening sabotage but admitted they might not be as cooperative anymore.

On Wednesday, the Bukidnon provincial board welcomed the idea of celebrating the indigenous peoples’ month in October, which is declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Last year the provincial board passed an ordinance declaring that the IP month will be observed with the celebration of the annual Kaamulan.

Russell Aquino, head of the Provincial Indigenous Cultural Communities Affairs Division (PICCAD), told the board members the councils of elders of the province’s seven ethnic tribes are holding consultations on what to do during the month-long celebration.

He told MindaNews the provincial board is contemplating on observing the IP month celebration back in October to give way to genuine observance of the province’s indigenous population.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr., author of the ordinance institutionalizing the Kaamulan in February to March every year, said the plan will still be subject to more deliberations. The board again invited Aquino, along with provincial tourism officer in charge Kennie Peralta, for next week’s meeting. (Walter I. Balane)