Sabado, Disyembre 1, 2012

Bonifacio’s heroism and ideals recalled during the 149th Bonifacio Day celebration

The commemoration of the 149th birth anniversary of National Hero Andres Bonifacio’s was commemorated Friday, at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Shrine in Taft Avenue in Manila City. 

Attended by government officials both from the national and local units, literary luminaries, artists, descendants of the hero, and students, among others, the event served as a tribute to Supremo Andres Bonifacio’s heroism in fighting for the country’s liberation from the Spanish colonizers. 

The celebration was also a re-introduction of Bonifacio as a hero with dignity and high ideals. 

National Artist for Literature Dr. Virgilio Almario, in his speech, said that Bonifacio was not “just a person who made use of brawn and violence to liberate the country from the Spaniards, but he was a man of honor, valor, and high ideals who was guided by his strong background in philosophy and the arts—qualities not usually mentioned in history books.” 

Almario also added that Bonifacio’s idea of "independence" “transcends the French concept 'libertad' which aims for radical political and social reforms, as seen in the works of French philosophers Rousseau and Voltaire.” 

Dr. Almario explained that Bonifacio’s concept of independence or “kalayaan” as espoused by the katipuneros (members of the Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga anak ng Bayan) is the complete independence of the Filipinos and the country itself from the control of Spanish forces. 

“Bonifacio, a man of letters and ideals, was a man ready to kill and die for the sake of the country’s independence,” Almario added. 

According to National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chairman Felipe de Leon Jr., Bonifacio was guided by the virtues of honor, nobility, dignity, and respect as seen in the “Kartilya ng Kalayaan,” the guidebook used by members of the Katipunan where the group’s rules and principles are written. 

De Leon said that like Bonifacio, every Filipino strives and should strive for the three goals in life, which are to have freedom (kalayaan), justice (katarungan), and honor (karangalan). 

He added that the celebration is an affirmation of our support to these lofty goals every Filipino should strive to attain. 

The 149th birth anniversary celebration of Supremo Gat Andres Bonifacio in the Gat Andres Bonifacio Shrine in Taft Ave. in Manila City was preceded by flag-raising ceremony and the wreath-laying ceremony by government figures and art luminaries. 

Mayor Alfredo Lim of the host city, Manila, welcomed the participants and guests in the said event. 

Miyerkules, Nobyembre 14, 2012

Feature: Quezon City: The “Great, Green, Growing” city of the Metro

During the “Kabuhayan 2012”, this year’s National Livelihood Trade Fair held last November 8-11, 2012 at SM Megamall’s Megatrade Hall, different regions, provinces, and congressional districts of the country showed the best they have to offer in terms of products, services, and tourist destinations. The fair also served as a venue for the promotion of the local micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) that invigirote local and national trade.

The event saw the different facets of Filipino culture and tradition—through arts, crafts, fashion, cuisine, and other specialty products hand-crafted by Filipino artisans, as well as services and local tourist spots— all of which demonstrate Filipino creativity, artistry, and ingenuity at its finest.

The affair which was organized by the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) was a “great opportunity for promoting quality local products from the different regions of the country which are usually enjoyed by the locality’s visitors, tourists and locals,” according to QC Vice-Mayor and CSFI chairman and president Ma. Josefina Belmonte.

The Quezon City (QC) government, being one of the participants of the said event, had its own way of promoting its own cultural heritage. Brandishing the theme “Great, Green, Growing”, the QC made use of the 3Gs to best present the three essence of the city.

According to Ms. Marlyn S. Siapno, officer-in-charge of QC’s Sikap Buhay Entrepreneurship and Cooperatives Office, the theme highlights the best of the city—from products, natural endowments, man-made creations, old and new business establishments, etc. – all of which piece together the city as the “Place to be”.

“’Great’”, Siapno said,  “refers to the city’s rich history with its shrines, monuments, and national and cultural sites such as the Tandang Sora Shrine, Pugad Lawin Shrine, Sto. Domingo Church, and EDSA Shrine, among others, as testament to this.”

She also added that the city’s area of over 16,000 hectares contributes to the city’s greatness. QC also has the bigget population in the National Capital Region with 2.6 million inhabitants, according to a 2007 census.

“Green” describes the city being the “greenest city in Metro Manila”, according to Siapno. Places such as Quezon Memorial Circle, La Mesa Eco Park, Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife, and the UP Arboretum make up for that green portion of the city. QC has also been very active in green initiatives in support of the government’s, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, environment programs.

From an entrepreneural perspective, Siapno said that “QC is continually ‘Growing’”. “QC supports old business establishments such as Kamuning Bakery, Lechoneros Association, New Polland Bakers Fair (since 1962), etc. which continue to offer quality products and whose existence are intertwined with the city’s history,” she added.

Aside from the old, the city also supports the new and young entrepreneurs that sell fashion accessories, bags, gifts and house wares made from recycled materials as well as indigenous weaves and ethnic and occult-inspired items such as those made by establishments and institutions such as Key Chains, Charms & Other Novelty Products, Rags2riches, Tribu ni Jerry, Kamay Kraft Cooperative, and QC-BJMP Ladies Dormitory, among others.

In its exhibit, QC also has an interactive area where all the city’s tourist destinations which include iconic heritage sites such as churches, monuments, museums, and art galleries. The virtual hub also promotes green destinations which guide prospective visitors through the city’s “green belt” from the Quezon City Memorial Circle all the way up to the La Mesa Eco Park.  Even growing lifestyle destinations are also included such as  shopping areas, dining and entertainment areas like the ones in Tomas Morato, West Ave., Eastwood City, etc.

All these are just a glimpse of what Quezon City can offer. Through its massive tourism promotions, cultural heritage preservations, green initiatives, and entrepreneur programs, QC promises to live up to its vision of being the great, green, and growing city of the metro. 

Lunes, Oktubre 22, 2012

Gender Roles and the Civil Service

The Philippines has gone a long way in the area of gender equality as compared to many of its Asian counterparts. The rather ―more radical‖ perspective of Filipinos on gender relations has consistently placed the country among the best countries in terms of gender equality. As a matter of fact, according to a recent World Bank study, the Philippines ranked sixth out of 129 countries in gender equality. Also, in the 2011 Global Gender Gap rankings released by the World Economic Forum, the Philippines ranked eighth best country in the world. Most recently, in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index, the Philippines ranked 12th out of 86 countries.

Over the years, Philippine society has witnessed an evolution and a series of radical shifts in the roles assigned to the two sexes: male and female. During the pre-colonial period, women were highly regarded by the indigenous communities as they usually take the role of spiritual leaders, healers, and wisdom-keepers—in the form of the babaylan-- who provide stability to the community’s social structure.

The coming of our first colonizers changed the landscape in Philippine culture, practice, and even tradition. The society became highly patriarchal, pre-assigning men in vaious leadership positions: in the family, in government service, and even in religious organizations. Women assumed domestic roles, primarily concerned with the household chores. While men were valued by how much they could provide for the family, a woman’s worth then was judged by how well she could cook, clean the house, or take care of the kids. The society was clearly male-dominated, with women always being the abiding and subservient wife and worrisome mother. There was a clear asymmetry then in the culturally constructed gender roles. 

However, this scenario has changed dramatically over the years as great women have emerged in different fields and professions-- in the academe, business, and even in government service. More women are now holding managerial and supervisory positions in the public and private sectors; unemployment rate is lower in the female population as compared to men, with 32.4 percent unemployed women compared to the 67.6 percent of the total underemployed men according to the National Statistics Office as of October 2011; more women are holding legislative and judicial posts than ever before, not to mention our two female presidents. What had been a man’s world quickly transformed to both men and women’s world.

But despite these positive developments in gender relations, the country is still beset with problems such as domestic violence, crimes against women, gender stereotyping, discrimination, and double standards in the community and the workplace. In a World Bank report entitled ―Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific,‖ domestic violence is still ―unacceptably high‖ in the country as up to 5.6 million Filipino women have been abused by their partners. The report, which studied gender gaps in the area of economic opportunities, influence in home and society, and access to human capital and productive assets across the Asia-Pacific region, also said that women in the Philippines are paid less than men for doing similar work, earning 76 cents for every dollar that men earn. Not surprisingly, Filipino women are also said to be more likely to work in small firms and in the informal sector, and in lower-paid occupations. Some companies would even have bias in hiring pregnant women as these companies wouldn’t want to risk lower productivity and higher expenses caused by expected maternity leaves. 

News on violence against women still abound in the dailies and the broadcast media with rape and human trafficking being the top crimes where women are the usual victims. Many sexual harassment cases in the workplace are filed by women. Women are the usual targets of drug syndicates as shown in the November 2010 data by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency where 62% of those charged in other countries as drug mules were women while 38% were men. At home, between the working parents, the wife/mother is still expected to do the household chores and other home-related tasks. Clearly, there is still a disparity in our country’s and the citizens’ treatment of the female gender. 

Where does the government come in the picture insofar as gender responsiveness in concerned? How can civil servants play a role in creating a gender fair and even a women-empowered society?

A few years ago, a law banning discrimination against women, and recognizing and protecting their rights was signed and enforced in the country. This law known as Act 9710 or Magna Carta of Women was aimed at promoting gender equality and women empowerment in the country. The law also sought to ensure the equitable participation and representation of women in government, political parties, the civil service and the private sector while seeing to it that women are protected from all forms of violence. It also mandated the establishment of violence against women’s desks in every local unit and barangay. In education, the law requires that all educational materials and curriculums that tend to stereotype women be revised.

Also, women in marginalized sectors are guaranteed all civil, political, social and economic rights recognized, promoted and protected under existing laws. 

While the Magna Carta of Women has proven to be a milestone in the further promotion of gender equality in the country, there also has to be a paradigm shift in the roles of civil servants most specifically that would usher change in a seemingly problematic and still gender discriminating society. Civil servants must lead in the practice of gender responsive, accessible, courteous, and effective public service. And this has to start in the mindset. 

Government offices should see to it that its employees know their duties and responsibilities and perform these well. Aside from this, the government should provide continuous learning to the employees, from those with lower ranks to those holding managerial positions, through various trainings and workshops that would widen the horizon and further improve their knowledge and skills. Likewise, there should be a clear set of rules and regulations in each government agency that would guide the conduct of actions of civil servants—all for the promotion of integrity and committed service.

Being a civil servant myself, I have been wondering how I could be truly of service to my country and my countrymen. While not earning that much compared to those in the private sector, I believe true service means delivering beyond what is expected of me at work. This ―extended‖ service doesn’t necessarily mean working beyond the work hours, but it does mean giving my 101 per cent or more in every single work that I do—meaning delivery of quality output that would eventually benefit the country.

In my line of work as information officer, simply making sure that relevant information-- whether public announcements, breaking news, or government programs – reach the people the best way mode I could to educate and empower them through accurate and impartial knowledge/information. 

On a more personal way, being the embodiment of a respectful, honest, dedicated, and responsive civil servant through actions exemplifying such traits is one way of making others look up to civil servants. By having model government employees, more would be enticed to work for the government simply because it is made of honorable people, and because it is an honorable job. 

While so much has to be done in the world of public service and amongst the employees, positive change could be achieved first through good governance. By being open to new learnings and with the willingness to change old practices like those of the traditional and partial views on gender, for starters, the country is set to witness a dynamic social and economic transformation.

Linggo, Oktubre 7, 2012

Sto. Domingo Church, La Naval de Manila Shrine declared by the National Museum as National Cultural Treasures

The Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City (QC) and its liturgical objects were officially declared by the National Museum as National Cultural Treasures during the opening of the annual celebration of La Naval de Manila held October 4. 

The public declaration also coincided with the traditional enthronement ceremonies of the canonical image of Our Lady of the Rosary (or the Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario), La Naval de Manila at her shrine also at the Sto. Domingo Church. 

The declaration, according to the National Museum, recognizes Santo Domingo-La Naval both as an institution and a structure, as well as a repository of modern art. 

A National Cultural Treasure is a cultural property, a unique object found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to the country. 

Also, archaeological objects are qualified to be declared as National Cultural Treasures for its outstanding value to the history and identity of Filipinos. 

It also has historical significance because of its association with prehistoric events and past industries that are the foundation of the Filipino culture. 

Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, O.P., prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province and chancellor of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) formally accepted the declaration handed by Dr. Jeremy Barns, Director of the National Museum. 

He said that “the Church serves as an heirloom of the Filipino people.” According to him, the treasure “is not just a treasure of the Catholic faithful, but of the entire nation.” “This place is where the heart of the nation belongs,” he added. 

According to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the original church structure, which was of Gothic structure architecture, was previously located in Intramuros, Manila and managed by the Dominican Order. 

After the structure collapsed in 1589, it was reconstructed with concrete materials. 

In the 1960s, the Sto. Domingo Church was relocated to Quezon City after massive destruction caused by Second World War. 
It also became the new national shrine of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila. 

During the creation of the autonomous Philippine Dominican Province in December 1971, the church was placed under the care of the Filipino Dominican priests. 

Sto. Domingo Church was canonically established and was declared a parish church on February 23, 1972. 

For the parishioners, the church is not only a cultural treasure but also a refuge of the poor. 

Santo Domingo, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, is the first National Cultural Treasure in Quezon City and the 72nd place in the country to be declared as such. 

The La Naval festivities will continue for nine days with Eucharistic celebrations, novena prayers, and the rosary. A grand procession of Our Lady of La Naval will be held on Oct. 14. 

Lunes, Hulyo 9, 2012

Feature: Green, leafy diet, and the healthy Filipino

The folk song “Bahay Kubo” has become a popular Filipino household song because of the distinct picture it paints particularly about Filipino rural life. The song’s upbeat tempo makes it more memorable to the average Filipino listener. But what makes the song truly popular is its rhythmic yet humorous listing of agricultural products commonly seen in the “bahay kubo” -- the pre-globalization representation of the average Filipino home.

“Singkamas, talong, sigarilyas, kamatis, sitaw, bataw, patani. . . .”

The song should be made popular again-- at least this month of July-- as the National Nutrition Council (NNC) is spearheading the country’s celebration of Nutrition Month. Not surprisingly, the agency has chosen the eating of vegetables as the official message of this year’s celebration. The exact theme of the 38th Nutrition Month is: “Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain.”

This year’s celebration has these objectives: to increase vegetable consumption as part of a healthy diet to address micronutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases; and to promote vegetable gardening as a source of additional food and income, and to increase demand for vegetables to help local vegetable farmers.

This year’s focus on vegetables stems from the recent studies by the Food and Nutrition Research Institutes (FNRI) that over the past 30 years, Filipinos have been eating less vegetables. FNRI said that from 145 grams of vegetable consumption in 1978, Filipinos eat only 110 grams (2008 study) on the average, or only about 2 servings of vegetables every day. Infants 6-11 months old had an intake of only 2 grams of vegetables, while 1 year old children had an intake of 8 grams per day on average.

This is alarming considering that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top ten risk factors for global mortality.  WHO recommends eating a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per day which is equivalent to 5 servings, with 3 servings of vegetables per day.

The FNRI also reported that only 67.7% of Filipino households have vegetable gardens or fruit trees. Having a ready supply of vegetables in the household or school backyard could actually help reduce malnutrition and alleviate hunger among the poor families.

What are the benefits of including vegetables in our daily diet?

Fruits and vegetables are considered very healthy, and nutritionists have always advised people to have a high-vegetable diet. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fibers that aid in proper digestion and may help lower calorie intake which help in maintaining healthy weight.

They are also a rich source of micronutrients --  vitamins A, B, C, E and minerals such as selenium, iron, zinc, inositol, biotin,  etc. which promote physical and mental growth. They also contain antioxidants and protectants such as carotenoids, lycopene and phytochemicals which can help strengthen the immune system, improve skin texture, and fight premature ageing.

For young children, vegetables are important sources of vitamin A and iron which are important nutrients that improve children’s immune system, growth and development. 

What makes Filipinos dislike vegetables?

Some Filipinos do not eat vegetables because of different reasons: Some are not just used to eating veggies since childhood, usually because family members do not consume vegetables as well; others find the texture unpalatable for their taste; some just have a limited knowledge of the dishes that could be made from vegetables; and others find vegetables expensive especially in urban areas where greens have to be bought in the countryside.

Having readily available vegetables and fruits is one of the goals of the NNC as this will make Filipinos include greens in their diet. This is also the reason why NNC is promoting the planting of veggies in the backyard and schools.

The Concepcion Elementary School in Marikina City has already started this activity last July 2 when school children planted vegetables in their school yard.  Thousands of school children are also expected to do the same as the Department of Education issued a memorandum encouraging “all schools to celebrate Nutrition Month with the simultaneous planting of vegetables as part of its share to promote consumption of vegetables among children as part of a healthy diet.”

Let us celebrate Nutrition Month this year with a festive gustatory banquet of vegetables and fruits as we fill our body with the necessary nutrients for better growth and development! (RJB/AKG-PIA-NCR)

Huwebes, Hulyo 5, 2012

Feature: DENR’s golden harvest on its silver year

As per Proclamation Number 237, Series of 1988, the Philippines observes the month of June as Philippine Environment Month. Also in June of this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) commemorated its 25th founding anniversary—having been created through Executive Order 192, and signed by former President Corazon Aquino in 1987.

The silver anniversary of the DENR, somehow, marks the golden era-- or perhaps, the coming of age—in the country’s environmental scene.

The various environment programs by the government, with the DENR at the forefront, have paved the way for reforms which radically improved the country’s environmental state.

In fact, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) developed by Yale and Colombia University, the Philippines ranked 42nd out of 132 countries in terms of environmental performance, putting it under the global “strong performer” category. This is eight notches higher as compared to the country’s 2010 ranking of 50th. Garnering  perfect scores (100 points) in the following indicators: protecting forest cover (logging ban), growing forest stock (National Greening Program), CO2 per capita (for increasing carbon sequestration by growing forests), agricultural subsidies for lowland and upland farmers and for reducing outdoor air pollution; the Philippines outranked  the “more developed” countries like Australia, the United States, Singapore, and Israel.

The EPI is in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the European Commission.

The country’s impressive performance could be attributed to the programs implemented by the DENR together with other government agencies. In support of the agency’s goals of strengthening the conservation, protection, and utilization of natural resources in the country, President Benigno Simeon Aquino has approved many programs and projects of the DENR that have brought positive changes to the country. Some of which are the following:

1.  National Greening Program- Launched in February 2011, through Executive Order No. 26, the National Greening Program (NGP) aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares in six years (from 2011-2016). The program is a reforestation project which already has been instrumental in the planting of 90.6 million trees in 128,591 hectares. It has also generated a total of 364,088 jobs from seedling production and 97,000 from plantation establishments.

2.   Log Ban and Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign- As a complement to the NGP, President Aquino also signed Executive Order No. 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests. Likewise, the anti-illegal logging campaign recovered  some 13.3 million board feet of illegally-cut and transported forest products valued at about P330 million. This was able to send a message across illegal loggers that has resulted in lower number of illegal logging cases in the country. These confiscated products were put into good use as the DENR has donated the logs to the Department of Education. These were then converted to chairs, desks, and other school furniture that benefited many public schools. From the donations, a total of 54,021 armchairs in 1,200 classrooms; 6,090 desks; and 1,332 other school furniture have been produced. Some 363 school buildings have been repaired.

3.   “Adopt-An-Estero/River” Program- The program which have enjoined 272 corporations and LGUs in the adoption of 168 waterbodies nationwide.  The task is to rehabilitate esteros, rivers, waterways, and the Manila Bay through a sustained clean-up. The project has led to the recovery of 3,334 tons of garbage (equivalent to 1,717 truckloads), and an obviously cleaner and healthier bodies of water nationwide.

4.   Air Quality in Metro Manila- The intensified anti-smoke belching campaign has improved air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR). This reduced the total suspended particulates (TSP) in Metro Manila by about 29%, thus, lowering air pollution in the region. Also, new monitoring stations have been installed to effectively oversee the air quality in NCR.

5.   Geo-hazard assessment and mapping – This undertaking was able to identify areas that are prone to flooding and landslides. This has been a great help for the public to prevent these areas or prepare in times of natural calamities. A total of 75,000 map sheets have been distributed to all local government up to barangay level. Corresponding trainings and capability-building were also conducted to the local government personnel to interpret the maps. This is particularly helpful in managing risks and threats from natural disasters. The detailed mapping of all cities and municipalities is targeted to be completed by 2016.

Through a sustained implementation of these programs, the Philippines is on its way to becoming a “green” country once again. In line with the government’s social contract with the Filipinos stipulated in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), the DENR has shown the benefits of a synergistic partnership with other government agencies, private enterprises (through PPP or Public-Private Partnership), and non-government organizations in reaping the fruits of its programs.

Being in the forefront of the government’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Cluster, the DENR, under the leadership of Secretary Ramon Paje, is instrumental for the country to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal of ensuring a global environmental sustainability that would lead the country toward national progress.

Disaster council holds nationwide simultaneous quake-fire drill in public schools

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) held the second quarter nationwide simultaneous earthquake-fire frill in public schools on Friday, June 29.

Pasig Central Elementary School in Barangay San Nicolas, Pasig City hosted this quarter’s drill.

The activity commenced with the ceremonial sounding of the alarm which also signaled the start of a strong-magnitude earthquake.

Some 4,000 students, faculty members and non-teaching personnel of the school demonstrated the evacuation procedure recommended by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), particularly highlighting the “duck, cover and hold” position.

During the evacuation, the students made use of an improvised head gear to ensure protection from falling objects and debris.

After the evacuation, the Pasig City DRRMC demonstrated the response phase which includes the suppressing of fire in one of the school buildings anticipated to have been caused by the earthquake.

Other offices that compose the local disaster team also performed their actual tasks such as inspection and providing of security in the area, rescue of those trapped in the scene, providing treatment to the injured and conducting assessment to the structures’ integrity.

The activity’s over-all objectives are to increase disaster-preparedness and awareness of the public, evaluate response and rescue capabilities and improve coordination among the tasked units during an earthquake.

Department of National Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin commended the Pasig Central Elementary School for their participation in the activity as it is one way of imparting knowledge to the students and school personnel alike on the proper earthquake evacuation procedure.

Gazmin admitted the lack of open spaces and fire exits in schools in Metro Manila, but disasters could be handled through education and preparation. He said, “Safety doesn’t happen by accident, but it happens through preparation and practice.”

Department of Education secretary Armin A. Luistro also reminded the students to always be prepared as this will ease away their fear during a disaster such as earthquake.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr. recalled the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan in March last year and the 6.9-magnitude quake in Negros last February. Both claimed thousands of lives and destroyed properties.

Solidum said, “Expect the unexpected. With the disasters that have been experienced in nearby areas, the Philippines might yet experience another earthquake,” he added.

He said that earthquake drills in schools and offices will make the country prepared and safe in times of disasters. “After all, a safe community reflects a progressive nation,” he concluded.

The Pasig Central Elementary School, through Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio, is the 13th host of the earthquake-fire drill in public schools since it was first introduced in 2006.

Nationwide earthquake-fire drill set in Pasig Central Elementary School

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) will be conducting a simultaneous earthquake-fire drill for public schools on Friday, June 29.

This is part of the government’s continuing efforts in enhancing the nation’s capability in disaster prevention, management, and response

In the National Capital Region, Pasig Central Elementary School in Barangay San Nicolas, Pasig City will host the ceremonial drill.

With more than four thousand students and faculty members to participate in the activity, the drill is expected to showcase the students' and school personnel’s preparedness in times of disasters such as earthquakes as they demonstrate the PHIVOLCS-reinforced “Duck, Cover and Hold” position, and quickly evacuate to designated open space.

Simulating a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, the drill will also show the manner and procedure to be used by disaster response groups in times of calamity.

Members of the Pasig City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council such as the Pasig City- Bureau of Fire Protection, PNP- Pasig City Police, Pasig City Health Office, and other local search and rescue groups will demonstrate how the local government will respond to the disaster.

The National Earthquake-Fire Drill is also part of the continuing implementation of the NDRRMC’s Four Point Plan of Action on Disaster Preparedness particularly on public information, education, communication, and preparedness for response.

Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio will open the activity and welcome the guests, while Secretary Voltaire Gazmin of the Department of National Defense will be the event’s guest of honor.

Also expected to grace the activity are Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum, Jr., and Office of Civil Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos. 

Miyerkules, Marso 21, 2012

WWF-Philippines, DOE, and PIA partner to conduct energy conservation activities

As part of the government’s campaign for energy conservation and global warming mitigation, the Department of Energy (DOE) through the Energy Utilization Management Bureau, in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), will be conducting a “Seminar on Electricity Conservation in Households and Schools” in Valenzuela City on March 22 (Thursday).

This initiative for a nationwide education and information campaign on energy efficiency and conservation is targeting multi-sectoral participation from the local government, students, businesses, NGOs, and various consumers.

The seminar which will be held at the Social Hall of the Valenzuela City Hall will cover various topics related to the environment, climate change, and energy conservation.

The topics include “Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation” to be discussed by WWF Communications Officer Marlyn P. Santiago; “Household Energy Conservation Tips” (Rosalie Joan R. Sotelo of EECD-DOE); “Know your Electric Bill and How to Read the Electric Meter” (Mamerto H. Mendoza, MERALCO Valenzuela Business Center); and “DOE Energy Efficiency Plans and Programs” (Ronaldo P. Pareño, Jr., EECD-DOE).

The seminar is part of the DOE’s National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program (NEECP) which aims to implement the use of energy efficiency and conservation measures to gain access to affordable, cost-efficient, and environment-friendly energy sources. The program’s ultimate objective is to make intelligent use of energy a way of living for every Filipino.

The activity is also in preparation for the WWF-spearheaded “Earth Hour”—a global campaign against global warming through a simultaneous switching off of lights and other nonessential electric devices set on March 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm.

With this year’s official campaign “I Will If You Will”, Earth Hour 2012 aims to showcase how everyone has the power to change the world they live in through creative action, aside from the usual turning off of lights, which provides for further opportunity for the communities to be part of actual environmental solutions.

The DOE has partnered with the PIA in the dissemination of adequate information on ways and measures to conserve energy that could help save the planet from environmental destruction. 

Miyerkules, Marso 14, 2012

CSC highlights laws and advocacy campaigns for gender protection and equality

In observance of Women’s Month, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) is reinforcing the different gender awareness campaigns by the government for the attainment of gender equality in the workplace.

CSC- Office for Personnel Management and Development Director Doreen Gragasin said during a radio forum that women in the workplace should be aware of the existing programs and laws that promote gender equality.

Gragasin said that the CSC is strengthening the awareness campaign, especially in the regions, for laws such as R.A. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act where women are usually the victims. 

According to her, the element of moral ascendancy or being in a higher position on the part of the perpetrator is no longer necessary in sexual harassment charges; even co-employees of the same rank can be charged of sexual harassment following the qualifying circumstances attached to said offense.

In such cases, Gragasin is encouraging women to file complaints if they feel they have been sexually harassed. The law is one way of protecting women and is part of the government’s call for mutual respect and equal treatment for both sexes.

Aside from the R.A 7877, Gragasin is also reminding female employees who are victims Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Law, are entitled to a leave benefit of up to ten (10) days with full pay.

The leave benefit shall cover the days that the woman-victim has to attend to medical and legal concerns. The said leave shall be extended when the need arises, as specified in the protection order issued by the barangay or the court.

She added that in order to be entitled to the leave benefit, the only requirement is for the victim-employee to present to her employer a certification from the barangay chairman (Punong Barangay) or barangay councilor (barangay kagawad) or prosecutor or the Clerk of Court that an action relative VAWC is pending.

Also, female single parents who are  government employees are entitled to an additional seven-day leave to be able to attend to the needs of their children. The only requirement is that the employee has rendered at least one year in government service.

Gender awareness advocacy and campaigns in the workplace are ofshoots of R.A. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women which is a comprehensive women's human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting their rights, especially those in the marginalized sectors. The reintroduction of these campaigns is part of the information campaign of the government as the country celebrates Women’s Month in March.

Martes, Marso 13, 2012

PIA conducts coastal clean-up activity for Women’s Month celeb

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) conducted on March 8 a coastal clean-up and planting activity in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s Month.

With a contingent of around 60 employees, composed mainly of women, the PIA went to the coastal area in Barangay Sucol in Calamba City and initiatied a mass clean-up of the vicinity.

In coordination with the barangay leaders and with the cooperation of the barangay folks, PIA employees were able to dispose of more than ten sacks of trash scattered around the coast of Laguna Lake.

The clean-up activity is one way of rehabilitating the environment including the country’s bodies of water which are a rich source of fish and other seafoods that are a staple food among Filipinos.

The Laguna Lake is also an important source of income for fisherfolks residing within the area.

After the clean-up activity, the PIA contingent went to a nearby farm in Brgy. Sucol, also in Calamba and conducted a planting activity.

This year’s Women’s Month theme is “Women Weathering Climate Change: Governance and Accountability, Everyone’s Responsibility”. The theme underscores the role of women as powerful agents of change in disaster risk prevention and reduction.

The annual celebration of Women’s Month is provided for under Presidential Proclamation Nos. 224 and 227 which declared March of every year as Women’s Month, and the first week of March as Women’s Week and March 8 as Women’s Rights and International Peace Day, respectively. Likewise, Republic Act 6949 has declared March 8 as National Women’s Day and the whole month of March as Women’s Role in History Month.

The celebration, which is led by the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), formerly the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, generally aims to help build gender-responsive resilient communities that are responsible and accountable, and prepared for any disaster. 

It specifically hopes to raise awareness of national government agencies (NGAs), local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations, and communities on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and gender issues; generate LGU commitment for the preparation and implementation of gender-responsive DRR; and encourage women participation in government programs geared to disaster preparedness and building resilient communities using government’s budget. 

Huwebes, Marso 1, 2012

First Quarter Earthquake Drill held in Camp Aguinaldo

As part of the re-examination of the government’s capability in disaster response, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) conducted today the First Quarter Nationwide Earthquake Drill in Metro Manila as well as other parts of the country.

With the recent 6.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Eastern Visayas last month, the simulation aims to test the preparedness in responding to a strong earthquake as well as assess the evacuation and response plan of the various offices and establishments participating in the drill.

In Metro Manila, the ceremonial earthquake drill took place at the Camp Aguinaldo, covering the buildings of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters. 

Simulating a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that would cause structural damages caused by cracks and fires, chemical spillage, trapped bodies, etc., the drill showcased the manner and procedure to be used by disaster response groups in times of calamity. 

According to AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Delloso, the earthquake drill is a timely activity as the Philippines is beginning to experience earthquakes, with the recent one in Eastern Visayas leaving 50 people dead and 66 missing. 

He said that “the activity is a means to strengthen capability and enhance awareness on how to respond to a relatively strong calamity, particularly earthquake.”

Dr. Renato Solidum, Director of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reinforced the use of the “duck, cover, and hold” position during an earthquake and stressed that preparedness for earthquakes means preparedness for one’s self, buildings, and other people. 

DND Secretary and NDRRMC Chairperson Voltaire Gazmin commended the concerted efforts of the national and local government in promoting the ultimate survival and safety of the nation and the citizenry through the drill. 

He also added that the government and the public must exhibit vigilance and readiness at all times to ensure personal protection and safety in times of calamities. 

The National Earthquake Drill is part of the continuing implementation of the NDRRMC’s Four Point Plan of Action on Disaster Preparedness particularly on public information, education, communication, and preparedness for response. 

The activity which started since 2006 is conducted quarterly.

Miyerkules, Pebrero 29, 2012

Feature: Information as wielder of power: PIA’s Anti-Drug Courier Program and the Anvil Awards

It was February in 2011 when three Filipinos were sentenced by the Chinese government to death penalty by lethal injection. The criminal offense: drug trafficking. This was also the year when the terms “drug mule”, “drug couriers”, “drug trafficking” have recurrently appeared in dailies and tv/radio programs. Drug trafficking took the Philippines by storm and it certainly caught Filipinos off guard in more ways than one.

The three executed Filipinos-- who first were arrested separately in China in 2008 for carrying packages of at least four kilograms of heroin, then prosecuted and convicted in 2009—were all victims of drug trafficking. Like the other Filipinos who engage in drug smuggling, these three were lured by the promise of money without really knowing the gravity of the offense and the penalty attached to committing such. 

Drug trafficking is such a serious crime in other countries particularly China that not even the Philippine government’s intervention could stop or alter the said country’s verdict.  The Chinese government carried out the death penalty of the three Pinoys on March 30, 2011. This worsened the already lukewarm diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China.

The story doesn’t end there. In September 2011, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) recorded some 700 drug smuggling cases involving Filipinos around the world — 83 of these drug couriers faced possible death while the rest were awaiting their fate in jail.  

According to PDEA, Filipinos engaging in drug trafficking are mostly overseas Filipino workers hoping to earn money for economic support. They are usually domestic helpers, teachers, and unsuspecting individuals either looking for job in foreign countries.

PDEA said that these drug traffickers, also called drug mules, transport heroin, shabu, cocaine or marijuana mostly to China, then to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Drugs are often hidden in luggages, shoes or handbags, or are ingested using latex balloons and capsules. Some would even undergo surgical operations to hide the substance in the internal parts of the body.

Filipino females are the preferred drug mules because of lesser detection risks from authorities. Filipino women are either promised money or marriage by foreign drug syndicates.

The ominous threat of the rising number of Filipino traffickers arrested in other countries has alarmed the government. While the PDEA has been vigilant and active in its mandate of apprehending drug traffickers, more and more Filipinos perpetrate such an offense for lack of awareness and understanding of the risks and dangers of engaging in such a vicious activity. Even how big-time drug syndicates work is not known by many.

And because of this, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) launched in that same year (2011) an information and awareness campaign against drug trafficking. Known as Anti-Drug Courier Program, the program was meant to protect the Filipinos from drug syndicates through information and advocacy campaigns. The target of the campaign are Filipinos who are in search of job in other countries. Those coming from the provinces are easy targets of drug syndicates for their lack of awareness of their modus operandi. 

PIA Director-General Atty. Jose A. Fabia said that the Ant-Drug Courier Program aims “to help increase the awareness level of people about drug trafficking and drug syndicates so that less Filipinos will be victimized."

Since the program’s launch, the PIA has utilized various media platform in the dissemination of information which has strengthened public awareness and education about drug trafficking and drug syndicates. In addition, the PIA, PDEA, and other partner agencies have conducted more than 200 public fora and press conferences in the various regions of the country. The discussions served to inform the public about how drug trafficking syndicates operate, how they recruit Filipinos to become drug mules and the ways on how drugs are concealed.

Tens of thousands individuals from the different sectors have participated in the meetings. With the multitude of participants in the fora and other related activites, the campaign underwent multiplier effect when they shared their knowledge about the drug smuggling issue with their families and friends through platforms such as the internet or telecommunication. The emergence of social media made the anti-drug mule campaign more resounding and more ubiquitous.

PIA’s Communication and News Exchange tv-radio program and government media’s tv-radio program “Talking Points”  became a springwell of information for journalists and other media practitioners. These programs were venues for the publication of printed and broadcast news releases that describe the helplessness of Filipino drug mules and warned the public against fraudulent promises like travel perks, monetary rewards, and job opportunities offered by drug smuggling syndicates

PIA utilized social media like social networking sites Facebook and Twitter for the campaign. The number of Filipinos who were reached out by the campaign through situationers was countless considering the multiplier effect of these networking sites plus the number of Filipino Facebook and Twitter users here and abroad.  

In the end, the Anti-Drug Courier Program aided in making Filipinos more vigilant against international drug trafficking syndicates as evidenced in the decrease of Filipino drug mules. From 78 arrests in 2010, the number dropped to 14 in 2011—an 82% drop in incidence of drug smuggling involving Filipinos, and certainly a sign of the effectiveness of PIA’s program.

Such triumph of PIA’s Anti-Drug Courier Program was duly recognized during the 47th Anvil Awards held at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City when it was given the Merit Award for the category – Public Relations Program on a Sustained Basis. Such a feat is noteworthy for few government agencies get such recognition from the award-giving organization Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP).

This year’s Anvil Awards is dubbed the “Oscars” of local PR practice as it recognizes outstanding programs and tools implemented from Oct. 2010 to Oct. 2011 as well as adheres to strict and high standard in the evaluation of PR programs and tools set by a board of jurors comprising the who’s who in Philippine and international advertising, media, academe, and public relations. 

Anvil Awards recognizes the value of corporate social responsibility and effective communications campaigns that are implemented by government offices and private corporations to inform and empower the public especially our marginalized citizens. It is guided by its mission of steering the country towards progress while preserving its precious heritage and culture, and leading the way in development, refinement, and dissemination of knowledge and skills of the profession in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Anvil Awards’ recognition of PIA’s Anti-Drug Courier Program is a testament of the synergy of private entities and the government in achieving the unified goal of national development through public relations that is informative, responsive, innovative, and one that would empower the Filipino people.