Killer AIDS claims 9 in SoCot

GENERAL SANTOS CITY —  South Cotabato health officials said 9 people have died in the province this year due to complications triggered by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

John Codilla, focal person for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/AIDS of the South Cotabato of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said Tuesday the 9 victims were among the 53 new HIV/AIDS cases that were diagnosed from January to September this year.

HIV-AIDS cases have been on the rise both in South Cotabato and General Santos City.
HIV-AIDS cases have been on the rise both in South Cotabato and General Santos City.

He said the 9 deaths all involved males who were already suffering from full-blown AIDS and the late stages of the disease when they submitted themselves to testing.

“By the time their results came out, it was too late for them to undergo treatment as the disease already progressed to the end stages,” he said in a media forum in Koronadal City.

Three deaths were recorded in Sto. Nino town; 2 each in Koronadal City and Polomolok town; and, one each in Tantangan and Surallah towns.

The victims died of severe complications of “opportunistic infections” or diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is a cancer that develops from the cells that line the lymph or blood vessels.

Of the 53 new cases, Codilla said 13 were already full-blown AIDS while 40 were asymptomatic HIV.

He said most of these cases were detected by the IPHO’s HIV screening and testing center based in Koronadal City later confirmed by the Department of Health’s Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STD)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) in Manila.

A total of 48 cases involved males, 11 of whom were former Overseas Filipino Workers, he said.

Codilla said 25 of the new HIV/AIDS victims were aged 25 to 34 years-old and 16 were within the 15 to 24 years-old age range.

He said the youngest victim was aged 15 years-old and among the latest cases involved two male students of a university in Koronadal City.

“There has been an increasing trend in terms of (HIV/AIDS) infection among young professionals or those within the productive ages,” he said.

With the detection of the 53 new HIV/AIDS, Codilla said the province’s disease incidence now stands at a total of 194.

He said 184 of these cases were only recorded from 2010 up to the present.

“So far, we’ve been detecting an average of one case every week and we receive inquiries for screening and testing on a daily basis,” he said.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., IPHO chief, attributed the rise in confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the province to the increasing awareness among various vulnerable sectors.

“Our current rate of HIV/AIDS detection is quite alarming but were also looking at it as a positive sign that our awareness campaigns and calls for voluntary testing have been gaining ground,” he said.

He said they consider the 194 confirmed cases in the province as just the “tip of the ice berg.”

“We expect to detect more cases in the coming months as more people are now aware of it and submitting themselves to testing,” he said.

In nearby General Santos City, health officials said there are already 171 people infected with the life-threatening human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), four of them acquired through mother and child transmission.(AE)



Tropical storm Hagupit reminds of Pablo

A gathering storm in the Pacific is threatening to become the second strongest typhoon to hit Mindanao after the devastating Super Typhoon Pablo made landfall exactly 2 years ago.

On December 3, 2012, super typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) hit landfall creating a path of destruction that left more than 1,000 killed and hundreds missing, including at least 372 fishermen from General Santos City.

US meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said the Philippines should brace for the gathering storm in the Pacific.PHOTO COURTESY OF
US meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said the Philippines should brace for the gathering storm in the Pacific.PHOTO COURTESY OF

Tropical storm ‘Hagupit’ was spotted 3,000 kilometers southeast of Mindanao and was packing a maximum sustained wind of 175 kilometers per hour.

It could however increase in strength as it heads towards land.

Hagupit is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility Friday or Saturday.

Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist at said, “Residents of the Philippines are being put on alert for possible severe dangers from strengthening Hagupit.”

Weather forecasters Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) however said there is a slim chance the cyclone, to be named “Ruby” once it enters the PAR, will make landfall.

Pagasa’s weather trajectory suggests the storm could head north, skipping landfall in the Philippines.

There is however a possibility that it will hit the northern portion of Mindanao.

Weather forecasters are now closely monitoring Hagupit’s development.

Mindanao had been hit by a succession of typhoons beginning 2011 when the late season Typhoon Sendong (Washi) packed in strong winds and heavy rains killing more than 1,000 people- mostly in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

It was followed by Pablo in 2012 and the island barely escaped Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which killed more than 9,000 people in eastern Visayas.

Workers in Region 12 get P5 hike in daily wage starting January

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Workers in Region 12 will receive an additional P5 increase in their daily wages starting January 1 next year, bringing the area’s floor pay to P275.

Ofelia Domingo, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region 12 director, said the pay increase represents the P5 additional cost-of-living allowance (COLA) that was set in Wage Order No. RB XII-18 that took effect last August 1.

She said workers in the region received a P10 to P14 increase in their basic minimum wage upon the effectivity of Wage Order No. RB XII-18, with the integration of the COLA provided for in the previous wage order.

A P5-increase in will all the workers get bringing the minimum daily wage in Region 12 to P275 beginning January 2015.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
A P5-increase will all the workers get bringing the minimum daily wage in Region 12 to P275 beginning January 2015.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

“Starting January 1, the daily minimum wage will increase to P275.  We’re currently intensifying our monitoring activities to ensure its full compliance in the entire region,” she said in a press conference.

Also known as Soccsksargen, Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB), which is chaired by Domingo, endorsed the new wage order in June following a series of public consultations.

The board said the new minimum wage rates apply to all minimum wage earners in the region regardless of position, designation or status, and irrespective of the method by which their wages are paid.

It noted that the new wage order reduced the number of minimum wage levels in the region from five to three, with workers in the non-agriculture receiving a daily pay of P275, agriculture with P257 and retail/service establishments with P255.

The RTWPB-12 has exempted from the new wage order all establishments that have total assets of less than P3 million, are not registered as Barangay Micro Business Enterprises, distressed establishments and those adversely affected by calamities such as natural and human-induced disasters, it said.

Domingo said they have assigned teams to conduct regular compliance visits in various business establishments and employers regarding the new wage order.

She said they were also mandating employers to properly pay the due benefits and incentives or bonuses of their workers, especially the 13th month pay.

“There are really establishments that have not been complying with the new wage rates but we’re closely monitoring them,” she said.

Aside from the minimum wage violations, she said they monitored a number of employers who were properly providing the mandated benefits of their workers like the overtime pays.

Domingo said that in the month of November, they have issued two compliance orders against two business establishments for payments of due salaries and benefits to their workers that are worth P3 to P4 million.

She said the issuance of compliance orders are among the legal remedies that the agency may use against erring employers.

If the employers would ignore the compliance orders, she said the DOLE regional office may issue writ of execution and garnishment orders for their assets later on.
“We also have the option to file criminal charges against our erring employers but we try to avoid that route. Our approach is developmental and we look into various alternatives to resolve these problems but not at the expense of our workers,” she added.(AE)

Sarangani to host Paragliding Accuracy World Cup opening leg in March 2015

They never expect it to come sooner.

But next year, the Philippines will host one of the 6 international legs of Paragliding Accuracy World Cup (PGAWC) with Sarangani serving as site of the growing international aerial sports.

Sarangani earlier hosted the first Philippine International Paragliding Accuracy Competition in October in which Taiwan’s Luis Liu of Taiwan came from behind to narrowly edge Yoshiki Oka of Japan and capture the individual title.

Department of Tourism regional director Nelly Nita Dillera said they welcome the decision of PGAWC to award the Philippines as host of one of the World Cup legs.

Sarangani will host the opening leg of the 2015 PGAWC in March next year.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Sarangani will host the opening leg of the 2015 PGAWC in March next year.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

“This only proves that our paragliding site is world-class. We are very excited to host the World Cup,” Dillera said.

Dillera said the event will be held on March 27 to 29 next and wills serve as the opening leg of the 2015 World Cup.

She added that they will enroll the international competition in the DOT’s ‘Visit Philippines 2015’ tourism campaign.

“At least 30 countries will be represented in the event. The number could swell into 50,” according to the DOT regional director.

ASAP however has lower figures in the possible number of country participants – from a low of 13 to a high of 15 countries.

Best fly site in the country
With 300 days of flying opportunities throughout the year, Sarangani is becoming a popular destination for paraglide pilots and enthusiasts.

“Wind consistency and directions are major factors in considering the fly site,” Randell Raymundo said.

Raymundo is the president of Air Sports Adventure Philippines (ASAP) which organized the 2st Philippine IPAC event October.

He described the fly site in Barangay Siguil in Maasim as “almost perfect.”

Raymundo earlier said teh Philippines could host a World Cup event in 2016 but the recent decision of PGAWC will boost the standing of the Philippines as premier paragliding destination.

The takeoff site is located in a mountain top some 1,000 meters above sea level offering a full picturesque view of Sarangani Bay with a wide but tricky landing site some 700 meters below.(Organizers has correct the heights – they are 1,000 and 700 feet respectively)

International pilots who joined the October IPAC event said the flying course is so far the best in the Philippines and could rival other paragliding sites in the world.

Luke Armbreuster from the US who was the tournament’s safety officer said the fly site is one of the best he has seen in the country.

“The landing area is a little bit tricky because of the unpredictable wind direction but it is okay,” the American said.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon who supported the IPAC event said next year’s World Cup leg will again put the province in the international map as one of Mindanao’s best tourism destinations.

SoCot rushes infra projects to boost tourism

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The provincial government of South Cotabato is pushing for the completion of its ongoing tourism development projects in the next two years in a bid to enhance the area’s thriving tourism sector.

Lake Sebu is South Cotabato's premier tourist attraction.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Lake Sebu is South Cotabato’s premier tourist attraction.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the local government is pouring in additional investments next year to include opening of new tourism circuits, access roads and related facilities.

She cited the ongoing construction of the P120 million circumferential road that will connect the famed seven waterfalls of Lake Sebu town.

The project, which is funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), is due for completion next year.

TIEZA opened last October the bidding for the concreting component of the road project, which was aimed to improve access to the seven falls and other tourism areas in Lake Sebu.

Fuentes said they are currently finalizing the plans for the development of the canopy walk and installation of cable cars along the seven waterfalls as well as the opening of the lakeshore boulevard in Lake Sebu.

She said they are also working on the operationalization of the Lake Lahit tourism facility and the opening of the small-scale mining leg in T’boli town, fruit park in Tupi town, and the biodiversity corridor of Tampakan and Tupi towns.

“We will also open next year additional facilities at our improved Productivity and Technology Center (Protech),” she said.

The Protech Center, which is located in Koronadal City, hosts a “pasalubong center” and a trading area for various local products.

Fuentes said these initiatives are all aimed to attract more tourists to the province.

The local government recorded nearly 300,000 tourist arrivals from January to September and it expects the figures to further increase until yearend.

Anna Liza Mondejar, tourism officer of the province’s arts, culture, tourism, sports and museum promotions unit, said the province’s tourist arrivals reached a total of 293,727 during the first three quarters of the year.

She said the total domestic tourists or visitors reached 291,515 while the foreigners totaled 2,212.

Tourists who opted for overnight stay in the area reached 169,781, of whom 682 were foreigners.

For the same day visitors or excursionists, those from the province reached 110,264 while visitors from other areas reached 12,162. Foreign visitors reached 1,520.

Lake Sebu, the province’s banner tourism site, was the most visited area, followed by the tarsier sanctuary in Barangay Linan in Tupi, Mt. Matutum in Polomolok, Lake Holon and Mt. Melebingoy in T’boli.(AE)