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PGMA approves P480M for Panay rehab

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

HOPE springs for the P8-billion Paglaum Fund which is needed to rehabilitate areas damaged by typhoon Frank last year.

 

President Gloria Arroyo has approved the release of the initial P480million for  infrastructure projects needed to be constructed to prevent another massive flooding in Panay come rainy season.

 

The President, who was in Boracay Island in Aklan Sunday, also directed Department of Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya to look for funds from other government agencies for the initial Panay rehabilitation works.

 

The initial amount was approved when the President met with House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor, Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores, Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias and Andaya.

 

Part of the fund will be taken from the 2009 calamity fund of the national budget while the rest will be taken from the DPWH and other agencies.

 

Defensor said the money will be used to repair the Tigum Bridge in Cabatuan, Baltazar-Aquino Bridge in Leon and Misi Bridge in Lambunao all in Iloilo province.

 

Part of the fund will also be used for the repair of floodways and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks in Aklan and Iloilo.

 

Mrs. Arroyo called Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to start the bidding for the said projects.

 

Andaya assured Defensor and Banias that they will release the special allotment release order of the projects once the DPWH is done with the bidding.

 

During the meeting, Banias presented to the President his asking for the immediate implementation of the rehabilitation works before the rainy season sets in. The memorandum also detailed the possible scenario if the initial projects are delayed

 

Banias earlier raised the possibility of another massive flooding in Panay if heavily silted rivers and creeks are not dredged during summer season.

 

“Rep. Defensor explained everything to the President about the possible scenario. He was the one who arranged for the meeting so we can come up with immediate solutions,” Banias added.

 

The President announced the release of the funds to the Aklan media before she left Boracay yesterday morning.

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Jerry threatens to withdraw support to ICPO for lousy intel

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas threatened to withdraw the City Hall’s financial and logistical assistance to the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) because of its sloppy intelligence work.

 

Treñas said he is wondering why ICPO’s intelligence section head, Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong was complaining about the lack of intelligence fund for their activities.

 

Amiyong cited the lack of funds as one of the reasons why they cannot keep track of criminals in the city. He also complained that the 10-liter fuel allotted to his office every week is not enough.

 

Treñas said the City government allots P800,000 every year for the ICPO’s intelligence fund.

 

“That money is given as reward for cops who perform. Police officers who arrest and charge criminals are given P5,000 so why are they complaining. Before they complain, they should explain what are doing with the money,” Treñas said.

 

The mayor said he will be forced to withdraw the financial aid to the ICPO if the intelligence section does not straighten its acts.

 

Treñas also cited other logistical support to the ICPO in order to help improve the peace and order situation in Iloilo City.

 

“It is the responsibility of the PNP to provide logistics to its units. We are not the provider of the needs of the police. In fact, we are going out of our way to help the police by providing patrol cars, communication equipment and firearms. But if they complain that these are not enough, we will stop all these forms of assistance I don’t like these kinds of stories to come out,” he added.

 

The ICPO intelligence got flak from Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director Isagani Cuevas for its sloppy intelligence work.

 

Cuevas said this failure of intelligence led to the spate of bukas kotse incidents in the city.

 

The PRO-6 chief said the ICPO should explain why criminals are having a field day in Iloilo City.

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

 

THE Iloilo City Government has set aside P30,000 reward for the speedy crackdown of the notorious Basag Kotse gang preying on parked private cars in the metropolis.

 

“I am offering a P30,000 reward for the arrest and filing of charges against the Basag Kotse gang. I am alarmed – I think the peace and order situation should be addressed,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas.

 

The mayor will call for an emergency meeting with the City Peace and Order Council (Cpoc) today to discuss strict security measures following the series of car thefts.

 

Three basag kotse incidents happened Wednesday night.

 

Treñas also ordered the deployment of city’s SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team to check and strengthen security especially in the nightlife havens of Diversion Road in Mandurriao district.

 

The robbers target parked cars by breaking the glass window. They then cart away valuables such as laptop computers, I-pod music players, cellphones, digital cameras and wrist watches.

 

Both Treñas and Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director, Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal advised car owners and drivers not to leave their valuables inside their vehicles.

ICPO intelligence hit for sub-par performance

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) has called the attention of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to its below par intelligence gathering efforts following the spate of car thefts and robberies in the city.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said the ICPO should improve its intelligence operations to prevent criminals from striking once more.

 

Cuevas said intelligence work is vital to crime prevention as information on the plans of criminals will keep the police ahead of things.

 

The PRO-6 chief said he will make ICPO officials explain the “failure of intelligence” plaguing the unit.

 

The ICPO Intelligence Section (S2) is headed by the controversial Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong.

 

ICPO deputy director Eugenio Espejo agreed with Cuevas’ observation that their office is beset with “lousy intelligence” work.

 

But Espejo said they have created a special group within S2 to track down thieves and robbers operating in the city.

 

Amiyong who has linked to several controversies said they are working overtime to gather more information on criminals in the city.

 

He said he will explain everything to Cuevas when summoned to the regional headquarters.   

 

Amiyong has been tagged in the illegal drug trade and the killing of PO2 Frederick Capasao, a former member of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. He denied the accusations and dared his critics to prove their claims.

 

Amiyong’s occupation of S2 has been questioned by some police officials who said a police superintendent should head such sensitive post based on PNP regulations.

 

Last Wednesday evening, three “bukas kotse” incidents happened in Iloilo City – two in Mandurriao and one in Iloilo City proper.

 

ICPO records show that a total of 12 bukas kotse cases have occurred in the metropolis this year. Mandurriao district tops the list with 6 cases, Iloilo City proper with three incidents, LaPaz with 2 cases and Molo with 1.

 

Espejo said bukas kotse operations are mounted by a gang of 20 persons, including 4 women, divided into 4 teams.

 

The female members act as lookouts ase their male companions smash glass windows of cars with a rock wrapped in cloth. They then strip the cars of valuables such as laptop computers and cellphones.

 

Espejo said they have identified the members of the bukas kotse gang in the city.

Banias fears repeat of historic floods if Paglaum Fund is doomed

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANOTHER massive flooding might devastate the city and province of Iloilo if critical infrastructure projects under the still unfunded P8-billion Paglaum Fund are not realized.

 

This was the grim scenario painted by Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Western Visayas, during the Western Visayas Regional Planning Summit at Iloilo Grand Hotel Thursday morning.

 

“It would be a disaster if the Paglaum Fund is not released before the summer season ends because critical works such as repair and replacement of bridges damaged by typhoon Frank, river and flood control projects and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks will be stalled. These projects are important to prevent another flash flood brought about by typhoons,” Banias said.

 

Banias said he and other Ilonggo leaders have been asking Malacañang to release at least P460million for the repair of vital bridges and dredging of major bodies of water in Panay.

 

The money, which will be released through the Department of Public Works and Highways, will be used to repair the bridges in Cabatuan and Leon, Iloilo and dredging of the rivers in Libacao, Kalibo and Iloilo City.  

 

Banias said he observed that some rivers in Panay are heavily silted which could cause flashfloods in surrounding communities.

 

“In Libacao, Aklan, we cannot see the 3-meter boulders in the rivers because these are already covered by silt. The same is true in Aklan River in Kalibo and the Iloilo River in the city and its creeks. If we don’t dredge these rivers before the rainy season, we might experience the same thing when typhoon Frank hit June last year. Half of the rain that fell during Frank’s height is enough to trigger another massive flooding,” he added.

 

The release of the Paglaum Fund, which is intended to rehabilitate areas of Panay devastated by typhoon Frank, hit a snag with the delay in the passage of the Simplified Income Taxation Scheme (Snits) bill in the Senate.

 

The bill is pending with the committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

 

Snits bill, which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

Some P9billion is expected to be raised from the Snits bill which will fund the Panay rehabilitation efforts, according to Banias.

 

If Snits is approved next month, it would be too late as the payment of individual income tax is set April 15. If no other sources of funds are found, the Paglaum Fund will be released next year.

 

Banias said they continue to coordinate with Malacañang to look for other funding sources to start the critical projects.

 

Undersecretary Joaquin Lagonera of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office called Banias the other day to discuss the possible release of only P460million.

 

Iloilo Jerry Treñas said they asked Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Lagonera to ask President Gloria Arroyo to look for other sources.

 

Treñas said he is worried with the damaged bridges and heavily silted bodies of water which can cause another flooding.

 

“I need not go far. I will just look at the Dungon Creek behind our house and I can see that it is heavily silted. We are worried that if there are heavy rains again, the flood will rise once more,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he is the least concerned about the political backlash of the non-release of the Paglaum Fund “because I am graduating already.”

 

“We are more concerned about the effects of the flood on the people and properties. Among the local leaders in Panay, I was most affected because my house was inundated, my children stayed on the roof and my cars were flooded,” Treñas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHERE are the greens?

 

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas yesterday hit some environmental activists who claimed that there is no power supply shortage in the city and the rest of Panay.

 

Treñas was reacting to the formal turnover of Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) to SPC Power Corp. March 25.

 

SPC took ownership of the Panay and Bohol Diesel Power Plants after paying US$5.77 million to the national government.

 

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) received the payment for the 146-megawatt (MW) Panay and 22-MW Bohol diesel power plants in a turnover ceremony at the Psalm office.

 

The Panay plant is located in Dingle, Iloilo and composed of PDPP 1 and PDPP 3, formerly the Pinamucan diesel power plant which was transferred from Batangas to augment power supply in Panay.

 

The turnover of PDPP to SPC caused uproar among electric cooperative officials who raised fears that SPC might not operate PDPP because it will not supply power at subsidized rates offered by the government.

 

It was also learned that the power supply contract of the National Power Corp., (NPC) the former owner of PDPP, and the electric cooperatives was not included in the sale. SPC also does not have transition supply agreements with Panay electric cooperatives. 

 

SPC is also planning to rehabilitate PDPP before resuming operations.  SPC president Dennis T. Villareal said they will improve the Panay and Bohol plants and triple their capacities at a cost of P100 million to P200 million.

 

National officials later decided to let PDPP run provided NPC will provide fuel subsidy to avert more massive power outages in Panay. This setup, however, is seen as a mockery of the privatization effort of the energy sector.

 

Treñas said the debacle caused by PDPP privatization reinforced previous forecasts by energy officials that Panay will suffer from acute power shortage if no new power plants are built.

 

“We have foreseen this before and we are now feeling its effects already. Don’t we have friends who said there is no power shortage? Where are they now?” Treñas said at the sidelines of the Western Visayas Regional Planning Summit at Iloilo Grand Hotel Thursday morning.

 

Treñas is also ambivalent about the proposed Visayas Supply Augmentation Auction (VSAA) program of the Department of Energy (DoE).

 

The NPC subsidy of PDPP operations will last until VSAA, which will tap embedded power capacities in the region, kicks in.

 

“When will VSAA kick in? They are saying there is 25MW capacity in Visayas. The DoE should point the players who have such capacities,” the mayor added.

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

 

THE investor who proposed to set up a poker room inside a hotel in Iloilo City yesterday withdrew its business plan here, said Councilor Lyndon Acap, chair of the committee on games and amusement of the City Council.

 

Acap said Fidel Abalos, consultant of Cebu-based Vanskaps and Management Group Inc., withdrew their plan upon knowing of a city’s existing ordinance prohibiting amusement centers near schools. Acap’s committee spearheaded a public hearing on the matter yesterday.

 

City Ordinance No. 266 approved in 1980 provides that amusement companies should not do business within the 200-meter radius of schools, churches and public buildings, Acap explained.

 

The poker room was proposed to be situated at the Residence Hotel along Gen. Luna Street, City Proper which is 30 meters away from a Catholic-run learning institution, the University of San Agustin.

 

“They (Vanskpas) asked an apology because they never knew of the city ordinance. Their Cebu poker room is also situated in a Residence Hotel there. But after knowing that they failed to comply with the city ordinance, they will look for an alternative location (as) they are still willing to pursue their plan,” Acap said.

 

The councilor said they will wait for Vanskaps to determine their next option, adding they will conduct more public hearings to evaluate its acceptability in the metropolis.

 

The City Council will then decide whether or not to endorse through a resolution the poker proposal as a prerequisite prior to securing a business permit from the City Mayor’s Office.

 

Mayor Jerry Treñas said he will wait for the decision of the City Council on whether or not to approve its operations here.

 

“The City Legal Office said the City Government could issue a permit to poker upon the approval of the City Council,” he explained.
In his letter to Treñas, Vanskaps president Edward Soon Chiu said they have a license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE national government is still scrounging for sources of the P8-billion Paglaum Fund intended to rehabilitate areas of Panay devastated by typhoon Frank last year.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras, said the Paglaum Fund is dependent on the approval of the Simplified Net Income Tax Scheme (Snits) Bill now pending in the Senate.

 

Banias said the Senate is set to deliberate and approve the Snits Bill after the Lenten break next month “but that would be too late because the last day of the payment of income taxes is also scheduled in April.”

 

“The passage of Snit is contingent with the supplemental budget providing for the Paglaum Fund. Even if we pass the supplemental budget, it will still be fund-less if Snits remains pending in the Senate,” Banias said.

 

Banias said if Snits is approved next month, the money for Paglaum Fund will be available next year and “that’s too late.”

 

Snits Bill (House Bill No. 5257) filed by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

The bill is in response to complaints that salaried individuals, whose taxes are automatically withheld by employers from their salaries, shoulder a much bigger share of the government’s income tax collection from individuals.

 

CONTINGENCY MOVES

 

Banias said they already saw the delay which is why he, House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas are coordinating with Malacañang to draw the Paglaum Fund from other sources available to the government.

 

Banias said they met with Undersecretary Joaquin “Jake” Lagonera of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to ask for a certification from President Gloria Arroyo vouching that there is available money for the Paglaum Fund.

 

“We need the certification so we can start the rehabilitation projects, particularly the infrastructure projects, before the rainy season sets in. We all know that rains can affect the progress and stability of infrastructure projects,” Banias said.

 

The presidential assistant said he also met with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Rafael Yabut and DPWH-6 regional director Rolando Asis.

 

The meeting with the DPWH officials was to negotiate for the release of some P500 million to P1.8 billion “to start critical works such as repairs of bridges, flood control and dredging,” Banias added.

 

“As a last ditch effort, I will write a memorandum to the President regarding the Paglaum Fund which I will present to her in Boracay this weekend,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THREE car thefts happened in Iloilo City Tuesday evening but police officials assured  the metropolis is still safe.

 

The Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) believes that only one syndicate is involved in the series of “basag kotse” or car thefts the other night.

 

The first basag kotse incident victimized an Isuzu Fuego parked near a coffee shop in The Avenue complex inside Smallville Leisure Park along Diversion Road, Mandurriao district.

 

The owner of the vehicle, who asked not to be identified, claimed hearing a car alarm go off around 6pm but did no mind the incident. The owner later discovered the heist while about to leave the area. 

 

Mandurriao PNP investigators found out that the right rear glass window of the Fuego was broken.

 

The car owner said the suspects took away an Apple laptop computer worth P16,000, Acer 5100 laptop computer worth P40,000, a computer mouse worth P300, laptop charger and calculator worth more than P1,000.

 

The second bukas kotse operation involved an Isuzu Dmax pickup truck parked in front of Uncle Tom’s restaurant also on Diversion Road past 6pm.

 

The suspects took away laptop worth P35,000 and LCD projector worth P60,000.

 

Dax (not his real name), a medical representative, was surprised when he discovered that the right rear glass window of his Toyota Vios sedan, which was parked along Jalandoni Street near University of San Agustin, was also smashed to bits.

 

Luckily, the suspects only managed to take away a bag containing promotional materials and ballpens.

 

Dax said he kept his laptop computer in the rear compartment of his car. His bag was recovered 5am Wednesday in front of Barbecue Park restaurant.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO deputy director, said they are looking at one syndicate behind the series of car thefts.

 

Espejo said the group is composed of 20 members including four females who act as lookouts.

 

The ICPO official said the bukas kotse gang targets cars parked in malls and busy nightspots and vehicles owned by medical representatives.

 

“The suspects choose cars with bags or packages inside. They use a rock wrapped with clothe to smash the glass window. When they have an opening, they will open the car door’s lock and take away the valuables. They also have their own getaway car where they load their loot. Car owners should be careful not to leave their valuables in full view even if these are kept inside their car,” Espejo said.

 

Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, ICPO director who is on official trip to Metro Manila, said they are exerting all efforts to neutralize the bukas kotse gang.

 

Mongcal also assured that tourists and locals can still go around the city despite the spate of car thefts that happened in just one night.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A VILLAGE in Iloilo City will not allow a poker room to operate inside a hotel across a Catholic university.

 

Punong Barangay Roberto Divinagracia of Brgy. San Agustin, Iloilo City Proper said majority of the barangay council is not amenable to the proposed poker room of Vanskaps and Management Group Inc.

 

In a letter dated January 22, 2009, Vanskaps president Edward Soon Chiu informed Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas about his intention to operate the poker room inside Residence Hotel along General Luna Street.

 

The hotel is located some 30 meters from the University of San Agustin, an educational institution run by the Augustinian order.   

 

Divinagracia said the council cited the nearness of the poker room to the school which violates a city ordinance prohibiting the establishment of entertainment spots within the 200 lineal meter radius of schools, hospitals, among others.

 

While he is amenable with the poker room project because it will enhance tourism and boost revenues, Divinagracia said they don’t want to violate any law.

 

The committee on games and amusement chaired by Councilor Lyndon Acap will conduct a public hearing on the poker room proposal today.

 

Councilor Antonio Pesina, who supports the proposal, said there is no need for the City Council to endorse the poker room because it is sanctioned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

 

As regards the city ordinance barring amusement and leisure spots near schools, Pesina said they can amend the law to accommodate Vanskaps poker room.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE camp of businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa is expecting a favorable decision from the Department of Justice (DoJ) relative to the review on the assassination of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

 

Atty. Edeljulio Romero, a member of Espinosa’s legal team, said he gathered information that the DoJ will uphold the decision of the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) to exonerate his client from the Rojas slay case.

 

Romero said there is no strong evidence that will link Espinosa to the slaying, not even the confession of suspected gunman Dennis Cartagena who is now detained under heavy guard at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center.

 

Board Member Jett Rojas, a cousin of the slain vice mayor, earlier said the DoJ will issue a resolution on the case anytime this week.

 

The IPPO dismissed the murder charges against Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for lack of evidence July 2008.

 

But the Rojases filed a petition for review with the DoJ assailing the IPPO resolution.

 

When Cartagena was arrested in Butuan City and tagged Espinosa to the case, the victim’s family asked the DoJ to include Cartagena’s affidavit to bolster their case against Espinosa.

 

Romero said Cartagena’s affidavit is just “a mere scrap of paper because it was not included in the preliminary investigation.”

 

“How can the DoJ rule on something that was not included in the preliminary stages of the case? The DoJ cannot scold or reprimand the IPPO for failure to act on a piece of evidence that was not presented by the complainant,” Romero said.

 

The lawyer said it would be unfair to include Cartagena’s affidavit in the petition for review “because my client was not able to answer the accusations before the IPPO.”

 

Board member Rojas lamented the status of the case saying the efforts of the police to gather evidence and witnesses “went to naught because of what is happening in our justice system.”

 

“The case of Neoyet Penepona, which was backed up by strong evidence and statements of first hand witnesses was even dismissed for supposedly lack of proof. What’s happening with our justice system?” BM Rojas said.

 

Espinosa allegedly ordered the death of Penepona, his former employee, by poisoning when the latter purportedly embezzled money from his gasoline station.

 

Espinosa had denied the accusations.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the P1.18-billion annual budget of the Iloilo provincial government for 2009 except for three provisions.

 

In a March 20, 2009 letter to Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, DBM regional director Nilo Buot said Appropriations Ordinance 2008-05 enacted November 18, 2008 showed “substantial compliance” with the Local Government Code and other relevant laws.

 

The DBM reviewed the 2009 budget after it was submitted by the provincial government last December 23, 2008.

 

In sum, the DBM review upheld the decision of the opposition-dominated SP to slash discretionary funds and fuel allowances under the Office of the Governor and other departments.

 

But the DBM disallowed three provisions in the 2009 budget.

 

First, the agency did not allow the insertion of the new item of appropriation which set aside P55 million for the hazard pay of health workers.

 

The DBM also did not allow the increase in the lump sum for casuals amounting to P1.17million and the P848,409 appropriation for the creation of non-mandatory positions as these will exceed the 45% personnel services cap of the budget.

 

The review also said that Section 2 of AO 2008-05, which requires the promulgation of an enabling resolution in the hiring of casuals and job hires, “runs counter” to Sections 77 and 465 of the Local Government Code.

 

Buot said there is no need for an enabling resolution from the SP before the governor can hire casuals and job hires.

 

The DBM also set other conditions as regards the operative portions of the budget.

 

As regards Section 3 of the ordinance which mandates that aid to barangays shall be remitted to the city/municipalities in the province for distribution, it should “recognize the authority of the local chief executive” to execute the budget.

 

Provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III and provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they were vindicated by the DBM review after the agency stressed a Civil Service Commission memorandum saying that “duly appointed public officials and employees are entitled to salary upon valid appointment and assumption top duty.”

 

The provincial board did not include the names of Mejorada and Cabaluna in the plantilla as Vice Governor Rolex Suplico continues to question the validity of their appointments.

 

As regards the slashed budget items, Tupas said they will submit supplemental budgets to the SP to make up for their deficiency.

 

The DBM approval, however, would mean that 185 casual workers under the Office of the Governor will be unemployed starting today.

 

The budget for the casuals was among the items the SP deleted from the executive budget.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

CATTLE rustlers operating in central Iloilo might be remnants of a private armed group maintained by politicians during the 2007 elections.

 

This is the latest assessment of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) on the cattle rustling syndicate believed to be operating out of Cabatuan, Iloilo.

 

IPPO sources said members of this syndicate are armed with M16 rifles and homemade shotguns and use handheld radio communications.

 

The firearms may have been issued to the gang members by politicians who hired them as bodyguards in the last local and national elections. But IPPO officials did not name the concerned politicians.

 

The syndicate also uses closed delivery vans to pick up and transport stolen cattle to Leon, Iloilo where the animals are sold and slaughtered.

 

IPPO records as of last week show that a total of 15 heads of cattle were stolen in four Iloilo towns – 4 in Pavia, 2 in Cabatuan, 2 in Janiuay and 7 in Leganes.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, IPPO director, said they formed a task group that will monitor and track down the cattle rustling gang in Cabatuan.

 

Dela Paz said the purported leader of the group is a relative of another Cabatuan native who allegedly headed a robbery and cattle rustling syndicate.

 

Dela Paz said he also ordered municipal police stations to closely monitor their areas for cattle thieves.

 

“The gang has a buyer which is why they can dispose their loot immediately. We will arrest this buyer once we have enough evidence against the suspect,” dela Paz said.

 

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said the Prion group led by a certain Bru Prion is responsible for the spate of cattle rustling not only in the province but also in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

 

Tupas said he ordered dela Paz to neutralize the group immediately.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CHARGES for parricide and illegal possession of firearms were filed against a former seaman who shot to death his physician daughter March 14.

Gideon Licera Sr. of Jalandoni Estate, Lapuz, Iloilo City has been remanded to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Jaro, Iloilo City after the filing of the said charges with the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office Friday.

Gideon is accused of shooting his daughter, Dr. Gretchen Licera inside their home in the evening of March 14.

Jasmin, the suspect’s wife, said they will not forgive Gideon even as they vowed to pursue the case in court.

The wife earlier claimed that Gideon, who was drunk at the time of the incident, intentionally shot Gretchen with a caliber .38 revolver. She said the suspect was angry because they did not answer his calls.

Jasmin also accused her husband of being insecure with their children’s success.

Gretchen’s elder brother is a nurse in London while another brother is about to take the bar examinations.

Their youngest, Gideon Jr., is taking up an information technology course.

Gretchen will be buried Wednesday, March 25.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILONGGO World War 2 veterans will wait more than a month before they can get a word about their compensation claims under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

 

US Ambassador Christie Kenney said war veterans will learn the status of their claims by end of April or first week of May.

 

Kenney arrived in Iloilo City Monday to visit the teaching project of the US Peace Corps in Jaro National High School.

 

The US ambassador also visited a call center in SM City Mall and World War 2 photo exhibits at the same mall.

 

Kenney said war veterans have 11 months more to process their claims with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and US Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gives a one-time grant of US$9,000 to Filipino WW2 veterans provided they are documented as USAFFE members, Philippine Scouts members or guerilla fighters.

 

Veterans who are now American citizens are entitled to US$15,000 one-time compensation.

 

The USDVA received 23,000 applications from Filipino veterans who fought during the World War II for the one-time benefit from the US government a month after the processing of the claims started.

 

Kenney said they are now reviewing these cases “and hopefully, by the end of April, we would be able to start adjudicating these and anybody who applied will learn in writing, about their claims.”

 

She urged those eligible WWII veterans who haven’t filed their applications yet but wish to avail of the benefit to file for the grant.

 

“There is still 11 more months to go, so I’m sure we will get many, many more. We want everybody who is eligible to be able to apply,” said Kenney.

 

The US law provides $198 million compensation package for Filipino World War II veterans in recognition of their sacrifices and services.

 

PVAO-Iloilo head Janet Faderan said they have released more than 3,000 application forms to WWII veterans in Panay, Guimaras, Romblon, Masbate and Palawan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THREE or four persons are believed to be involved in the alleged cover-up of the death of lady accountant Julife Balbanida, according to the latest update on the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) probe.

 

NBI special investigator John Catipunan said they are finalizing their own report before charging those responsible for Balbanida’s death last February 4.

 

The NBI announced it will merge its investigation report with that of the Iloilo City Police Station 1 headed by Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo.

 

The consolidated reports will become the basis for the filing of murder, obstruction of justice and perjury charges against the suspects, the NBI said.

 

Balbanida, a native of Brgy. Boulevard, Molo, Iloilo City, was found dead inside the comfort room of Uni Eco Steel, Inc. on Valeria Street, Iloilo City past 5pm of February 4.

 

The incident was initially thought to be a case of suicide but circumstantial evidence and examination of the victim’s remains led her family to believe that she was murdered.

 

The NBI has secured the explanation of Uni Eco proprietor Raymund Coo, his father Teofilo and Albert Panganiban who first discovered Balbanida’s body inside the CR.

 

Employees of Uni Eco claimed they did not hear any explosion inside the CR between 2pm and 5pm of February 4.

 

But during the reenactment conducted by the NBI, sound of a simulated gunfire inside the CR was loudly heard inside the building.

 

The autopsy report said Balbanida was already dead between 2pm and 3pm.

 

Investigators later learned that somebody from Uni Eco allegedly herded employees out of the building around 2pm when the management confronted the victim about an altered check worth P60,000.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is set to file this week criminal charges against several persons involved in the death of a lady accountant last February 4.

 

Cases of murder, obstruction of justice and perjury might be filed against the co-workers of Julife Balbanida of Molo, Iloilo City who was found dead inside the comfort room of Uni Eco Steel Inc. on Valeria Street, Iloilo City.

 

The charges are based on the results of the investigation conducted by NBI special investigator John Catipunan.

 

The results are being reviewed by the NBI legal service before the information is filed with the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office anytime this week.

 

But the NBI has yet to reveal the identities of the persons who will be charged for Balbanida’s death.

 

Balbanida was found dead inside the Uni Eco CR past 5pm of February 4. She succumbed to a single gunshot wound in her head.

 

A caliber .45 pistol was found near her body while six empty shells of caliber .45 bullets were found inside an empty box.

 

The autopsy report of the PNP Crime Laboratory said Balbanida was already dead between 2 to 3pm but her co-workers said they did not hear any gunshot inside the CR at that time.

 

The absence of blood splatters on the CR’s wall also led investigators to believe that the incident was not suicide.

 

The NBI also discovered a second slug from the crime scene which discounted the possibility that Balbanida committed suicide.

 

Investigators also discovered that Uni Eco workers were herded out of the building when the management confronted Balbanida about a tampered check worth P60,000.

 

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, Balbanida’s mother Fe said their family is contented with the way the NBI handled the case.

 

Fe said they are also looking forward to the NBI filing cases against those persons who allegedly tried to cover up her daughter’s murder.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILLEGAL numbers games continue to burgeon in 7 towns in Iloilo and police officers might be protecting these illicit operations.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo Provincial Police Office director, said first two and daily double are rampant in the towns of Miag-ao, Guimbal, Tigbauan, Oton, San Enrique and Pavia.

 

Dela Paz said they have arrested and sued 40 coredores or bet collectors for the two illegal numbers games this year.

 

The IPPO is also gathering information on the alleged financiers of illegal gambling operations in the province.

 

“These syndicates are doing guerrilla operations by holding their draws in different areas and sometimes inside vehicles to avoid detection by our operatives,” dela Paz said.

 

The IPPO is trying to detect cops who are protecting illegal gamblers by looking at the performance of municipal police stations.

 

Dela Paz said police officials who are coddling illegal gamblers will be exposed by their lousy performance.

 

The IPPO chief met the police station chiefs last week to look for ways to combat illegal gambling in the province.

 

CATTLE RUSTLING

 

Meanwhile, dela Paz said a cattle rustling syndicate has resurfaced in Cabatuan, Iloilo.

 

The group is believed to be responsible for the disappearance of 2 carabaos and 5 cows owned by Donato Rustique, Jose Tallo and Rene Rivera in Leganes, Iloilo.

 

Dela Paz said the members of the gang were also involved in cattle rustling years back but they went back due to the economic crisis.

 

“We already know them. They steal cattle from other towns then bring them to Cabatuan,” he added.

 

Cattle rustling operations in Cabatuan and other towns in the second and third districts were curbed with the neutralization of the Prion group years back.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WAS the sale of Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo advantageous to the government and taxpayers?

 

This is the question that Iloilo 4th district Rep. Ferjenel Biron wants answered even as he plans to file a resolution calling for a House inquiry on the sale of PDPP to Singaporean firm SPC Power Corp.

 

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) sold PDPP, which is operated by the National Power Corp. (Napocor), to SPC for more than US$5 million dollars (roughly P300 million at the current foreign exchange rate). The sale also included the Bohol Diesel Power Plant.

 

The Dingle power facility is composed of two plants – PDPP1 and PDPP3. PDPP2 is located in Panit-an, Capiz.

 

The government spent around P1 billion to rehabilitate and transfer PDPP3 from Pinamucan, Batangas to Iloilo several years back.

 

Biron said he finds it strange that Psalm and Napocor will sell PDPP at a price lower than its actual market value.

 

“The selling price was lower than the scrap value of the plant. We must look into the process of the sale. Was it advantageous to the government? Was it orderly?” Biron said.

 

The government has been privatizing Napocor assets in keeping with the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira). Part of the asset sales will be used to pay the debts of the state-owned power firm.

 

Biron said Napocor and Psalm had the chance to earn from the PDPP sale “if they only used the fair market value of the plant as the floor price.”

 

“If this is the case, it is useless to privatize Napocor assets because government will end up losing a big amount of money. The price of the PDPP sale is obviously very low,” Biron said.

 

Biron also questioned why the contractual obligations of Napocor to electric cooperatives were not honored in the sale.

 

“The consumers are being held hostage if this is the case. We are held hostage by high cost of power and the prospect of power shortage. This is a triple whammy on consumers because aside from losing money in the sale, we are having serious problems in the cost of power and supply,” he added.

 

Biron said he has nothing against the privatization of Napocor assets “but these should be done in a manner that is advantageous to the government.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT’S not good enough.

 

This was the reaction of an electric cooperative executive to the decision to let SPC Power Corp. operate Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo with subsidy from the government.

 

Engr. Wilfred Billena, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 1 general manager, said the problem brought about by the privatization of PDPP brings to fore the need to put up a baseload power plant in Panay.

 

Malacañang decided Wednesday to continue with the turnover of PDDP to SPC March 26.

 

SPC will own the plant and sell power to the three electric cooperatives in Iloilo provided the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) will subsidize the Singaporean firm’s operations, a mockery of the government’s privatization thrust.

 

Napocor will provide fuel to PDPP to keep it running and provide power to the cooperatives.

 

The new arrangement will allow electric cooperatives to enjoy the same subsidized rate of P2.80 per kilowatt-hour which Napocor is currently offering.

 

Psalm and Napocor sold PDPP along with the Bohol Diesel Power Plant to SPC for more than US$5 million.

 

The privatization of the plant raised public concerns that it will stop running because of rehabilitation works and the issue on the real cost of power.

 

“We cannot continue like this. We have to have our own power plant in Panay so we will not scrounge for sources when we lose capacities in the grid. This the reason why we continue to contract power from independent power producers to secure our future energy needs,” Billena said.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, Ileco-2 director, said Napocor has no choice but to join in the said arrangement with SPC because the state-owned power firm has contractual obligations with the electric cooperatives in Panay.

 

Ventilacion also stressed on the need to put up new baseload plants to prevent the same problems that cropped up with PDPP’s privatization.

 

“This is the reason why the infrastructure development committee of the Regional Development Council called for the immediate construction of new power plants but from the looks of it, these projects will not be online by January 2011,” Ventilacion said.

 

Even the Visayas Supply Augmentation Auction (VSAA) program mulled by the Department of Energy to arrest the acute power shortage in Panay is also a temporary solution to the problem.

 

Billena said there is a need to improve the capacity of the submarine cable between Negros and Panay Islands to make VSAA more effective.

 

VSAA aims to tap embedded power generators in Visayas and excess capacities of power plants in Visayas.

 

“We have constraints in the submarine cable and uprating is needed to ensure stable supply. And Panay would still be at the mercy of other power producers as regards the price and stability. These plants will have to decide between making money and maintaining the backup for their franchise areas,” Billena said.

 

Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) and DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI) are proposing two coal-fired power plants in Panay.

 

GBPC, which belongs to the Metrobank Group, has begun earthworks at its plant site in Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City. GBPC operates Panay Power Corp., the sole power distributor in Iloilo City. DMCI has yet to begin construction of its plant in Concepcion, Iloilo because of uncertainty over its potential market.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. will reorganize the provincial bids and awards committee (BAC) following his approval of the recommendations made by a special body that investigated the controversial autoclave sterilizer deal.

 

Tupas said he is looking for the replacement of General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo as BAC chairman.

 

The governor said he is eyeing provincial budget officer Elena Lim to head the BAC but the latter has yet to give her nod.

 

Tupas mulled the BAC revamp after the former approved the findings of the committee headed by Atty. Jonel Alipao of the Provincial Legal Office relative to the P1.1-million autoclave sterilizer.

 

The committee exonerated the BAC of any liability in the deal and instead recommended that supplier Pacific Trade House (PTH) refund the provincial government’s money.

 

The Alipao committee also recommended the blacklisting of PTH and its sister companies from capitol transactions.

 

The Commission on Audit (COA) had earlier disallowed the purchase of the autoclave sterilizer for the Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Passi City.

 

In a notice of disallowance issued November 11, 2008, state auditor 4 Haydee P. Pasuelo said they found discrepancies in the deal.

 

“Ocular inspection conducted by the COA-Technical Services Office on August 21, 2008 disclosed that the unit is not in accordance with the duly approved Purchase Order, has no nameplate indicating the name of the manufacturer, origin of the unit, brand name/model and power consumption, and brochure submitted does not indicate the product patent number. It was also found out to be defective; thus the actual test was not performed at the time of the inspection,” the notice said.

 

The audit body also found “existence of fraud” in the procurement process based on the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers.

 

“The bidding participated in by Pacific Trade House and CDC Pharmacy showed that there was collusion between the two bidders. The disbursement voucher revealed that the person who received the check for payment in favor of Pacific Trade House was the authorized representative of CDC Pharmacy in the name of Ma. Cherry D. Alaban. It was also noted that the delivery receipt, signed by the Nurse-in-Charge supposedly issued by Pacific Trade House, bears the Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN) of a Dione Trading. Further investigation revealed that this Dione Trading (which delivered the autoclave sterilizer) and CDC Pharmacy are owned by only one person,” COA said.

 

Unlike the Alipao-led committee, the COA held the entire BAC liable for the alleged anomalous transaction.

 

Held liable were Salcedo as BAC chairman, Lim as vice chairman, provincial engineer Gracianito Lucero, former provincial treasurer Melba Sullivan, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and executive assistant Levy Buenavista. Also held liable were Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the transaction and Mercedes Sibug as supplier..

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PANAY Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) will continue to provide electricity at the same subsidized rate after it is turned over to Singaporean firm SPC Power Corp.

 

This was the outcome of the meeting between national officials and Ilonggo leaders in Malacañang Wednesday afternoon relative to concerns raised by electric cooperatives once PDPP is handed over to SPC March 26.

 

The meeting, which started 3pm to 5:45pm, was attended by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Department of Energy (DoE) Angelo Reyes, Iloilo 3rd district Rep. Arthur Defensor Sr., Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and presidential assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias.

 

Also present were officials of the National Power Corp. (Napocor), Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm), Energy Regulatory Commission and SPC.

 

Defensor said it was agreed that PDPP will continue to provide electricity to the three Iloilo electric cooperatives at the same subsidized rate offered by Napocor.

 

Psalm, which supervises the sale of state-owned power assets, sold PDPP and Bohol Diesel Power Plant to SPC for more than US$5 million.

 

“The plant will be turned over to SPC as scheduled but it will continue to produce and sell electricity at the same subsidized rate (P2.80 per kilowatt-hour). It was also agreed that Psalm and Napocor will shoulder the operation cost of the plant even if it’s handed over to SPC,” Defensor said.

 

The Malacañang meeting was spurred by two concerns raised by electric cooperatives once PDPP is taken over by SPC:

 

– the cooperatives will lose 54 megawatts of electricity should SPC decide to rehabilitate the plant and uncertainties over the cost of power, resulting in longer rotating brownouts in Panay;

 

– consumers will be burdened by expensive power because SPC will now reflect the true cost of power once it runs the plant.

 

Defensor said the arrangement will take effect until the DoE has put in place the Visayas Supply Augmentation Auction (VSAA) program.

 

The VSAA will tap embedded power capacities in the region to make up for the power shortage in the area.

 

Data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (formerly National Transmission Corp.) show that as of March 11, 2009, Panay is suffering from 68MW deficiency while Negros lacks 49.2MW.

 

Cebu, which hosts numerous power plants and located close to the geothermal plants in Samar-Leyte area, lacks 213MW. Bohol province has 34MW deficiency.

 

The power woes of Panay is expected to ease up once major power projects, such as the proposed coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz, Iloilo City, gets online late next year or early 2011.

 

GBPC, which belongs to the Metrobank group, operates Panay Power Corp., the sole power producer in Iloilo City.

 

Defensor said SPC is also planning to rehabilitate PDPP “because it is very old already.”

 

“The rehabilitation will happen once the VSAA kicks in. Pigado na gid ang PDPP and it needs rehabilitation,” Defensor said.      

 

Iloilo City is also affected by the PDPP sale to SPC because it draws 15MW from Napocor to fill up the metropolis’ power shortage.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. told Iloilo 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. to keep off matters pertaining to Iloilo City.

 

Gonzalez reacted to Tupas’ exposé during the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys issue on four police officers allegedly involved in the killing of PO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao was gunned down outside their home at Brgy. Jereos, LaPaz, Iloilo City by still unidentified suspects onboard a van.

 

During the March 6 congressional hearing at Sarabia Manor hotel, Tupas presented a confidential PNP intelligence report pointing to a police chief inspector and three other cops as having a hand in Capasao’s death.

 

Capasao was once assigned to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea-6) and was responsible for the arrest of an alleged drug lord in Iloilo City.

 

Gonzalez said Tupas has no right to intrude in matters pertaining to the city which is the former’s home and political bailiwick.

 

The DoJ chief said politics is the only motive of Tupas in releasing the intelligence report to the public.

 

“He (Tupas) can release any report he possesses but he should not intervene in the city’s affairs,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez has been tagged in the attempt to unseat Governor Niel Tupas Sr., Rep. Tupas’ father, January 2007. The justice secretary denied the accusation saying it was the Ombudsman that ordered Gov. Tupas’ removal from office for graft charges.

 

SAME GUN

 

Meanwhile, latest ballistic test results from the PNP Crime Laboratory show that the same gun may have been used to kill Capasao and Honda Cars-Iloilo service manager Rustico Vega January this year.

 

The report said slugs recovered from the Capasao and Vega slayings bore the same barrel grooves or markings.

 

Firearms have unique barrel grooves which become the signature of a particular gun, similar to human fingerprints.

 

The empty caliber .9mm bullet casings in both incidents also bore the same bolt or hammer marks, leading to the possibility that these were fired from the same gun, the ballistic report added.

 

The report bolstered assumptions that a gun-for-hire group is operating in Iloilo City.

 

Vega was shot in front of their office along Benigno Aquino Avenue (Diversion Road) in Mandurriao, Iloilo City last January 9. The case remains unsolved.

 

Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, Iloilo City police director, said he has tasked the intelligence section headed by Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong.

 

Mongcal said a group of intelligence officers are tracking down robbery-holdup and gun-for-hire groups in the city.

 

“The special task group even managed to foil an attempt to rob a business establishment in the city last Monday. We are giving special focus on these groups,” Mongcal said.

 

Amiyong earlier riled at reports that he is one of the cops involved in Capasao’s murder.

 

Amiyong challenged his detractors to prove the accusation saying he is willing to leave the PNP if there is solid evidence against him.

Amiyong twits solon on illegal drugs yarn

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE chief intelligence officer of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) is willing to lose his job if his detractors can prove that he is peddling illegal drugs.

 

Chief Inspector Musa Amiyong, ICPO intelligence section (S2) head, said he is challenging his critics to show proof that he is a rogue cop in cahoots with drug syndicates.

 

Amiyong in particular dared Iloilo 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. to buttress the intelligence report linking the former to the illegal drugs trade.

 

“They have an intelligence report then he should prove it. If they have proof, they can charge and have me removed from the service. I am willing to face that if they have sufficient evidence,” Amiyong said.

 

The intelligence report tagged Amiyong in the illegal drugs trade in the municipality of Estancia which is part of Tupas’ district.

 

Amiyong also dared Tupas to pinpoint the drug lords and pushers he is dealing with.

 

“If I am indeed into illegal drugs, I cannot just get shabu from Estancia, throw them to the ground and let drug addicts pick them up. They must prove that I have associates in this alleged illicit business,” Amiyong added.

 

The ICPO-S2 chief also threw the same challenge to his detractors who linked him to the slaying of PO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao, who was detailed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, was shot to death in front of their house reportedly because of his campaign against illegal drugs.

 

Tupas revealed during the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys controversy two weeks ago an intelligence report linking a chief inspector and three other police officers to Capasao’s murder.

 

But the congressman did not name the persons in the report which came from the Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office-6 based in Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the PNP should investigate how a confidential intelligence report got into the hands of individuals outside of the PNP.

 

“In the first place, how did it get out of RID? Maybe Rep. Tupas has his own sources reason why he got hold of the document,” Amiyong said.

 

M16 RIFLE VS THIEVES

 

Amiyong also clarified reports that he requested M16 Armalite rifles which they will use to neutralize robbers and thieves preying on Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the issue cropped up after he borrowed M16 rifles from the ICPO armory for their operation Monday against a robbery group planning to hit a business establishment in the city.

 

“We borrowed the rifles because the suspects have high-powered firearms while the police only have pistols. We are not allowed to carry M16 because of the one officer-one firearm policy,” he said.

 

Amiyong said he later requested Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, ICPO director, to ask Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. to buy more M16 rifles for the ICPO.

 

Mongcal said he tasked Amiyong to lead a team that will collar thieves and hired killers in the city.

 

“The M16 rifles were issued to the team on activity basis. In fact, we were able to foil an attempt to rob another business establishment because of that operation. Chief Insp. Amiyong has not slept because of their follow operations,” Mongcal said.

 

The ICPO intelligence section under Amiyong’s charge has been criticized for failure to preempt the spate of robberies and killings that happened in the city since late last year.

 

Last year, Amiyong was also charged with criminal and administrative raps for shooting two persons whom he allegedly hired to bomb the equipment of a contractor of the Iloilo flood control project. Amiyong had denied the accusations including the alleged bombing of the Korean contractor’s equipment.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Local Water Utility Authority (LWUA) has no plans to arbitrarily take over the management of Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), according to presidential adviser on water Lorenzo “Larry” Jamora.

 

Citing his conversation with LWUA chair Prospero “Butch” Pichay Tuesday last week, Jamora said the former may have been misquoted in earlier reports on the LWUA’s threat to manage MIWD because of the water supply shortage in Iloilo City.

 

Jamora told The Daily Guardian Monday evening that Pichay only suggested helping the water firm overcome its problems in terms of water supply and distribution.

 

“He (Pichay) said he was misquoted. Butch said he only offered LWUA’s assistance to MIWD if the management has difficulties solving the crisis,” Jamora said.

 

When asked if LWUA can take over MIWD because of the water supply shortage, Jamora said the problem is not unique to Iloilo City.

 

“There is water shortage in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and other urban centers. What we are suffering here is also happening in other areas. LWUA cannot arbitrarily take over MIWD because of supply shortage,” said Jamora who once headed LWUA.

 

Jamora said LWUA can only assume control of a water district if it fails to pay its loans to the said agency. The water district’s board must also ask LWUA to temporarily manage the firm if the need arises.

 

Jamora cited the case of Metro Roxas Water District (MRWD) which LWUA took over because of financial and operational woes.

 

“In that case, the water district’s board asked LWUA to step in. The takeover is supposed to take effect on a temporary basis but MRWD wants us to stay because of improved performance and political issues,” Jamora said.

 

Earlier, MIWD director Adrian Moncada said they will resist any attempt by LWUA to take over the water firm for lack of legal basis.

 

Moncada claimed the Iloilo City council may have been tricked to declare the metropolis under a state of water crisis which consequently gave rise to the takeover yarn.

 

The MIWD director said the original intent of the council’s declaration was to help expedite the projects of the water firm to improve its services.

 

Jamora said there is no need for LWUA to assume control of the management of MIWD “because I believe that the present crop of directors is aggressive in instituting reforms and projects that will improve the district’s services.”

 

“This is a working board of directors and they are brimming with ideas on how to improve MIWD’s operations. I suggested to the directors that they present a management plan to LWUA so the latter can extend whatever help the district will require,” Jamora said.

 

He added the new set of directors will strike a balance between conservatism and aggressiveness in MIWD’s improvement projects.

 

“Before, the board was conservative and deliberate in undertaking projects which resulted in savings and surpluses. I believe that the present board will use these funds to good use to improve services without burdening the consumers,” Jamora said.   

 

LWUA provides financial, technical, institutional development and regulatory services to local water utilities nationwide.

MIWD to resist LWUA takeover

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) will resist any attempt of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to take over the management of the water firm.

 

Engr. Adrian Moncada, MIWD director representing the professional sector, said LWUA has no legal basis for the reported takeover of the water utility which covers Iloilo City and several towns in Iloilo province.

 

Moncada said they were tricked when LWUA chair Prospero Pichay proposed that the Iloilo City Council declare a state of water crisis in the metropolis.

 

The council declaration, which was in the form of a resolution sponsored by Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo, was meant to expedite procurement processes for the bulk water supply and other improvement works mulled by MIWD.

 

Peñaredondo’s resolution was approved during the council’s regular session two weeks ago.

 

“But that declaration of water crisis later became the basis of Pichay’s statement that LWUA will take over MIWD management if water supply in the city does not improve within a month. That is not the real intent of the declaration,” Moncada said.

 

Moncada, who is also the vice president for commercial operations of Global Business Power Corp., said the planned takeover will not bode well for MIWD after LWUA managed the water firm years back because of unpaid loans.

 

“The first takeover was legally sound because of the loan issue. But at present, what’s the real basis? And MIWD employees had bad experiences about the first takeover,” he added.

 

As regards the P198-million fund of the MIWD, Moncada said some P25 million was used to repair their facilities damaged by typhoon Frank last year.

 

Another P27 million is being used for ongoing improvements and repairs of the distribution lines, the cost of which could increase as the projects continue.

 

“The money does not lay idle. It is being used to improve our services with the entry of new board members. We even formulated a five-year development plan which will encompass our supply and distribution services. The remaining amount is not even enough for our future projects,” Moncada added.

 

Moncada replaced Atty. Eduardo Aguillon who resigned from the MIWD board. The two other new board members are Dr. Danny Encarnacion who represents the academe and Dr. Sergio Gonzalez for the civic sector. The other MIWD directors are Marissa Segovia (women sector) and Celso Javelosa (business sector).

 

Representatives from LWUA will arrive today to meet the MIWD board to discuss the firm’s management and its actions and plans to solve the acute water shortage in Iloilo City.

 

Moncada said they can seek technical assistance from LWUA “but the management of the water district is the responsibility of the board.”

 

BULK WATER SUPPLY

 

The top priority of MIWD’s five year management plan is the adoption of the bulk water supply which is expected to be implemented early next year.

 

Moncada said they are looking at two modes of contracting bulk water from potential suppliers: bidding under Republic Act 9184 (Philippine Procurement Act) or joint venture with a supplier.

 

The MIWD director said there are three possible interconnection points in the water grid which bulk suppliers can tap – San Miguel municipality and Brgys. Ungka and Tabuc Suba in Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

“We are now formulating the terms of reference for the bidding to be participated by potential suppliers. This scheme will spare MIWD of spending for infrastructure projects for its supply lines. We will now concentrate on improving our distribution lines,” Moncada said.

 

Aside from the bulk water supply mode, the MIWD 5-year plan will also attempt to improve water quality, standard pressure, affordable rates, reduction of non-revenue water (water lost to pilferage and distribution wastage), collection efficiency and organizational performance.

 

MIWD is also determining potential customers in the market and the growth rate in the next five years to address the water crisis in the city.

 

The water firm is also looking into underground water supplies “but we are having problems with some local government units who are demanding a portion of our revenues in the form of the so-called national wealth tax,” Moncada said. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

UNANSWERED phone calls and drunkenness are the possible reasons why a father shot his physician daughter to death Saturday night.

 

Gideon Licera Sr. of Jalandoni Estate, Lapuz, Iloilo City is facing possible parricide charges for the death of his 32-year-old daughter, Dr. Gretchen Licera.  

 

Gideon’s wife Jasmin corrected earlier reports that the suspect shot Gretchen when the victim tried to pacify the dispute between the husband and wife.

 

Jasmine said she and her youngest son Gideon Jr. went to a mall Saturday. Gretchen later joined them after attending a medical convention.

 

The trio went home late but Jasmin said she informed her husband that she is with their two children.

 

When they arrived at their house, Jasmin said they found out that their cellphones had several missed calls from Gideon Sr.

 

Jasmin said she tried to explain why they failed to answer Gideon Sr.’s calls but the latter, who was reportedly drunk, was already angry.

 

“He even took a beer from the refrigerator and slammed the bottle on the table. He was angry at us,” she said.

 

The suspect later entered the master’s bedroom and slammed the door. Gretchen tried to explain but her father continued to berate them and even told them to get out of their house.

 

Gideon Sr. later emerged from the room with a caliber .38 revolver and pointed it to Gideon Jr. while saying that he will kill his whole family.

 

Jasmin said Gretchen reacted by telling her father not to point the gun at them “but he looked back at her then shot her in the chest.”

 

The wife said her husband did not even help them carry Gretchen after he shot her.

 

Gretchen, a resident physician of Western Visayas Medical Center, died at the St. Paul’s Hospital despite attempts of her uncle, Dr. Pacifico Dalisay, to save her.

 

LaPaz police investigators said the revolver, which was pawned to Gideon, was unlicensed.

 

Gideon Sr. refused to give his side to The Daily Guardian inside the LaPaz police detention jail.

 

Jasmin said they are awaiting the arrival of their eldest child who is a nurse in London, before they decide whether or not to sue Gideon Sr. for parricide.

 

The wife said Gideon Sr. is a nice person except when he is drunk.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ONLY President Gloria Arroyo can save Panay Island from the worsening power shortage brought about by the privatization of Panay Diesel-fired Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo. 

 

Presidential assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said only the President can order the deferment of PDPP’s turnover to SPC Power Corp. on March 26.

 

Banias, along with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Governor Niel Tupas Sr., will meet President Arroyo in Malacañang 4pm Wednesday to request the deferment of SPC’s takeover of the plant.

 

The three officials will present the resolution passed by the Regional Development Council’s infrastructure development committee asking for the postponement of PDPP’s privatization.

 

“All the other solutions such as the deployment of Power Barge 104 from Davao and the 15 megawatt generator sets are not possible anymore. Only the President’s intervention can save us,” Banias said.

 

Electric cooperatives fear that Panay will lose 54MW of electricity once SPC takes over PDPP next week.

 

Energy sector stakeholders said SPC is hesitant to operate the plant because of pricing issue and the rehabilitation of the decades old plant.

 

SPC does not have transition supply contracts with electric cooperatives, thus they are trapped between the prospects of expensive power rates and lack of electricity.

 

The Singaporean firm’s takeover of PDPP is expected to increase power rates in Panay as it will charge the real cost of power which is higher than National Power Corp.’s (Napocor) subsidized rates.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 2 director, said they will sue Napocor, the former owner of PDPP, if their franchise area is plunged into darkness.

 

Ileco 1 general manager Wilfred Billena said the privatization of PDPP should be deferred for the meantime until there is assurance of stable power supply for Panay.

 

SPC remains mum on PDPP’s privatization although industry sources said the Singaporean-based power firm has filed a petition for rate adjustment with the Energy Regulatory Commission before operating the plant.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE national redistricting bill is nearing approval by Congress, according to a top Ilonggo official.

 

Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said the Senate and House of Representatives are reconciling the two versions of the bill which will increase the number of congressmen in the country.

 

The House version, which was authored by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., proposes 50 additional seats while the Senate wants to add 100 seats.

 

If the bill is passed, the number of congressmen will increase from 238 to as much as 300.

 

Sec. Gonzalez, however, said that filling up the 100 additional seats in the House will depend on the country’s population.

 

The 1986 Constitution mandates that a congressional district should have a 250,000 population.

 

The DoJ chief said the redistricting bill is in keeping with the principle of taxation.

 

“The power to tax is the most potent power of the state. That’s why you need representation in order that taxation can be properly represented for the people,” he added.

 

The national redistricting bill came to fore after the Senate committee on local government headed by Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was flooded with numerous redistricting measures from Congress.

 

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile then suggested that the House lump the individual bills into a single measure to facilitate its passage.

 

Enrile had assured the Gonzalezes that the bill will be passed as soon as possible.

 

Rep. Gonzalez earlier filed a bill creating the second congressional district of Iloilo City.

 

The younger Gonzalez said the creation of the second district will fast track the development of the city as it will mean more pork barrel allocations.

 

But critics of Rep. Gonzalez’s redistricting bill said the city did not pass the 250,000 population requisite in the Constitution as the total population of the metropolis is only more than 418,000.

 

The bill was also seen as way to avert a political confrontation between the Gonzalezes and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas who will end his third 3-year term in 2010.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WILL the Visayas Supply Augmentation Auction (VSAA) program mulled by energy agencies curb the acute power shortage in Panay Island?

 

The VSAA is the only solution presented by the Department of Energy (DoE) to Ilonggo officials who riled at the agency’s failure to look for stable sources of electricity what with the continuing growth in demand of the island and privatization of National Power Corp. (NPC) assets.

 

The implementation of VSAA was directed pursuant to DoE’s Department Circular No. DC 2009-01-001 dated January 16, 2009. The circular ordered “DOE attached agencies, all electric power industry, participants, consumers and various stakeholders to adapt and implement contingency measures to ensure adequate and reliable electric power supply in Visayas Grid particularly in the islands of Cebu, Negros and Panay.”

 

VSAA was an offshoot of the DoE-led energy summit at the Cebu Waterfront Hotel January 14-16.

 

The summit confirmed the shortage of reserved electricity in the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) power grid.

 

As of December 17, 2008, 7pm, Panay Island lacks 53 megawatts (MW) while Negros is short by 57MW.

 

Panay is suffering from rotating brownouts ranging from 30 minutes to 9 hours. Negros needs 240MW by 2010 on top of its present capacity of 109MW.

 

Cebu province lacks 291MW with Mactan Island accounting for about 65MW while the power deficit in Bohol reached 38.70MW.

 

The Leyte-Samar enjoys a 352.70MW surplus but it is not enough to fill in the 439.7MW total power deficit of Visayas region.

 

WHAT IS VSAA?

 

The VSAA will be administered by the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC).

 

Eric Niño Louis, PEMC training officer, said VSAA is a day-ahead market which would allow embedded generators to sell their un-contracted capacity and grid-connected customers to sell an interruptible portion of their loads through an auction process.

 

The VSAA is a form of demand-management as it would allow participants to manage their loads as well as to run their self-generation facilities, as means to ease the supply deficit and augment supply in the region, Louis added.

 

The embedded plants, which include generators of private businesses, should register with PEMC before they can participate in the auction.

 

The VSAA is expected to provide relief to electricity consumers in the Visayas region from rolling blackouts due to supply deficits within the region.

 

Even with cost recovery, the economic impact of the VSAA is seen to be positive as business and commercial establishments benefit from clean, uninterrupted and reliable electricity supply.

 

This increase in economic activity can spur new jobs, products and services – offsetting any effect of a marginal increase in electricity prices, when looked at the overall socio-economic perspective.

 

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will establish and enforce the pricing mechanisms of the auction. It will also act on recovery and return on demand-side management projects.   

 

Due to the financial incentive to supply into the region, it is hoped that companies would then be encouraged to maintain their generating capacities at an optimum level, thereby decreasing occurrences of forced outages.

 

Louis said they have identified 110 power generation units embedded in Visayas area, mostly diesel-fired generators.

 

But the PEMC has yet to determine the capacity of the said generators pending their registration with VSAA.

 

“Once the interested generators register, we will determine their capacity,” Louis said.

 

Under the VSAA, power generators who sacrificed their own supply to fill in the deficiency of the region will be compensated to recover cost of plant operation or load interruption.

 

The acute power problems of Visayas, particularly Panay, took a worse turn with the looming takeover of NPC plants in Dingle, Iloilo and Bohol Island.

 

SPC Power Corp., which bought the Dingle and Bohol facilities for more than US$5 million, has yet to categorically assure that it will run the plants after the March 26 turnover.

 

Electric cooperatives in Iloilo are riling at the privatization of the Dingle plant as SPC might not run the facility if cooperatives don’t agree with the true cost of power which is more expensive than NPC’s subsidized rates.

 

The Regional Development Council’s infrastructure development committee headed by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has issued a resolution asking President Gloria Arroyo to defer the turnover of the Dingle plant to SPC.

 

CHALLENGES

 

The current power supply situation in Visayas “is at a critical level as the current levels of electric power supply in the Visayas grid is inadequate to meet the demand in the region,” the VSAA primer said.

 

In the Power Development Plan (PDP) of the Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) showing the supply-demand outlook for 2006-2014, it is reported that Visayas electricity demand requirements should be addressed immediately to prevent power outages in the Cebu, Negros and Panay islands.

 

The consumers in these regions are presently suffering from looming power shortage during peak hours resulting in increasing incidents of outages until sufficient new base-load capacity is put online.

 

Energy officials already declared the Visayas grid to be in a status of “red alert” indicating that the current available capacity is inadequate to meet both demand and reserve requirements.   

 

New generation plants that will operate in the Visayas are expected to be operational by the years 2010 and 2011.

 

The development of generation capacity, however, is hampered by prevailing regulated electricity rates that are below the cost of production for most generators. In the absence of transparency in the true cost of power, private sector generators are not encouraged to operate nor invest in new capacities.

 

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