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P36-M annual damages estimated | Rats threaten viability of Mindanao broadband network

July 23, 2021

The continued roll-out of the national broadband network in Mindanao is being threatened by rats.      During the 126th Regional Development Council-X Full Council Meeting held virtually on 24 June 2021 via Zoom, Parasat Cable TV President and CEO Elpidio M. Paras reported that rat bites have been delaying the rollout of the broadband network between Cagayan de Oro to Davao.      Parasat is one of several telecommunications and Internet Service Provider (ISP) firms currently renting the utility poles of BUSECO and FIBECO to securing their fiber optic lines and equipment which are a vital infrastructure for the country’s ICT network.      “We are under contract with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Region X in building, maintaining and monitoring their internet access equipment which are now providing FreeWifi services to many municipalities, hospitals and State Colleges and Universities in Bukidnon. The fiber optic lines are our main cables which carry high speed internet connectivity to several sites in Bukidnon province,” Paras explained.      “Since last year, we have had several instances where our fiber optic lines were chewed, cut and affected by rodents (rats) which use the palm oil branches for access. In fact, late last year, we had to replace a 20 kilometer stretch of very expensive fiber optic cable which the rodents chewed on in at least 30 locations in Impasug-ong municipality alone,” he added.      Initially, Parasat were able to get permission to trim palm tree branches which in contact with the power and telecommunications lines. Estimated costs for repair and downtime every instance the lines were cut have now grown to millions of pesos.      However, Paras said within a week’s time last March, two events of rat bites on the 96F Fiber Mainline between Cagayan de Oro and Davao were again experienced.      “Our Maramag-Davao link went down on March 20, 2021 around 9:30 PM. Our response team traced the fault line at Brgy. Loriga, Kitaotao, Bukidnon beside Phoenix Gas Station and Seagull Resort. It is 117 meters from Enclosure 23 going to Maramag where rats chewed a portion of 96 Fiber core cable,” he reported. “It took the company 46 hours to replace the cable and enclosure to restore the link at an estimated cost of P350,000.”      Barely a week later, the Davao Monitoring Hub reported that the Cagayan de Oro to Davao line was down around 5 AM. The response team found damaged fiber cores at crossing going thru the National Highway at Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. This time, the damage was repaired after 9.5 hours at a total cost of P320,000.      “In summary, the latest downtime cost our company P670,000.00 in  less than a week,” Paras said. “Such a high incidence of fiber cuts due to rodent infestation is now becoming a major problem just for our operations between the Cagayan de Oro-Davao leg."      In the latest reported incidents on July 21, two fiber cut incidents were observed on  CDO -Gingoog  and CDO to Davao main fiber transport lines. One was caused by people cutting overgrown bamboo trees on the CDO- Butuan highway, and the other was caused by rodents chewing thru the 96 core fiber cable near Quezon, Bukidnon.      “If the four other telco players which also have pole mounted cables are affected, around P3-million a month worth of repair and maintenance costs are estimated.  In a year’s time, P36-million in damages caused by rodents which gain access via trees and other vegetation under power/telecommunication lines is possible,” he stressed.      Parasat has requested Impasug-ong Mayor Anthony A. Uy for assistance and permission to remove palm oil trees and other vegetation currently growing underneath the power and telecommunications poles, cables and equipment along the National Highway in the municipality of Impasug-ong.      During its 126th RDC-X Full Council Meeting on June 24, 2021, the council endorsed for approval to the Presidential Office the “Policy Brief on Strengthening the Resiliency of Information and Communications Technology Fiber Optic Networks” presented by Karma Yasmin B. Ortiz, Economic Development Specialist II, ICT Sub-Sector Coordinator, NEDA-X, InfraCom-X Secretariat.

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‘Kalabasa’ new source of hope for farmers in Agusan Sur village

July 23, 2021

SAN LUIS, Agusan del Sur– Farmers in the interior village of Nuevo Trabaho here are pinning their hopes for the future on the livelihood potential of the lowly kalabasa (squash).      Already, a one-hectare model communal farm developed by the local electricity consumers group called Multi-sectoral Electrification Advisory Council (MSEAC) had recently produced some 7,000 kilos of the highly-nutritious vegetable.      The farmers were encouraged to grow the crop after the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative (ASELCO) assured them of help in getting fair market prices from local traders in neighboring Bayugan City.      They have so far planted squash on at least 15 hectares of individual farms.      Melodina Pineda, MSEAC president in Nuevo Trabaho, said there are many potentials for processed squash products like flour, biscuits, candies and crunchy chips.      But she added that for now they are focusing on the production of nutritious squash cooked meals for feeding programs in the daycare center in Nuevo Trabaho and neighboring villages.      Arnie Arreza, ASELCO board member, said he will help the farmers in processing byproducts to add value to their produce and generate more livelihood opportunities.      “The objective of the rural electrification program is not only to energize the far-flung villages but to let them utilize electricity into economic enterprises,” Arreza said.      He said the ASELCO board is closely coordinating with the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association for a possible squash meal production supply deal after they learned during a meeting with top executives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development about a P10-billion unused funds for the feeding program nationwide.      He said they have visited the Food Innovation Center of the Caraga State University in Butuan City where they saw some of the equipment that will be useful in processing food products from squash.      Engineer Emmanuel Galarse, ASELCO general manager, said their office will work to access government funding to enable MSEAC members to produce more and acquire a processing plant and equipment.      ASELCO said the project is a livelihood program spearheaded by the National Center of Electric Cooperative Consumers Inc. – Agusan del Sur Chapter.      Other farmers who were encouraged to plant squash in at least one hectare of their farms would continue to grow in the next cropping season after getting a good yield last June.      Joseph Curato, president of Nuetra Micro Farmers Association, harvested 2,007 kilos in the initial harvest which he sold to a buyer in Bayugan City at P5.00 a kilo.      He said he would negotiate for P6.00 a kilo for the remaining produce.      He said prices of squash went higher last year at P13.50 a kilo in the wake of heavy demand from Luzon consumers who experienced supply shortage during the implementation of strict anti-COVID-19 measures. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)

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PMFTC rolls out IQOS e-commerce nationwide, ramps up Smoke-Free Future vision

July 16, 2021

PMFTC Inc. is ramping up its commitment to deliver a smoke-free future with the expansion of the IQOS e-commerce coverage, making available nationwide its flagship smoke-free product, IQOS, for Filipino adult smokers 21 years old and above who would otherwise continue to smoke.  The local affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI), PMFTC extended the distribution coverage of the IQOS e-commerce website making heated tobacco devices and heat sticks accessible through delivery to key areas in Mindanao including Davao City, General Santos City, Palomok, Cagayan de Oro City, Opol, El Salvador, Tagoloan and Villanueva in Misamis Oriental. “Making IQOS accessible in key areas across the Philippines will help fast track PMFTC’s commitment towards achieving our vision of a smoke-free future. This is in line with PMI’s goal to help adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” PMFTC’s President Denis Gorkun said. During a media briefing last May, PMI’s new CEO Jacek Olczak said PMI is focused on developing, scientifically substantiating, and responsibly commercializing smoke-free products that are better alternatives to smoking, with the aim of replacing cigarettes as soon as possible. “I am humbled and excited to lead PMI as we accelerate our transformation into a smoke-free company,” Olczak said. Latest estimates showed that there are 17 million Filipino smokers in the Philippines and more than 117,000 Filipinos die each year due to smoking related disease. The quit rate, however, stagnates at 4 percent since 2009. “PMI is an industry leader in scientific innovation, and our ambition is that more than half of our net revenues will come from smoke-free products in 2025. Our evolving portfolio will drive our long-term future,” Olczak added.  IQOS devices use a patented HeatControl™ Technology that precisely heats, without burning, tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper called HEETS™ to release a water-based aerosol. Unlike cigarettes, IQOS does not burn tobacco and therefore produces no smoke and no ash. A growing consensus among public health experts concludes that burning or combustion, not nicotine, is the main cause of smoking-related diseases and deaths.  Gorkun noted that heated tobacco products are not risk free and that the best option for smokers is still to quit cigarettes and nicotine products. He, however, said that “for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke, non-combustible alternatives like IQOS are better options.” PMFTC’s heated tobacco products were initially made available in Metro Manila last year through the IQOS.COM website, the IQOS Stores located in major shopping malls, and select tobacconists/retail stores. Currently carried by select 7/11 branches in the National Capital Region, the heat sticks will also be available at select branches in South and Central Luzon by end of July.  IQOS devices and heat sticks are only for adult consumers 21 years old and above who wish to continue using tobacco products or other nicotine-containing products. The IQOS e-commerce website requires age verification upon entry, while presentation of a valid ID is required upon delivery of the product to the consumer. 

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Doctor says vape and heated tobacco products are viable solutions to smoking problem

July 14, 2021

Non-combustible alternatives like vapes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) are practical solutions to cigarette smoking epidemic, the world’s leading cause of preventable death and diseases, said a respected family doctor and tobacco harm reduction (THR) advocate. Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of Quit For Good, a non-stock, non-profit organization that advocates real, practical, and tangible solutions to the smoking problem, said the traditional ‘Quit or Die’ approach is not working to substantially reduce the risk of death and disease from smoking. “In our country, there are almost 17 million smokers.  And a shocking rate of more than 117,000 Filipinos die each year due to tobacco smoking.  Equally alarming is the measly quit rate of 4-percent measured as of 2015 which largely remained unchanged from 2009,” he noted during the 4th Asia Harm Reduction Forum held virtually on June 28, 2021. He recommended that another option must be provided to adult smokers who do not wish to quit. “Tobacco harm reduction, through the use and promotion of safer alternatives to combustible tobacco, should be employed to substantially reduce the risk of death and disease of smoking,” Dr. Mata said. THR is defined by the 2021 Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report as “a range of pragmatic policies, regulations and actions which either reduce health risks by providing safer forms of products or substances or encourage less risky behaviors.”  Dr. Mata identified innovative electronic nicotine delivery systems which eliminates the combustion process, such as heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes or vapes, as examples of THR.  “Beyond any reasonable doubt, vaping is considerably less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Almost all the harm done by cigarettes arises from the smoke which is caused by combustion. Vaping does not produce smoke—only vapor,” he said. “What happens in smoking combustible tobacco is a chemical change.  What happens in vaping is a physical change,” he said.  “In chemical change, this is brought about by extreme heat or combustion that causes oxidation of the original substance which then creates different chemical substances. The byproduct of oxidation is already totally different from the original substance. That is why from tobacco, it now comes out as smoke containing harmful substances where hundreds are toxic,” he further explained. “When it comes to vaping, you just heat the liquid until it vaporizes. When you create vapor, you don’t change the original substance to a different one. This, my friends, makes a lot of difference in public health,” Dr. Mata said. The doctor said that another alternative to cigarette, which has no combustion are HTPs. “Similar to e-cigarettes, there is no burning. But unlike vapes, nicotine is naturally found in the tobacco. By heating the tobacco without burning it, HTPs only produce vapor,” he said. “Vapor products and HTPs are not completely risk-free but they only carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.  Allow me to remind everyone, however, that the best way to avoid the harms of cigarette smoking is as simple as quitting completely,” Dr. Mata said. Citing the conclusion of a 2021 Toxicology Report Journal review from the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan, Dr. Mata said the “use of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products could lead to a significant reduction in exposure to harmful substances compared to combusted cigarettes.”  “These are just some of the many scientific studies supporting the less-harmful claims regarding electronic vaping products. The bottomline is this: the deadly effect of cigarette smoking is due to combustion of tobacco that produces smoke which contains carbon monoxide and more than 7,000 chemicals,” he said. Dr. Mata said this means that vaping clearly is a viable alternative to cigarette smoking. “In line with this, we urge the government to consider the best possible differentiated legal framework through careful review of the science and evidence presented on the matter, and defend the right of the consumers to make better choices for themselves,” he said. He said that “the considerably less harmful products should not be taken off the shelves while the very much harmful product remains easily accessible and that the harm reduction potential of electronic vapor products should be maximized instead and regulated to minimize the risk to the youth and the non-smokers.”  The Asia Harm Reduction Forum is a non-profit and interdisciplinary organization that advances public health education for the improvement of lives and environments across the globe. It is an international avenue for experts, academics, and advocates to share and exchange research findings, product developments, and pragmatic solutions on tobacco harm reduction.

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4 month old Baby Yuan of Malaybalay City needs your help!

June 28, 2021

MALAYBALAY CITY - If there is a very hurting story that challenges the lives of every couple, it's when their baby is sick and rushed to the nearest hospital.      This is the very sad and heartwarming story of Angel Bayron Misto and Jhonrey Atillo Solijon. Their 4 month-old baby Yuan was admitted at the Bethel Hospital in Malaybalay City, the heart of the province of Bukidnon.      The couple lives in Purok 2 Capinonan, Cabanglasan, one of the towns in Bukidnon which is very near to Malaybalay City. It would only take you less than an hour by bus or passenger jeepney to be able to reach to this 4th class municipality. "We are knocking at your kind heart to please help Yuan survive this challenge of his life. We need financial help and more prayers for our four month old baby Yuan, says Angel crying, the 15 year-old mother of Yuan. BABY'S CONDITION      MDNN learned from the biological parents of Baby Yuan that his condition started with having a green-color human waste and then he kept on vomiting until he became dehydrated and vomitted Milo-colored watery substance. The worst thing was when his human waste was all blood, and he was immediately rushed at Bethel Hospital in Malaybalay City last June 14, 2021.      The attending physician diagnosed the baby as having Hirschprung Disease (HSCR), a birth disorder characterized by the absence of particular nerve cells (ganglions) in a segment of the bowel in an infant. The absence of ganglion cells causes the muscles in the bowels to lose their ability to move stool through the intestine. (peristalsis) PARENT'S FINANCIAL CRISIS      Angel, Yuan's mom admitted they have financial problem and the couple cannot sustain the medical prescriptions given by Yuan's attending physician.          Even her sister has already been helping her procure some money from relatives and friends. Right now, one prescriptions alone cost over P4,000.00 aside from a lot of medical prescriptions.      "Mangayo jud mi tabang sa mga taga Malaybalay ug sa mga tawong adunay malumo nga kasingkasing sa Facebook and other social media platforms para maluwas si Baby Yuan. Kung aduna lang unta mi kwarta dili jud ko magpaka-ulaw pangayo sa mga tawo nga dili namo kaila, says Angel in an excluisve interview conducted to his sister.      For those who feel the recent predicament of Baby Yuan and wanted to help the family, you can donate to their gcash account: 09506348005  Jonela Jone or call Yuan's mom Angel thru this phone # 09700509132.

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Face shields still required in NorMin, DILG exec says

June 21, 2021

THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG-10) in Northern Mindanao said Friday the wearing of face shields when in public places is still mandatory in the region.      DILG-10 Assistant Director Yvette Tolentino-Sunga said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the mandatory use of face shields.      "While waiting for the President’s decision on the matter, the existing policy on the use of face shields remains to be in effect," she said.      Sunga said the areas specified by the IATF-EID include enclosed or indoor spaces of hospitals, schools, workplaces, and commercial establishments, such as, but not limited to, malls and public markets, public transport and terminals, and places of worship.      She added that public transportation, such as buses and vans, are enclosed settings hence, it is important for people to still use their face shields while on board.      Local Health Support Division Chief, Dr. David Mendoza, who is also the assistant director of the Department of Health 10, said face shields should always be worn inside enclosed settings, such as commercial buildings or malls.      "If you are in the open, you can remove the shield but the mask should always be there," he said.      Mendoza said face shields could add protection from contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) since the face mask could only give 98 percent to 99 percent protection against the virus.      He said putting on the shield would help minimize the transmission of Covid-19 through respiratory droplets. (PNA)

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