Sabado, Agosto 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Tree project: a call for unified action to give back to the environment

“There are three things that make one immortal: writing a book, siring a son, and planting a tree.”

These were the words from Philippine Information Agency-NCR Regional Director Riza Baldoria spoken to hundreds of eager participants of the “Happy Birthday Tree” project held on August 30 at the La Mesa Watershed and Ecopark in Quezon City.

While the above adage does not necessarily hold true in terms of bestowing physical immortality to a human being, it would definitely leave a legacy to the world that would impact other people’s lives one way or another.

The “Happy Birthday Tree” project aims to do exactly that: to perpetuate life by providing a conducive living space for the next generation to enjoy.

A project of the Pilipinas Natin, the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s (PCOO) volunteerism arm mandated to connect government with the people through volunteerism, the Happy Birthday Tree is an act of commitment by the people to care for the environment through a sustained tree-planting activity. The initiative would ultimately build healthy, humane, and nurturing communities in an empowered nation.

In the midst of countless tree-planting activities being undertaken all throughout the country following the massive greening campaign of the government through Executive Order 26 or the National Greening Program (NGP), the Happy Birthday Tree is unique in its own right.

For one, it encourages “volunteers” to plant tree saplings, the number of which is equal to their age. The task goes on thereafter, as each year on their birthday, volunteers would continue planting at least one tree. And just as one would take care of himself or herself to sustain life, the project encourages the tree-planters to monitor their own trees until such time that these have grown fully.

Director Baldoria said that the activity is a way of giving back to the environment, which because of our excessive and mindless use, has deteriorated greatly over the years.

“And now, all our collective human activities has reached a point where a bigger problem has arisen--- climate change that threatens the world today,” Baldoria added.

She also explained that the Happy Birthday Tree is among the climate change adaptation and mitigation measures that we need to undertake to at least curb the ill effects of the said global phenomenon.

Meanwhile, PIA Director General Jose Mari Oquinena challenges every Filipino to go back to man’s natural ways for the redemption of the environment.

"What is the natural thing that we should be doing? And what should die in us Filipinos every day to be angels of the environment, the Filipino people, and of the country so that in the future, Filipinos would be known as heroes – a race that gave their all for the environment and offered their lives for their country?”

The Happy Birthday Tree, which was launched in 2013, saw supporters and advocates not only from different government agencies, but also from the private sector and different academic institutions all over the country.

The activity signals the beginning of an extensive tree-planting project in NCR, with another one set in October in Muntinlupa City.

The project is also supportive of the NGP’s target of planting some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5-million hectares nationwide to promote resource conservation and protection, productivity enhancement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and poverty reduction.

The Happy Birthday Tree is organized by the Pilipinas Natin, in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and PIA. The Quezon City leg of the project was in participation of Canon Philippines, LBC Foundation, JCI, AFP-CRS, Phil.Navy, Phil.Army, Phil.Air Force, La Consolacion Manila, Ateneo de Manila, Adamson University, and Rescue 926. #

Linggo, Agosto 3, 2014

Positive action sought during Metro Manila-wide launch of climate change advocacy campaign

 “Awareness and understanding of climate change and its effects will develop concern among Filipinos, which later on would lead us towards acting on this global phenomenon.”

This cuts across the different sectors of the society namely government, media, the academe, the private sector, and the youth as all should unite in taking care of the environment, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio during the August 1 launch of climate change advocacy campaign in Metro Manila.

Ignacio said that the country, which was once rich in natural resources, currently has the smallest forest coverage in southeast Asia, covering only one-fourth of its total land area.  

“With this, the Philippines is one of the countries most at risk due to climate change. According to studies, at the end of the 21st century, water level in the country will rise to three (3) feet, and many of our towns will then become coral reefs,” he explained particularly to the students of the Mines Elementary School who were in attendance during the said affair.

Held at the PIA Auditorium of the PIA Central Office in Diliman, Quezon City, the launch of the Climate Change Advocacy Campaign in the National Capital Region (NCR) is the beginning of a massive information and education drive on climate change for Metro Manila residents that will help raise their consciousness on the said phenomenon.

The project, spearheaded by DENR-NCR and PIA-NCR, will make use of various media to cater to the information needs of the different information consumers in NCR. Among the activities to be carried out throughout the year are puppet shows in public schools, video features, social media campaign, print and broadcast media, social mobilization for tree-planting and youth camps, e-comics posting, etc.

PIA-NCR Regional Director Riza Baldoria said that everyone should be concerned and should take the responsibility to act to curb the effects of climate change.

Using the five Ks (Kaalaman (Awareness), Kamalayan (Consciousness), Kahandaan (Preparedness), Kakayahan (Capability), and Kaisahan/Korrdinasyon (Unity) explained by PCOO Secretary Sonny Coloma during the July 18 nationwide launch of climate change campaign, she said that the fight against climate change would lead to more positive results.

“The activities to be implemented in NCR are vital in providing relevant information to the people on climate change, its impacts, and adaptation and mitigation measures,” Baldoria said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Jess Anthony Yu said that at the wake of devastating calamities such as typhoon Ondoy and Habagat that hit Metro Manila in the past years, a significant number of people need to know what climate change really is.

“Filipinos should change their perspective on how to deal with climate change. Everyone in government should not only do his or her job in information dissemination, we should all be advocates of a well-informed citizenry ready with the effects of climate change. It is our duty to provide information for the safety and benefit of our fellow men,” Yu urged the members of the government’s communication arm who would also play a key role in the climate change advocacy campaign.

Meanwhile Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director General Jose Mari Oquiñena reminded the stakeholders in the country’s battle with climate change to “have the passion and make it a personal decision to take care of the environment.”

He said that we have to go back to what is natural to us, and that is “taking care of the home we are in—a decision to make for the greater good.”

He also challenged the younger generation to remind the old that being a hero is an opportunity and a calling for everybody.

“We should bear in mind to try our best so that when our time ends, we can say to our children how much love we have given for the environment, and how we changed the things we have to change for them to enjoy the environment we have now… We didn’t have to compromise our values, something the next generation should also do in order to see the beauty there is here,” Oquiñena added. 

Miyerkules, Hulyo 30, 2014

PIA, DENR to launch climate change advocacy campaign in NCR

Much ado has been going on since the issue on climate change has surfaced as a major global threat. In the Philippines, discussions, reports, and studies on climate change have become normal consumption fare for the public especially in the wake of disasters such as super-typhoon Yolanda, typhoons Sendong and Pablo, and Manila Bay storm surge, among others, that have ravaged different parts of the country.

It is with this concern that the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have joined efforts for a nationwide advocacy campaign on climate change adaptation and mitigation with the goal of increasing the level of consciousness of the public on climate change, its impacts on the society and the economy; and to educate them on adaptation and mitigation measures to weaken, if not stop, its negative impacts.

In the National Capital Region (NCR), a massive information and education campaign on climate change is set for implementation this year for a wider and deeper understanding of the public on this global phenomenon which was described by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma as “the new normal”, and which needs immediate action.

On August 01 (Friday), PIA-NCR, in partnership with DENR-NCR, will launch its advocacy campaign on climate change in Metro Manila. The event signals the vociferous information dissemination campaign of the said topic in NCR using various communication strategies such as print, radio, social media, puppet show, e-comics, fora and conferences, and social mobilization among others.

The launch will cover the maiden showing of PIA-produced Puppet Show on climate change which targets to educate the younger generation on the said topic using an entertaining yet informative medium. The showing is a prelude to the series of road shows that will be conducted by PIA’s Puppet Group in different public schools in Metro Manila for the climate change advocacy throughout the year.

Also to be witnessed in the launch is the screening of “Pinakbet”, a video-feature on climate change by Youtube sensation Travis Kraft. The video tackles the effects of climate change using a Filipino gustatory favorite, and will serve as a call to action particularly to target netizens.
Another activity to be conducted in the launch is the mural painting entitled “Kulayan Natin ang Pilipinas Natin” which will engage government employees as well as select elementary students in the said advocacy using the visual arts as their medium of expression. Each brush stroke shall represent a growing consciousness among the government and the youth sector on the effects of climate change and possible mitigating interventions.

Artist, environment advocate, and Dolphin Loves Freedom founder AG Saño will also give an overview on the Junk-to-Art class to the student-participants. The class’s objective is to teach students how to create treasures out of trash by recycling glass bottles and transforming them into one-of-a-kind masterpieces and fun creations.

The last part of the activity is the ceremonial tree-planting between PIA-NCR and DENR-NCR. This will signal the beginning of the massive tree-planting project to be conducted in the National Capital Region. The activity is also a prelude to this year’s “Happy Birthday, Tree!” project with the Pilipinas Natin where some 1,000 youth volunteers and government partners will be planting tree saplings in DENR-identified areas within Metro Manila. The activity is supportive of the government’s National Greening Program.

PIA-NCR Regional Director Riza J. Baldoria said that the climate change advocacy campaign in Metro Manila is a fitting and timely project between PIA and DENR as the metropolis had its share of disasters such as typhoon Ondoy, Manila Bay storm surge, and the possible movement of the West Valley Fault. “All are effects of climate change which is a repercussion of our collective human activities,” she explained.

 “With our intensive climate change advocacy campaign and assiduous carrying out of our projects, we are optimistic that residents in Metro Manila and neighboring areas will gain more awareness and understanding of this phenomenon that presently affects us and the whole world,” Baldoria said. “The climate change mitigation and adaptation measures to be disseminated to the public will greatly help curb the ill effects of climate change on our community and the economy,” she added.

The launch of Climate Change Advocacy Campaign in the National Capital Region will be held at 11 A.M at the PIA Auditorium of the PIA Central Office in Diliman, Quezon City.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Nagbabago na ang Panahon, Panahon na Pagbabago” -- a call to action to every Filipino to change their lifestyles in order to lower their carbon footprint which contributes to climate change. 

PNoy cites declining crime incidence in Metro Manila

The Police has posted major gains in fighting crime and ensuring peace and order, particularly in Metro Manila, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Monday.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address, the President said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has carried out several operations to boost security and ensure public safety.

Last June, he said, the PNP implemented Operation Lambat in the National Capital Region (NCR), increasing the number of checkpoints in different areas.

"Matapos nating triplihin ang dami ng checkpoints at magsagawa ng iba't ibang operasyon, ang resulta: 862 sasakyan at 29 firearms ang nakumpiska natin. Nakapag-serve tayo ng 587 warrants of arrest, na nagresulta sa pagkakaaresto ng 410 suspects," the President said in his address.

Before Oplan Lambat was implemented from January to June, an average of 31 murder and homicide cases occurred in the NCR every week, he said.

In five weeks after the operation began, the cases of murder and homicide dropped to 22 per week, he said, adding this is a 29 percent reduction in crimes in the NCR.

And if the government could fix the police pension system, it could hire more personnel and widen the implementation of Oplan Lambat to include other areas in the country, the Chief Executive said.

The ability to procure equipment for the PNP has been affected by the Supreme Court's decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but the government is trying to find other sources of funds to fill the needs of the police, according to the President.

At the same time, the PNP also reimplemented Oplan Katok to ensure that licensed firearms belong to those who qualify under the law, he said, noting that the PNP has checked 28,714 households in the NCR to verify whether gun owners' licenses remain valid.

The President also vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators of recent high-profile murder cases, saying the police have already arrested the killers of Mayor Ernesto Balolong in Pangasinan and the attackers of Davao City businessman Richard King.

Investigators are also following good leads to capture the killers of race car driver Ferdinand Pastor, he said.

"Huwag po kayong mag-alala: hahabulin natin ang hustisya sa kabuuan, hindi isang bahagi lamang. Kaya bukod sa mga ginawa nating pag-aresto, patuloy tayo sa paglikom ng ebidensiya laban sa iba pang suspects," he said.

The President also called to the Filipino people to remain strong in faith and trust, and to stay united to permanently achieve the positive transformation of the country.

Filled with hope and optimism, the President, said that the Filipino is clearly moving forward, and should continue fighting for reform in a manner that would benefit all.

“Panatag ang kalooban ko na maraming magpapatuloy sa sinimulan ko. . . Abot kamay na ng pamayanan ang tuloy tuloy at sama-samang pag-unlad ng sambayanan. Kayo ang gumawa ng transpormasyon,” Aquino said.

The President recalled how the Philippines was once the “sick man of Asia” and how there was little hope in every Filipino.

He  underscored the fruits of his good governance initiatives, covering social services, infrastructure, disaster response and economy.

Aquno said that his administration has implemented  developmental projects that have propelled the country to greater heights and were recognized by the international community.

He laid down improvements in the educational and skills enhancement programs of the government citing the 146,731 or 66 per cent of the 223,615 TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) Training for Work Scholarship Program graduates who are currently employed, while the 33 per cent remaining are being assisted by the said office to land a job.

He also bared that a total of 1.65 million jobs have been generated from April 2013- 2014.

He added that the country’s poverty incidence decreased to 24.9 per cent in the first half of 2013 as compared to 27.9% in the same period of the previous year. This translates to about 2.5 million Filipinos who have hurdled the poverty line, “and they will no longer go back to their previous state,” he quipped.

He also mentioned the benefits the country is enjoying since the Sin Tax Reform Law which contributed to stronger tax collections, gaining revenues of P1.536 trillion in 2013 from P1.094 trillion in 2010. 

The President also said the government was able to reduce the country’s debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, allowing the allocation of more funds for social services.

He said that the improvements in the economy led to an upgrade in the country’s credit and investment ratings from international credit ratings groups such as Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s (S&P). This positive news means the country could attract more investments.

He also said that the country was at the center stage when it hosted in May the World Economic Forum on East Asia. In 2015, the country will host the Asia Economic Cooperation Summit  (APEC), and “there is no doubt: the Philippines is indeed more open for business,” the President said.

All these are due to the good governance which has been the battlecry of his administration.

As far as infrastructure is concerned, he said that there has a massive expansion in infrastructure projects with P404.3 billion cost of infrastructures in 2014 versus the P203 billion in 2011. Roads constructed all throughout the country, for example, have reached 12,184 km or an equivalent of four (4) roads connecting Laoag down to Zamboanga.

The President also boasted of the seven (7) Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects amounting to P62.6 billion from Dec. 2011 to June 2014. The various eyed dam and water infrastructure projects are in response to the 2021 forecast water shortage in the country, he added.

Reforms in the Bureau of Customs have also been made as a new set of commissioners were put into office to improve the agency’s system. This led to a 22 per cent increase in collections.

The country’s disaster response and management was also applauded by the President as in the case of Tacloban and other areas in the Visayas which were ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda. In only a month’s time, the country was declared in the rehabilitation stage.  He added that the UN lauded the country for its quick recovery from such a disaster.

Aquino said he's already contented that if the time comes for him to go, there will be those who will continue the reforms he has made since he took power in 2010.

A teary-eyed Aquino said had he ran away from leading the country's transformation, it was as if he did not honor the memory of his parents, martyred former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon "Cory" Aquino.

He also gave a new twist to his father's famous line, saying the "Filipino is worth dying for, the Filipino is worth living for, and the Filipino is definitely worth fighting for."

Lunes, Hulyo 21, 2014

Government launches nationwide climate change advocacy campaign

“Correct information is the best way to combat climate change.” This was the message sent across media practitioners and public information officers during the media launch for the government’s climate change advocacy campaign held July 18 at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) auditorium in Quezon City.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon P. Paje said that while the country boasts of state of the art facilities that could forecast incoming weather disturbances, “there is a need for stronger network for information dissemination to achieve zero casualty during disasters.”

“Climate change is now the new normal, and the government’s advocacy campaign on climate change focuses on two extremes: extreme rain and extreme summer,” Paje said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma said that there are three principles governing an effective climate change adaptation and mitigation campaign. These are (1) awareness and consciousness (kaalaman at kamalayan); (2) preparedness and capability (kahandaan at kakayahan); and (3) unity and solidarity/determination (kaisahan at katatagan).

Using the three (3) typhoons that recently hit the country such as Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda, Sec. Coloma said that awareness of incoming disasters needs to be coupled with preparedness and capability in terms of responding to them, as well as unity among government agencies and the public, as well as a strong determination to provide the necessary interventions to minimize their effects.

He added that it is high time to face the challenges of times as climate change is already happening. He urged the public to change their lifestyles in order to lower their carbon footprint which contributes to climate change.

He aptly put his message in the lines, which also serves as the theme for this year’s climate change advocacy campaign: “Nagbabago na ang panahon; panahon na para magbago.” (Climate change is already happening; it is now time to change.)

The campaign is a project of the DENR, in partnership with the PIA.

The project also garnered support from private television station GMA 7, which expressed its support to the project through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signing which includes provision of free air plugs, endorsement by GMA 7 talents of the campaign, and other collaborations to strengthen the dissemination of climate change information to the public.

The activity also saw the presentation of the “PUNOAN” brand – a reinforcement project of the government’s National Greening Program (NGP) which aims to plant 1.5 billion trees all throughout the country by 2016.

Also the “Manila BAYanihan” advocacy campaign, which aims for a unified information, education and communication (IEC) and capacity-building campaign for the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, was presented during the said launch. 

Biyernes, Hulyo 18, 2014

PIA-NCR to conduct climate change forum and skills enhancement seminar

As part of the government’s massive advocacy campaign on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, the Philippine Information Agency- National Capital Region (PIA-NCR), in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- National Capital Region (DENR-NCR), has organized a Climate Change Forum and Skills Enhancement Seminar for NCR public information officers set on June 18-20 in Baguio City.

To be participated in by members of the Association of Information Officers in Metro Manila (AIMM), composed of public information officers (PIOs) from the 17 local government units (LGUs) in NCR, and information officers of the NCR regional offices of national government agencies (NGAs); the seminar-forum aims to broaden the knowledge of PIOs on climate change being an inevitable phenomenon that poses dangers and risks if not given immediate action.

Also invited to participate are information officers from PIA and DENR regional offices in  Northern Luzon.

It also aims to introduce current trends and innovations in journalism that would further improve their skills in press release writing, media relations, crisis communication, and communicating climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions—all to produce relevant, timely, and effective communication materials that could influence the public to act towards climate change and possibly curb the ominous effects it could bring.

Invited speakers include big names from the country’s top dailies such as Ms. Dulce Sanchez, Metro Editor of the Philippine Star; Mr. Joseph Voltaire Contreras, Metro Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Mr. Vicente Bartilad, Assistant Editor in Chief of the Manila Bulletin.

From the government side, Ms. Harriet Tauli of the Climate Change Commission (CCC) will tackle Communicating Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation to the public.

The AIMM, which was founded in 1997 by PIA-NCR Regional Director Riza Baldoria, is an organization which aims to unite LGUs and NGAs in the National Capital Region towards the dissemination and communication of government programs, projects, and activities in the region. The AIMM also serves as an intermediary between the public and the government through its feedback mechanism activities.

From its formation, the AIMM has already conducted various skills enhancement training-seminars, workshops on government programs, public service activities, and media fora, among others, that had benefitted not only its members but the general public as well.

For this year’s campaign the PIA and DENR, along with its various regional offices, have lined up a series of activities specifically for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Advocacy.

The theme for the government’s Climate Change campaign is “Nagbabago na ang Panahon, Panahon na Para MAgbago.” 

Martes, Hunyo 24, 2014

Filipino YES Program scholars complete 1-year academic study in the U.S.

Twenty-eight (28) Filipino scholars of the US-funded Kennedy- Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program arrived Sunday (June 22) from the United States (U.S.) after completing one academic year in high school in the said country.

The 28 students are among the 393 Filipino YES alumni scholars who have been sent to the U.S. since 2004 to be immersed in American culture and learn about their society and values, and to acquire leadership skills through exposure to extra-curricular activities in school and in their host community.

At the same time, the scholars are also given the opportunity to educate Americans about the Philippines, Filipino culture, and Muslim tradition and practices.

This is in line with the YES Program’s objectives of intercultural exchange to create better and mutual awareness and understanding of the American and Muslim community that would eventually lead to a harmonious co-existence between the two cultures.

The program provides for a scholarship to high school students from areas with significant Muslim population— Mindanao, in the case of the Philippines.

The exchange students live with host families from the host city and state, and engage in American education and way of living for a year.

In his speech yesterday (June 23) during the welcome ceremonies to the scholars, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the program is a venue where the exchange students could broaden their ability to see how other countries work, and experience firsthand American culture and lifestyle.

While the Ambassador admitted that times are different now with the innovations in technology, people remain the same—in hopes, goals, and aspirations.

The intercultural exchange program, he said, “could open more opportunities for peace and economic development, through the students.”

He also said, “the program will continue to go on, for the program seeks to address misunderstandings about U.S. attitudes, and towards Muslim community through the young people.”

He stressed that the youth around the world should understand that “we are in a multi-ethnic society, and for Filipinos, the program aims to open their minds and develop their understanding in a way that is beneficial to the country, particularly in the poorest and conflict-heavy areas.”

During their sharing, the exchange scholars described their one year in the U.S. as a “learning-packed experience, as they were able to understand American lifestyle—which is quite different from those portrayed in movies.”

Nahida H. Ali, Iligan City-based scholar who went to study in Franklin, Indiana, said that her experience was “a wonderful learning experience for it allowed her to meet American people who are very friendly and tolerant of other cultures.” She said that despite her being a Muslim, clad in Hijab, she never felt like an outcast. Her ways were accepted by her school mates and host family.

General Santos City native Datu Yoseff Pendatun who went to Massachusetts said that given another opportunity, he would like to continue his college education in the U.S. His experience taught him a lot especially in leadership skills and understanding foreign culture. When asked about discrimination, he said that there was never a time when he felt he was discriminated because of his race or for any other reason.

The YES Program was established in 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. The program is funded through the U.S Department of State and is implemented in the Philippines by the AFS Intercultural Programs, Philippines. It offers full scholarship to high school students, including students with physical disabilities, in 39 countries.