Monday, September 23, 2013

Developers don’t own reclamations, 
PRA titles property for proper sale
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA)—Whether one develops a reclamation project legally or illegally, it is the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) who owns it, says key Bohol environment officer. 

The PRA, is the government agency tasked to improve, develop, administer and deal in, subdivide, dispose of, lease and sell all kinds of lands, buildings, estates and other forms of real property managed controlled and operated by the government in its reclamation projects and holds assets in the name of the government, the country’s official gazette states.

Because of this, proponents can only acquire them from PRA, through transfer of certificates of title by virtue of a competitive bidding, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Nestor Canda shared at Kapihan sa PIA Thursday. 

Other than the PRA, local governments like provinces, towns and chartered cities, and even government entities like those mandated as the Philippine Ports Authority and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for its foreshore hatcheries, can venture into reclamations, while managing its land resources, he adds. 

On who checks these land fill projects, other than the PRA, local governments with the power to reclaim its foreshore areas, following due processes and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) can regulate and stop violations. 

In Bohol, where there have been noticed violations of its foreshore areas via reclamations, some of the proponent private citizens however applied for special PRA permits, Canda admits. 

But, pending the granting of these permits, entities continue with their projects, when the right thing should have been to wait for the PRA nod. 

While the local governments can issue cease and desist orders, the DENR also issued Administrative Order No. 20, which set the guidelines on the issuance of permits over reclamations and special patent reclaimed lands. 

Such power is also under its role as manager, conservator and overseer of the natural resources of the State, where it exercises exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all lands of the public domain. 

This also allows the DENR to decide whether areas under water should be reclaimed or not" and, subject to the approval of the President, "whether reclaimed lands should be classified as alienable and disposable under Sections 6 and 7 of Commonwealth Act No. 141. 

On this, reclamation proponents need to coordinate with governments and the DENR who validate the plans before these are endorsed to the PRA for appropriate action, he explained. 

But with the illegal reclamations in Bohol, especially in Tagbilaran, local governments and the DENR, on whose jurisdiction these land fills occur are in the perfect position to have stopped the activities. 

DENR admits they have issued cease and desist orders and notices of violations, but proponents simply tell them their PRA papers are on the way. 

With that, reclamations are there.

Canda however assured that reclamations, be they legal or illegal, would have to be registered to the PRA, before the government could award the reclaimed lots to developers.

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Is that firewood legal? 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA) –It may hurt the city’s firewood industry, but if authorities were to check and stop most of the firewood getting here, many people would be eating raw food. 

About 80% of the city residents still keep dirty kitchens and use firewood to cook their food, said Bohol environment officer Nestor Canda over at Kapihan sa PIA. 

Above all this, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Canda clearly stated the law: natural growth trees, the ones cut and dried for firewood, should not have been cut in the first place. 

Firewood species like an-an, taypo, bugnay, bansilay, anislag, kamjan, bulilis, angilan and other native species grow naturally covering most idle lots here, these species too prove to be perfect for an industry that gives people cooking ease. 

While deregulated trees like mahogany and gemelina growing on titled or private lots can be used as firewood, trimmings from these are not meant to be transported out of the lot, or a transport permit would be demanded when authorities chance upon the transport process, he said. 

However, what is clearly happening is that natural growth trees from private, titled lots are harvested and shipped out as firefood, while nobody seems to be interested in asking the right questions. 

The issue on the apparently illegally cut and transported firewood or other wood products cropped up as the Provincial Peace and Order Council listened to police officers’ report on their accomplishments on illegal logging in Bohol. 

“This may not be illegal logging as these are small trees but there is rampant harvesting of natural growth trees in the vicinities of San Isidro and Libertad in Baclayon,” a PPOC member representing the diocesan Social Action Center shared. 

Months ago, a similar complaint came to the information of authorities as trees in Lila and the hills of Loay and Dimiao were allegedly cut to supply the city’s charcoal industry. 

These cut trees end up chopped and sold as firewood, or sometimes burned to produce charcoal. 

Over the issue, environment management specialist at the DENR Glicerita Racho also reiterated, cutting natural growth trees is illegal, and so is cutting regulated trees. 

Regulated trees like narra, molave, tipolo, native species, monocarps and dipterocarps may be cut, but it would take a permit from the DENR secretary to do so, Racho said. 

Even deregulated trees, cut from private properties must first be permitted by, at least the barangay chairman, who will ask one to present proof of ownership. 

If the lumber from these trees get out of the property, the shipper could be in for huge penalties, one that may also include the confiscation of the lumber lode for evidence and the vehicle upon which the cargo is loaded. 

When these are transported, the DENR, in pursuance of its duties and responsibilities, can impound all the wood as evidence, as well as the vehicle used in the transportation, according to a deputized police environment officer.

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Crimes in all time low 
this August, says PD 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA)—After eight months or erratic behavior, total crimes in Bohol sag to its lowest monthly average at 469, a few days after a tested anti-organized crime czar takes over the top seat at Camp Dagohoy. 

In a presentation to the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) during its meeting September 17 at the Reynas Garden in Cogon, newly assumed Camp Dagohoy top cop, Provincial Director (PD) Col. Dennis P. Agustin showed a comparative graph that detailed crime differences in Bohol in the last two months. 

Total crimes in Bohol in July reached 565 while by August, the figure dipped to 469, or some 96 crimes less, Col. Agustin pointed out. 

Among all the crimes, theft, which figures out more prominently as among the top committed crimes within the beginning months, also saw a down-trend of just 87 from an 8-month high, highlighted by cases in June which reached 140. 

August also brought in lowest cases for physical injuries, which normally reaches more than a hundred monthly average. 

Physical injuries in August reached only 73 compared to 138 cases high in May of this year. 

Police authorities however said physical injuries figured high since it also entails motor vehicle accidents, which usually happens considering Bohol’s tempting well paved roads pushing speed-devils to floor it. 

Under PSSupt Agustin however, drug and illegal gambling personalities start feeling the pressure as police stations, aided by a newly organized Task Force Sandiganan, deals operations which hit targets with tactical precision. 

Camp Dagohoy reports that the month found police recovering some 49.82 grams of shabu in 17 Oplan Banat operations and resulting to the arrest of 30 persons and filing of 29 cases. 

The arrest through a buy-bust operations of a notorious drug pusher, Aquilina Flores Subrado of Tubigon town highlights police anti-drug accomplishments with a 41.95 grams of drugs confiscated. 

All in all, at the current street price of P5,000 per grams of shabu or methampethamine hydrochloride, easily Bohol police elements kept off the streets some P250,000 worth of dangerous drughs, points out Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio III, during the meeting. 

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PPOC slams Humabol’s use 
Of children in Sept. 9 rally 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA)—For allegedly using children as cover for possible police dispersal operations, a radical farmer group could be in a bad light. 

The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) headed by Gov. Edgar Chatto slams the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) for using children as blankets against police dispersals. 

In fact, provincial social welfare and development officer Carmelita Tecson said [Humabol] could be facing possible violation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC). 

The PPOC did not take lightly the military reports on the HUMABOL rally to commemorate the 7th death anniversary of slain peasant leader Victor Olayvar September 9. 

City Mayor John Geesnel Yap said police operatives in charge in keeping order during the mass action reported that the farmers used the children to discourage forceful dispersal. 

With the HUMABOL already tagged as a leftist legal front, Bohol Local Monitoring Board coordinator Romeo Teruel hinted the use of children as violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and a complaint to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) is in order. 

CARHRIHL is one of the substantive agreements which the country’s state agents and the rebel armed groups follow, even as they settle polarizing political beliefs. 

According to Prof. Carlos P. Medina, Jr. JMC co-chair for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), JMC brings together the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in a joint collaborative effort to ensure the compliance of the signatories, the parties to the CARHRIHL.” 

The rally organized by HUMABOL, drew a starting crowd of less than two hundred at the Plaza Rizal and eventually grew, but observers also noticed the presence of children carrying placards. 

“It was a Monday and children ought to be in school,” points out Tecson, who raised the alarm, further saying that involving innocent children in political activities jeopardize their development. 

While staging rallies to express protest and grievances against government is a constitutional right, even for children, using them especially when it interferes with their education, mental, moral and social development is against the international convention. 

Article 15 of the UNCRC states that the state recognizes the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly, but there are also safeguards imposed in conformity with the law needed in a democratic society in the interests of national security and public safety and public order. 

Mayor Yap, in his rare attendance to the PPOC, confirmed that Humabol sought a permit to gather, but assured that their issues would be based on the call for justice for Olaivar. 

Sadly however, the rally also took up other miscellaneous issues like the controversial Priority Development Assistance Funds, the Provincial Government’s Purok Power Movement and other politically incendiary issues. 

Mayor Yap, a neophyte, also wants to know if the permits could carry conditions, so as to make it a basis for blacklisting groups seeking permits to gather in the future. 

Yap also shared that HUMABOL has clearly violated the trust of the city mayor when they picked other issues in the rally despite assurances that it was only to commemorate the farmer leader who was ambushed in Danao, Bohol, September 8, 2006.

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To assuage tourists’ safety concern… 
BCCI seeks Bohol leaders’ 
official peace assessment 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23 (PIA)-- Hurting from the bad publicity of the ongoing war in the south, Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) President Atty. Emmanuel Tumanda asks police and military leaders in Bohol to issue official statements reassuring tourists of the relative peace in the island. 

At the Provincial Peace and Order Council Meeting at the Reynas Garden Tuesday, lawyer Tumanda, who owns a beach property in Panglao, said the war has caused caution in so many tourists about to come to Bohol. 

Tumanda shared that due to the online and phone in inquiries from tourists planning to go to Bohol about their safety and security in the island, especially with a war brewing in Zamboanga City. 

Admittedly some of the questions are too basic a simple knowledge of geography would be enough to let them know where Bohol is and where the conflict area is, he shared during the peace council meeting September 17. 

Over this, the chamber is contemplating on coming up with a default reply to all these inquiries, Tumanda, who has less than a year in the Chamber, added. 

But, short of official statement from internal security operators and peace and order keepers, the young lawyer noted that all available statements he could get are from newspaper reports. 

“We would appreciate an official statement from the PNP and the army” [on the peace situation in Bohol], Tumanda, whose group includes influential group of high end resort owners who have also felt the tourism slump brought about by international travel advisories against the Philippines. 

Both newly assumed police senior superintendent Dennis Agustin and Army colonel Julius Tomines personally reported that their central and regional offices as well as their intelligence assets have not scoured any report hinting risks of the war reaching Bohol. 

Recently, Governor Edgar Chatto, PPOC chairman reported that the council has hailed its Special Action (SA) Committee to assess the current peae and Order situation in Mindanao especially in Zamboanga and its impact on the country and in Bohol in particular. 

He also shared that the office of the governor has emphasized the need for concerted action among residents in Bohol coastal towns as well as mountain barangays. 

In line with this too, the governor has called all town and barangay peace councils to convene to plan out any eventuality that might happen, especially the landing of rebel troops out to take advantage of the Mindanao turmoil. 

The SA Committee also recommends the immediate reporting to Tarsier 117 or to any town of any sighting of armed men who are not part of the usual movement of troops. 

Chatto said while there are no reasons for alarm as the incident has not created an imminent danger to Bohol, a cautious approach has always been our policy.

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Trinidad hosts tourism Quiz, 
Calls for water conservation 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA)— Trinidad Mayor Judith Cajes urged students gathered during the 14th Provincial Tourism Quiz -2nd District Elimination Rounds in her town, to make preserving water as a way of life. 

Calling for active participation as they join in the global effort to advance water resources conservation, Cajes, who has just had opened clean and potable water to most of her barangays, hinted the global phenomenon of water resources drying up elsewhere. 

Trinidad was among the town recipients of Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig government priority Project implemented by the National Poverty Commission and the DILG. 

While Bohol may not be as keen on seeing this phenomena as water resources here freely flow out to sea, Cajes has guided students to look at the scenario which has threatened communities in other parts of the globe. 

Climate change and global warming has messed up with the cycles of the globe, there are areas where there are floods, and in some places, their water resources have dried up. 

Have we, in your own little ways, even thought of sharing in saving our precious water resources?, she asked a crowd gathered at the town cultural center in the afternoon of Friday, September 13. 

Speaking before local government leaders and students and coaching staff during the district elimination contest, Mayor Cajes the tourism industry has made strides to perform its role to conserve and save water. 

We all have a responsibility to preserve our natural resources. The water we all share in Trinidad and around the world keeps our families, our towns, our businesses and even our schools, thriving. 

With a little extra effort water can become “our way of life,” she urged. 

Keeping little ways to conserve water resources can be as easy as closing dripping taps, using slow volume shower heads, recycling wastewater and making sure water is free from contaminants. 

Picking on the universal need for water among tourists, she pointed out the stress on tourism and its responsibility as well as a most needed commitment to preserve and conserve one of the world’s most vital resource. 

While September is Tourism Month, the 2013 tourism theme is centered on Tourism and Water: protecting our common future. It focuses on tourism’s significant role and contribution to worldwide water conservation efforts, she pointed out. 

Meanwhile, Cangawa High School in Buenavista town, through student-participants Matthew Torregosa and Alberto Romero Jr. with coach Ruth Rejoy proved to be too much for the district high school competitors in this year’s tourism quiz in this part of the islands. 

Cangawa bested Eugenio V. Amores Memorial HS in Sagbayan Bohol, which had to settle for second best, using the help of student-participants De Marvy Bongato and Aina Perbis with coach – Marivic Asas. 

Placing third is Japer Memorial HS in Sagbayan, who had student-participants Jefferson Tinahora and Winda Maldura along with coach – Ariseo Lepasana.

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Group petitions stop 
Of city reclamations 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Sept 23 (PIA)—In what could be a telling case for local leaders including the Provincial Government, environment advocates demand a clear and univocal stand in the apparently unauthorized reclamations in Tagbilaran City’s foreshore lands. 

A group is now gathering signatures to come up with a compelling reason to pressure the government and local officials to rule on the illegal activities in the city’s foreshore areas. 

The government has been telling us the environment should never be sidelined in development, we want them to walk the talk, declared Paterna Merlas Ruiz, one of the most vocal environment advocates at the Kapihan sa PIA. 

The group, spawned by the Million People March took to the blatant abuse and destruction of the city’s foreshore lands for commercial or alleged special tourism areas. 

Foreshore areas are defined as the strip of land that is covered and uncovered by the movement of the tides.

Part of the 37.99 hectare foreshore from Booy to Bool is the so called Tagbilaran channel; the body of water separating Tagbilaran and Dauis, said Ruiz, executive director of Carlos P. Garcia Foundation. 

These foreshore areas also contain mangrove forests, seagrass beds which have been spawning grounds for fish which are increasingly threatened by the city’s growth, she cited. 

In that same stretch of foreshore lands from Cogon to Bool is where some 8.369 hectares of unauthorized reclamations, mostly by private individuals can be seen, Ruiz read from a study called Foreshore Development Management Framework Project with DENR, which the City commissioned last year. 

In 2009, there were 328 pending applications for Foreshore Lease Agreement (FLA) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 302 applicants, or 93.9% of the applications are in barangay Poblacion II. 

Only three applicants were granted Foreshore Lease Agreements, she read. 

Named applicants with lease agreements are Tan Trade, Ramiro Hospital and John Yap, lease expiring either in 2016 or 2022, according to the study. 

The rest were denied, some for lack of paper compliance, others for failure to put up environmental impact assessment studies, DENR sources admit. 

Government establishments within the reclaimed foreshore areas include Senior Citizens, Philippine Coast Guard, Maritime police, K of C Day care and League of Municipalities owning .294 hectares. 

Among those denied or with pending applications are Bohol Tropics and Alturas in Cogon, Jjs, Ramiro ang Bohol Quality in Poblacion 2, Villa Alzhun and Crabhouse in Mansasa and Jun Mercado in Bool, the study said. 

Apart from the erroneous engineering design of the Causeway Bridge and the Castil Bridge in Dauis, the encroachment by reclamation has critically impacted on the water flow, threatening the sea to death, warned Ruiz. 

Alarmed by the seemingly blatant neglect of private developers on the laws, Ruiz and several Non Government Organization representatives alleged that if authorities look the other way on these reclamation projects, Tagbilaran City Strait would die and all its riparian areas would be closed for the public. 

Speaking at the Kapihan Sa PIA Thursday, Ruiz, who sat as the City Planning and Development Officer said Tagbilaran City foreshore areas is also threatened by an evident management issue. 

The absence of a policy on the city’s foreshore areas resulting in the lack of zoning, no proper and adequate drainage, and the sprouting of structures within the foreshore land, especially most of the violations in the form of illegal reclamations mostly done by private individuals compound the problem. 

The study also cited some government initiated reclamations which are unauthorized, but these are very few compared to the magnitude of the destruction off foreshore areas by private individuals. 

In a bid to stop these, Ruiz said they are now into a massive information campaign to let students and young generation know their future is at stake. 

In Tagbilaran City where nearly 80% of the population is in the coastal areas, the risk of the public losing access to leisure areas near the coasts add up to the problem. 

The campaign ends with a signed petition asking the President, Philippine Reclamation Authority, the DENR and the local officials to stop the ongoing reclamation, she said. 

The group is putting up signing stations in all coastal barangays for that.

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pposition to SP endorsement 
On BQ reclamation shapes up
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol Sept 23, 2013 (PIA)—Alarmed over rumors that the city council is drafting a resolution endorsing to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) an alleged illegal reclamation here, a group of civil society initiators are up to make a stir.

Civil society convenor Paterna Ruiz openly asks why the Tagbilaran City Sangguniang Panlungsod is endorsing Bohol Quality’s illegal reclamation and not the others who are also similarly engaged in encroaching into the city’s foreshore areas and making environmental problems? 

Rumors which civil society members have leaked to environment advocates bare that the city council is drafting a resolution endorsing BQ’s reclamation 2.1 hectares, which compounds the discrepancy when the pending application filed at the PRA by the same entity is 2.3 hectares.

In fact, Ruiz, who was among those who performed actual survey on the city foreshore areas which are reclaimed said BQ has in fact covered some 5.6 hectares already.

Ruiz also showed that in Tagbilaran City, there are some 8.369 hectares of illegally reclaimed lots by private individuals while government institutions occupy some .294 hectares of unlawful and unpermitted reclamation projects. 

“Upon which framework is the SP using, to endorse an illegal activity to the PRA?” she asked during the Kapihan sa PIA.

Apart from BQ, other private sectors with pending or no application for reclamation but nevertheless went on with the land dumps, include two in Cogon: Bohol Tropics at .3 hectares and Alturas with .5 hectares.

In Poblacion 2 where the main bulk of foreshores are reclaimed, violators include the .552 hectares of Jjs Seafoods Village, .327 hectares of Ramiro Community Hospital and BQ’s 5.6 hectares.

In Poblacion 2 are government facilities built on reclaimed lots without PRA nod. 

These include the Senior Citizens with .025 hectares, Philippine Coast Guard’s .052 hectares, Maritime Police’s .03, K of C Day Care .099 and the League of Municipalities at .088 hectares or a total of .294 hectares, records presented by Ruiz showed.

In Mansasa, Villa Alzhun Tourist in has .05 hectares and Crabhouse also has reclaimed 1 hectare.

In Bool, Jun Mercado accordingly reclaimed .04 hectares, Ruiz said.

Records also would show that only seven of all these violators have applied for a special PRA registration, but none has come out from the PRA, sources privy to the applications revealed.

Existing reclamations have caused damages: destruction and degradation of the city’s coastal resources; mangroves were cut, seagrass beds were wiped out and the areas are converted into a business zone where hotels, lodging houses and settlements have been erected. 

For structures within the disputed areas, no building permits were issued on buildings erected in the area, according to Ruiz.

As the foreshore land was transformed into a business zone, the problems of marine pollution, resource degradation and destruction of the ecosystem are now confronting the city of Tagbilaran on its face, Ruiz pointed out. 

Because of this, Ruiz is now inviting civil society groups and Tagbilaranons to unite and oppose the endorsement, for the violators to accept the recommendations of the foreshore audit which includes the Ecosystem Study on the Tagbilaran City Channel and to put up an ordinance that bans reclamations until a thorough study can be completed.

Moreover, the civil society groups want to exact accountability of violators rather than award them for their unauthorized reclamation, develop a policy on Foreshore Development and management anchoring on the principle of sustainable ecosystem development and pursue a co-management scheme with the PRA and the DENR.

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TWG: PDEA Law needs no
substantial amendments,
pushes PNP TF instead
Rey Anthony Chiu

TAGBILARAN CITY, Sept 23, (PIA)—The technical Working Group (TWG) studying the possibility of introducing reforms in the law creating the country’s premier anti drug agency said there is no need for substantial changes in Republic Act 9165. 

However, the team commissioned by the Bohol Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) recommends the creation of a police Task Force whose sole task would be to assist the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the campaign against illegal drugs. 

The recommendation came as the campaign against illegal drugs in Bohol snags when the agency tasked to spearhead the aggressive campaign is so miserably under-staffed and bleakly undermanned. 

Adding to the complication is that despite their thin presence, all anti-drugs operations by other allied law enforcement agencies need to be coursed through the PDEA. 

PDEA Bohol admits few personnel and it is compounded by the need to appear in court hearings, drastically cutting their effectivity in the streets where they are needed. 

According to PDEA Regional Director Julius Navales, they issue control numbers to police anti-drug operations, to curtail any abuse by law enforcers.

But police agents said coordinating with a thinly manned PDEA is often times the problem. 

Coordination disrupts the time element which we would like to use to our advantage, PSInspector Adriano Bacus explained at Kapihan sa PIA recently. 

The more people know about a raid or surveillance operations, the more are the chances that the highly mobile suspects slip out, he added. 

Over this problem, the TWG recommends the PNP Task Force (TF) who will assist the PDEA in the campaign. 

“This way, there is no need to secure coordination number every time the police has to act on reports of illegal drug activities, something that was identified as delaying factor in actions against illegal drugs activities,” the TWG said.

On this too, TWG member, the Office of the provincial prosecutor has committed to assign a personnel to help operationalize the TF. 

The TWG also ruled out that selection of personnel for the TF shall be the task of PDEA to eliminate possible conflicts in the TF composition. 

The TWG also recommends for the group to focus on buy-bust operations as the law provides that those apprehended under buy-bust operations are ineligible for bail, regardless of the amount of drugs confiscated. 

On the monthly assistance to the PDEA, the TWG asked the Provincial Government through Gov. Edgar Chatto to increase the P10,000.00 aid for use in buy-bust operations. It also encouraged town mayors to help augment the funds from the provincial government.

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