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WHO, UNICEF recommit to accelerating health

September 19, 2020

GENEVA--New partnership calls for key actions in universal health coverage, mental health, emergencies and nutrition The new Strategic Collaboration Framework builds on a robust 70-year collaboration between the two organizations, and prioritizes four strategic areas for immediate attention and action at all levels of the organizations: universal health coverage, through a primary health care and health systems approach; mental health and psychosocial well-being and development; public health emergencies; and maternal and child nutrition. Additionally, the two organizations signed a new Joint Programme on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being and Development of Children and Adolescents. This 10-year collaborative effort will promote mental health and psychosocial well-being and development, increase access to care for mental health conditions, and reduce suffering and enhance quality of life among children and adolescents, and their caregivers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed huge gaps in accessing health, well-being and nutrition services among children and vulnerable populations,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “There has never been a more urgent need to work together. This new framework will help us strengthen health and food systems, and invest in mental health and psychosocial support in every country in the world.” For more than 70 years, WHO and UNICEF have worked together worldwide to ensure children survive and thrive, and benefit from a safe and clean environment. The two organizations collaborated to provide high-impact health, immunization, nutrition, HIV and early child development interventions, as well as safe water and sanitation services in every region of the world, including in fragile and conflict settings. "At the heart of our work with UNICEF is seeing that every child not only survives but ultimately thrives and transforms their communities and future generations," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "With great appreciation and respect for our unique and complementary roles, we stand together in our commitment to achieve health for all. As this pandemic demonstrates, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.” Today, WHO and UNICEF continue to work together to stop the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that every woman and every child have access to the essential health services they need, including immunizations and health check-ups. The two organizations are also working together to support countries to introduce and deliver COVID-19 vaccines under the vaccines pillar of the “Access to COVID-19 Tools – Accelerator” (ACT-A) initiative, along with Gavi, CEPI and global immunization partners. Additionally, the organizations are strengthening health systems through primary health care, as agreed in the Declaration of Astana, and the UN High-level declaration on UHC, in order to accelerate achievement of universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goal 3 targets by 2030. (PR)

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Local leaders welcome Pompee’s appointment

September 18, 2020

LOCAL government and business leaders yesterday welcomed the assumption of Phividec administrator Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña, saying it would breathe new face in the industrial zone and help steer the economy of Northern Mindanao which has suffered a blow in the ongoing pandemic. Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno congratulated his erstwhile nemesis, saying it is the prerogative of the President to appoint anyone who enjoys his full trust and confidence.  Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that La Viña is "fully qualified for the job and he has the dedication, integrity and work ethics to perform well for Phividec." "He likewise has the energy and efficiency to attract more locators/investors to Phividec and more employment to our people of Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City," Rodriguez said. The leader of all city and municipal councilors in Region 10 also expressed support for La Viña. Cagayan de Oro City Councilor George Goking said the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) Northern Mindanao chapter in which he chairs is looking forward working with La Viña in bringing more investments to the region. "We believe that he will do a good job," he added. For his part, Oro Chamber president Robertino Pizarro described La Viña as pro-development and has a good grasp of doing business. Oro Chamber is the largest organization of homegrown enterprises in the region. Phividec Industrial Authority manages the 3,000-hectare wide Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental, home to dozens of multinational companies enjoying the privileges of an economic zone. Encompassing the two municipalities of Tagoloan and Villanueva, Phividec stands for the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corporation, a government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) created in 1974 aimed at harnessing funds for retired soldiers.

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Clean potable water key to fighting COVID-19

September 18, 2020

The first COVID-19 case in Northern Mindanao was recorded on March 11, 2020 in Cagayan de Oro. By May 7, its first cases of local transmission involving three persons with no travel history to affected areas were recorded. Despite government’s best efforts, it only took six month since the first case and four months since the first local transmission for cases in the region to hit 2,052 according to the RIATF-IED led by the Department of Health (DOH) – 10. Of these 1,091 have recovered, 42 died, and 919 are recovering. In terms of the region's Critical Care Utilization Rate as of September 15, R-10 now has 43.20 percent utilization of isolation beds, 25.45 percent utilization of mechanical ventilators, 46.43 percent utilization of ICU beds, 44.29 percent utilization of beds for severe and critical cases, and 46.22 percent utilization of COVID-19 wards, he also said that region 10 has a case doubling time of 15 days. In Cagayan de Oro alone as of September 14, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has now breached 476, with five of the 16 new local cases considered local transmissions. While the situation regarding the city and the region’s capacity to deal with the number of active cases is not yet critical, the sudden surge from local transmissions especially is a cause for concern. This brings up the issue of how we have so far been dealing with the pandemic. Among the minimum health protocols proven to be effective against the further spread of the coronavirus, hand washing still remains the most effective. Potable Water Issue However, the present state of water quality and distribution in Cagayan de Oro to effectively curtail COVID-19s has raised a red flag that begs urgent and immediate attention. And not only because of the global pandemic but also the continued threats posed by other diseases arising from contaminated water. In November 2008, at least 560 residents of Tagoloan in Misamis Oriental were brought to the municipal health center suffering from stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea with another 600 exhibiting similar symptoms admitted to various hospitals after drinking contaminated water. Reports gathered by ABS-CBN Misamis Oriental said water samples taken from the water distributors of the two areas tested positive for coliform and amoeba according to Misamis Oriental Provincial Health Officer Ignacio Moreno. In April 2011, five persons died and 20 others became ill in Sitio Man-ai, Barangay Tignapoloan, after their main water source the barangay’s main water source was contaminated, according to an ABS-CBN Report. Reports said poor sanitation in the area caused the water contamination while health officials suspected human and animal waste may have seeped into the residents’ drinking water.  Unsafe water causing chronic malnutrition and stunting. Diarrhea is among the world’s most common illnesses, sometimes leading to death, caused by contaminated water. In 2016 according to the World Health Organization, “one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines was acute watery diarrhea, claiming over 139,000 lives” and that 50% of the country’s typhoid cases is due to water pollution. This number is not surprising since water scarcity has led thousands of Filipinos to rely on water from unsafe sources. “About 80 percent of all diseases and more than one-third of all deaths in developing countries are caused by contaminated water,” noted Elizabeth Dowdeswell, former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. In 2003, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said 80% of the world’s illnesses and deaths are due to water-related diseases. Two decades later, a child still dies every 2 minutes from water-borne diseases including typhoid. Hand Washing Medical and health institutions the world over have been unanimous around the world has highlighted the same precautionary measures, especially frequent hand washing, as crucial in preventing COVID-19 or spreading the novel coronavirus. Aside from COVID-19, there are a number of other diseases caused by or exacerbated by insufficient or unclean water. The ASEAN Integrated Water Resources Management reports that in the Philippines 55 people dies every day due to lack of clean water. In some cases when water is indeed available, poor quality and contaminants have been a threat to health. Reports by the Asian Development Bank and Greenpeace Water Patrol Investigation revealed that “Heavy inorganic pollutants have made water increasingly a threat to life”. The groundwater problem Cagayan de Oro’s problem with water quality is evident with the dirty brown water many households encounter, since the city’s water district still sources its water supply mainly from its 29 deep wells. Although this water supply is dosed with chlorine to kill any present bacteria, the silt and sediments floating in it as a result of the groundwater extraction makes it unfit for food preparation and drinking. While assuring the public the dirty brown water coming from their taps is safe to drink, residents have chosen to buy their drinking water instead from the water refilling stations who simply filters the water district’s “potable” water of its silts and sediments and then sells them to consumers at a premium. Surface Water While cleaner water has been available from the water district’s bulk water supplier, this has not been enough to totally replace the volume now being sourced by the water district from its deep wells. But can Cagayan de Oro afford to continue risking the health of its residents by ignoring the threat posed to their continued well-being by the dirty brown water coming out from their taps and its uncertain supply and unavailability in other areas? Perhaps the City Council can launch an investigation in the aid of legislation to determine exactly if the sudden surge in coronavirus cases is related to the unavailability of clean potable water for hand washing and drinking. Consider, for instance, how in Benguet and Bulacan, 5 out of the 18 artesian wells have nitrate levels that are significantly higher than the safety standard set by the World Health Organization. In Cebu, residents complain that their drinking water is taken from unsafe sources. In fact in 2011, a typhoid fever epidemic hit the town of Alegria which led to some fatalities.  As COVID-19 cases in the Philippines almost reaching 300,000 while water-related diseases continue to surge, we are reminded that water is central to human survival and essential not only in improving public health but also for sustainable development. As the country struggles with finding solutions to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus infections, there is an equal need to establish long-term solutions, among them the need to immediately address the water shortages across the country.  Water is life indeed because it not only sustains our body but is also essential in curbing preventable diseases. Unfortunately, water shortage and contaminated water have been sad realities millions of Filipinos across the country have to face every day. According to Water.Org, “Out of 105 million people living in the Philippines, nearly seven million rely on unsafe and unsustainable water sources and 24 million lack access to improved sanitation.”

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Innovate agri sector to ensure food security, boost resilience amid pandemic and other crises

September 18, 2020

INNOVATING the country’s agriculture sector is necessary to ensure food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic and to improve the sector’s resilience to other risks.   This is the key message of this year’s 6th Mindanao Policy Research Forum (MPRF), which is jointly organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU). The virtual forum, which is slated for September 18, will be hosted by AdDu through its University Research Council.   The 6th MPRF carries the theme “Bouncing Back in the New Normal through Countryside Development and Agricultural Resilience” to underscore the significant role of the agriculture sector in sustaining food production and in improving economic recovery during crises like the novel coronavirus outbreak.   A  report recently published by the World Bank noted that the country’s agriculture sector has exhibited resilience amid the pandemic. It grew “by 1.6 percent in the second quarter of the year” and the only sector that thrived during the period.   While this is good news for the sector, PIDS President Celia Reyes said it is crucial to implement reforms in agriculture to be able to maintain these gains and withstand the adverse impacts of future shocks and hazards.   Mindanao is known for its strong agriculture-based economy, with a third of the region’s land area devoted to agricultural activities.   "Agriculture will be our backbone as we speed up efforts in rebuilding Mindanao's economy post-pandemic,” MinDa Chair Emmanuel Piñol said. Based on the data of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in the Philippines, the region “supplies over 40 percent of the country’s food requirements and contributes more than 30 percent to national food trade”.   “Given Mindanao’s strength on agricultural production, the region will play a key role in sustaining food productivity and availability as the government continues to undertake measures to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic,” Reyes pointed out.   Piñol urged government agencies, local government units, and the private sector in Mindanao to “focus [their] efforts on the region's agriculture and fisheries sectors over the next five years to counteract the economic slowdown” brought by the coronavirus outbreak.   More topics related to the possible contributions of the region in strengthening the sector as well as the challenges and constraints it may encounter will be presented during the MPRF.   The forum will start with a presentation titled “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID19 and other Risks: Focus on Agriculture” by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Sonny Domingo. This will be followed by a discussion of various topics such as the “Socio-Economic Impact of COVID19 Pandemic in the Philippines/Mindanao” by Dr. Enrico L. Basilio, “Rapid Assessment of Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security, Rural Livelihoods, and Agricultural Market Chains in Mindanao” by Dr. Roehlano Briones, and “Enhancing Internet Connectivity and Social Inclusivity in the New Normal Using Satellite Technology for a Better-Connected Agriculture Development in Mindanao” by Dr. Rogel Mari Sese.   Panelists were also invited to share their insights and provide recommendations on how Mindanaoans can move forward and bounce back from the pandemic. Among those who will be joining the panel discussion are Hon. Khalid Dimaporo, Chair of the Committee on Mindanao Affairs; Dr. Jesus Antonio G. Derije, President, Central Mindanao University; Mr. John Carlo B. Tria, President of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc.; Dr. Hussein S. Lidasan, Dean, University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning; Ms. Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, Lead Convenor, Better Broadband Alliance; Bai Tinangkil Herminia Saway, Member of the Talaandig Council of Elders (Tribal Community from Bukidon); and representatives from the National Telecommunications Commission/Department of Information and Communications Technology, as well as from farmers’ groups. Dr. Vida Mia Valverde of AdDU will moderate the sessions and Secretary Piñol will close the forum.   Launched in 2015, the MPRF is part of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September, as mandated by Presidential Proclamation No. 247. The DPRM aims to promote nationwide awareness of the significance of policy research in crafting evidence-based policies, plans, and programs.   This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal”, or in Filipino, “Makabagong Pamamahala para sa Sama-samang Pagbangon sa New Normal” to highlight the importance of innovating governance across all sectors of society to be able to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and other possible threats.

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Govt needs to adopt smart solutions, invest in emerging technology to deal with pandemic

September 18, 2020

BOTH national and local governments should adopt smart solutions and invest in emerging technologies to deal with risks such as climate change, natural hazards, and the COVID-19 pandemic.   This is according to Aubrey Tabuga, Sonny Domingo, Charlotte Justine Sicat, and Valerie Gilbert Ulep, researchers at state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), in their discussion paper titled “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Risks”.   The study noted that the rising population and rapid urbanization demand the adoption of more “process, product, organizational, and communication innovations” and smart reforms to address environmental concerns, socioeconomic problems, and other related issues.     For local governments, the provision of critical services to the public, “particularly in the sectors of public health, agriculture, and social welfare”, required smart solutions that “can provide digital avenues for health consultation, agricultural extension and research, and social protection and monitoring”. In Metro Manila, the limited availability of land requires “product innovations through reclamation projects and vertical property developments”. Smart innovations are also needed to mitigate the adverse effects of these reclamation projects, which may pose a more significant threat to the environment and livelihood of people living in the coastal areas of Mega Manila, according to the study.   While there has been progress in the country’s digital governance indices in recent years, particularly on e-participation, e-government, online service, and e-infrastructure, the study identified human capital index as an area for improvement.   Despite this weakness, some local governments have adopted e-governance platforms to improve public safety and service delivery.   The establishment of the Public Safety and Security Command Centre (PSSCC) in Davao City is a good example of applying ICT infrastructure and innovation in local governance. The PSSCC uses an “array of technological tools, including a city-wide CCTV surveillance system and real-time data mapped out in GIS” to maintain peace and order and respond to emergencies and calamities quickly.   Most cities in Metro Manila also employ smart ICT innovations through their respective command centers. Real-time closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring are also present in most areas of the city.   At the national level, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council operates an Intelligent Operations Center that connects its 17 regional offices for up-to-date video, audio, and data communications feed on the ground.   As most agencies in the executive branch have their versions of ICT-based command facilities, “digital sharing and integration” of systems is essential, “while taking into consideration security and data privacy issues”.   To harmonize and ensure interoperability among ICT-related resources, programs, and projects across government, the Department of Information and Communications Technology is finetuning the E-Government Masterplan 2022. This aims to enhance “organizational and inter-governmental coordination, and address personnel and capability issues in utilizing ICTs for more efficient operations, public service delivery”, and support business to perform more effectively.   In the ASEAN region, Singapore is famous for its “Smart Nation”, which promotes digital innovation and technology to achieve growth and sustainability. Their experience in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003-2004 served as the foundation for the COVID-19 pandemic response.   South Korea also used smart governance to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. The government installed an IT-based protocol using ICT devices to aid in contact tracing procedures.   In Manchester, United Kingdom, the British government required a strong integration between environment protection and digital modernization to prevent the ill effects of climate change.   Cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, and New York also succeeded in solving urban problems by not solely depending on technology but also by creating spaces for innovation and citizen participation.   For the Philippines to achieve smart governance through smart cities like these countries, the authors urged the government to develop the human capital alongside the physical infrastructure, as smart approaches rely on investments on both hard and soft infrastructures.   Adopting smart solutions as a way to innovate governance will be discussed in the Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) webinar titled “Smart systems for agile governance under the new normal” on September 24, 2020. The APPC is the culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) spearheaded by state think tank PIDS every September.

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NPA leader in Mindanao surrenders to military

September 18, 2020

BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte--One of the  highest commanders of the New People's Army (NPA) operating in North Central Mindanao surrendered recently, the military said Friday. Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, commander of 23rd Ifantry Battalion, identified the rebel returnee as a certain Alias DANSOY/KEVIN, 40, the Political Instructor (PI) of Sentro de Grabidad (SDG) CAOCAO, Guerilla Front (GF) 4A of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC). After years of serving the group which he thought would give him and his family a better life, alias DANSOY/KEVIN finally made up his mind and called off his association with the communist movement and returned to the folds of the law, said Paulo in a press statement.   Paulo welcomed Alias DANSOY/KEVIN and received the high-powered firearms and ammunition he surrendered, to include one  M16 Rifle with an attached grenade launcher, 40mm M203, one M4 Rifle and one Carbine Rifle which is all serviceable.   Alias DANSOY/KEVIN said he was recruited and joined the movement because of their propaganda and promises, the military said. “Human sa lima ka tuig nako nga pag lihok sa walhong grupo, nakadisisyon ko nga mobalik sa sabakan sa gobyerno tungod kay wala nako kasabot sa paamagi sa sulod sa kalihukan. Wala na mi nagkasinabot, nag sige na me ug bangi tungod kay nag isig pataasay na ang matag usa sa tahas. Grabe ang krisis nga among natagamtaman sa sulod, pirme nalang mi mapasmo, usahay maayo nalang ug maka kaon me ug kan-on kausa sa matag adlaw ug sili lang ug asin ang among isud-an,” DANSOY/KEVIN said.   He added: “Usa usab sa rason nga mibiya ko sa kalihukan tungod kay gimingaw nako sa akong pamilya ug mga anak. Miabot ang panahon nga mikontak ang akong asawa sa ako ug mihangyo nga pahawaon na ko sa kalihukan tungod kay wala nay nag atiman sa among mga anak labi na niining panahon sa pandemya. Nangita dayon kog higayon nga makaikyas ko dala ang tag-as nga armas. Tungod kay gigukod man ko sa akong mga kauban, ako lang sang gitago ang mga armas sa kalasangan aron ba;likan lang dayon kauban ang kasundaluhan”.     Paulo assured the former Political Instructor of GF-4A that the government will provide help to his family through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).   “The surrender of this high-ranking CNT member is a manifestation that their weakened group is slowly attenuating. Aside from that, they can no longer move from place to place because our troops are visible anywhere. We have deployed our joint Community Support Program Teams of the army and Community Action Teams of the PNP in vulnerable areas and we are also relentlessly conducting our focused military operations to clear the areas that were commonly known as CNT lairs. Clearly, these CNTs have nowhere to hide now, and they will surely suffer from great hunger due to less access to food supplies. As you can see, Alias DANSOY also starved even though he was ranked higher than his comrades, and his family whom he left behind also suffered because the CNT does not regularly provide food to them,” Paulo said.   He also reiterated his call to the remaining CNT members to lay down their arms and go back to their family and to the government.   “Real victory will only be felt once you leave the armed group. They will never help nor value you. Our government is waiting for your return and is always willing to help you to change your lives in order for you and your family to have a brighter future,” Paulo said. (PR)

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