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PCOO chief hands out rice aid to journalists

April 26, 2020

BUTUAN City – Recognizing that members of the press in Caraga are also affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar distributed on Friday around 500 packs of rice to media personalities in the region.     Coursed through the Philippine Information Agency in Caraga (PIA-13), each pack of five-kilo rice was distributed to media workers in all of the region's five provinces.     Caraga was placed under ECQ in Mid-march following the confirmation of the first 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection in the area.     PIA-13 said Caraga is the second region in Mindanao to benefit from the relief packs from Andanar. Earlier this week, media persons from Region 10 received their packs of rice from the communications secretary, the statement added. “Experiencing before the nature of work among the people from the media industry, I can truly empathize with their plight especially during this time of Covid-19 crisis and I am more inclined of helping them as my way of thanking them also for their great effort in the delivery of vital information and Covid-19 updates to the public,” Andanar said in a statement. PIA-13 said Andanar recognized the "invaluable contributions of the front-line media members who have risked their lives" as they continue to inform the public on relevant updates pertaining to the pandemic. “We pray that our fellow journalists will continue to be motivated to perform their duties as truthful and responsible despite the threat posed by Covid-19. Your safety is also our primordial concern. We could not afford to see you in a critical situation when there is something that we can really do to keep you safe and secure,” Andanar said. (PNA)  

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‘Survival gardens’

April 26, 2020

FOREST rangers in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), among them former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants, have started cultivating “survival gardens” of vegetables and short-term crops in forestlands as part of food security measures amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. “They have already begun implementing the initiative in their respective communities early this month,” BARMM-Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy Abdulraof A. Macacua said in a statement on Monday. The gardens, he said, “will serve as another source of food for the region’s constituents, helping them ease the shortage of food supply” during and after the health crisis.

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‘Balik Probinsya’

April 26, 2020

SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday appealed to businesses and investors to support his proposed “Balik Probinsya” program which primarily aims to mitigate and resolve long-standing issues in urban areas, especially Metro Manila, spurring rural development after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis is over. “Sa mga negosyante po, sana ay magbukas kayo ng mga factory, planta, o ano pa mang job opportunities sa mga kababayan nating Pilipino na gusto na pong manatili sa kanilang mga probinsya (To businessmen, please open factories, plants or any job opportunities to our fellow Filipinos who already wish to stay in their provinces),” Go said, noting that investments in the countryside will attract more people to eventually go back to the provinces.

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Four months installment on electric bills ordered

April 23, 2020

    That is based on a directive issued by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi to public and privately-owned corporations and entities in the restructured electricity sector.     “The accumulated electricity bills falling due during the ECQ shall be amortized in four equal installments, payable in the first four months following the end of the ECQ,” the energy chief has emphasized.     The DOE directive further stipulated “all electricity consumers shall be provided a grace period to pay their bills falling due during the extended ECQ periods without interest, penalties, fees and charges.”     Given the energy chief’s mandate, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has been subsequently asked to issue the detailed guidelines on the four-month installments of ECQ-heaped up power bills.     The energy department said the payment leverage being afforded to electricity consumers is in line with the provisions of Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” that is the country’s legal shield in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.     To the players in the power sector across the power generation and supply to transmission and onward to the distribution chain – be it public or private corporations, the energy chief decreed that “all obligations falling due during the original and extended ECQ, shall be given a similar grace period without interest, penalties, fees and charges.”   At the same time, the DOE prescribed that “four months amortized payment shall be allowed for all unpaid balances or obligations during the said period, without interest, penalties, fees and charges.” Relative to the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) that is collected from the electric bills of consumers and will in turn be remitted to qualified renewable energy (RE) developers, the DOE specified that this shall also be “suspended for another billing period.” Meanwhile in the retail competition and open access (RCOA) sphere, the DOE noted that “arrangement for the payment of contestable customer obligations with their retail electricity suppliers falling due during the original and extended ECQ shall be according to their negotiated agreements.” Absent such arrangement, it was recommended that the parties “adopt the same or similar scheme” as stated in the DOE order.   But in order to lessen the impact and help manage the cash flow in the energy supply chain, the DOE seeks “immediate and proportionate remittance of payments received ahead and within the due dates to their respective creditors and suppliers.”  

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Duterte eyeing class suspension until Dec.

April 23, 2020

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will carefully study the proposed class resumption in December to effectively contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Wednesday.     Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte would study whether the proposal of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) experts to cancel classes until December would indeed be an effective way to limit further Covid-19 infections in the country. “Iyan po’y talagang binibigyan ng atensiyon ng ating Presidente (The President would really give attention to that proposal),” Roque said in an interview with DZRH. “Talagang galing sa UP na isang eskuwelahan mismo, eh talaga pong pag-aaralang mabuti ng Presidente iyong ganiyang rekomendasyon (Since the recommendation came from UP which is a reputable university, the President will carefully study it).” In an interview with CNN Philippines on Tuesday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the opening of classes for the next school year may be moved to August due to the restrictions imposed by the national government to halt the spread of Covid-19. Briones also said the Department of Education is considering holding Saturday classes to achieve its target to end the 2020-2021 academic year in March, just like in previous years. The class suspension until December this year is among the recommendations pitched to Duterte on Monday, Dr. Mahar Lagmay of UP said on Tuesday. Lagmay, who represented a group of scientists and academic researchers from the UP system, said the proposal was made after it was noticed that individuals aged 19 and below are most likely to have contact with the elderly and infect them. Roque said the warning of UP experts would be thoroughly assessed. “Ang naging konklusyon ng UP, napakaepektibo na paraan para mapabagal ang pagkalat ng Covid kung isususpinde ang mga klase at ang mga kabataan ay manatili sa kanilang mga tahanan (UP experts are saying suspending classes and letting the youth stay at home are effective ways to slow the spread of Covid),” he said. Classes have been suspended in March following the rise in Covid-19 infections in the country. Duterte also placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine until April 30, prompting Filipinos to observe strict home quarantine to stop the further transmission of Covid-19. Confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Philippines have climbed to 6,710, as of Wednesday. (PNA)  

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Davao del Norte cacao farmers show gains from PRDP funding

April 23, 2020

DAVAO City — The nearly P1 billion worth of funding obtained by Davao del Norte from the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is starting to show results in the cacao industry.     Davao del Norte, whose main agricultural products are banana and coconut, bagged P929.6 million worth of cacao-related sub-projects under the World Bank-funded program.     This includes P261.63 million for farm-to-market roads and 14 projects related to cacao production and marketing proposed by various local government units within the province.     Joseph D. Rico, PRDP-Mindanao monitoring and evaluation head, said initial assessment of the sub-projects indicates improvement in crop handling. “(Producers used to sell) only wet beans, now they have gone into fermented beans,” Mr. Rico said during last week’s Habi at Kape forum. Late last year, the Department of Agriculture-led PRDP launched focus group discussions with other agencies — including the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Science and Technology — on the impact of the interventions. The next step in the evaluation is a survey of the status of beneficiaries. “Initially, we saw marked improvement in handling the crop because by just shifting to fermentation, they earn better,” said Mr. Rico. Joseph John Palarca, PRDP information specialist in Mindanao, said the target is to increase the beneficiaries’ income by about 15% from levels during the pre-intervention period. “We are confident that their lives will drastically change because of the interventions that the PRDP and the other partners are providing the beneficiaries,” Mr. Palarca said. San Isidro, home of Chokolate de San Isidro, Inc., is one of the Davao del Norte towns developing a cacao industry. — Carmelito Q. Francisco  

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