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DPWH-10 completes tribal hall in far-off Sinuda village

April 26, 2021

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—The Matigsalug and Manobo tribes of Sinuda village in Kitaotao, Bukidnon can now use the newly completed P4.9 million “Tulugan (tribal hall)” as a comfortable venue for their gatherings, learnings, meetings, and other functions.      Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark A. Villar announced that the DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd District Engineering Office (DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd DEO) has recently turned over the two-storey building to Kitaotao local government.      He said the tribal hall’s design depicts the traditional architecture according to the functional needs of the indigenous tribes.      In a report to DPWH 10 Regional Director Zenaida Tan, DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd DEO Engr. Marivel Frances Ong said it was built of wood battens and nailers with masonry walls; steel roof framing with Nipa roofing; concrete slabs and stairs with steel handrails and balusters.      While Kitaotao town mayor Lorenzo A. Gawilan Jr. thanked the government, through DPWH for showing initiative and working with the local government, he also urged the indigenous peoples (IPs) to create new ways of solving life’s challenges and support the government’s efforts in breaking the cycle of poverty.      “The completion of this project signifies the government’s zeal in uplifting the lives of the hill tribes here who are mostly deprived of the basic services as they are geographically isolated from the economic center. This would empower our IPs to strive even more in fostering unity and strengthening their roles as government’s partners in peace and development,” the mayor said.      Bukidnon’s 3rd congressional district Representative Manuel “Manoy” Zubiri, meanwhile, underscored the importance of the structure in preserving the tribe’s culture. He said it will become the dynamic center of Sinuda village’s Matigsalug and Manobo tribes and a comfortable place they can call their own. (DPWH10/PIA Bukidnon)

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Gov’t buyout of old coal plants mulled

April 26, 2021

THE Philippine government is currently discussing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) the viability of a plan to ‘buy out’ the older fleets of coal-fired power facilities in Mindanao grid. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who is also the board chairman of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), divulged “We’re studying the economics of it and we should be able to come up with a model by sometime in the third quarter of this year.”      He acknowledged that the proposed State acquisition of the coal plants, “will require long term and low-cost funds, so we are working together with the ADB to study the actual viability of this concept.”      Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi indicated they are supportive of the plan, and they have been collaborating with the DOF in prudently evaluating how that can be successfully executed.      The energy chief noted that the figures on prospective loan amount for the recommended purchase of the coal plants are still being firmed up, with him emphasizing that “these are concepts still being studied.”            Dominguez explained that the game plan of the government is to acquire the older coal plants, and place them on shutdown mode once the rehabilitation of the 932-megawatt Agus-Pulangui hydropower complex is completed; and its electricity generation can already be ramped up.      “Together with the Department of Energy, we have developed a plan to, first: improve the generating capacity of the Agus river system, As we do that, we are also studying the possibility of setting up a fund to acquire all the coal-powered plants in Mindanao, with the idea of shutting them down as the energy delivery of the Agus river increases,” the finance chief stressed.      Dominguez further qualified that the idea is for Mindanao to be “totally powered by, or at least 90-percent powered, by renewable energy sources,” with him citing that aside from hydro, there is also high irradiation potential of some areas that will then enable the installation of solar farm ventures, primarily in Sarangani which has been touted to have the highest number of sunlight days in the country.      “Together with that and the Agus river project, we will probably be able to see significantly reduced operations of the older coal power plants,” he reiterated.               The two departments have not named the coal plants set for acquisition yet, but one of the known older fleet in the grid is the 210MW Mindanao coal-fired power facility which is currently operated by German firm STEAG State Power Inc.             The Mindanao coal plant is under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract with state-run National Power Corporation; and such obligation was eventually transferred to PSALM.                The buyout of the Mindanao coal-fired power facility was first targeted in the past administration, but that exercise has not gained as much traction because a feasibility study was still being recommended to be undertaken then.

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DOH to replace destroyed Covid-19 vaccines in MisOr

April 19, 2021

THE  Department of Health in Region 10 (DOH-10) said Friday it will replace the Covid-19 vaccines destroyed by a fire that gutted the Misamis Oriental Provincial Health Office (PHO) in Cagayan de Oro City Wednesday evening.      "We are glad it was not that many (destroyed Covid-19 vaccines); it was only (good for) 30 doses. We have a commitment to that so we can replenish it immediately," Dr. Jose R. Llacuna, DOH-10 director, said.      Meanwhile, Gov. Yevgeny Vicente Emano said that the destroyed offices would be replaced with a new three-storey office building on the same site.      Meantime, affected offices were temporarily transferred to other areas in the provincial Capitol, including the temporary vaccination sites for Covid-19. (PNA)

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PRRD hit for lifting mining moratorium

April 19, 2021

KORONADAL City — The local Catholic Church hosting Southeast Asia’s largest known undeveloped copper and gold minefield is saddened by the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte lifting the almost decades-old moratorium on mineral agreements in the country, a priest said Friday. Fr. Jerome Millan, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, expressed apprehensions that Duterte’s Executive Order 130 could pave the way for Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) to proceed with its mammoth $5.9 billion Tampakan project.      “(The order of President Duterte to lift the moratorium on new mineral agreements) is a very sad development for us who are working to stop the Tampakan project,” he told MindaNews on the phone.      EO 130, signed on April 14 but was made public the next day, lifted Section 4 of EO 79, which prohibits the granting of mineral agreements until a new legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect. Former President Benigno Aquino III issued EO 79 in 2012.      In lifting the prohibition, Duterte noted that Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act has doubled the rate of excise tax on minerals, mineral products and quarry resources from two percent to four percent.      “The government may (now) enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules and regulations,” the new EO 130 stated.      The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) may continue to grant and issue exploration permits under the existing laws, it added.      EO 130 also stated: “The DENR shall likewise undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms and conditions of the same, which shall in all cases be mutually acceptable to the government and the mining contractor.”      SMI executives did not return requests for comments on the new executive order.      Late last year, the Diocese of Marbel and environmental groups revived the Tampakan Forum, which was inactive for almost a decade, to intensify the opposition to the controversial Tampakan project “as things have been going in favor of SMI.”      Organizers cited the extension of the firm’s Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) and the restoration of its Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC).      MindaNews broke the stories on major developments in the Tampakan project in January and July last year. In January, it reported that SMI’s FTAA was extended for 12 years and in July, that the Office of the President restored SMI’s ECC, which then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered cancelled in 2017. Lopez passed away in August 2019.      Set to expire on March 21, 2020, the 25-year FTAA awarded to the Tampakan Project, was extended for 12 years – or until March 21, 2032 — in an order issued June 8, 2016 but known only in January 2020, during an interview with Felizardo Gacad, Jr., Mines and Geosciences Bureau- Region 12 director.      In July 2020, Omar Saikol, Environmental Management Bureau – Region 12 director, said SMI’s ECC “was reinstated by the Office of the President on May 6, 2019.”      In September 2020, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples granted SMI the Certification Precondition (CP). CP is a certification that indigenous cultural communities have given their consent to the mining venture within their ancestral domain and that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process has been satisfactorily complied with by the company.      However, the ban on open-pit mining, which was approved by the South Cotabato provincial government in 2010, hampered the development of the Tampakan project.      Pro-mining groups have sought the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining, the method the company said is the most viable way to extract the massive deposits because they are just near the surface of the earth.      SMI also asserted that the open-pit mining method does not contravene Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.      The Tampakan project has the potential of yielding per annum an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate within the 17-year-life of the mine.      If developed, the Tampakan project “has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic prosperity of the Philippines and enable a better future for the people of southern Mindanao,” SMI said on its website.

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Oca: QR code tracing won't steal bank info

April 15, 2021

CAGAYAN de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno assured the public Monday that the Quick Response (QR) Code-based coronavirus disease (Covid-19) contact tracing system will not expose the bank data of registered users, contrary to the claims of a local radio commentator. Moreno pointed out that the QR Code system, Higala App, does not even ask users for any information related to their bank accounts.      He said the contract tracing application is also equipped with data privacy protocols, adding that any claim of potential bank-related identity theft was "baseless and absurd".      "The statement (by a radio broadcaster) that the Higalaay (web portal in registering for QR code contact tracing) can tamper your bank accounts, that is (an) irresponsible commentary. We do our best to serve the people, and then you get these baseless commentaries)," he said.      Moreno, a banker and a lawyer by profession, pointed out that bank accounts are protected by the country's stringent bank secrecy laws.      Moreno said the local government is in the thick of dialogues with the business sector and other stakeholders on the QR code requirement, based on an ordinance passed in February this year.      The system is supposed to be implemented last month but ran into some technical problems, prompting the city government to extend the dry run until next month.      City residents and visitors can apply for the QR code through the Higalaa Web Portal, which is integrated into City Hall´s official website.      Moreno warned any unfounded claims on the contact tracing system could jeopardize the city's vaccination program. (PNA)

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DOT-10 holds assessment to revive Bukidnon's tourism industry

April 7, 2021

The Department of Tourism (DOT)-10 kicked off its three-day Bukidnon circuit assessment tour alongside various heads and representatives of partner-government line agencies to examine and revive the province's tourism industry after the disruption caused by coronavirus disease (COVID)-19 and aid in the promotion and development of areas in support of Executive Order (EO) 70 or the ‘Whole of Nation Approach’ in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC).      “One of the reasons why we called all the agencies together is because DOT can’t do this alone, this is really a convergence project and we’d like you to observe what your agency can do for our communities as well,” DOT-10 Regional Director Marie Elaine Unchuan said.      Armed with sanitation kits, assessment papers, and the call of adventure, the participants visited seven key tourism sites on its first day ranging from cattle ranches, agroforestry farms, forest reserves, indigenous art galleries, to university coffee laboratories.      “This circuit has created awareness not only to DOT but to all other agencies, which are deeply involved in ending local communist armed conflict,” says Acting Chief of Engineering Service and Investigation Section Edd Michael Robril of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-10.      Through the promotion of such areas among regional heads and its representatives, Unchuan hopes to work hand in hand alongside the other agencies to utilize their department’s unique strengths and expertise in fully realizing their goal of making northern Mindanao the best tourist destination in the world and contribute in the development of communities and culture to end the scourge of local communist armed conflict. (VPSB/PIA10)

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