National News Regional News



PHILIPPINE Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan on Thursday said the February sales of Lotto products have dropped by 39.19 percent, but he clarified that this is only temporary since the lottery products are “jackpot-dri”

“Sales for the month of February declined by 39.19 percent, registering only P1,587,785,710 sales compared to the same period last year with P2,611,320,180. Of all Lotto products, Ultra Lotto 6/58 had the highest drop by 60.11 percent with only P166,254,440 sales, compared with P416,886,040 sales last year,” said Balutan.

Lotto 6/42 followed by -32.08 percent to P141,526,380 from P208,376,100 sales last year; Mega Lotto 6/45 by -29.03 percent to P151,347,480 from P213,281,080; Super Lotto by -28.32 percent to P146,748,500 from P204,748,760; and Grand Lotto 6/55 by -17.22 percent to P166,990,240 from P201,736,720.

“’Yung Lotto games kasi natin are jackpot-driven sales. Ina-associate kasi natin ‘yan sa jackpot prize natin. Kapag mataas ang jackpot natin, malaki din ‘yung nagiging sales. But we are expecting sales to pick up in the succeeding months,” added Balutan.

As for digit games, 3 Digits registered the highest decline by 51.97 percent to P342,821,210 from P713,824,280; followed by EZ2 by -28.36 percent to P421,705,720 from P588,685,380; 4-Digits by -22.74 percent to P32,463,880 from P42,022,850; and 6-Digits by 17.60 percent to P17,927,860 from P21,759,320.

Keno sales also declined by 50.37 percent to P219,643,880 from P442,580,610.

Last January, Balutan reported a P1,930,393,950 overall sales for Lotto and digit games, which is 30 percent lower compared to the same period last year.

“As I said earlier, we won’t be expecting much, much higher revenues this year. Hindi na gaanong tataas. Baka nga mag-plateau na ang sales natin. Ma-maintain lang natin ‘yung P63.55 billion o umangat lang ng konti eh matindi na ‘yun. There is no possibility na ma-i-angat pa natin ang kakayahan natin, but sales will definitely pick up in the coming months kapag tumaas ang ating jackpot prize. Hindi naman kasi pwedeng walang manalo,” said Balutan.

Arnel Casas, Assistant General Manager for Gaming Sector, identified two factors why sales declined this month: Jackpot prize and tax.

“One of the reasons for such low sales for the first two months in 2019 was we currently do not have high jackpot amount up for grabs and its really mind blowing that in a span of two months, there were 16 winners that hit the jackpot for various lotto games,” said Casas.

Casas revealed that for many lotto players, having a minimum jackpot amount for lotto games does not usually entice players. They tend to play when jackpot prize increases and accumulates, and it only happens when it is not being hit or won.

“Another reason that contributes to low sales is the implementation of TRAIN (or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law, which we are trying to counter with the implementation of ‘balik-taya’,” added Casas.

The implementation of TRAIN law in 2017 brought about harsh taxes to personal income tax, estate tax, donor’s tax, value added tax (VAT), the excise tax of petroleum products, automobiles, sweetened beverages, cosmetic procedures, coal, mining, and tobacco, including PCSO’s document stamp tax (DST),

Under the new TRAIN law, lottery tickets were subject to higher DST prompting PCSO to impose a new price scheme for Lotto and other gaming ticket prices from P5 to P6, P10 to P12, and P20 to P24.

The TRAIN law also imposed a 20-percent tax on winnings of more than P10,000 from Lotto, Keno, Small Town Lottery (STL), sweepstakes, and other PCSO products. (PCSO release)

Benguet Business Cordillera Features National News Regional News Uncategorized


Auto Draft

By Larry T. Lopez

Benguet (PIA)– Coffee lovers say a cup of coffee in the morning makes your day.

But coffee drinkers would claim, it’s up to your coffee!

Well, coffee experts say the best Arabica coffee in the Philippines is grown in the highlands, particularly in the province of Benguet.

Produced in the upland farms of Atok, Itogon, La Trinidad, Tuba, Kibungan, and Tublay in Benguet, this variety of coffee blends well with the upland climate to produce the country’s top-coffee blend. Because of distinct taste and quality, Benguet Arabica Coffee is now a leading coffee brand in the market.

During the 3rd Philippine Coffee Conference held in Baguio City in March last year, Benguet-grown Arabica coffee emerged as the champion for the best Arabica coffee in the country, besting entries from other regions. Judges, international and local coffee experts, unanimously voted for the Arabica coffee entry of Oliver Oliem of Caliking, Atok, that blends the characteristics of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, oolong Tea and the aroma of a rose, as the best.

Other Benguet coffee entries that won in the 2018 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition were those of Restie Labi Tacio of Atok, and Belen Macanes of Sagpat, Kibungan in third and fifth places, respectively.

What brings the distinctive taste of Benguet Arabica coffee?

Oliver Oliem, chair of the Cordillera Regional Coffee Council, elaborated how the distinct and great taste of their produce had pushed the coffee industry to be now the province’s booming industry.

Oliem explained the entire system in production tells it all.

Grown from seedlings of their own nurseries, farmers grow their coffee plants through pure organic farming without using pesticides or any chemical input. He shared that Benguet farmers practice multi-cropping in their coffee lands by planting other crops in between coffee trees like anthurium, strawberries and vegetables to add more income.

During harvest, usually in the months of November to March, farmers do not strip-off the coffee beans. They pick only the ripened ones one by one, leaving the unripe beans. This assures that the beans come from selected pick.

In drying, farmers adapt elevated-drying system where de-hulled coffee beans are spread on drying beds, instead of just putting them on the ground. This way, the beans are kept away from soil microbes making it arsenic-free adding a factor to its distinct taste, Oliem said.

Shirley Palao-ay, President of the Tuba Benguet Coffee Growers Association, Inc. (TUBENGCOGA), informed that among Benguet coffee farmers, the production of ‘honey-blend’ Arabica coffee is gaining headway.

Processors do not wash hulled beans before drying to retain the natural sugar in their coffee-produce. Even without sweetening, this brewed coffee comes naturally sweet, she said.

Dry coffee beans sell from P300/kg-P350/kg among traders, which sometimes even go higher.

Oliem noted the price is dictated based on the coffee grade given by trained cup Q-graders, who classify the quality of the coffee.

Growing industry
With the fast-growing market of the Benguet Arabica Coffee caused by increasing demand in the market, the 300 coffee farmers of Benguet grew to be more than a thousand in five years.

The coffee industry is becoming a lucrative source of income among farmers in the province. This translates to more families being able to send their children to college, more families having better homes and more families assured of brighter future.

Oliem acknowledged the coffee industry of Benguet has not reached this far without interventions from government agencies like the Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Training Institute, Benguet State University, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agrarian Reform and PhilMech thru their support-programs on certified seedling production, organic farming, improved post-harvest facilities and marketing promotion. (JDP/LL-PIA CAR)

Benguet Business Cordillera Features Regional News


Officers of the Topdac Laboratory Cooperative have potential of becoming future leaders , said Cooperative Development Authority Cordillera Regional Director Franco Bawang Jr. The budding leaders take pride in engaging into the lab coop sharing their personal experiences which changed their outlook in life. (SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)

By Susan C. Aro

ATOK, Benguet (PIA) – – Being part of the laboratory cooperative (lab coop) is more than just learning the habit of saving at young age but also shaping up values and skills and becoming future leaders.

Cooperative Development Authority- Cordillera Regional (CDA-CAR) Director Franco Bawang Jr said establishing a lab coop is not only about financial gains but it instils values and molds members, young as they are, to become leaders who will eventually take over the mother coop when they become adults.

The lab coops are lodged with their guardian or mother coop. And in the Cordillera region, the Topdac Multipurpose Cooperative (MPC) in Atok, Benguet is just one three coops that established its lab coop.

Big things start from small things
For the Topdac lab coop, Topdac MPC Manager Edina Picpican shared its humble beginnings into what it is now. It started in April 2016 with barely 48 youth members in the area who were taught by their parents to save. To equip the youth with financial literacy, the coop tapped its business partners from an insurance company. The youth were taught to understand how money is made, spent, and saved and the skills and ability to use the money they have.

They were taught how to plan and target the amount they have to save for a month spared from their allowances with the same counterpart amount from their parents collected monthly to deposit.

‘Alkansya’ or coin banks pooled from donations of kind-hearted people were awarded after the training to each of the participants, Picpican recounted. Each contained P100.00 together with a passbook as start-up amount. Collectively, they had a total of P7,300 deposits.

Within a year, the number of depositors and members rose to 132 with total deposit of P321,000.00.

On July 20, 2017, the Topdac lab coop was formally established. Since then, membership fee and share capital were collected, apart from savings deposit.

To date, with the surge of depositors and members to 456, the lab coop has a total savings deposit of P3.214 million. For the long term account, they have a total of P463,820.00 deposit which they can withdraw when in college.

They plan to continue their advocacy to other schools and areas to motivate others to join.

Apart from the CDA’s leadership trainings, the mother coop also initiated skills trainings in coordination with the respective schools of the members which they can apply in school and for their personal enhancement such as computer literacy and playing of musical instruments.

Sharing experiences, learnings
The members have stories to tell– how they were motivated, how they were molded, how their perspectives changed, and how they share their learnings and skills to others.
Jayver Picpican, a Grade 12 Senior high school student of Camp 30 National High School and the chairperson of the lab coop, said his experiences as a leader all started when he joined the lab coop. It expanded not only within the confines of the classroom but the community as well. All these he attributed to the CDA’s leadership trainings, as well as basic coop course, and values formation.

Georgia Bay-osan, the treasurer, said she developed her self-confidence through trainings and exposure to different types of people.

The most unforgettable experiences are the leadership trainings, which helped improve his ability to socialize with others, said Clifton Alsaen as he shared he would do anything to help others.

Joining the coop is advantageous because in times of need for school, I have something to get from, coop member Flora Mae Ogies said. It is also a challenge on how to balance school and lab coop activities, she said her self-confidence has improved and she can now lead group works. As the eldest in the family, she also prods her siblings to save and leave something for tomorrow.

Another coop member, Angelica Marcelino, admitted the financial literacy training helped her a lot to become thrifty like setting aside from her allowance and travelling expenses. Instead of taking a ride, she would walk in order to save. The five or ten-peso savings a day if accumulated would mean a lot, she added.

The lab coop members are one in saying that parents and classmates were their motivation in joining the group. Because they want to have a bright future, they learn how to be thrifty and save for their studies and they want to be of help to their family as well.

These youth have truly rippling effect even if they are barely more than a year in existence as lab coop, said the Topdac MPC manager.

According to Bawang, the lab coop is one of the perfect ways to teach the young on how they do something about their lives, their community, the country. Its is a way of preventing the youth from being in conflict with the law.
“Probably the coops have to reach out to the young before the gangs and criminals will embrace them” as they are taught values, to be obedient and law abiding citizens, he added.(JDP/SCA-PIA CAR, Benguet)

La Union National News Regional News


By Joanna D. Sabado and Claire B. Osoteo

SAN FERNANDO CITY (PIA) — A total of 1,312 farmers in La Union now own the land they till after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributed Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA).

DAR Secretary John Castriciones led the awarding of 730 CLOA in a turn-over ceremony attended by nearly 2,000 farmers on Feb. 27 at a state university here.

The distributed lands cover more than 757 hectares in the 11 local government units in the province wherein most of which are located in San Fernando City.

Addressing the farmers as “the true heroes of the society”, Castriciones challenged them to help themselves, so they can help uplift their lives and their families.

Secretary John Castriciones awards Certificate of Land Ownership and Acquisition (CLOA) to one of the oldest farmer beneficiary from San Fernando City. (JDS/ PIA- La Union)

“After we have distributed the land, we help empower our farmer beneficiaries by providing them support services to increase their production and household income,” he said.

Among the support services the DAR provides include farm machineries, post-harvest facilities, farm-to-market roads, and trainings on entrepreneurship.

He likewise mentioned of the Accessible and Sustainable Lending Program for Small Farmers, in partnership with Landbank, which provides credit at a reasonable interest rate of six percent per annum.

“We have long waited for this and now the CLOA are with us. Our eagerness to till and improve our lands are levelled-up,” Melvin Gacayan, village chief of Pao Sur in San Fernando City and one of the beneficiaries, said in local dialect.

Further, officers of Barangay Agrarian Reform Communities in 576 villages were sworn into office by the secretary as part of the event.

Nine farmer-beneficiaries from the Sta. Cecilia Producers Cooperative in Aringay town also received P500,000-worth of cattle, as assistance to typhoon Ompong-affected residents.

In a recently signed order by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, government-owned lands suitable for agriculture must be identified for distribution to qualified farmer beneficiaries.

The secretary announced that around 600,000 hectares of land nationwide will still be distributed to landless farmers. (JNPD/JDS/COB-intern/PIA-1, La Union)


National News Regional News Sports


By Freddie G. Lazaro

LAOAG CITY (PIA) – – It’s all systems go for the opening of the weeklong 2019 Region 1 Athletic Association (R1AA) Meet at the Marcos Stadium on Wednesday.

Faivo Bartolome, sports consultant of Ilocos Norte, said the provincial government of Ilocos Norte and the Department of Education-Schools Division of Ilocos Norte (DepEd-SDOIN) are ready to welcome the expected 10,300 delegates to the prestigious regional sports tournament re-slated on March 6-11.

Originally, the R1AA Meet was set on March 3-8 but it was postponed due to the increasing number of measles cases in the region.

Upon the recommendation of the Department of Health-Regional Office 1 (DOH-RO1), the R1AA board of directors decided to delay the regional sports event to ensure the health and safety of the delegates, and to allot time for sufficient immunization of communities at billeting schools and playing venues.

Bartolome assured that the preparations for the regional sporting event are the same, and he declared that the province is “one hundred percent ready.”

Starting Feb. 28, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) has been conducting immunization activities to protect the athletes and the local community from possible transmission of measles.

Dr. Rodolfo Ragadi of PHO- Ilocos Norte said, “The PHO is very busy since we persistently visit the areas in Ilocos Norte, particularly in the billeting areas and playing venues, to provide vaccination and to prevent the spread of measles. I hope that other provinces also do this for their athletes’ preparation in the R1AA Meet.”

Meanwhile, Schools Division Superintendent Vilma Eda encourages an environment-friendly conduct of the event by requiring the delegates to bring their personal water bottle, food container, and abandoning the utilization of single-use plastics.

Lawyer Revsee A. Escobedo, assistant secretary for procurement service and project management service of the DepEd, is expected to grace the opening of the tournament. (JNPD/FGL,PIA-1)

Abra Business Cordillera Features National News Regional News


With an entrance fee of Php 20.00 only, the Amsterdam-like Tulip Garden of Bucay, Abra gets more than 300 visitors from the entire Luzon daily. (CAGT PIA-CAR,Abra)

By Christian Allister G. Tubadeza
BUCAY, Abra(PIA) — The Layugan Garden in the town of Bucay is the newest attraction in the province averaging about 300 tourists a day.

With its 10,000 artificial tulips in vibrant colors, it is attractive in the day and especially at night when lighted.

Tulip LED flowers in different colors- red, yellow, pink, white and blue – are beautifully arranged in an elevated land.

Owned and managed by Mr. Jun Baroña, the Layugan Garden is located in barangay Layugan; about 10 minutes drive from the poblacion. It opened just last January 14 and instantly became a tourist destination.

In an interview with Bucay Tourism Officer Roger Bernal, he said the tulip garden is one of the steps of the local government in nurturing the tourism industry of the municipality.

The establishment of the Layugan Garden was inspired by the visit of Bucay Mayor Bernadette Baroña to the Sirao Garden in Cebu.

Bernal said that as more people come to see the garden, the local government unit beefs up the maintenance of peace and security especially this month of February.

“The management allowed souvenir and food stands in the vicinity of the garden for the general convenience of our visitors and to carry out business opportunities as well for the people of Barangay Layugan,” he said.

The garden regularly opens at 9:00AM with an entrance fee of Php 20.00 only and Php 30.00 in the evening. It would not close as long as there are still visitors at night, Bernal said.
To get there, tourists may ride the buses going to Bangued, then take the jeepneys going to Bucay which is less than an hour trip.

Those with private cars going to Bangued, turn right just after the Sinalang Bridge for about 20-25 minutes drive to Bucay town proper, then about 10 minutes drive to the Layugan Garden.

Aside from the Layugan Garden, visitors may also visit other tourists attractions in the municipality such as the Banglolao viewdeck, Pakiling Cave of Roces, Bucay Casa Real and the Borikibok Spring resort. (JDP/ MTBB/CAGT – PIA CAR, Abra)

Central Luzon National News Regional News

PDEA to ‘cleanse’ 827 drug-affected barangays in Central Luzon

PDEA to ‘cleanse’ 827 drug-affected barangays in Central Luzon
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Regional Director Gil Pabilona talks about the “harsher” strategies they will employ against illegal drugs to cleanse 827 drug-affected barangays in the region in 2019 during the News@Hues Press Conference of the Pampanga Press Club. (Marie Joy L. Simpao/PIA 3)

By Marie Joy L. Simpao
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will ‘cleanse’ a total of 827 drug-affected barangays in Central Luzon this year.

“Our marching order is to rid 2,439 barangays of illegal drugs and its related activities until 2022, and we will start with 827 barangays this 2019,” PDEA Regional Director Gil Pabilona said.

To meet this target, PDEA will employ harsher campaign against illegal drugs.

“Since this is considered a national security threat, more government resources will now be used for the campaign. Instead of limited resources from PDEA and Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as well as other government agencies may also be tapped for various initiatives,” he said.

At the regional level, Pabilona said they will seek the help of local chief executives and barangay captains by furnishing them with the list of wanted personalities so they can conduct monitoring and arrests at their respective areas.

The director added that they will coordinate with Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to monitor the functionality of Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (ADACs) and see to it that they conduct regular meetings, submit watchlist reports, and have rehabilitation programs.

These ADACs, he said, will also help the villages meet 14 parameters for a drug-cleared barangay including the absence of drug pushers, users and dens; and presence of community-based programs.

“We are also tasked to focus our operations in seaports, airports and shorelines,” Pabilona added.

Another proposed program of PDEA is the establishment of rehabilitation centers to cater to minors involved in illegal drug trade.

As of February 22, Pabilona said the PDEA had cleared 119 of 709 villages of the drug menace in Nueva Ecija, 118 of 385 in Pampanga, 116 of 118 in Bataan, 43 of 185 in Zambales, 110 of 392 in Tarlac, 35 of 507 in Bulacan, 54 of 96 in Aurora, 2 of 31 in Angeles City and 1 of 16 in Olongapo City.

Joint operatives of PDEA and PNP were also able to apprehend approximately 200,000 drug personalities in Central Luzon in 2018. (CLJD/MJLS-PIA 3)




Business Central Luzon Culture and Arts National News Regional News


[et_pb_section admin_label=”section”]
[et_pb_row admin_label=”row”]
[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]

Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. lauds the annual Ibong Dayo Festival for promoting different bird species migrating at the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park. Mar Jay S. Delas Alas/PIA 3)

By Mar Jay S. Delas Alas
BALANGA CITY — Ibong Dayo Festival in Balanga City could be an international event in the near future.

In his message during the ninth edition of the festival, Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. praised the role of the city government as well as residents in protecting the wetland and promoting its migratory birds.

“There is a concerted effort among all of us not only the local government, not only the national government, but the community is really part of taking care and protecting our wetlands,” Boncato said.

He expressed support and interest in advancing the festival by adding an international flavor to attract more tourists.

“We also shared with the good Mayor that maybe next year, we gear up and makes this festival known to many more markets,” the Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation Coordination and Resource Generation said.

“We can invite foreign scientists and bird enthusiasts to come and celebrate with us so our Ibong Dayo will not be only for us Filipinos but also for all who appreciate sustainable tourism,” he furthered.

In a recent bird census conducted by Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, about 9,544 birds were seen in the city.

“The arrival of the migratory birds continues in the city varying in terms of numbers for various reasons but the message here is that for as long as we see them here in Balanga, everything is doing well,” Boncato stressed.

Ibong Dayo Festival is an annual event recognizing the different bird species migrating at the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park in barangay Tortugas.

It is a Hall of Famer in Best Festival-City category of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines. (CLJD/MJSD-PIA 3)[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]

Police Blotter Regional News



By Larry Madarang

CAMP BGEN OSCAR M FLORENDO –Authorities have arrested 118 persons and seized 91 firearms since  the implementation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban.

Chief Supt. Romeo Sapitula, regional director of the Police Regional Office-Ilocos Region (PRO-1) said, “the Region 1 police was able seized 91 assorted firearms composed of 20 pistol, 36 revolvers, 6 rifles, 4 shotguns and one light weapon, 11 improvised firearms and 14 firearm replicas. Other deadly weapons to include 13 bladed weapons, 26 grenade explosives and 660 ammunition were also confiscated.”

“The stern implementation of intensified police operations in collaboration with the COMELEC Rules and Regulations resulted in the arrest of persons and confiscation of firearms and other deadly weapons since January 13, 2019 to present,” Sapitula added.

Based on the data from the PRO1’s National Election Monitoring Action Center (NEMAC), 118 persons were arrested, broken down into 115 civilians and 3 government officials and employees.

Sapitula, said the arrested persons were collared through checkpoint operations, buy-bust and police response, Oplan SITA and Oplan BAKAL.

Meanwhile, Sapitula encouraged firearm holders to surrender their firearms to the nearest police station in their location for safekeeping.  He also calls for the continuous conduct of police operations in striving safe and secure National Election 2019 which will be conducted on May 13, 2019. — (With reports from PRO-1)


Business Regional News


by : Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY — The country’s electric cooperatives came out last Feb. 14 in protest over a recent recommendation  of Energy Secretay Alfonso Cusi to revoke the franchises of 17 ailing coops “without undergoing due process”.

Here, the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco), one of the most successful energy distributors in the country, staged motorcades in the simultaneous “Valentine’s Day Protest” over what they perceive as a move towards eventually allowing private capitalists to gobble up viable cooperatives.

“While said recommendation was withdrawn by Secretary Cusi days after its submission, electric cooperatives were once again placed under public scrutiny and caused damage to the movement’s public image,” noted general manager Janeene Depay Colingan of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca).

Philreca claimed Cusi’s endorsement letter to the House of Representatives and the DOE statement were meant “to manipulate the mindset of the public for them to think that the electric cooperatives are not performing well. And with this comes the justification for the entry of private, for-profit and zero-experience corporations”.

Members of the Multi-Sectoral Electrification Advisory Council, together with the BENECO employees and officers, gather at the BENECO headquarters to show their full support to PHILRECA. (Beneco Photo)

he “Black Valentine Protest” was anchored on “magnifying the protest of the electric cooperatives over the discriminatory treatment of the DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi towards the electric cooperatives by proposing the cancellation/revocation of the franchise of the 17 electric cooperatives that will eventually lead to a precedence of revocation of other electric coops and be evaded by the private businessmen.”

Wearing black, electric coop employees heightened the dismay of member-consumer-owners against DOE Secretary Alfonso Gaba Cusi who is expected to supposedly to be the father and defender of the electric cooperatives and electrification program but turned out to be the opposite.”

The protest action was also meant to heighten the dismay of member-consumer-owners against Cusi for giving more favor and courtesy to the private businessmen who are interested over the operation of the electric cooperatives.

The threat of big, private corporations to buy out electric cooperatives has also prompted the Beneco towards registering with the Cooperatives Development Authority as a true cooperative, thereby shielding it from being bought by private and profit-oriented companies.

Through the efforts of its general manager Gerardo Verzosa, its board led by Rocky Aliping and employees, Beneco turned out to be one of the most viable electric cooperatives in the country today.