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Smoking risks due to combustion – expert

May 28, 2021

To address the confusion over the difference between smoking and nicotine consumption, a London professor and smoking cessation expert said combustion or the process of burning tobacco, not nicotine, is what causes smoking-related diseases and death.  “Practically all risks to health from smoking are due to combustion products that are released from burning tobacco,” Peter Hajek, professor of clinical psychology and director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine’s Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London. Studies have found that tar and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke cause the death and disease associated with smoking, and not nicotine.   “Outside pregnancy and some rare vascular diseases, using nicotine on its own does not pose much risks to physical health. If smokers switch from smoking to using nicotine on its own, they avoid practically all risks of smoking,” he said. Hajek said by eliminating combustion from nicotine consumption, such as using products like e-cigarette, health risks will be significantly reduced. E-cigarettes or vapes, heated tobacco products and snus are among the non-combustible alternatives to smoking. There is a mounting scientific evidence from around the world confirming that smoke-free nicotine products are significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes.  Public Health England, an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health, said that e-cigarettes are at least 95-percent less harmful to humans than combustible tobacco.  According to Hajek, nicotine is poorly understood globally including in the Philippines.  “Nicotine seems addictive when combined with other tobacco chemicals, but much less so when on its own. Adolescent non-smokers who try cigarettes have over 50-percent probability that they will progress to daily smoking, but adolescent non-smokers who try e-cigarettes very rarely progress to daily vaping,” he said. “People do not get hooked on nicotine gum or patches. But while nicotine on its own seems unattractive to non-smokers, it can be rewarding to smokers who are already habituated to it. In this way, such products help smokers quit,” he said. Hajek said the problem with smoking is not nicotine, but the smoke that causes cancer, heart disease and lung disease.  “We have no problems with almost everyone drinking coffee, even if such use is daily, compulsive, and in many people could be labeled as ‘addictive’. In the same way, there is no issue with some smokers continuing to use nicotine, if health risks of such use are small,” he said. To reduce the health risks from smoking, authorities in the Philippines and other countries should encourage smokers to switch to less harmful, smoke-free nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and snus, Hajek recommended. “As long as cigarettes are freely available, Philippine legislators should try to make the less harmful nicotine products as attractive to smokers as possible, so that more smokers are encouraged to switch. Such products should be cheaper, more easily available, and accompanied by less restrictions and stigma,” he said.  A February 2019 clinical trial by UK’s National Institute for Health Research found that e-cigarette was twice as effective as nicotine replacement treatments such as patches and gum at helping smokers quit. Hajek said questions about the safety of e-cigarettes emerged last year with acute lung injuries reported among users of e-cigarettes in the USA. This however turned out to be due to contaminants in illegal marijuana products, and not related to nicotine vaping.

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P30-m worth of smuggled cigars seized in MisOr port

May 27, 2021

A SHIPMENT of cigarettes from China estimated to be worth P30 million was confiscated by the Bureau of Customs in Region 10 (BOC-10) at the Tagoloan port in Misamis Oriental Monday.      Oliver Valiente, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service field station chief, said they were informed beforehand that a suspicious shipment was set to arrive in a port under the BOC-10 jurisdiction.      Valiente said the seized items were wrongfully declared as personal effects.      He said they “received derogatory information from national intelligence agencies about the said shipment,” prompting them to request John Simon, the BOC-10 district collector, to issue an alert order.      He said the shipment arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on May 20.      The next day, officials from the BOC-10’s X-ray field office, Enforcement Security Services, and the Philippine Coast Guard conducted a partial examination and discovered the imported cigarettes together with some footwear items placed inside a container van.      “The shipment was consigned to a certain Lorna Oftana from General Santos City and she is now under investigation for allegedly violating [Republic Act] 10863 otherwise known as Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). Also, a Warrant of Seizure and Detention was issued against the shipment,” Simon said.      Last year, BOC seized an estimated some P110 million worth of smuggled cigarettes. (PNA)

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Major expansion set for Mindanao fruit industry

May 10, 2021

ABOUT 200,000 hectares of upland areas in Mindanao are being eyed for a large-scale production of avocado and jackfruit, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said over the weekend.      “Over the next five years, MinDA will target 100,000 hectares for each of the two crops… and (generate) estimated earnings of $2 billion every year,” Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a statement on Friday.      “These two crops will be introduced as agro-industrial commodities in commercial scale and volume, instead of just backyard fruit trees for family consumption.”      The proposal is part of the Mindanao Greening Program, which aims to develop agricultural industries while rehabilitating and protecting the highlands from denudation.      MinDA will host a virtual conference on May 17 to discuss the plan.      Among the expected participants are Mindanao representatives of national agencies, farmers’ cooperatives, government financing institutions, and multinational and domestic companies such as Dole Philippines, Inc. and Dizon Farms, which can serve as consolidators and buyers.      The specific varieties being considered are the Hass avocado and the Abuyog Sweet jackfruit.      “The Hass avocado is a premium fruit which Japan and China import from the US and South America which Philippine agriculture had not ventured into because of the absence of planting materials,” Mr. Piñol said.      The jackfruit, meanwhile, has not been paid attention to despite “huge demand in food processing,” he said.

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DPWH-10 completes tribal hall in far-off Sinuda village

April 26, 2021

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—The Matigsalug and Manobo tribes of Sinuda village in Kitaotao, Bukidnon can now use the newly completed P4.9 million “Tulugan (tribal hall)” as a comfortable venue for their gatherings, learnings, meetings, and other functions.      Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark A. Villar announced that the DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd District Engineering Office (DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd DEO) has recently turned over the two-storey building to Kitaotao local government.      He said the tribal hall’s design depicts the traditional architecture according to the functional needs of the indigenous tribes.      In a report to DPWH 10 Regional Director Zenaida Tan, DPWH-Bukidnon 2nd DEO Engr. Marivel Frances Ong said it was built of wood battens and nailers with masonry walls; steel roof framing with Nipa roofing; concrete slabs and stairs with steel handrails and balusters.      While Kitaotao town mayor Lorenzo A. Gawilan Jr. thanked the government, through DPWH for showing initiative and working with the local government, he also urged the indigenous peoples (IPs) to create new ways of solving life’s challenges and support the government’s efforts in breaking the cycle of poverty.      “The completion of this project signifies the government’s zeal in uplifting the lives of the hill tribes here who are mostly deprived of the basic services as they are geographically isolated from the economic center. This would empower our IPs to strive even more in fostering unity and strengthening their roles as government’s partners in peace and development,” the mayor said.      Bukidnon’s 3rd congressional district Representative Manuel “Manoy” Zubiri, meanwhile, underscored the importance of the structure in preserving the tribe’s culture. He said it will become the dynamic center of Sinuda village’s Matigsalug and Manobo tribes and a comfortable place they can call their own. (DPWH10/PIA Bukidnon)

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Gov’t buyout of old coal plants mulled

April 26, 2021

THE Philippine government is currently discussing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) the viability of a plan to ‘buy out’ the older fleets of coal-fired power facilities in Mindanao grid. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who is also the board chairman of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), divulged “We’re studying the economics of it and we should be able to come up with a model by sometime in the third quarter of this year.”      He acknowledged that the proposed State acquisition of the coal plants, “will require long term and low-cost funds, so we are working together with the ADB to study the actual viability of this concept.”      Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi indicated they are supportive of the plan, and they have been collaborating with the DOF in prudently evaluating how that can be successfully executed.      The energy chief noted that the figures on prospective loan amount for the recommended purchase of the coal plants are still being firmed up, with him emphasizing that “these are concepts still being studied.”            Dominguez explained that the game plan of the government is to acquire the older coal plants, and place them on shutdown mode once the rehabilitation of the 932-megawatt Agus-Pulangui hydropower complex is completed; and its electricity generation can already be ramped up.      “Together with the Department of Energy, we have developed a plan to, first: improve the generating capacity of the Agus river system, As we do that, we are also studying the possibility of setting up a fund to acquire all the coal-powered plants in Mindanao, with the idea of shutting them down as the energy delivery of the Agus river increases,” the finance chief stressed.      Dominguez further qualified that the idea is for Mindanao to be “totally powered by, or at least 90-percent powered, by renewable energy sources,” with him citing that aside from hydro, there is also high irradiation potential of some areas that will then enable the installation of solar farm ventures, primarily in Sarangani which has been touted to have the highest number of sunlight days in the country.      “Together with that and the Agus river project, we will probably be able to see significantly reduced operations of the older coal power plants,” he reiterated.               The two departments have not named the coal plants set for acquisition yet, but one of the known older fleet in the grid is the 210MW Mindanao coal-fired power facility which is currently operated by German firm STEAG State Power Inc.             The Mindanao coal plant is under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract with state-run National Power Corporation; and such obligation was eventually transferred to PSALM.                The buyout of the Mindanao coal-fired power facility was first targeted in the past administration, but that exercise has not gained as much traction because a feasibility study was still being recommended to be undertaken then.

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DOH to replace destroyed Covid-19 vaccines in MisOr

April 19, 2021

THE  Department of Health in Region 10 (DOH-10) said Friday it will replace the Covid-19 vaccines destroyed by a fire that gutted the Misamis Oriental Provincial Health Office (PHO) in Cagayan de Oro City Wednesday evening.      "We are glad it was not that many (destroyed Covid-19 vaccines); it was only (good for) 30 doses. We have a commitment to that so we can replenish it immediately," Dr. Jose R. Llacuna, DOH-10 director, said.      Meanwhile, Gov. Yevgeny Vicente Emano said that the destroyed offices would be replaced with a new three-storey office building on the same site.      Meantime, affected offices were temporarily transferred to other areas in the provincial Capitol, including the temporary vaccination sites for Covid-19. (PNA)

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