Gensan’s growing HIV-AIDS cases

In 2011, Dr. Mely Lastimoso said there were only 28  recorded cases of persons infected with HIV-AIDS.

Today, as the city observes World AIDS Day, there are already 171 people infected with the life-threatening human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), four of them involving mother and child transmission.

“Our data shows four families and their children were infected,” Dr. Lastimoso said in a letter to Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

The city mayor, in turn, said, “We need to double our efforts in combating HIV-AIDS as well as increase awareness and understanding of the infection.”

"We need to double our efforts in combating HIV-AIDS as well as increase awareness and understanding of the infection" - General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
“We need to double our efforts in combating HIV-AIDS as well as increase awareness and understanding of the infection” – General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

HIV damages the immune system of a person afflicted by the virus and interferes with the body’s ability to fight organisms that cause even the most common illness such as colds and pneumonia.

Once infected, an HIV-positive person will carry the virus for the rest of his or her life.

If it cannot be slowed down, HIV could develop into a full blown acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a deadly and incurable progression of the virus.

Dr. Lastimoso said most of the 171 HIV cases they are monitoring involve young professionals with age range between 21-26 years old.

She said they are alarmed over the rising number of people with HIV in the city.

Over the last few months, she said, they have been monitoring an average of one new HIV case a day.

Dr. Lastimoso said more city residents may be infected with the virus as their testing has been limited to those who volunteer to undergo the HIV tests.

“Surprisingly,” Lastimoso however said, “a handful of HIV infected cases in General Santos City involve professionals.”

This, she said, has shattered the traditional belief that HIV-AIDS only infects sex workers and homosexuals.

Lastimoso also confirmed that a well-known businessman who died several years ago was confirmed to have acquired the virus.

She declined to identify the victim.

HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person and exchange of body fluids.

It can likewise be spread by contact with infected blood through transfusion or sharing of intravenous needles from infected person.

It cans also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

It can take years before HIV totally weakens the immune system and develop into AIDS.

New airline opens Gensan-Mla route

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Tigerair became the latest airline to service the Manila-General Santos route following its maiden flight Friday afternoon.

A sister company of Cebu Pacific, Tigerair will initially fly 5 times a week bringing the average number of daily flights here to six to accommodate more than 1,000 passengers flying out of this city every day.

Like Cebu Pacific, it will also offer budget fares with the lowest one-way ticket starting at P2,008.

Tigerair's Atty. Leilani de Leon (in yellow T-shirt) and General Santos City Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas (second from right) cut the ribbon to signal the presence of the newest airline to fly the MLA-Gensan route.  Also in photo from left are General Santos City Airport admin officer Dante Fernandez, Atty Paoo Acharon and DOT regional director Nelly Nita Dillera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Tigerair’s Atty. Leilani de Leon (in yellow T-shirt) and General Santos City Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas (second from right) cut the ribbon to signal the presence of the newest airline to fly the MLA-Gensan route. Also in photo from left are General Santos City Airport admin officer Dante Fernandez, Atty Paoo Acharon and DOT regional director Nelly Nita Dillera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

“Tigeriar looks forward to offering additional flight and destination options for tis guests,” Tigerair legal and corporate affairs chief Leilani de Leon said.

Department of Tourism Regional Director Nelly Nita Dillera said Tigerair’s entry into the Manila-General Santos City route will augur well for the region.

“It will boost the local economy and provide additional facilities for connectivity,” she described Tigerair’s decision to service the increasing passenger traffic in General Santos City.

Tigerair will use the Airbus 320 aircraft which has a capacity of 180 passengers.

It will depart Manila at 12:30 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and will arrive in General Santos at 2:20 pm. On Mondays, it will depart Manila at 2:00 pm with scheduled arrival of 3:50 pm.

The return flight will leave General Santos at 3:00 pm every Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On Mondays, it will depart at 4:30 pm and at 3:10 pm on Thursdays.

In addition to Tigerair, also already servicing the Manila-General Santos City route are Philippine Airlines which uses the wide-bodied Airbus 330-300 and Cebu Pacific.

Air Asia will likewise soon open its daily flights to this city.

General Santos City became the hub of air passenger traffic following the entry of budget airlines which competed against seafares of super ferries that eventually stopped plying the Manila-General Santos City sea route.

Dillera said this has boosted tourism in the region with a total of 1.67 million arrivals from January to September.

General Santos City Airport administration officer Dante Fernandez said they expect passenger traffic to increase to more than 1,600 a day during the Christmas season.

The Department of Transportation and Communication has already submitted a P900-million budget for the proposed new airport terminal building in General Santos following the increase in passenger traffic over the last few years.

The airport, funded on USAID grant, was built in 1993 and opened to commercial operations in 1996.

When it was finished, it had the longest airport runway outside of NAIA with more than 3,000 meters of all-weather taxiway.

Duterte and the protest vote


Those who are still belittling Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as a viable presidential contender should no longer second guess his political astuteness.

When told that he topped an informal survey, probably phoned in or texted in, conducted by ANC’s Tina Muñoz-Palma, the tough-talking Davao City mayor said he was alarmed and worried instead of being elated.

His reason?

He thought is prominence in the survey – he topped it – is mere reflection of the general malaise and state of disillusionment of the people towards country national political leaders.

In short, the ANC quick poll was a protest vote for him.

Now, that can only come from a jaded student of national politics.

Duterte, however, is no ordinary student of Philippine politics.  He represents the worse and the best of the ugly world of it.

Since being appointed OIC vice-mayor of Davao City in 1986, Duterte has never left public office.  He was elected mayor of Davao City in 1988 and was undefeated in two re-elections until he stepped down in 1998 due to term limits.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is still coy but he could be forced to run for Philippine president in 2016.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is still coy but he could be forced to run for Philippine president in 2016.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

He became a member of the House or Representative in the same year but came back to defeat his protégé Benjamin de Guzman in the 2001 elections.  He again finished his three consecutive 3-year term before settling for the vice mayoral post vice her daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio in 2010.

Then in 2013, he began what could be another long reign as chief executive of Mindanao’s most politically and economically strategic city.

He has repeatedly and successfully fended off attempts to enlist him as senatorial candidate both for the incumbent administrations and the opposition parties since 1998.  He even declined to accept cabinet level positions.

Better the head of a rat than a tail of the lion is reportedly one of his favorite axioms, a former close aide said.

He made a splash when he said he would abolish Congress and declare a revolutionary government if he is elected president, an apparent ploy to ward off supporters who are egging him to run for president

When it did not work, he threatened to shoot those who are pushing for his candidacy as president.  Many instead answered the call by volunteering to line up in front of Davao City Hall and face the firing squad.  They even printed T-shirts and accepted the Duterte challenge in their Facebook accounts.


Man of the masses

It is either you love or hate Duterte.  In politics, that should be a good indicator of your political stock.

He has been called many names.  Dirty Harry is one of the more popular or unpopular, depending which side of the political fence you are.

He is not very eloquent in Tagalog but he is an excellent English speaker.  He is probably one of the quotable mayors in the country today with his colorful language and oftentimes acerbic wit. (He once called staunch political rival former House Speaker Prospero Nograles as Roderick Paulate for the two’s uncanny facial skin texture similarities)

His classmate, former Agriculture Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez, said Duterte was an excellent debater – one quality that has been glossed over by his reputations as a pistol-packing, motorcycle-riding, lady-killer and taxi-driving city mayor.

Whatever it is, Duterte is well-loved in Davao City.

He speaks their language because he used to hang around with neighborhood toughies – the likes of the late Rene Galope and Big Boy Caingles – while still a teenager.  He knows them and their network which he used to his advantage later on as mayor, going tough against crime and criminality in the city.

He is comfortable with both the military and the rebels and probably is the only city mayor who flaunts his visits in communist rebel camps.

He is going after illegal drugs in a no-nonsense manner and is the scourge of big time smuggling syndicates.

He made Davao City residents abide by his rule – no firecrackers even during Christmas and New Year, no smoking, no over speeding, no liquor sale beyond midnight.

You think Davao City is dour?

Think again.  It is one of Asia’s most livable cities.  It has one of the lowest crimes indexes among highly urbanized cities in the Philippines.  Practically every tourist that comes to Davao says he or she is safe there than anywhere else in the Philippines.

Davao City has the most honest cab drivers who will give the last centavo of change for your taxi fare.  And they don’t drive you around to rip you off.

For all his tough-guy image, Duterte has a soft spot for children.  He has been donating huge sums of personal money for cancer-stricken children.  And he almost shed tears in front of the cameras and reporters after his heart rending visit to Tacloban where he saw the agony and stench of death following the horrible tragedy of Typhoon Yolanda.


Feared reputation

While many would jump at the slight opportunity of becoming the president of the country, Duterte cringes at the thought of it.

He says he is too old for it.  He looks at himself as very parochial and is contented to being mayor of the city where his father migrated after running afoul with the powerful Durano clan in Cebu.

He is not used to getting dictated upon by powerful sectors in the society.  And he knows he might not be able to resist going after powerful lobby interests in the country once he gets to Malacañang.

Of which he already made a handful of them.

Like Human Rights Commissioner Etta Rosales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who see Duterte’s brand of street justice repulsive.  Duterte, after all, is known to implicitly support the dreaded death squad in the city who are going after thugs and drug pushers.

But his overall brand of leadership has so far earned him the healthy respect of Malacañang.  Not a single president has gone after him despite his reputation of pumping bullets against criminals – in his own hands.

By mistake and miscommunication, he once fired his Uzi assault pistol on a hapless NBI agent who posed as driver of a vehicle that delivered the ransom money for the release of a kidnap victim.

He reportedly pushed a drug pusher out of a flying helicopter and punched an army soldier for wife-abuse.  Poor army man, he lost two front teeth.

When he appeared at the Senate probe on rice smuggling, the senators were awed and almost star struck even after he threatened to shoot dead the man accused of heading the syndicate who was seated across him if he catches the guy in Davao City.

All these add up to the growing legend of Duterte, Davao’s real-life Dirty Harry.


Wild card

Will the people embrace a Duterte presidency?

There is no doubt residents of Davao and Region 11 will be the first to welcome and cheer his march to Malacañang should he decide to run and win the presidency in 2016.  Include in that a sizable portion of the Cebuano-speaking voters in the country of which there are plenty.

But will the powerful interests, like the military, the business sector and the landed elite, allow a Duterte presidency given his open dalliance with the Left – both above and underground?

Consider this loaded statement: “I am willing to go to prison for the farmers”

Will the country, for the first time, vote a Mindanaoan into the Office of the President?

Apart from the informal ANC survey and former Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol’s Facebook survey, Duterte has not yet been considered a presidential timber by established pollsters Pulse Asia, Social Weather Station and IBON.

But the political horizon could change overnight.  Of all the post-EDSA presidential candidates who led in polls and surveys a year heading into an elections, only Joseph Estrada was able to maintain that tight grip and proceeded to win the elections.

Miriam Santiago, Raul Roco and Manny Villar were survey leaders early on only to lose to Fidel Ramos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Bengino Aquino respectively in that order.

At present, Jejomar Binay still leads as the likely candidate to win in the 2016 presidential elections.  But he is slowly slipping after alleged corruption issues against him surfaced this year.

Presumptive administration candidate Mar Roxas is stuck with his bad image problem while senators Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero are considered too young and still lightweights against Binay.  Miriam is seriously considering herself a candidate but time may not be on her side anymore.

Will, as Duterte observes, the protest vote gather enough momentum to vote him as a wild card candidate?  And will he obliged?  Piñol reported that Duterte has a recent change of heart.  From one almost violently resisting attempts to filed him as presidential candidate to one willing to listen to what others are thinking.

Duterte knows how to feel the pulse of the people.  And if the protest sentiment against a Binay or Roxas presidency snowballs, he may yet give it a shot.

Right now he is a long shot.  But the kind of protest vote may be what exactly this country needs.  This is not the protest in the mold of the Left or the impetuousness of the Right.  This is a kind of protest that could find a space in the hearts and mind of a fed up voting populace.

The wild card could become a trump card.

Mayor Rivera welcomes celeb filmmaker

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Saying the city has a thriving community of filmmakers, Mayor Ronnel Rivera on Wednesday welcomed award-winning Pepe Diokno who gave a lecture to some 2,000 film enthusiasts and students.

“I am glad that Direk Pepe Diokno honored us by accepting our invitation para ibahagi ang kanyang kaalaman at kadalubhasaan sa sining ng pelikula (to share his knowledge and expertise in film art),” the city mayor said in welcoming Diokno.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera (right) hands out a plaque to award-winning film director Pepe Diokno, grandson of the late Sen. Jose Diokno.FOTO BY CPIO
General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera (right) hands out a plaque to award-winning film director Pepe Diokno, grandson of the late Sen. Jose Diokno.FOTO BY CPIO

The young film maker urged budding filmmakers to continue make films and hone their skills and to watch and patronize Filipino feature movies as well ‘indie’ films.

The best way to make quality films is to continue to make them.

His debut film ‘Engkewntro’ won the “Luigi de Laurentiis” (Lion of the Future) Award for Best Debut Film at the Venice Film Festival in 2009.

The same film also bagged the Best Asian Film, for the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema Prize at the Jeonju International Film Festival in Seoul, Korea.

It was likewise voted Best in Editing in the prestigious Urian Award also in 2009.

“As a city with an amalgam of culture, we have rich history and tradition that are very excellent materials for short films and even full feature movies,” Mayor Rivera said in his message.

He added that Wednesday’s activity was part of the Lecture Series “which my wife Jane and her colleagues in the General Santos City Tourism Council are initiating and organizing.”

“It is,” he added, “designed to help cultivate and discover talents and artists in the city.”

General Santos was once home to the late National Artist Manuel Conde who produced and directed the classic Genghis Khan and Juan Tamad movies.

SoCot town eyes ban on aerial spraying

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Officials of Surallah town in South Cotabato are planning to ban aerial spraying in agricultural plantations in the area due to its hazards to human health and the environment.

Surallah Vice Mayor Pinky Divinagracia said they are working on the passage of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the use of the aerial spraying method by a banana plantation company operating in the area.

She said the municipal council’s committee on environment will begin next week a series of public consultations and the gathering of evidences and other vital information that would support the measure.

The vice mayor earlier met with members of the committee to properly set the required processes for the passage of the proposed ordinance.

She said these include the gathering of water samples from rivers and waterways within the municipality that were reported to have been affected by the continuing aerial spraying of pesticides by banana plantation firm Sumifru Philippines Corporation.

More local government units are seeking ban on aerial spraying in banana plantations.FILE FOTO
More local government units are seeking ban on aerial spraying in banana plantations.FILE FOTO

The official cited waterways situated in portions of Barangays Lamian and Veterans, which host the banana plantations of Sumifru. 

The water samples will be sent to a laboratory facility based in Davao City for proper testing, she said.

“The results of the water analysis will be used as evidence against aerial spraying,” Divinagracia said in an interview over radio station dxMC Bombo Radyo.

Fr. Francisco Romano, parish priest of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Surallah town, lauded the local government’s efforts regarding the problem.

But he said they will push for the immediate passage of a resolution that will set a moratorium against aerial spraying in the area pending the passage of the proposed ordinance.

Hundreds of residents barricaded the runway of the community airport in Surallah last week in protest of the aerial spraying activities of a banana plantation company operating in the area.

Around 300 protesters gathered at the Allah Valley Airport and occupied a portion of the runway in a bid to stop the aerial spraying activities of foreign-backed Sumifru.

The company, which operates banana plantations in Surallah and T’boli towns, had been using the airport as base of its aerial spraying operations.

Omar Azarcon, coordinator of the protest action, said they launched the mobilization to pressure local government leaders in the area to decisively put a stop to the aerial spraying activities of Sumifru.

Citing results of their recent fact-finding mission in the affected areas, Azarcon claimed that they have documented three deaths and numerous cases of various illnesses that were directly caused by the aerial spraying activities.

He said they also found a significant number of residents who have been suffering from various illnesses like asthma and contact dermatitis in the affected communities.(AE)

Soccsksargen to get more classrooms from Aussie gov’t

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Australian government has approved a grant of P33.05 million for the construction of additional classroom buildings and day care centers in parts of Region 12.

seal of australia

Bai Zorahayda Taha, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12 director, said Tuesday the grant is part of the support earlier committed by the Australian government for the ongoing expansion of the Kalahi-CIDSS-NCDDP initiative in the area.

Kalahi-CIDSS-NCDDP stands for Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services-National Community-Driven Development Program.

The program, which is implemented by DSWD, is a “community-driven development strategy that aims to empower communities to achieve improved access to services and participate in more inclusive local planning, budgeting, and implementation.”

Taha said the grant will specifically fund the construction of 28 two to three-classroom buildings and four day care centers in eight municipalities in the region.

These are the municipalities of Maasim, Kiamba, Maitum and Malapatan in Sarangani Province; Arakan and President Roxas in North Cotabato; Senator Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat; and, T’boli in South Cotabato.

“These projects are based on the approved proposals earlier submitted by the recipient schools and communities,” she said in a statement.

Taha said the recipients are mainly villages where school buildings are considered to be their most pressing need.

The official said the initiative is part of the national government efforts to respond to the problem on classroom shortage in poor and marginalized villages in the region.

Also known as Soccsksargen, the region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Cotabato.

Earlier this year, DSWD-12 completed the construction of six classroom building projects worth P9.61 million that were also funded by the Australian government.

The beneficiaries were Barangays Alibayaon, Amabel, Bantac, Imamaling, Kausawagan and Owas in Magpet, North Cotabato; Lamsalome in T’boli, South Cotabato; and, Kolambog in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

Sarangani pushes Pacquiao bill creating a new town

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Sarangani provincial board has endorsed the immediate passage of a proposed bill at the House of Representatives that seeks the creation of another municipality in the province.

In a resolution, the board expressed its full support to House Bill (HB) 5090 authored by Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao that pushes for the conversion of Barangay Malandag in Malungon, Sarangani into a municipality.

Pacquiao has filed a bill created a new town for Sarangani province.Photo by Edwin Espejo
Pacquiao has filed a bill creating a new town for Sarangani province.Photo by Edwin Espejo

Board member Cyril Yap, chair of the board’s local enactment committee, said they passed the resolution in response to the strong endorsement to the move issued by the provincial government of Sarangani headed by Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon.

He said they also considered the resolutions manifesting full support to the move submitted by the 12 barangay councils of Malungon that were proposed to become the component barangays of the new municipality.

These are Barangays Malandag proper Datal Batong, Datal Bila, B’laan, Alkikan, Kibala, Malabod, Kiblat, Datal Tampal, Atlae, Banahaw and Nagpan.

Rep. Pacquiao formally filed HB 5090 or “An Act Creating the Municipality of Malandag in the Province of Sarangani” last October 13. It was referred to the House committee on local government on October 22.

The proposed measure took off from a bill filed in the 12th Congress by then Sarangani Rep. Erwin Chiongbian.

The 12 barangays that will compose the proposed new municipality, which would be the eighth for Sarangani, are all part of the land-locked Malungon town.

The province’s six other component towns — Alabel, Glan, Malapatan, Kiamba, Maasim and Maitum — are located in the coasts of Sarangani Bay.

Malungon is composed of 31 barangays and has a total population of 95,044 based on the 2010 census.

Pacquiao noted based on the number of its inhabitants, Malungon is considered as one of the most populous municipalities in the country.

He said the town is one of the biggest in Region 12 in terms of land area that is measured at 750.92 square kilometers.

“The people of the 12 barangays have been clamoring for the creation (of their area) into a separate municipality to develop and improve their economic and social condition,” he said.

He said the barangays comprising the proposed town have passed the requirements in terms of population, land area and income as provided for in Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Act of 1991.

As a separate municipality, Pacquiao said its expected shares in the Internal Revenue Allotment as well as in local and real property taxes will allow it to effectively and efficiently deliver various basic services.

“It will also enable the 12 barangays to chart their own development plans and programs to promote public health, safety and general welfare,” he said.

Aside from the provincial board, the measure was endorsed earlier by the province’s seven municipal mayors.

In a resolution, they specifically called on the House of Representatives to fast track passage of the bill.

The Sarangani congressional district office had created a task force and a technical working group that will monitor the progress of the measure and lead the gathering of the required documents that will support its passage.(AE)


Pacquiao Watch: Back but not quite

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – When was the last time Manny Pacquiao put his opponent on the seat of his pants multiple times en route to a stoppage victory?

In Macau, Sunday afternoon, Pacquiao launched his trademark two-fisted attack against New Yorker Chris Algieri, chasing the lanky Argentinian-American around the ring.

Pacquiao (in orange running shoes) does roadwork to build up his stamina in this file foto.Pic by Edwin Espejo
Pacquiao is back on top but needs the scalp of Mayweather to complete his greatness.Pic by Edwin Espejo

When referee Geno Rodriguez started to give the badly outclassed Algieri the first of 6 mandatory 8-counts, the gallery composed mostly of Filipinos was sensing the old fiery Pacquiao was back.

Half the jam-packed Cotai Arena was up on its feet when, in the sixth round, Pacquiao sent Algieri twice to the canvas. Those were the second and third knockdowns of the fight.

They were anticipating a climactic and dramatic knockout victory.

But it was not meant to be. Despite going down three more times, Algieri was able to finish the fight on both feet.

After absorbing the first telling punch of the evening – a thunderous straight to the body -Algieri was no longer into the fight. In fact, he threatened to run the marathon in his attempts to stay clear of Pacquiao.

Tough for him, there was no escaping Pacquiao inside the square ring that night.

But give Algieri the credit, he was able to ‘roll’ figuratively and literally with Pacquiao’s punches and cushioned the impact of those blows. Had he mixed it up with Pacquiao, the fight the fight would not have lasted more than three rounds.

And so Algieri made losers of those who bet against him via knockout.

Which brings us to the question, is the old Pacquiao back?

Pacquiao himself will admit that no matter how hard he tries, he will no longer be able to bring back his old self – the fighter who trashed the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and David Diaz. The man who made mincemeat of Ricky Hatton, Miguel Angel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. The Pacquiao of old who turned silly such boxing greats as Oscar de la Hoya and Shane Mosley.

Yes, Pacquiao has lost a step. Make that several steps.

But put in front of him any fighter in his weight class and an old Pacquiao is far and above the class of young Rioses, Algieris and Bradleys – any time.

There is only one boxer who can make Pacquiao look really old. But he is not fighting him because it might just be the kind of fight that will bring back the Pacquiao of old.

Man, if Pacquiao was old against Algieri, how scary will it be if he digs deep and finds his elixir once Floyd Mayweather Jr agrees to fight him?

US upbeat on peace process

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — United States (US) Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said his government continues to support the peace process and the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

Goldberg, who visited the city on Thursday, said they are upbeat with the prospects of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, especially with the recent strides that came with the signing of the final peace agreement in March.

“From an international perspective and from a US perspective, we’re hopeful that the peace agreement will lead to better things, (especially) to the lives of the people (of Mindanao),” he said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

He said they expect that it would also bring more opportunities and chances to develop the “great resources of Mindanao, including agriculture and mining.”

Goldberg expressed support to the establishment of a new Bangsamoro region, which is the centerpiece of the House Bill 4994 or the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg visits General Santos City Thursday, November 13, and is being welcomed by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera (extreme right), Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles (2nd from left), and Councilor Mario Empal (3rd from left). (Gensan CPIO/ Russell Delvo)
US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg visits General Santos City Thursday, November 13, and is being welcomed by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera (extreme right), Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles (2nd from left), and Councilor Mario Empal (3rd from left). (Gensan CPIO/ Russell Delvo)

The BBL will specifically give way to the establishment of a new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro government, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee has been conducting public consultations in parts of Mindanao for the BBL, which it targets to pass before the end of the year.

In terms of peace and order, Goldberg assured that the US will continue to provide support to the government in terms of resolving the lingering security problems in parts of the island, especially the threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“We support the government’s efforts to try to end these threats — the kidnappings, the violence,” he said.

During his brief swing here, Goldberg met with City Mayor Ronnel Rivera and leaders of the city’s business sector.

He also met with South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council of Region 12.

The US Ambassador visited the city’s fishport complex in Barangay Tambler and briefly observed its operations.

“It was interesting to see the ships offloading and to see the actual cutting of tuna,” he said.

“It’s (tuna) a huge, probably the most important industry in GenSan and as part of the Philippines,” Goldberg added.

The US is one of the top export destinations of the country’s fresh, chilled and canned tuna, which are mainly produced in this city.

Dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” the city hosts six of the country’s tuna canneries and ancillary industries that generate around US$ 350 million in export receipts annually.(AE)

DTI showcases Region 12 products

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Region 12 has launched a new branding strategy to enhance the promotion efforts for various products from the region.

Ibrahim Guiamadel, DTI Region 12 director, said Friday they have adopted the “Treasures of Region 12” as the collective brand for existing and new products developed by the area’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Showcasing Region12's products and delicacies.Pic by Edwin Espejo
Showcasing Region12’s products and delicacies.Pic by Edwin Espejo

The new branding strategy was launched by the agency and MSMEs in the region with the opening on Thursday of the four-day regional trade fair at the atrium of the SM mall here.

“The objective of this is to enhance the promotion of our products, further expand their markets and increase their sales,” Guiamadel said.

The official said they are giving special attention on new products that were developed through interventions and support services of the agency.

The regional trade fair features 50 booths that showcase products and services of MSMEs in various industry clusters of Region 12.

Also known as Soccsksargen, the region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

The region’s priority MSME industry clusters are bamboo furniture, processed food, fish, coffee, cacao, coconuts, wearables and homestyles.

Among the featured products are the ready-to-drink calamansi juice from Banga, South Cotabato; dried mango pandan from Polomolok, South Cotabato; organic rice coffee from Maitum, Sarangani; coco sugar from Malapatan, Sarangani; and, designer bags made of T’nalak fabric cuts from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The MSME showcase includes the preserved and processed food products of Mommy Juling’s based in Polomolok, South Cotabato; baked and processed products of the Trappistine Monastery in Polomolok; and, processed fruits of Kablon Farms in Tupi, South Cotabato.

Aside from the trade fair and product display, DTI-12 launched side events as well as trainings and seminars for MSMEs and interested residents.

These include “Patok na Negosyo” techno trainings on making trendy beads, pinasugbo, special tamarind and sweet potato candies, siomai and veggie balls, and buko and pineapple pie.

The agency also launched packaged corporate giveaway collections featuring products from the region.

Each giveaway item packaged in a designed basket, cost P500 to P900 each.

DTI's trade fair and exhibit is now ongoing at SM City Gensan.Pic by Edwin Espejo
DTI’s trade fair and exhibit is now ongoing at SM City Gensan.Pic by Edwin Espejo

“We’re promoting these to large companies, schools, government and private offices and other entities,” said Dorecita Delima, DTI Region 12 assistant director.

She said local entities may offer or give the packaged items as Christmas gifts or other related purposes to their personnel and clients.(AE)