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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

P1.6-B Iloilo biomass power plant

The 14-megawatt (MW) biomass co-generation power plant being put up by Central Azucarera de San Antonio (CASA) in Passi City, Iloilo at a cost of P1.6 billion will be operational by the first quarter of 2007.

The power facility will not only service the power requirements of the sugar mill but also help supply electricity to Passi City and the towns of Dueñas and San Enrique in Iloilo.

The co-generation facility will be powered by a 200-metric ton per hour suspension-fired bagasse boiler. It will use sugar cane bagasse, a refuse from sugar milling operations, to fuel the power plant.

While CASA said that about nine MW of the capacity will be used for operations and five MW will be allocated initially for commercial dispatch to local distribution utilities, it also foresees another 12-MW expansion for commercial dispatch in the midterm.

CASA’s co-generation plant is equipped with dual wet scrubbers to ensure compliance with air quality standards prescribed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Energy Secretary Raphael P. M. Lotilla, in a statement, hailed the sugar central’s decision to invest in its own co-generation plant fueled from the refuse of its own sugar milling operations.

"This not only increases renewable energy use in the country but also indicates a trend where large electricity users take steps to improve the cost efficiency of their operations and at the same time provide for their own power requirements," Lotilla added.

The country generates substantial fuel potential from biomass resources, such as bagasse or sugarcane residue, fuel wood, rice hull, coconut residue and animal waste, coming from extensive agriculture, livestock and forestry industries.

For instance, the Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Southern Tagalog regions where the traditional sugar centrals are located generate abundant supply of sugarcane bagasse. Research and field trials on biomass-based energy solutions show that integrating the collection and supply of sugarcane for sugar production and cane residue as fuel for energy production is an ideal method of utilizing cheap and widely available fuel resources for bagasse co-generation projects in the Philippines.

Paoay keeps All Saints’ Day tradition alive

PAOAY, Ilocos Norte — Unknown to many, this agricultural and fishing town made famous by the St. Agustine Church — a UNESCO world heritage site — also keeps a very rare All Saints’ Day tradition that could never be seen in any other town in the Philippines.

This tradition is called the tumba-tumba and reflects Paoayenos reverence for the dead, sentimentalism, Catholicism, their view of reality and sense of humor.

On Nov. 1, villagers here compete against each other in making tumba-tumba or catafalque built on indigenous materials like bamboo, coconut leaves and woven cloth to immitate a wake.

Each village’s catafalque is unique and designed to scare visitors, although it is only for show.

It can be as eerie as a makeshift "graveyard" constructed in front of the Paoay Central Elementary School, just a stone’s throw away from the St. Agustine Church or as elaborate as the catafalque of the Aglipayan Church last year, which also carried a political message — the death of democracy.

In the early ’70s and ’80s, villagers went to the extent of placing actual coffins in their catafalques with real people inside.

Each tumba-tumba is meant to scare though villagers and some tourists are often amused by the displays.

In between the long walks from one village to another, one can also see lighted candles under the trees, which is meant to heighten the "atmosphere." Paoayenos explain that the lighte candles help the trees to bear more fruits.

Each tumba-tumba is unique and this is how Paoayenos remember All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day.

No one could say when the tumba-tumba traiditon started but old folks have affirmed that this is indeed a very old tradition.

And the only recorded material at the library of the Paoay town hall about the tradition only says that this unique Paoayeno tradition is not practiced anywhere else. link

Monday, October 30, 2006

Home is where the heart is

Ask any Filipino what his great dream is, and for sure, topping the list will be a home he can call his own. When asked to define the concept of home and what it means to him, various images come to mind – a refuge, a center of family life, a place where the heart is, a castle where love and progress must blossom, and a symbol of independence and dependence.

To the Pinoy middle class and above, this great dream is realizable. Hard work, patience and good financial planning can be their powerful weapons. To the marginalized sector, however, it may seem impossible to achieve. The optimists among them, though, will assert that the not-so-well-off can attain it, too, especially if corporate Philippines’ housing and development agencies, non-profit organizations and socially responsible companies and individuals put their resources, efforts and initiatives efficiently together to help make it reachable. Owning a house, in whatever shape or form, includes the opportunity to live life in a safe, thriving community where children get educated, right values are developed, and economic empowerment for the family is promoted.

One big name in housing projects is Habitat for Humanity International. It recently resurfaced when it stepped up its programs in various regions to help mark National Shelter Month, which is ending tomorrow. I said "resurfaced" simply because its absence in media for quite some time eroded its top-of-mind awareness and was overtaken by the more aggressive Gawad Kalinga push. Habitat, though, originated the initiative on eliminating poverty housing and homelessness by building simple yet decent homes (within the context of where it is located) for economically disadvantaged Filipino families.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP) began its operations in 1988 and has so far built some 15,000 shelters – ranging from single-detached bungalows and duplexes to townhouses and medium-rise condominiums – in more than 100 well-planned communities in 20 provinces and 29 cities. Its target is to build a total of 50,000 abodes by 2011. The homes are not straight dole-outs. They have been made available at affordable rates and packages to former shanty dwellers, as well as salary earners like teachers, policemen and government employees who might not otherwise afford civilized dwellings.

Sustainability is the mark of any Habitat endeavor. It is made operational by its "a house for a house" principle, where home partners enter into an agreement to pay an affordable amortization scheme that goes into a trust fund that provides other beneficiaries the opportunity to build their own home. A homeowner is made to pay an initial down payment equivalent to one-third the cost of the unit (about P 60,000), plus investment in hours of physical labor in constructing his own house and those of his neighbors’.

Habitat houses are built using suitable technology, superior design, and materials donated or sold at big discounts. They are dignified, strong and beautiful in their own right. HFHP communities also have support programs for values formation, including a culture of saving, better access to livelihood, education, health, and peace and order. With an extensive network of coalitions, HFHP works in equal partnerships, bringing its core competencies and funding, and creating synergies that result in communities with a sturdy sense of collective esteem. Sharing the vision of a "world where everyone has a civilized place to live," the Philippines is among the top three country builders of Habitat International. The two others are the US and Guatemala. Over 1,000 volunteers from various countries come to the country every year, contributing US$250 per head to building homes for the poor.
Theology Of The Hammer
A Habitat story would not be complete without talking about its founder, Millard Fuller, who, after becoming a self-made millionaire, gave away his money and created this Christian housing ministry that has provided affordable housing for millions of people worldwide. Musing on his personal journey and the extraordinary work of Habitat in Voices from the Heart, he says, "We can focus on the tremendous need and get discouraged or we can focus on what is going right, like building a house every 50 minutes."

Habitat gives a lot more help to developing countries. The theory is that in countries like the USA, England or Canada, poverty is surrounded by wealth, but in a place like the Philippines, poverty is surrounded by more poverty. Each local Habitat group has its own requirements, but the two main criteria being used in entering into a home partnership are that a person is living in inadequate conditions, and that he is too poor to get conventional financing.

Habitat operates by what Fuller calls the "theology of the hammer," anchored on two basic ideas. The first idea is that true religion has to be more than praising, praying and preaching. There must be an action component, translated in Habitat’s trademark way of taking a hammer and hitting the nail to build a house for somebody to live in. The second idea is that the activity must bring together a wide array of people of varying persuasions.

"What we are trying to do in Habitat is to incarnate God’s love. Love changes things. It is the most powerful force in the world," Fuller says. "It is manifested," he adds, "when we unleash the power of love through the simple act of building houses. In the process, people come to appreciate one another. It enables them to have a new understanding of what it means to be religious, and what it means to be an authentic Christian."

In one trying, confusing time when his wife left him, Fuller recalls seeing a movie on TV. A young Chinese military officer, he narrates, had fallen in love with a woman missionary, and he was in a dilemma because he wanted to marry this woman but he knew that if he did, it would ruin his career in the Chinese army. So he went to a village leader, an old Mandarin, and posed his problem to him. The Mandarin responded by saying that a planned life can only be endured. This deeply affected Fuller, remembering what somebody once said that so many people tiptoe through life hoping to arrive safely at death, fearful of leaving a job they detest because of their pension plans. Fuller believes that a person who does that is not living but enduring.

Fuller deems that to live an unplanned life, you have to step out in faith, and faith is something you cannot prove, you just have to do it. You have to be willing to fall on your face. He supposes that to suffer ridicule or misunderstanding is a wonderful and incredibly exciting way to live. "One of the most satisfying feelings you can ever get in life is that you’re part of something that is making a difference," he stresses.

Home is where the heart is. It is where meaningful changes in the lives of deprived families can start. It is where we can truly discover that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and that the process of changing the world commences with transforming oneself. As David McArthur and Bruce McArthur write in The Intelligent Heart, "If we seek to manifest love by utilizing our inherent abilities to serve others in whatever we are doing, we find the greatest opportunity for development, for then we are giving expression to our love for our neighbors and ourselves."

Fuller’s vision releases the spirit of people who believe in it, as it encourages the public to take charge of their portion of the world, volunteer to help build homes, and heed the prayer, "May all beings be free from suffering."

COMMONNESS By Bong R. Osorio
The Philippine STAR 10/30/2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry among Philippine's top ten

While the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) bested over a hundred business organizations in the Philippines, as the Most Outstanding Chamber, its sister organization Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) was also recognized as among the top ten most outstanding chambers.

During the 32nd Philippine Business Conference (PBC) held in Manila recently, the newly revived MCCI made a huge leap after it got the award and a special citation for organizing the Mandaue Business Month.

For the past two years, MCCI was able to stand on its feet again, after the organization settled in an inactive position for several years, especially after the 1997 economic crisis.

Under the leadership of its president Eric Ng Mendoza, the chamber has introduced several programs such as helping the micro to small and medium industry players in Mandaue City . It is also the first time, with the revival of MCCI in Mendoza 's leadership that the business sector forged a harmonious and stronger relationship with the local government unit (LGU) in Mandaue City .

According to Mendoza , through linkages with the different associations and local chambers, MCCI was able to address the various needs of its members and the business community thereby making the Chamber relevant and a strong voice in the business community.

In 2004, the Mandaue Chamber after a long period of non-activity has been revived through the efforts of the former Area Vice President Carlos Co & Regional Governor Mr. Jose T. Ng.

Among other advocacy programs initiated by the chamber within the almost three year's of re-activation, include; a position paper fighting on the Anti-Smuggling Law; bid to President Arroyo to reconsider declaring a holiday from December 11 to 14 (2006) due to ASEAN; Support to Arroyo's State of Emergency, position paper asking a reasonable wage increase, and among others.

In cooperation with the Mandaue City government, MCCI was able to launch the first Mandaue Business Month in 2005.

Since 2004, the membership base of the Mandaue Chamber has grown significantly, from 20 active companies, to 120 member companies as of September this year.

The chamber also gained support from foreign organization in terms of assistance, like the Chamber Development Program through the help of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Pearl2, and the implementation of the Promoting Regional Opportunities for Enterprise and Livelihood or Propel program in partnership with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

For two consecutive years, MCCI has organized a Job Fair for local and international fair. This year, MCCI also organized a Business Opportunity Fair, giving would-be entrepreneurs a chance to start up their own business at an affordable cost.

Other SME Development Programs and Services initiated by the Chamber also in providing assistance to its members in their paper requirements with the LGU, and is also currently working on the project with PRISM for the Family Planning Program. link

12th ASEAN Summit to experience Cebuano Christmas

The Freeman 10/27/2006

The Secretary General of the National Organizing Committee for the 12th ASEAN Summit, Ambassador Marciano Paynor, recently bared the group is set to "give foreign delegates - heads of states and accompanying officials, as well as the international media - a look at how Cebuanos celebrate the spirit of Christmas." Cebu City will liven up with Christmas lanterns or "parols" set to colorfully brighten up the streets especially along the ceremonial routes of the ASEAN Summit venues.

In the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, native lanterns will adorn the city streets. In Cebu City, commercial establishments and residents located along major thoroughfares are urged to beautify their immediate surroundings and install Christmas decors and lights to show foreign visitors the typical Christmas tradition being celebrated in the country.

City public information officer Nagiel Bañacia said they are continuously conducting dialogues with city residents and the different establishments particularly those structures located along major roads to clean and beautify their respective vicinity in a program dubbed "Hapsay Sugbu".

The program is also initiated after a call made by Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, chairperson of the Cebu Organizing Committee for the Asean Summit, for Cebuanos to show not only "warmth and hospitality, but also to ensure that our environment is clean."

Meanwhile, Department of Public Works and Highways-7 regional director Engr. Robert Lala said that improvement of roads from Hilton Hotel to Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort in Lapu-Lapu City is 65 percent complete, while improvement on major thoroughfares as ceremonial routes is 82 percent complete.

Painting is now ongoing at the UN avenue leading to the Marcelo Fernan bridge which is also being painted. The asphalt overlaying projects of the identified major roads especially the ceremonial routes is 81.21 percent complete with the target completion date set at the end of the month, according to Lala. - Gregg M. Rubio/MEEV

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lexmark ‘confident’ about skills of IT grads in Cebu

AN INTERNATIONAL information technology (IT) company sees “a lot” of potential in IT graduates in Cebu and in the entire country.

While Lexmark Research and Development Corp. (LRDC) faces the challenge of recruiting the “best of the best” in today’s IT graduates, company president and chief executive officer Stan Combs said he is optimistic Cebu can produce world class employees who can meet international standards.

“The company has seen a lot of potential in the Philippines, especially in Cebu, with regard to the human resource sector, which is also why the company it is expanding its operations,” he said.

He said LRDC will be hiring more people in Cebu for positions that will be created with the expansion.

LRDC has invested about P2.4 billion for the construction of two new buildings for its offices at the Cebu Business Park.

Long stay

Combs said the investment is an indication that LRDC intends to stay longer, which will spell more employment opportunities for Cebuano programmers, engineers, finance managers and accountants in the long run.

Combs expressed confidence that the skills of its employees in Cebu would be able to bring Lexmark on top of the competition in the printer market.

He said Cebu’s strategic location, the people’s English proficiency, good education, a receptive government, transportation access and skilled work force were among the major considerations of LRDC when it decided to establish operations in the city in 1991.

LRDC has operations in the United States and India.

According to Combs, the seven-floor LRDC building, whose construction is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, will house several offices and high technology development laboratories.

The second LRDC building, with 22 floors, will house a combination of offices, laboratories and parking spaces. It is set to be finished by the end of 2008. (MMM)

(October 18, 2006 issue)

Friday, October 06, 2006

1M mangroves to grow in Cebu under campaign

A MILLION mangroves will be planted throughout the Cebu province, through the joint efforts of the provincial and local government units, companies, schools and the civil society.

The One Million Mangroves for Cebu is a social mobilization campaign that aims to help our coastal communities sustain the planting of mangrove propagules in designated mangroves nurseries and reforest identified mangrove areas within the province.

The project kicked off with the mangrove planting in Barangay Cotcot, Liloan on Sept. 7.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kissed by the sun

CITY SENSE By Paulo Alcazaren
The Philippine STAR 09/30/2006

No matter how gloomy it gets in Manila, it is always good weather around Mount Makiling in Laguna. If it gets too hot in Manila, a refreshing shower always seems to appear every time I hit the end of the SLEX. When the metropolis is drenched in torrential rain, the slopes of this magical mountain seem to be basking in vitamin-enriched sunlight.

That is how it was a week ago when I paid a visit to the sprawling landscape of Ayala Greenfield Estates (AGE), the most exclusive residential enclave anywhere around the foothills of Mount Makiling. The stretch between Alabang – the edge of metropolitan Manila – has slowly filled out with suburban development. Countless subdivisions have enticed escapees from the city’s woes but few provide anything more than the standard gates and central amenities. Most of these developments fall flat of buyer’s expectations; mainly because of the flatness of terrain and their lack of panoramic views.

Not so with this 350-hectare development located within the historic town of Calamba. At 315 meters elevation, this place gives real meaning to high-end living. Ayala Land Premier (ALP), and its partner, the Greenfield Development Corporation of the Campos Group, pulled out all the stops in creating this view-rich, nature-filled residential retreat.

The planners of the development made sure that residents enjoyed the 360-degree vista covering Mt. Makiling, Laguna’s quaint towns, Laguna de Bay, Tagaytay Ridge and Manila’s skyline in the distance. The good thing, too, is that this property is not too distant from Manila (just 30 minutes from Alabang). With many leisure and residential destinations farther away in Batangas and Cavite, it’s always a surprise to find the Ayala Greenfield Estates gates just a short distance away from the SLEX exit – way before the Star tollway to Lipa.

You’ll know it is an Ayala Land development right from its entrance gate and picturesque drive designed by former Hong Kong based landscape architect Efren Aurelio. Noticeable, too, is the fact that there is room for expansion and room for the development’s four main phases. Phase one is all of 50 hectares on top with lots averaging about 700 sq.m. in area. The 16 hectares of Phase 2, a little below this, faces Laguna de Bay for drama and delight. Lots here average 560 square meters.

The next area is Phase 3, which hugs the central feature of the place – a world-class golf course designed by famed architect Robert Trent Jones II. Homes here are walking distance from the Ayala Greenfield Golf & Leisure Club. This phase has generous lots of about 400 to 500 sq.m. each. The fourth phase is called the Terraces – where literally the lots are terraced. Here too, residents can walk to the elegant Andy Locsin-designed Village Clubhouse. The Woodland Trails, the newest phase to open, is located right beside the 15-hectare Nature Park. The park is accessible to all these phases – it’s your own slice of rainforest paradise at your doorstep. The Nature Park features swards of trees groves, walking trails, a rustic lagoon, and a resort-class community clubhouse that melds seamlessly with the lush scenery.

Ayala Greenfield is the choice location of the Manila elite’s latifundia. People who have made it in the fields of business, commerce, law and other venerable professions make the choice to locate here as their country estate or retirement nest.

One of the elements that make this an easy choice is the central amenities and the gem of a golf course that manages to hug the site’s rolling terrain while providing golfing pleasure to a wide range of players, from scratch golfers to weekend Tiger wannabes.

Residence at Ayala Greenfield comes with an automatic share in the Ayala Greenfield Estates Golf and Leisure Club with a minimum activation fee. The course is an 18-hole, par 72, all-weather, championship golf course. I was given a quick tour of the course and the surrounding landscape by the club’s golf director, former national player Juan Miguel Rocha. Juamy, who shares a similar nickname with my own son, proudly coursed me through the front and back nines, constantly pointing out the course’s many features.

The course’s high level of maintenance is evidenced by the quality of its greens and the fast maturing trees and shrubs, despite this being a relatively young course. Trent Jones took advantage of the topography and surrounding mountain and lake views to create interest beyond the fairways and greens. Intermediary groves of trees and vegetated ravines provide additional interest to this course that rewards those who learn to read its character as it relates to the mountain and its skirt of green.

The course has been a favorite of top-end companies like BPI for its corporate competitions. Several expat groups have also played here like the Scandinavian Golf Club and the German Club, whose members raved about the course and promised to come back. Many found the course challenging but friendly to play. Of course, a post round pampering at the clubhouse – and eventually at the development’s spa and wellness center – is an added treat.

Ayala Greenfield Estates is a treat for those at the peak of their game and at the peak of their personal and professional lives. The location, security, exclusivity and seal of Ayala Land quality and enduring, if not assured, increase in value as a trophy address make Greenfield a preferred blue-chip choice. It is blessed with views, enriched by nature and kissed eternally by a sun that always seems to shine on this large patch of green.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kalinga is top in Vitamin A supplementation in Cordi

KALINGA leads other provinces in the Cordillera region in Vitamin A supplementation after the first round of distribution last April, said Provincial Nutritionist Frances Sebastian on Sunday.

During the Nutrition for Children planning workshop, Sebastian said Kalinga achieved a 90 percent supplementation with the 6-11 months target group, and 85 percent on both 12-59 months and 60-71 months target groups.

Vitamin A supplementation is among the regular programs of the health department to address high morbidity rate among young children in the country. It is administered by local health offices twice a year or every after six months. The first round took place in April and the second round is set this month.

Ellen Villate, country director of the Hellen Keller International who lectured on Vitamin A functions, reported that 287 children aged five years old and below die everyday in the country of diseases that are otherwise preventable. These include acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, dengue, malaria, meningitis, measles and tetanus.

Villate cited studies showing that Vitamin A reduces substantially by 30 percent deaths due to malaria, 40 percent from diarrhea and 50 percent from measles. Another side effect of Vitamin A deficiency is known as xeropthalmia or night blindness, which she said is again very prevalent among young children.

She stressed that Vitamin A can effectively help fight these diseases among young children as it increases body resistance.

Citing major causes of this micronutrient deficiency, Villate said malnutrition, which is the underlying factor, has been accounted for at least 60 percent of child deaths in the country.

This explains why the government is aggressive in administering supplementation activities to target groups, to include pregnant and new mothers, Villate stressed.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (Pesu) is giving more focus on environmental control as a method to eliminate dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Despite the increasing number of dengue cases in several parts of the country, Pesu through Jose Pardito Jr. reported that in Kalinga, dengue cases gone down from 325 in 2005 to 129 cases in the first eight months of this year.

"Kalinga is the only province that did not use any chemical intervention or fogging in the elimination of dengue carrying mosquitoes," said Pardito, explaining that the cornerstone to having a long-term preventive measure is only through environmental management method.

This has proven to be more effective compared to the application of chemical or fogging which only creates false security among the people aside from its being expensive.

Pardito added that they have long discouraged the use of fogging after observing that those who are using this method were the ones reporting the highest number of infection.

"To sustain the decreasing cases of dengue in the province, the Provincial Health Office is continuously advocating for the intensification of the clean up drive campaign," he said.

Elimination of breeding sites of mosquitoes is still the easiest, cheapest and most effective method to control dengue. Breeding sites could be any container containing stagnant clear water like tin cans, bottle, tires, coconut husk, small creeks and several others.

Sun-Star Daily
(October 2, 2006 issue)