Monday, May 19, 2014

Good housekeeping seal scales up,
Criteria added for LGUS compliance

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, May 16, (PIA)— The government has just elevated the bar in determining best performing local government units (LGU), putting up five more criteria seen to raise the level of government response to its mandates. 

From the Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) where the focus of LGU performance rests in accountability and transparency now comes the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) which is implemented in 2014 and onwards, announced Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) local government operations officer and SGLG point person in Bohol, Ma. Reina Quilas. 

With the SGLG, aside from the performance focus on the good financial housekeeping which was SLH’s most prominent feature, the new SGLG adds up assessments for the LGU’s disaster preparedness, social protection provisions as among its core assessment criteria, she bared at the Kapihan sa PIA Thursday, May 15.

DILG said to get the coveted SGLG, LGUs mast pass in all of the above three assessment criteria.

Other than the three, LGUS aspiring for the recognition and awards should also pass at least one of the three more essential assessment criteria, which includes peace and order, environmental management and business friendliness and competitiveness. 

Now on its initial year of implementation after the 4 year SGH which was set in 2010, two teams from the DILG are currently assessing LGUS based on the three plus one principle: that is passing there core assessment areas plus either of the three essential assessment areas, DiLG said. 

This also means that LGUs must not have any qualified or unqualified diverse Commission on Audit opinion and they must be compliant with the government’s full disclosure policy. 

This assures financial accountability and transparency in its operations, adds local government operations officer Jocelyn Balandra, at the radio forum aired at DyTR.

For disaster preparedness, for LGUS to pass, they could either be Gawad Kalasag National Awardee to automatically pass the core assessment compliance, or they must have a structure, system, plan and budget for disaster preparedness as early warning systems, evacuation centers determination, search and rescue capability, relief operations, medical and psychosocial support and peace and security in the event of disaster.

For social protection, LGUS aspiring for the awards and recognition must set up system for access to justice, public health, educational support, privilege access to frontline services to persons with disabilities and marginalized sectors, especially in giving access to basic sectors in local government decisions.

As to essential assessment areas, LGUS should also either have awarded Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and National Competitiveness Council Top-Rank LGU citation, set up a local economic investment promotions office as well as put up a business permit processing time and steps. 

For environmental management, LGU would be assessed on their system of solid waste management, collection, material recovery facility and system of waste disposal.

Finally, LGUS intending to pick on the SGLG award should, at least adopt an anti-criminality plan to snag a passing point in peace and order. 

As for the incentives of LGUS getting the SGLG, other than the Performance Challenge Fund, they can gain easy access to program windows of national government agencies, get assured of continued capacity development and be opened up access to local facilities. (PIABohol/RAC)

Tubigon opens Macaas
Eco-tourism package

TUBIGON, Bohol, May 14 (PIA) – Over a year after completing the town’s tourism master plan, Tubigon sets up its first eco-tourism activity based from a coastal community of barangay Macaas, May 14.

The Cabgan Island Community Based Eco Tourism Project (Cabgan Tours) is Tubigon local council and Macaas barangay council as well as a people’s organization initiative to empower locals into sustainably managing their resources, help conserve and protect their mangroves, seascapes and the bats that roost in an island within their jurisdiction, revealed Mayor Marlon Amila, during the soft launching un barangay Macaas. 

The primary goal was to develop an ecotourism product in Cabgan Island, build capabilities of the local residents and stewards in conserving their resources, generate direct and indirect income for local stakeholders, creating incentives for conservation in local communities, build constituencies for conservation, locally, nationally and internationally, promote sustainable use of natural resources; and reduce threats to biodiversity, shared Boboi Costas, town ecotourism consultant. 

Ecotourism is a low impact, nature tourism which contributes to the maintenance of local species and habitats through a contribution of conservation and income generation enough for people to value and thus protect their wildlife and heritage areas as their source of income, Costas presented on powerpoint at the jump-off point. 

Macaas, a coastal barangay faces Cabgan island, one noted for its roosting bats, thus its name is from the vernacular cabogan, or a place for bats. 

Two of the country’s threatened bat species roost in Cabgan island, where a maze of waterways get one close to the three roosting sites. The island, an inner barrier part of the Danajon Double Barrier Reef, also features centuries old bantigui mangroves and 23 other species.

Isolated from mainland Bohol, Cabgan is also a sanctuary to migrating birds, endemic fruit doves and a host of marine creatures lurking in the mangrove shadows or in the islands mudflats.

The island and Macaas’ inter-tidal areas and mudflats have been gleaning grounds for seashells from generations, Costas also detailed while flash scanning on other cultural and historical treasures present in the host community, perfect accents for the tours. 

Costas, along with Tubigon local officials led by Mayor Marlon Amila stressed that eco-tourism activity fits in Macaas Cabgan.

The activity is also consistent with the year-old Tourism Master Plan legislated by the town, according to Analili Nacorda for the local tourism office. 

In fact, the same jives with Bohol’s vision for eco-cultural tourism, Mayor Amila said. 

For years, Tubigon has been a gateway and jump-off point for local and foreign tourists considering its proximity to Cebu and Bohol destinations. The only thing Tubigon gets from them is the port usage ticket. Now, at least we have something we can offer to them, Amila told media covering the soft launching. 

At P850 per head for a minimum of five, the tour includes introductions with a local interpreter cum tour guide, boat rides to the island, mangrove tours, bats roosting watching, gleaning, basic mangrove identification, lunch on local cuisine and tow refreshments plus a cultural presentation by locals. (PIABohol/RAC)

Cabgan bats tour opens
With media product test

TUBIGON, Bohol, May 14 (PIA) –If there’s another thing mass media has done to bats, making them the ultimate epitomes of the evils lurking in the dark, could be the worst. 

And if there is one thing media could do to correct the situation is to let them look at bats in the way these often misunderstood creatures of the dark are to be seen.

And the people of Macaas, Tubigon, forming the Malambuong Turismo sa Macaas Tubigon (MaTUMATU) are doing just that, getting the media to understand why there is a need to protect and conserve the 3000 island flying foxes and fruit bats of its nearby Cabgan Island.

In a soft opening for the eco-tourism site, MATUMATU invited travel writers and media practitioners from Cebu and Bohol to critic on the new tourism product that vows to be community based at its core. 

Present were writers from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Freeman, SunStar Cebu, Philippine Information Agency in Bohol, travel bloggers and lifestyle writers.

Cabgan, or short for “cabogan” is an 85 hectare island characterized by dense mangrove forests, off barangay Macaas in Tubigon. Among the inner barrier reefs in the Danajon Double Barrier Reef, Cabgan is an uninhabited maze of land and shallow waterways, tideflats and wetlands hosting the roosting bats.

Most people fear bats, one many ascribe to the massive media demonization of the bats as the sinister bloodshot eyed mammals that suck blood, epitomizes the powers of darkness and cause the enmity between man and these mammals.

True to the hyped description, bats, especially the flying foxes “have dog or fox-like faces with large eyes because unlike the smaller bats, flying foxes do not echolocate, but relies and vision and smell,” according to Boboi Costas, Tubigon eco-tourism consultant. 

Widely and wrongly portrayed in association with the vampire bats, fruit bats in Cabgan travel a radius of 50 kilometers, Costas said.

With neighboring islands so close, bats fly there to seek fruits, pollen, nectar and leaves. 

Along with these, they also carry seeds to be dropped somewhere else, cross pollinate and unwittingly contribute to restoring lost forest cover. 

MATUMATU President Jonathan Sabate identified two distinct species of the fruit bats as the large flying foxes; the country’s largest bats weighing a kilo on the average, and the island flying foxes.

And even if these flying mammals go long distances, roosting is always at the sanctuary of Cabgan, short for Cabogan, or literally, area filled with bats.

Often portrayed as dark, lurking, evil night creatures, bats have been relentlessly hunted for fear, for food or for pest control, some intentionally, other times unintentionally, by unabated use of chemicals.

With the assistance from other field workers from its benchmarked destination in Aloguinsan, Cebu and its community-based eco-tourism consultant, MATUMATU members culturally mapped the areas including the tide-flats and wetlands of Cabgan and the mangroves in the shores of Macaas.

They also listed at least three roosting sites for the large flying foxes, the country’s largest fruit-bats and the smaller but equally agile island flying foxes. 

Also here and in nearby Macaas mudflats are about 24 species of mangroves in impenetrable centuries old dense forests or the sparse clumps creating a maze of waterways giving barely enough access to those trees populated by roosting bats. 

Natural grounds for gleaning and marginal and sustainable fishing, Macaas and Cabgan now become the hub for the Cabgan Island Community-based Eco-Tourism Project, a part of the efforts to protect and conserve Clarin Group of Islands Protected Seascape, an integrated protected area within the Danajon Double Barrier Reef. 

Cabgan Island EcoTour includes orientations by community guide interpreters, safety rules, boat rides, paddling, mangrove identification, bird watching and bats observations, lunch of native cuisines, project orientation and local cultural entertainment. 

Tubigon’s first seriously developed eco-tourism activity, the Cabgan Island project has local officials and Mayor Marlon Amila feeling excited to finally offer a tour package to tourists making the town their gateway.   

We are hitting many birds with one stone, both Vice Mayor Isabelo Fortich and Amila stressed. 

As to the media covering the product testing, the experience appeared to get to them, notes a MATUMATU member who observed the short interaction which happened after the tour. 

While Cabgan Island tour helps present the town’s unique marine resources, it is also a platform for community empowerment in sustaining and conserving their resources as well as allowing the community another income alternative, sums up Jonathan Sabate, MATUMATU President. (PIABohol/RAC)

Bringing out stars from 
BC Paraisong Pambata 
Rey Anthony Chiu

NUEVA ESTRELLA, Bien Unido Bohol, May 10 (PIA) – The stifling heat did not cool. The filled classroom did not thin and the humid air still hangs like laundry. 

But the heat and predicament did not hide the kid’s smiles and pride as it opened up like the cloudless skies in the open fields of Nueva Estrella every summer. 

A place whose named roughly means new stars, Nueva Estrella hosts young kids, many of them among the summer’s restless children, clueless about what to do to chase time away. 

But after two hours of workshops, kids earned a bit of ease, confidence and self worth.

At the presentations, some children were giddy, others standing proudly and showing their art-works: crayon drawings on bond paper; kids surely finding heaven, amid the stifling summer heat.

At the Paraisong Pambata, which Philippine Information Agency Bohol and Association of United Development Information Officers (PIA Bohol-AUDIO) brings to Bien Unido May 10, over 40 kids, some as young as preschoolers but can grasp a crayon, to elementary kids humped in classroom desks with only a bond paper and crayon to use.

Paraisong Pambata is a way for Bayani Challenge 2014 to get to the kids fancy and egg them on to work as one and volunteer for the country. 

Bayani Challenge is the country’s most ambitious and largest social mobilization goal aiming at enlivening bayanihan and volunteerism in the country-sides, where its core values include “no one is left behind” in development. It aims at getting a million volunteers in a little over two months from 12 provinces. 

Responding to the challenge, the PIA in Bohol designed a starter arts drawing workshop to bring out the capabilities of kids. 

“Start them feeling proud of their skills and their capabilities and you’re starting something good in kids,” PIA organizers said. 

In the midst of the workshop, there is this lilting laughter and a shy giggle, indications that there is no summer heat hampering one’s enjoyment, and no poverty that can dry up one’s creativity. 

That same day, the fields are parched dry, no kites and kite fliers desecrated the empty rice fields. The kids are usually hiding in the shades of trees, doing just anything but endless banter and summer whiling away time. 

“It’s too hot out there, salamat sir sa drawing workshop” said one toddler, impish and in his dusty shorts, an oversized slipper and a loose basketball jersey. 

By out there, he meant the unutilized rice field in front of the local school. 

Then just as timidly, school-aged children slowly allowed their curiosity and then creativity to get the better of them. 

They stood up and broke from various summer pre-occupations, flocked to listen, and observe as the Philippine Information Agency Bohol Association of United Development Information Officers (PIA-Bohol-AUDIO) Bayani Challenge team unpack the training kits for the day’s activity. 

And one by one, they come out from the shades to gather around the team, the crowd getting thicker. 

After some few minutes, over 40 school kids, clad in their most comfortable summer wear excitedly trooped to a classroom opened for the workshop.

Earlier, Bien Unido Information Officer Manuel Item asked how PIA Bohol-AUDIO can pitch in for the Bayani Challenge which Bohol is taking part in from April 9-June 12.

The PIA offered a basketball friendly match for young professionals, Arts for Expression workshop for school kids and Film Appreciation and Screening for the community in general as its activities in the barangay revving for the annual fiesta. 

When kids are supposed to be at home as the blistering summer heat razed outside, the next best thing for play is draw and color paper drawings in a classroom protected by shade trees, a parent who observed the workshop through a wooden jalousie window said. 

I was happy to see my niece focus on drawing an object. She doesn’t usually speak at home, now, look at her, she said while pointing to a small girl working on an object’s shadows. 

Finding new stars in Nueva Estrella is not that tough after all, organizers finally agreed. (PIABohol-RAC)

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