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DOE warns of ‘thin supply’ in May polls

August 13, 2021

THE boom-and-bust cycle in the electric power industry will not likely spare the country’s May 9, 2022 elections from rotational blackouts following the Department of Energy’s (DOE) pronouncement that power supply within the polling period will be thin.      “For 2022, we see the thinning of supply on election day and thereafter,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella stated.      “That is why we are closely monitoring the situation; and we are coming up with more policies so that we can ensure that we have more supply.”      Even Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi cannot give a commitment to Congress during a hearing last month, July.      This early, the power distribution utilities and electric cooperatives indicated that they are already drawing up contingency measures – especially during the election period, given the fact that brownouts are often blamed as trigger to election cheating.      Already, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) has been mandating electric cooperatives to pursue a three-pronged approach when it comes to ensuring sufficient electricity supply during the election period – and that shall be until to the conclusion of the canvassing of votes.      NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong pointed out “if there would be ‘lights out, we are actually addressing that with embedded generation to be installed with the electric cooperatives.”      By that, the NEA chief expounded that electric cooperatives can buy gensets to tie them over not just within the May 2022 election timeframe, but also for the whole duration of summer months next year.      “Especially for the ECs in Luzon, we can have embedded generation as a way to address the power crisis…so if there’s a projection for lights out, that will be the best option,”Masongsong stressed.      NEA Deputy Administrator Artis Nikki L. Tortola added that “the electric cooperatives, together with the NEA, are actually looking into several options and strategies in order for the coops to be spared from possible blackouts during summer months.”      The other short-term remedial measures that the ECs can employ, according to Masongsong, will be enabling the interruptible load program (ILP), or the process wherein they shall encourage customers with self-generating facilities to switch them on, so that grid supply can be eased and power interruptions can be minimized if not totally avoided.      “In the event that there’s really no capacity that will come in and ‘lights out’ are anticipated, the ECs can activate the ILP as an option…it will be a big help if the ILP will be appropriately tapped by the ECs,” the NEA chief specified.      Beyond that, he emphasized that an alternative could also be demand-side management; wherein power customers will have to be encouraged to practice energy efficiency and conservation in their energy usage.      The longer term fix, Masongsong noted, will be for the ECs to have sufficient supply contracting and for them to undertake their competitive selection process (CSP) before their power supply agreements (PSAs) will fall due.      “We have been calling all the ECs to review their power supply contracts with existing power suppliers and for them to undergo CSP as early as five years before the expiration of their contracts,” he said.

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Non-combustible nicotine delivery technology can reduce 4M deaths, says expert

August 12, 2021

Up to 4 million deaths from smoking each year can be avoided with the advancement of non-combustible nicotine delivery technology, which encourages millions of smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives, according to a global health expert. The world is experiencing a revolution in nicotine delivery technology, as there are now more than a hundred million people using harm reduction products, said Dr. Derek Yach, president of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World said during the 8th Global Forum on Nicotine on June 18, 2021. “Projections suggest that if these tools were more widely available, we would be able to cut the long-term trends of deaths by maybe between 3 and 4 million, if we acted more vigorously,” Yach said. E-cigarettes or vapes, and heated tobacco products (HTPs), such as Philip Morris International’s IQOS are non-combustible nicotine delivery alternative. The IQOS system 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.  The device and heat sticks were made available last year for adults 21 years old and above in the pilot area of Metro Manila. The online store IQOS.com now also covers delivery of the device and heat sticks to key areas in Minadanao including Davao City, General Santos City, Palomok, Cagayan de Oro City, Opol, El Salvador, Tagoloan and Villanueva in Misamis Oriental. Yach noted the transformation of the tobacco industry from one that denied the damage caused by smoking on health in 1954 to its “pharmaceuticalization” today, supported by research and science. He said, however, that despite such changes made possible by investment in innovation, policy has lost touch with science.  “Industry has created tools that have the potential to create one of the most profound public health shifts in history.” “In short, the present technological revolution demands an accompanying ideological revolution.  Currently, many in tobacco control are skeptical, even hostile towards the contributions of industry. The origins of this hostility are not terribly difficult to identify... For generations, the tobacco industry has created products that have killed millions of people,” said Yach. He said that some tobacco executives and companies, in recognition of public desire for safe and nicotine options, began prioritizing research on harm reduction. “A few companies made a bet that investment in harm reduction will pay out in the long run. This was a shrewd business decision and incidentally, it's proving to be an excellent contribution to science and health. Though the transition to safer products remains incomplete, many tobacco companies have diverted resources away from combustibles and towards reduced risk portfolios,” he said. Yach said this gave rise to companies that are responding to consumers demand for nicotine products that are not deadly. “In many respects, the nicotine industry now functions in a manner, some say like pharmaceutical industry.  To be sure they're self-interested and profit driven.  At the same time, they are leaders in scientific innovation and essential to actually address massive health crisis,” he said. Yach said the other public health experts described the phenomenon as the tobacco industry’s actual and perceived transition into pharmaceutical-like industry through the manufacture and sale of non-combustible tobacco and nicotine products for smoking cessation or long-term nicotine maintenance. He said these companies are completing exhaustive studies to meet the scientific standards and rigor set by major regulatory bodies including the US Food and Drug Administration. “To satisfy the FDA's strict rules of evidence, tobacco and e-cigarette companies have conducted extensive peer review research and have disseminated these findings by a monograph report,” he said. “Industry must commit to ending the sale of combustible cigarettes and act accordingly through their investments. Industry must commit to ending youth nicotine use in all forms and there are many strategies that could be done to achieve that. Industry must commit to sharing IP (intellectual property) with companies and countries currently selling combustibles in lower middle-income countries to show that we make these products affordable and available to all. The WHO and governments must commit to revising the Framework Convention, which explicitly builds a risk proportionate regulatory system that doesn't require major changes to the text,” he said. “All of the above is feasible,” he said.  “From a scientific perspective, a lot of the hard work has already been done. What remains, then, is a bigger challenge—which is challenging and changing cultural and political attitudes.”

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RDC-X seeks approval for measures to strengthen resiliency of fiber optic networks

July 28, 2021

The Regional Development Council for Region X is asking the national government to approve a package of recommendations aimed at strengthening the resilience of the country’s fiber optic broadband networks following a series of incidents which resulted in fiber cuts and interrupted services costing the telecoms and allied industries millions of pesos.      During its 126th RDC-X Full Council Meeting on June 24, 2021, the council endorsed the policy recommendations aimed at “Strengthening the Resiliency of Information and Communications Technology Fiber Optic Networks” to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and concerned stakeholders for their appropriate action.  The said recommendations were presented by Gov. Yevgeny Vincente B. Emano, Chairperson of the RDC-X Infrastructure and Utilities Development Committee, Governor of Misamis Oriental.       In the industry situationer presented by Gov. Emano, a wide spectrum of risks to terrestrial and submarine cable networks continue to plague the Philippine’s successful  rollout of its national broadband backbone and stalled the development of the country’s telecommunications and communications industries.      Terrestrial cables have been pummeled by rodents and other wildlife, construction activities particularly road projects, natural calamities such as storms, earthquakes, landslides and flood that damage underground and aerial fiber optic networks.      “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,” Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, president and CEO of Parasat Cable TV, Inc. reported during the 2nd Quarter 2021 meeting of the RDC-X InfraCom on June 17, 2021.      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,” Paras stressed.      Similarly, submarine cable networks face constant threats from natural calamities such as earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and subsea landslides; underground mining and exploration activities; sabotage by transnational terrorists and other criminal entities; delays in the conduct of maintenance and repairs by international service providers; and out-of-service submarine cables which occupy seabed space which might otherwise have been used to lay new cables.      To address these issues confronting the industry, the policy brief recommended the following:      During the short term, for DICT to draft and implement an anti-obstruction policy to keep  telecommunication lines and facilities free and clear of obstructions, dangerous structures, and hazardous activities that impeded the continuous transmission of data.      Similarly, the policy brief recommended that DPWH, DICT and ARTA come up with a permanent policy to streamline the permitting process for the deployment of fiber optic cables.      Not the least, for the DPWH to include the accommodation of utilities underground in its design considerations for public roads and bridges; for NTC to institutionalize a policy for National Roaming; and for Congress to immediately enact the Open Access Bill.      Over the long term, the policy brief recommends the IECEP to draft and institutionalize and ICT Code; and for Congress to pass into law a policy for the deregulation of the use of satellite technology and amend RA 7925 (Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines) to provide a policy framework for emerging technologies.      Furthermore,  the policy brief likewise recommends the DICT and NTC to establish a Regulatory Framework, including a system for assigning frequencies for the implementation of High-Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS); for DICT to come up with policies that will spur the deployment of submarine cable networks, thereby increasing redundancy and resiliency; and for DICT to draft a policy protecting undersea cables.      A snapshot of the current state of broadband access in the Philippines shows that it currently has ten international submarine cable landing stations which are all operational, with domestic access facilitated by the DICT Common Tower Initiative, establishment of a National Fiber Backbone Infrastructure, and use of the  NGCP fiber optic cable as the main backbone to boost interconnectivity through the Luzon to Mindanao Bypass Infrastructure.       The Digital 2021: The Philippines Report show the country has a 67 percent penetration rate with 73.91 million internet users recorded as of January 2021; 152.4 million mobile connections; USD$ 340-million total consumer spend on mobile apps for the year 2020, and an Average Daily Time of 10 hours and 56 minutes per capita spent using the internet on small devices.      At present, the Philippines ranks 86th among 140 surveyed countries in terms of internet speed, with an average mobile internet download speed of 25.77 mbps, average fixed broadband speed of 32.73 mbps, and 75 percent CMTS coverage in Region X equivalent to 1,524 out of 2,022 barangays.

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First Normin biz confab reels off today via Zoom

July 28, 2021

The first Northern Mindanao Business Conference reels off today online as a joint undertaking of three chambers of commerce and industry.      Presented by Olacon Online Academy Conferences and Global Link MP Events International Inc. in partnership with the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Orochamber), the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the German Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the conference will be held today Wednesday, 28 July 2021 from 3pm to 5pm via Zoom.      With the tagline “Discover the insights of local business, analyse trends and find opportunities, the event features an A line speakers from the region including Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar S. Moreno, European Union Head for Commerce and Trade Maurizio Cellini, Orochamber President Ruben A. Vegafria, Italian Chamber Vice President Lorens Ziller, German Chamber Senior Vice President Marie Mariano, DTI Misamis Oriental Regional Director RD Ermedio Abang, NEDA Region X Director Mylah Faye B. Cariño, Steag Plant Manager Dr. Carsten Evers, and Italpinas Development Corporation Chairman & CEO, Architect Romolo V. Nati.      Cagayan de Oro under the stewardship of Mayor Moreno has consistently ranked among the top 10 highly urbanized cities of the Philippines and has helped boost Northern Mindanao as one of the fastest growing regions in the country in the past decade.      Also to be presented during this free digital event will be the Master Plan for the Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Development of Metropolitan Cagayan de Oro (SUID Metro CDO) and its five pre-feasibility studies.      By 2025, the Philippine Development Plan foresees Metro Cagayan de Oro to become the fourth metropolitan center based on projected population growth and role as a major gateway and transshipment hub in the region.      The Master Plan will guide decision-makers in the approval of programs/projects/activities for implementation in the metropolis that are consistent with national, regional, and local development plans. It aims to improve competitiveness, security, and resiliency from disaster, and general urban conditions.      The plan covers Cagayan de Oro City and its surrounding localities, including El Salvador City and the municipalities of Claveria, Jasaan, Villanueva, Tagoloan, Opol, Alubijid, Laguindingan, Gitagum, Libertad, and Initao in Misamis Oriental, and Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon. The municipalities of Balingasag in Misamis Oriental, Baungon, Libona, Malitbog, Sumilao, and Talakag in Bukidnon are proposed to be added to comprise the Expanded Metro CDO.      The five pre-feasibility studies for Metro CDO already endorsed by the Regional Development Council-X (RDC-X) include the Metro CDO Railway Project, (Laguindingan-Cagayan de Oro-Villanueva Section of the Mindanao Railway System); Metro CDO Transit-Oriented Development Housing Project; Metro CDO Waste-to-Energy Project; Metro CDO Cable Car System with Related Tourism Development Project; and the Water Supply Improvement Project.      The full council of RDC-X  has also endorsed six other development projects: Proposed Steel Flyovers for Traffic Decongestion in Urban Areas in Cagayan de Oro City; Proposed Construction of National Highway in Tubod and Baroy, Lanao del Norte; Proposed Construction of Transient Building for the10th Intelligence and Security Unit, Army Intelligence Regiment of the Philippine Army; Port Zone Delineation of the Port of Medina, Misamis Oriental; Passenger e-Tracer System for Locally Stranded Individuals and Returning Overseas Filipinos; and the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil)/Regional Government Network Project in Region X.      Of special interest would be the presentations of STEAG State Power Inc., the largest German investment in Mindanao, and Italpinas Development Corporation, the pioneer Italo-Filipino joint venture in the island.      STEAG State Power Inc. (SPI) is a world-class energy company and a leader in advance coal-fired power generation technology. It was organized to own, finance, build, operate and maintain the first coal thermal power plant in Mindanao.      Located at the PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental with a capacity of 232 MW, SPI started commercial operations in November 2006 and has since been reliably providing additional electric power needed to sustain the island’s economic growth and progress.      SPI is majority owned by Steag GmbH, one of the largest producers of electric power in Germany. With 80 years of extensive experience, Steag GmbH is a pioneer in highly efficient and reliable power plant operations in Germany. The other SPI shareholders include two leading Filipino companies --- Aboitiz Power Corporation (AP) and La Filipina Uygongco Corporation.      With solid technical know-how and expertise plus a workforce complement of about 200 dedicated and competent personnel, SPI fulfills its mandate of helping provide solutions to the growing energy needs of the country and lives up to its vision of becoming a trusted partner for progress and development. Through the years, it has established a reputation as a highly efficient, reliable and responsible electric power producer in Mindanao.       Similarly, Italpinas Development Corporation (IDC™) is a design driven developer of sustainable properties focused on emerging cities in the Philippines.      Established in 2009 by Romolo V. Nati, an Italian architect, and Jose D. Leviste, III, a Filipino lawyer, IDC™ is committed to environmental sustainability through elegant architectural solutions and trademark contemporary Italian aesthetic.      Its focus is on hyper-prospective emerging cities and other next-wave locations in the Philippines.      With its unique design philosophy, IDC™ is committed to sustainable developments in harmony with the environment to bring value to investors, end-users, and the community.      Italpinas is now developing Citta Bella, Phase 2 of Primavera City. Primavera City is a series of green mixed-use buildings in Uptown Cagayan de Oro which showcases its vision of a sustainable yet design driven architecture that can be a strategic advantage also in the nearby provinces of Northern Mindanao.      A multi-awarded green building designer and developer, Italpinas Development Corporation (IDC) is a member of the Philippine Green Building Council and the US Green Building Council. Its previous projects have obtained “Edge” Certification, the international certification administered by the IFC World Bank Group for excellence in design for greater efficiencies.      The 1st NMBC is open to all interested parties. You can still register to join at the social media page of the Northern Mindanao Business Conference at this link: https://forms.gle/XLNByhcYs3D3g5p57.      BusinessWeek Mindanao and The Manila Times are the Official Media Partners of the 1st Northern Mindanao Business Conference.

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Residents build flood-resilient floating gardens in Agusan Marsh

July 26, 2021

TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur – It used to be just floating houses in Agusan Marsh. Now, residents of this wetland have built flood-resilient floating gardens to make themselves productive even in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic.      Ma. Angelita Salome D. Acopiado, chief of Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office-Local Government Unit (PENRO-LGU), said the floating gardens were patterned after those in the flood-prone water bodies in Odisha, India.      Two such gardens planted with vegetables were initially built last month on the 10-hectare Lake Kaebatasan in Barangay Sabang Gibong.      The barangay asked for support for the floating gardens after experiencing constant flooding since December 2020 resulting in local food shortage. Residents agreed to the idea of pilot-testing the technology from India in their place.      The gardens were built using local materials including bamboo, water hyacinth, and farm compost.      The PENRO-LGU initiated the project as part of its effort to conserve biodiversity in the marsh by providing sustainable livelihoods to local communities that benefit from its ecological services.      The barangay council and Bantay Danao, a community-based volunteer conservation group, serve as PENRO-LGU’s local partners.      Talacogon has a locally declared conservation area within and around the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.      The declaration is contained in Municipal Ordinance No. 288-2019 authored by Kagawad Thomas Balinton. It covers Barangays Buena Gracia, Causwagan, Desamparados, La Flora, Maharlika, Marbon, Sabang Gibong, San Agustin, San Nicolas and Zillovia.      Agusan Marsh is a protected area governed by the National Integrated Protected Areas Act. Aside from serving as a catch basin for flood waters, It is known as a destination of migratory birds from the Northern Hemisphere during the winter season. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)

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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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