Construction of LTO branch in Famy: happening soon

“Mahirap kapag malayo: aksaya sa oras, sayang ang pagod at nakakainip mag-intay.”

This was the statement of Emer Abanilla, a 41-year-old jeepney driver from Brgy. Damayan, Famy, Laguna about regularly going to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) branch in the municipality of Pila. Going there demands too much from this sole breadwinner to a family composed of four children and a wife suffering from thyroid disorder or goiter. According to him, the burden includes the long process of renewing vehicle registration, the distance between Pila and Famy, and time spent traveling instead of driving for a living.

But drivers like Mang Emer and other vehicle owners need not worry anymore. On August 15, Famy councilor Eddie Mialdo announced the construction of a second LTO branch in the fourth district of Laguna, which will be located in Famy. Coun. Mialdo, part of the Sangguniang Bayan Committee on Transportation, said that this project was first proposed in 2008 by Coun. Constancio Fernandez, but approved only in August 2011 by LTO Regional Director for CALABARZON Eric Lenard Tabalado.

Easy and ready access

Problema talaga yung malayong LTO dahil kailangan mong  magbuno ng mahabang oras para makarating doon,” Mang Emer said. He added that compared to the travel time of one hour and 30 minutes from Famy to Pila, it will now take him only 10 to 15 minutes to go to the new office, which will be located in Brgy. Tunhac.

Coun. Mialdo agrees that the new LTO branch will be a big convenience. It will be located at the town center for easy access, beside the office of the First Laguna Electric Company (FLECO). After the budget details had been submitted by Engr. Jaime Borjal, chief officer of the Pila District LTO, construction will start in November.

The Famy office is the second LTO branch in the fourth district, the largest in Laguna. Other LTO offices are in San Pablo City (3rd district), Calamba City (2nd district), and Binan City (1st district).

The LTO branch in Pila serves 14 towns, namely: Sta. Maria, Mabitac, Famy, Siniloan, Pangil, Pakil, Paete, Kalayaan, Lumban, Pagsanjan, Magdalena  Cavinti, Sta. Cruz and Pila. This office will be deloaded by four municipalities once the Famy branch starts operations.

Mang Emer also appreciates that he would be able to save money when going to LTO. Instead of driving across nine municipalities, he would drive only a short distance and thereby save on gas. He remembered his experience of traveling to Pila to renew his vehicle’s registration with gasoline just enough to reach Sta. Cruz which is his usual route for work, but since he needed to go to Pila, he had to buy another liter of gasoline.

Problema rin kasi yan. Aksaya siya sa gas kung kaya medyo magastos talaga ang magparehistro,” Mang Emer added. He also shared his concern that the money he spends for additional gasoline to reach Pila should be the money he could use to for the medication of his wife.

Those who commute, on the other hand, would save on fare: a one-way trip costs P67 per person for a tricycle and two jeepney rides, but one way will now cost only P12 for a short tricycle ride. Other people could also just walk from their homes to the office.

More productive

Most of the drivers find it a waste of time renewing their license and registering their vehicles in LTO Pila. Usually, they spend more than half a day to fix everything, which is a big blow on their income. With a nearer LTO branch, drivers could go through the usual procedures and still have lots of time left to earn a living. This would also mean less chances of paying penalty fees for late registration.

According to Engr. Borjal, two kinds of penalties are imposed for late registration. One is the weekly penalty which can cost a driver additional Php 200 on top of the Php 2,000 Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC). This is applied to registrations one to three weeks after deadline.The other type is the monthly penalty applied when owners fail to register their vehicles months after deadline.

The registration process is guided by the Quality Management System (QMS). Under this, vehicle registration should take only 30 minutes. The process from QMS has its assigned time table and time allotment per step. This includes submission of necessary documents to the evaluator, which should take six minutes; approval of the documents, four minutes,;payment, 10 minutes; and release of the sticker, 10 minutes.

Too long

Engr. Borjal, however, said that they are unable to strictly observe the timetable, in spite of using QMS, due to other pre-registration procedures like the smoke emission test, filing of third-party liability insurance, and vehicle inspection, all of which last for more than three hours. Vehicle owners find the process too long because the information being communicated by the LTO says that it is only a 30-minute process and does not include the pre-registration activities mentioned earlier.

Also, there is limited staff in the Pila office; they can attend to only a limited number of renewals, causing delays and the imposition of penalties, especially on the last few days leading to the deadline. Engr. Borjal also said that the Pila office serves not only the 14 towns in the fourth district but also vehicle owners and drivers from Calauan, Bay and Victoria, which are all part of the second district. He also added that some people going to their office come from Infanta and Real, Quezon.

With only an average of 450 drivers and vehicle owners served daily, there is backlog, resulting in late processing and penalties. Through the construction of LTO in Famy, these problems will be lessened.

On penalties, Emer said: “Di maiiwasan na magmulta ka kasi malayo ang Pila. Kahit na dalawang daan yung babayaran mo, malaking pera na yun para sa tulad kong isang drayber.”

Long to short process

The construction of LTO in Famy will also make the process shorter. According to Coun. Mialdo, it will now take fewer hours to finish the registration and renewal. The future LTO office in Famy will also cater to six nearby towns namely Sta. Maria, Mabitac, Siniloan, Pakil, Pangil and Paete. The office will be able to serve an average of 5,500 drivers from the seven towns that will make the process for registration shorter.

Mang Emer shared his experience of spending hours sitting and waiting in Pila LTO before finishing the whole registration process. “Isang mahirap sa pagpunta sa LTO ay yung mahabang pila ng tao, araw araw kasi ay dagsa ang tao kaya tumatagal din ang proseso.” 

Aside from Famy, Liliw in the second district and Sta. Rosa City in the first district have also requested for their own LTO branches. Liliw has been approved and construction will begin also before the year ends; Sta. Rosa is still being processed.

Renewal would have been easier after LTO launched the “E-Patrol Project” in June 2011, which aims to serve vehicle owners from far flung areas. It is a mobile office in the form of a bus going around the country to ease the burden of cost and waste of time when registering. This project, however, was stopped. Engr. Borja said it was due to financial constraints.

But for this year, the LTO is pushing to relaunch the said project.

Back in Famy, Coun. Mialdo said that it would take about one year for construction work to finish. After that, LTO staff can serve drivers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But Mang Emer is happy with that.

Malaking tulong talaga siya sa amin lalo na sa akin dahil ako lang yung kumikita sa pamilya naming kaya makakatipid ako at mas mabibigyan ko ng pansin yung gamot ng asawa ko,” he said. (Earl Gio Manuel)

LB BNS: out with the old, in with the new

“Volunteers kami, hindi empleyado ng munisipyo,” Baby de Castro said about her appointment as barangay nutrition scholar (BNS) representing Barangay San Antonio in Los Baños, Laguna. She has been serving as such for 19 years now.

De Castro said she fell in love with her work. She enjoys attending to tasks and projects such as “Operation Timbang,” community health, and environment sanitation among many others and did not notice she has been doing volunteer work for almost two decades already. Her willingness to serve saw her through different administrations.

In July, most of her co-BNS were laid off, and a new set of BNS was hired. Of the old group, only five remained, de Castro included.

Nutrition scholars

The 14 newly-hired BNS were endorsed by their respective barangay captains to the mayor. According to de Castro, it is the mayor that decides who gets hired.

At the moment, the distribution of slots for BNS in Los Baños is as follows: one for each of Barangays Bagong Silang, Baybayin, Lalakay, Maahas, Mayondon, Malinta, Putho Tuntungin, San Antonio, Tadlac and Timugan; two for Barangays Anos, Bambang and Bayog; and three for Barangay Batong Malake. This brings the total to 19 BNS in the municipality.

The new set of BNS is now undergoing training to become certified. The training, held every Wednesdays and Fridays, started on July 10, according to Cristy Libre, one of the new hires. There are plans for a graduation ceremony, but there is no official date yet. Despite not being certified, the new BNS have started to participate in development work like Operation Timbang and feeding programs. They also helped the people affected by the habagat (monsoon) and the typhoon Maring.

A BNS is a trained community worker who links the community with service providers. Presidential Decree No. 1569 mandate that every barangay should have its representative to monitor the nutritional status of children and/or community members with nutrition problems.

Qualifications, duties, and benefits of BNS

Dr. Maria Cerezo, head BNS, said that these nutrition scholars do house-to-house checks in their respective barangays to record data, monitor malnourished children, and distribute nutritional implements like vitamins and medicines. This is in relation to Operation Timbang, one of the major programs held from January to March each year. She also said that BNS not only do projects related to nutrition; sometimes, they were tasked to help the senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs), interview applicants for the municipal scholarship program, and distribute seedlings provided by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

To qualify as BNS, an applicant should be a bonafide resident of his/her barangay, of legal age, at least a primary school graduate, is physically and mentally fit, and willing to learn and to share what he/she has learned with the community. Once appointed, a BNS gets monthly honoraria ranging from Php 1,200 to Php 4,000.

The honoraria, according to de Castro, comes from the allotted 20% of the municipality’s General Fund in the municipality.

“Malaki na ang 20% at parte lang ng 20% ang honoraria na Php 4,000,” de Catro said. She also shared that they sometimes receive funds from the barangays usually Php1,000 to Php2,000.

Evangeline “Vangie” Domaguing, a new BNS, said that she volunteered because she wants the experience, the “income” and the knowledge about nutrition since all these will be useful to her as a mother. She also added that her previous employment in the municipal office made it easier for her to be a part of BNS.

Dr. Cerezo said the Mayor Perez expressed his intent to call the BNS as Municipal Nutrition Scholars (MNS). But according to the law, the allowed label is BNS.

Duration of service

As a new BNS, Domaguing believes that those they replaced were laid off due to less-than-impressive performance: Kapag ayaw ng service mo [bilang BNS], whether you like it or not, kailangan kang tanggalin,” she said, referring to the seventeen who were fired and had since then replaced by 14 new members.

Renalyn Tatad, BNS from Barangay Tadlac, is one of the scholars whose services were terminated in July. Contrary to what Domanguing said, her take is that if the administration does not like your behavior and your service, you would be replaced. She also added that the new administration decided their termination.

When Perez was municipal mayor from 2007 to 2010, there were 21 BNS, and their services were retained by Anthony Genuino when he was mayor between 2010 and 2013 according to de Castro. She knows about these things being one of the longest in service. But when Perez was once again elected, almost all of the scholars were laid off and replaced by new ones.

While the post of BNS is not co-terminous, which means dependent on the duration in office of the appointing official, “[d]epende pa rin sa susunod na mayor kung tatanggalin ka o hindi,” de Castro said.

Volunteers not municipal employees

PD No. 1569 states that a BNS is a barangay-based nutrition scholar that delivers nutrition services and other related activities to the barangay. Also, they are called volunteers or trained community workers that serve the municipality. They are not municipal employees.

But Tatad, though laid off as a BNS, believes that BNS should have benefits other than honoraria, even if they are not employees. She said it would also be good if they are given insurance coverage because of the fieldwork and community projects.

On the basis of performance assessments, de Castro said that the mayor does not believe in reports they file. The annual evaluation of their performance is based on their behavior and how well they are known in their respective barangays.

“Hindi sila tiwala sa papel pero sa mga tao sa barangay, [tiwala sila]. Kapag hindi ka effective ay kailangan kang palitan,” de Castro added.

Right now, de Castro sees herself as continuing with her volunteer work. She plans to stay as BNS as long as she could, and as long as she was not asked to leave her position. (Arielina Arevalo)

NYR 2013: It’s More RICE in the Philippines

by Christele J. Amoyan

With the National Year of Rice thriving more than three million advocates over Facebook and Twitter, it seems like rice is the next RICE-ing star in 2013, isn’t it?

This 2013 is the National Year of Rice (NYR) by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 494 of President Benigno C. Aquino III launched in October 18, last 2012. The NYR 2013 nationwide campaign carries the theme “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas.” Hence, this embodies PNoy’s take in his 2nd State of the Nation Address some two years ago, “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-angkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan Dela Cruz dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”

NYR here at Elbi

NYR’s major goal is to increase awareness of Filipino consumers to cut rice wastage. “Marami na ngang kumakain, marami pang nagsasayang ng kanin,” told Richard Romanillos, PhilRice Los Baños Development Coordinator. According to him, in 2010, about 13 per cent of rice import has been wasted. This aggregate could already feed 2.6 million Filipinos in a span of year. In fact, PhilRice surveys that for every two tablespoons of leftover rice, 17 million pesos were spent for rice supply. To meet rice self-sufficiency, PhilRice Los Baños conducts activities to encourage the community to partake with NYR 2013.

One of which is the Palayabangan. It follows a 10-5 challenge that tries to increase the level of rice production standard up to 10 tons per hectare at 5 peso input for every kilo of rice. The contest is monitored under 10-5work plan schedule from June to October. To date, the average rice yield is 4 tons per hectare producing 11-peso input per kilo. Palayabangan challenges rice players on how they can improve rice production with minimized cost. The winners will receive cash prizes of Php100,000 in the regional level and 5 million pesos in the national level. The participating rice varieties are now sited at the UPLB AgriPark.

Pinoy’s rice choice

Filipinos love eating rice; so much that we have a variety of rice recipes in the Philippines. We have sinangag (fried rice), porridge (lugaw), plain rice, and our childhood favorite, ampaw (rice pop). Some restaurants even offer unlimited rice. With that, it is safe to say why the Philippines ranks 8th among the top largest consumers of rice in the world as reported by the Philippine Rice Institute (PhilRice). Additionally, PhilRice says that 30 to 70 per cent of daily caloric intake of Filipinos depends mainly on rice consumption.

“Meron tayong isang mabigat na problema. Tumataas man ang production natin, ang population naman natin ay tumataas din,” said Romanillos. Since Philippine population is targeting at roughly 98 million this year according to the Commission on Population (PopCom), this could even fuel up the country’s rice demand.

According to a press release from the Department of Agriculture (DA), Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the NYR 2013 is bidding for collective effort among farmers, LGUs, private sectors and the consumers to achieve rice sufficiency in the country. However, over the years, the rice production in the country remains a problem.

Since the rice demand is rising, experts seek for the rice alternative. Dr. Flordeliza H. Bordey, a socio-economist at PhilRice said that shifting to substitute staple food like sweet potato, corn and banana can improve rice self-sufficiency. This way, other neighboring countries like Japan and China can lessen rice shortage despite their increasing population.

Rice is a farmer’s life

Two million Filipino families depend on rice-based farming. In Quezon alone based from Romanillos’ research, an average farmer’s income plays at Php30,000 to Php35,000 per year depending on the harvest. This is barely half of the Php75,000 annual income marked by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Also, this is not enough to support a farmer’s family considering five members at the least.

Based on Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data, the total area of farmland declined at 2.36 from 10.0 million hectare in 1991 to 7.64 in 2002. After more than two decades, only one-third of the entire agricultural land in the Philippines was left. So far, an ordinary farmer owns 1.3 hectare on the average. This setback is due to rapid land conversion. Rice production diminishes while arable lands are continuously shrinking.

Due to these constraints, NYR targets farmer stakeholders on their intensive campaign advocacy on rice self-sufficiency. PhilRice, together with the Department of Agriculture, work with other agricultural sectors through local farmer-to-farmer trainings. This way, farmer technicians can have interactive collaboration with ordinary farmers with new technology and technique in rice-farming. Moreover, this kind of field-school strategy, according to Romanillos, is practically a good way to build trust with farmers in the provinces.

It is (y)our RICEponsibility

Rice is not just one person’s responsibility; it is everyone’s. The farmers plow the field, grow the rice and mill it. Rice industries market rice and they should distribute it to consumers in reasonable prices. Consumers, moreover, should only eat enough amount of rice so as to reduce wastage. Nonetheless, our scientists have to conduct innovative research to produce quality rice yield, while the government has to enact policies and laws to secure consumerism welfare in behalf of every stakeholder.

Bottomline: RICE is our RICEponsibility. Be RICEponsible, folks!

PhilRice introduces controlled irrigation: less water used, greater yield for farmers

One square meter of rice field uses about 2,000 liters – or the equivalent of 10 drums used in Filipino households – of water from soil preparation to last irrigation. But farmers continuously flood their fields with 3,000 liters (15 to 20 drums) to store water and to lessen their field visits. Farmers believe that bringing more water to their fields will give them more yield.

But that is not really how things work, according to Richard Romanillos, science research specialist of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Los Banos. In fact, farmers can have greater harvests if they use lesser water through controlled irrigation (CI) system.

PhilRice brought CI this year to different parts of the country, in line with the observance of 2013 as National Rice Year. The CI is a water-saving technique that can be used by the farmers for the Palayabangan Rice Challenge. Also called “Alternative Wetting and Drying,” it is a new irrigation strategy that reduces the use of water by as much as 35% and other farm inputs like oil, fuel and labor, without the danger of a decrease in yield.

Provinces visited in July included Laguna, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija.

Old-school irrigation

A typical irrigation system has different structures and devices for supplying and applying large amounts of water to produce and sustain crops. Farmers create ditches or canals that carry the irrigation water to the field. In dry regions where there is a little chance of rainfall, irrigation takes the place of the rainfall. On the other hand, in areas where there is a frequent but uncertain rainfall, irrigation prevents drought.

One way of applying irrigation water is through flooding, done by covering the field with water several inches high until the ground is soaked. But according to Francis Austero, another science research specialist at PhilRice Los Banos, the amount of water depends on the soil type. Sandy soil, for example, takes up water faster than the clay or loam, which means it needs more water. Farmers, however, keep on flooding their fields no matter what soil type they have because of their belief that their plants need more water to grow.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture (UNFAO) estimated that the average water availability for this year in the Asia-Pacific is 2,970 cubic meters per person. With 70% used for agricultural services, many countries, including Southeast Asia, will experience water shortage by 2025.

The truth behind flooding rice fields

While rice can still grow with its roots submerged in water, it doesn’t grow that well unlike “when its roots are able to get oxygen from direct contact with air,” according to Romanillos. “Ang gusto ng palay natin, yung hindi masyadong nabababad sa tubig,” he added.

Aside from wasting water, continuous flooding can cause delayed plant growth, leaching, lowering zinc levels, and global warming brought on by high amount of methane gas released during water evaporation. Methane is a colorless, odorless, and flammable greenhouse gas released mostly by industrialized sectors, and which absorbs infrared light released by Earth from solar radiation. The absorbed infrared light is sent back to Earth in the form of heat, and too much heat will disrupt climate order.

Rice fields with very dry surfaces look alarming, leading many to believe that plants might die. But according to Austero, this is the right way to plant rice.

The benefits of controlled irrigation

During the first three months when the plant starts growing, the soil must be moist but not necessarily flooded. Water is applied only for weeding. It will then be left to dry to the point of surface cracking to allow oxygen to enter the soil and reach the roots. This is to provide enough oxygen for the flowering stage. Also, drying is recommended because when the field is not flooded, the roots need to grow longer to reach for water. On the other hand, if the field is flooded, the roots will become “lazy” and dependent on water which limits their growth and their ability to get nutrients from the soil.

The “golden kuhol attack” will also be minimized if there will be a little water in the field.

Though rice planting doesn’t require too much water and continuous flooding, Romanillos said that there are certain critical stages of the plant growth where more water is needed.

According to Austero, during the flowering stage when grains start to develop and multiply, a thin layer of water (one to two centimeters high) should be applied and maintained. More water will be needed when the time comes to apply fertilizer so that the fertilizer will dissolve faster. Later, the field should be dried completely 25 days before harvest to get uniform fully-developed rice plants.

To lessen the frequent flooding, CI uses a special device called “observation well,” a plastic tube or bamboo measuring 20 cm long and 10 cm wide. Placed in the field 30 days after soil preparation, it serves as a tool that will tell the farmers if the field needs water or not.

But the use of an observation well is just a guide for farmers who are not familiar with the type of soils they have, according to Austero. Being dependent on this device will help farmers to estimate how much water they will put to their fields, and when to irrigate. After a year of using the tube, the farmers should have learned proper water level management, and able to save water even without the observation well.

The use of the observation well is effective since it promotes saving water, while it can still be saved, Given current global water shortage. Romanillos said now is the perfect time to use CI.

CI, however, is not just about the use of observation well. Austero said that it is “a process and the well is just a part of the process.” There are other water-saving irrigation techniques available to farmers, and CI is just one of them, resulting from several field tests conducted by PhilRice in Nueva Ecija.

CI around the Philippines

PhilRice targets farms with limited water supply and those that produce unhealthy rice crops for the CI project. It has partnered with different agencies, such as the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), for the awareness campaign and promotion of the CI technology.

Romanillos mentioned that from their field visits, farmers, especially first-time CI users, were very convinced of this technology.

“Yung mga farmers na nakakausap namin, sinasabi nila na ito na lang ang gagamitin nila sa irigasyon dahil mas magaan ang trabaho. Hindi na sila nag-aaway-away at nag-aagawan dahil sa tubig, imbis nagbibigayan na sila,” he said. (Maria Isabel Almenteros)

Campus Journalism 2013 holds first round of eliminations

by Krizelda Grace G. Sasi

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – The battle among young journalists is now set as coordinators of Campus Journalism 2013 held their first round of eliminations on a district level on August 29 in Maahas Elementary School.

Thirteen elementary schools in Los Baños competed in the event including: Bagong Silang Elementary School, Bambang Elementary School, Bayog Elementary School, BN Calara Elementary School, Lalakay Elementary School, Lopez Elementary School, Los Baños Central School, Maahas Elementary School, Malinta Elementary School, Mayondon Elementary School, Paciano-Rizal Elementary School, San Antonio Elementary School, and Tadlac Elementary School.

First place district winners are as follows:

Copy reading and headline writing

  • (Filipino) Zolaika Anne Porley of Bayog Elementary School
  • (English) Chris Ann Leonida of Bayog Elementary School

News writing

  • (Filipino) Jhoulie Anne Joldi of Los Baños Central School
  • (English) Ace Rafael Co of Mayondon Elementary School

Editorial writing

  • (Filipino) Hannaha Lyn Rivero of Paciano-Rizal Elementary School
  • (English) Cyrus Toring of Los Baños Central School

Sports writing

  • (Filipino) Floyd Emmanuel Namoca of Los Baños Central School
  • (English) Angel Joy Quilloy of Bayog Elementary School

Feature writing

  • (Filipino) Hannah Mikaela Miguel of Paciano-Rizal Elementary School
  • (English) John Marcial of Lopez Elementary School

Editorial cartooning

  • (Filipino) Paolo Marmol of Los Baños Central School
  • (English) Franz Harold Homeres of San Antonio Elementary School


  • (Filipino) Ansherine Kate Reyes of Los Baños Central School
  • (English) Thom Ivan Ragasa of Malinta Elementary School

On-line writing

  • (Filipino) Abigail De Guzman of Los Baños Central School
  • (English) Ryuta Anami of Maahas Elementary School


  • (Filipino) Shaun Dizon of Bayog Elementary School
  • (English) Jan Earnest Tandang of Bayog Elementary School

Broadcast media

  • (Filipino) Los Baños Central School
  • (English) San Antonio Elementary School

Ten winners were proclaimed in each category except for on-line writing, lay-outing, and broadcast media. Winners of the said events are automatically entitled to compete in the 2013 Division Press Conference to be held at Pangil Central School, Pangil-Pakil District on September 26-28, 2013.

Campus Journalism, otherwise known as Journalism Press Conference, is conducted every year to support the mandated Republic Act No. 7079 or the “Campus Journalism Act of 1991.” The act advocates the freedom of expression among students as it upholds awareness about developmental issues faced by the society. At the same time, it enables students to further hone their innate critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills.

The event was made possible through the collaboration of elementary schools in Los Baños district, and supervision of the following: Ms. Gisela Pingad, English Principal Coordinator; Ms. Prima Cecilia Ilagan, Filipino Principal Coordinator; Ms. Herminia Bisenio, District Coordinator; and Ms. Esmeralda De Castro, District Supervisor.