2 strong earthquakes jolt Davao del Sur Sunday

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook parts of Mindanao past noon Sunday, with epicenter in the town of Magsaysay in Davao del Sur province. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded an earlier tremor, with a 4.8 magnitude, in the same area at 7:28 a.m. Various intensities were reported in surrounding areas in the south-central Mindanao area, including the cities of Davao, Koronadal, and Kidapawan. Phivolcs said in its bulletin that aftershocks and damage were expected, but no human injuries or major infrastructure damage were immediately reported by local authorities as of 3:30 p.m. At least four aftershocks, with the strongest at magnitude 3.5, were logged in by Phivolcs between 12:30 to 1 p.m. The Davao del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. immediately announced on its Facebook page that it undertook a preemptive shutdown of service lines in the towns of Matanao, Magsaysay, Bansalan, Malalag, and Malita. Most lines were restored just after 1:00 p.m.

Eastern Visayas development body gets counterpart bill in Senate

THE creation of an Eastern Visayas Development Authority (EVDA), which will focus on economic and social growth in the region, has been put forward in the Senate. Senator Ramon B. Revilla, Jr. filed on Feb. 1 Senate Bill 2031 to establish the development body whose functions will include promotion of development and business projects in the region. The proposed law provides that the agency will integrate government and private sectors in the growth of the region, facilitate investments, and provide a model for the full implementation of a “comprehensive industrialization and agricultural modernization policy.” Eastern Visayas was the region hit hardest by super typhoon Yolanda, with international name Haiyan, in 2013. It is composed of six provinces — Biliran, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte — and two independent cities, Ormoc and Tacloban, which serves as the regional center.

“It is hoped that with the creation of this special body, whose singular focus will be the achievement of social and economic progress of the region, we can lift more Filipino families out of poverty and further improve their standard of living,” reads part of the bill’s explanatory note.  Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show poverty incidence in Eastern Samar at 49.5%, Northern Samar at 34%, Samar at 29%, Leyte at 28.6%, Southern Leyte at 23.6%, and Biliran at 19.7%. Under the bill, the amount necessary for the agency’s creation and operations shall be included in the annual national budget. The agency is also given authority to formulate integrated development framework, and promote and facilitate investments in the region. It will also be tasked to review and recommend programs and projects to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board as well as assess plans for the creation of special economic zones, among others. The regional body shall also have authority over the funds, equipment and properties donated by foreign government, non-profit agencies and private entities to the national government for the continuing rehabilitation of the region due to typhoon Yolanda’s impact. A counterpart bill creating the Eastern Visayas Development Authority was approved in the House of Representatives in June last year. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

27-km road in Aguilar to provide access to indigenous community, ylang-ylang plantation view deck


A 27.6-kilometer road in Aguilar, now 64% done, is expected to benefit a community of indigenous people and boost agro-tourism in the town that has sprawling farms of ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata), a flower that is processed for its oil used in perfumes. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in a statement on Sunday, said the project has an estimated cost of P934-million under a multi-year program and is scheduled for completion by 2022. It involves the construction of concrete roads, a 120.9-meter bridge, drainage, slope protection, pavement markings, and road safety facilities. Dubbed the Daang Katutubo, it will provide improved access for the indigenous communities of Kankanaey, Bago, and Ibaloi groups in Barangay Mapita. It will also make travel faster to the view deck of the Ylang Ylang Plantation at Nayong Aguilar. “This road improvement will give boost to the growth of tourism, provide economic opportunities, and will allow the indigenous people to have better access to basic social services available in more urbanized areas,” DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said in the statement.

Over 250 construction workers in Cagayan de Oro isolated after 22 others test positive for COVID-19

ABOUT 266 construction workers in Cagayan de Oro have been placed at the city’s isolation facilities after 22 of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Mayor Oscar S. Moreno announced at a streamed briefing on Saturday. Mr. Moreno said they stepped into the situation as the Manila-based company handling the construction project ordered a week-long work stoppage immediately after the confirmation of workers positive for COVID-19. “I asked the company for their full cooperation. The company will pay the workers (even if they’re not working). We chose risk management of the situation rather than ordering the project to be shut down because if we did, the workers won’t be paid in full and their project won’t be completed,” Mr. Moreno said. He added that the company does have health protocols in place, but lapses must have triggered the outbreak. “We will be more aggressive in our tracing of close contacts. I ordered the workers to be isolated and (we cannot discount the possibility) that they had contact with their families. I’m also concerned (that due to the costs of testing and housing their workers) the company may cut on costs and stop their project. This would impact heavily on the city’s investment climate,” he added. The City Health Office’s resident epidemiologist, Teodulfo Joselito Retuya, Jr., said the workers in isolation will be tested on February 8. Mr. Retuya noted that the workers were housed at the construction site in bunkhouses, with two or three staying in every unit. “That’s why when some of them tested positive, we extracted them immediately,” he said. — MSJ