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foodpanda delivers kutitap and cheer in Bicol and Bulacan

December 14, 2020

With the support of volunteer riders, foodpanda was able to send much-needed assistance to the two major communities that they serve Following the recent series of typhoons that affected thousands of families, foodpanda didn’t cease to deliver kutitap and cheer to people in need of help and hope. The country’s on-demand food delivery service and its compassionate riders readily extended a helping hand to the victims of the recent typhoons in Bicol and Bulacan. foodpanda has put up donation drives and mobilized the repacking, delivery, and distribution of relief goods through the help of its riders as volunteers and be a Lit Pandas.     “It has been a regular event for the Naga riders to conduct charity drives/events and help the community in times of need,” said Luis Ferrer, foodpanda Naga City Manager.  While Bicolanos embody the local “oragon” spirit that is dauntless and strong, the recent string of calamities kept on disrupting the people’s path to recovery, leaving them with little chance to bounce back. Dedicated to help them in the process is foodpanda,  as its latest outreach program exemplified the company’s commitment in making a difference in every opportunity, especially the ones that concern people’s lives and welfare. Through proper coordination with local government units, foodpanda identified and focused on two citizen groups in Bicol that needed the most help. In Legazpi City, the program specifically targeted 150 street sweepers and garbage collectors who also serve as frontliners during the pandemic. Meanwhile, in Naga City, there were 150 residents in Barangay Triangulo that were found to have limited access to relief packages. foodpanda organized twin events on November 15 to cater to both groups. One was in the morning, which was dedicated to the street sweepers and garbage collectors in Albay, who were provided with grocery packages that included rice, canned goods, noodles, water, toiletries, as well as packed lunches. In the afternoon, the same relief package was distributed to the residents of Barangay Triangulo in Naga City. Aside from the beneficiaries, foodpanda surprised its 40 rider-volunteers who participated in the events with grocery packages and packed lunches as well. “We at foodpanda are thankful that despite their difficulties, they are still willing to extend their help to our fellow Bicolanos,” Ferrer said. According to Joie Elfren Moratin, foodpanda Legazpi City Manager, the initiative was more than an outreach program. The goal is to make a difference in whatever opportunity that may arise.  “It was a heart-warming experience,” he said. “This is something I will definitely go back to over and over again. Our goal is to improve the lives of the community where we do business because this is a place we call home.” Meanwhile, one of the many areas in central Luzon that were severely hit by the typhoons was Bulacan. A province that’s home to many  talented and fierce heroes, foodpanda has also rolled out an outreach program to help 200 residents of two areas in the province. Through the help of rider-volunteers in Bulacan, foodpanda distributed relief packages to 100 residents of San Jose Del Monte on the morning of November 21. Later that afternoon, another 100 people from Barangay Atlag in Malolos received the same assistance from foodpanda. Barangay Atlag is a small and remote town in Malolos that became inaccessible due to severe flooding. However, foodpanda was able to reach the area and its residents shortly after Typhoon Ulysses left the country. “It’s been an honor to be part of this activity since we really wanted to do our part in the community,” said Lee Enriquez, foodpanda Bulacan City Manager. “Helping our people in San Jose Del Monte and Malolos, with the help from the LGUs, was really special for all the Ka-Pandas here in Bulacan.”

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Cagayan de Oro, Region X has highest power rates in Mindanao | Average Power Rate in CDO up 71.6% since 2016

November 24, 2020

It is ironic that despite demand for electricity heading south, power rates are Region X is heading north. A recent update on the power situation in Mindanao has revealed that Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao now has the highest power rates in the whole island. According to a presentation made recently by the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC) to the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperative (AMRECO) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) on 17 September 2020, Region X has the most expensive average power rates among private distribution utilities (DUs), and the most expensive average rate among electric cooperatives among the island’s six regions. The MPMC data revealed that the Cagayan Electric Power Co. Inc. (Cepalco) has the most expensive power rate among Mindanao’s private DUs at P10.8528 per kilowatt hour as of March 2020. In contrast, the Cotabato Power and Light Co. has the lowest at P7.1717 (-33.9%) and Iligan Power and Light Co. which has the next highest rate at P9.3375 is still 14% cheaper compared to Cepalco. Cepalco power rates from 2016 to March 2020 also registered the highest increase at P4.5289 per kilowatt hour or 71.6% over the period. Meantime, none of the three other private DUs in Mindanao registered a double digit rate increase for the period: ILPI has the next highest rate increase for the same period at 7.4% followed by CLPC with 1.5%, and DLPC, which has an even bigger franchise area than Cepalco, even managing to reduce its average rate by -3.3% from P7.4420 in 2016 to only P7.1961 by March 2020. Largely because of Cepalco’s tremendous power rate increase, the average power rate among Mindanao’s four private DUs increased by P1.2577 or 17% to P8.6395 despite the single digit increments of CLPC and ILPI and DLPCs -3.3% rate reduction. An industry insider who prefers to remain anonymous said the tremendous increase in electricity rates in Cagayan de Oro is a result of Cepalco sourcing up to 98 percent of its electricity from its sister company Minergy Coal in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. Thus, the rise in power rates within the Cepalco franchise area could be attributed primarily to the rise in generation rates as a result of the shift to the Minergy Coal plant and not to the transmission and generation aspects of the franchise operations. Region X power coop rates most expensive Similarly, it was revealed that Region X also has the most expensive average rate for its electric coops at P10.9915 per kilowatt hour as of March 2020. In comparison, the BARMM has the lowest rate at P7.61 (-31%), Region XI P8.9743 (-18.4%), Region XII P9.04 (-17.8%), and Caraga P9.53(-13.3%). In addition, the P10.9915 average rate of all power coops was also 16%  more expensive that the P9.2180 average rate for all coops in all regions in Mindanao, and 18.8% more expensive than the P8.9287 average rate for all DUs in Mindanao. Mindanao Power Situation When queried about the rising power rates in Northern Mindanao, particularly in the Cepalco franchise area, Assistant Secretary Romeo M. Montenegro, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Investments Promotion of the Mindanao Development Authority’s (MinDA) International Relations and Public Affairs Office said power rates in Mindanao is dependent on the contracting portfolio of ECs and DUs. “With most ECs and DUs in Mindanao now heavily contracted to more expensive technology to meet its long term demand, then the cost of electricity moved along the same upward direction” Montenegro stressed. “As Chair of the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC), MinDA had reached out to various partners and stakeholders to convey the present Mindanao power situation and proposed measures to DOE, House Committee on Mindanao Affairs, AMRECO, NGCP, consumer advocate groups, renewable energy advocates, and other key players,” he added. Also ongoing is a study supported by USAID on the impact of COVID-19 to the Mindanao power sector particularly the electric cooperatives that is set to be presented by December. Not the least, Montenegro disclosed these other MPMC initiatives aimed at improving the power situation in Mindanao: 1. Request ERC to consider postponing plan to reduce system loss threshold to 5% from current 6% to deal with the current system loss problem; 2. Requesting NGCP to prioritize certain long overdue Mindanao transmission upgrading; 3. Urging ECs and DUs to implement measures to improve collection efficiency;, 4. Requesting power generating companies to waive Minimum Energy Offtake (MEOT) or set on negotiated settlement; 5. Requesting NEA to propose/implement innovative financing window for severely affected ECs; 6. Urging the House Mindanao Affairs Committee to secure increased allocation from DBM to support Mindanao rural electrification targets; and 7. Studying the proposed establishment of a Local Power Development Advisory mechanism for better coordination between the ECs, LGUs and key local stakeholders in addressing power related problems, which include, among others, right of way issues, line tripping due to vegetation and refusal of landowners to cooperate, and non-payment of electric bills.

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INNCO alarmed over impact of foreign grant on Philippines FDA

November 21, 2020

An umbrella group of more than 35 national consumer organizations has expressed concern over the growing influence of foreign grants on health regulators that may adversely affect the campaign to reduce the harm caused by combustible cigarettes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) including the Philippines. The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) particularly mentioned the influence exerted by non-government organizations backed by Bloomberg Initiative[SC1]  on regulators such as the Philippines Food and Drug Administration. “There is also an element of corruption aided by the Bloomberg NGOs, who are co-opting tobacco policy through the sheer force of money. The legislators in Philippines recently questioned the conflict of interest in their FDA receiving funds from these NGOs while pushing anti-vaping policy,” Samrat Chowdhery, president of INNCO and a leading tobacco harm reduction advocate, said during the recent virtual presentation of “Burning Issues: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) 2020” published by UK public health agency Knowledge Action Change (KAC). Chowdhery was referring to the Philippines FDA’s admission that it received foreign grants from American business interest groups Bloomberg Initiative and The Union while in the process of drafting regulation on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).   A ranking FDA official admitted that the agency received grants from foreign anti-tobacco advocates when confronted by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing and Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano during a public consultation on the guidelines for e-cigarettes and HTPs. The GSTHR report also records various kinds of opposition to low-risk products being mounted by anti-vaping organizations such as the position paper by the influential Paris-based Union which called for a ban on vaping and HTPs in LMICs.   “This is, of course, highly discriminatory, will increase health gaps between western and developing nations, and is a prime instance of the philantro-capitalism kind of thinking that is highlighted in the GSTHR report,” said Chowdhery. He said that aside from bans in LMICs, there was also a growing number of restrictions on vaping and other risk-reduced alternatives—from higher taxation and restrictions on online sales, to the new favorite of tobacco control, which is flavor bans. He said this is happening across many US states and in Europe. Chowdhery said the war was also heating up on oral nicotine pouches—a new innovation that is like snus but without the tobacco and low on the harm spectrum, close to nicotine gums in risk.  “We are seeing attempts to ban them in Baltic countries and the Bloomberg network is doing the same in Africa by spreading misinformation and overstating risks without any concern that they are affordable, less risky and effective in helping smokers switch.”  He said these bans and restrictions which prevent access or increase barriers to tobacco harm reduction are now the biggest hurdles to achieving a society in which people do not die in millions per year from the harmful use of tobacco.  The GSTHR 2020 report said that globally, 36 nations currently ban low-risk alternatives, and most of them are LMICs in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.   Chowdhery said this is alarming because almost 80% of over a billion smokers worldwide live in developing nations, where most of the 8 million annual global deaths from smoking are recorded. He said that in most countries where there is a ban on tobacco harm reduction products, the main argument is that it was done to ‘save the children’.  He said this goal, in reality, is jeopardized as there is inadequate enforcement of the ban and black market mushrooms which is difficult to control.  “We have seen this in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and now in India. Recently, South Africa reversed its tobacco ban during the Covid outbreak over concerns that the resultant black markets would be difficult to shake off,” he said. He said that ultimately, any move away from the concept of risk-differential taxation and increasing barriers to tobacco harm reduction ultimately serves to perpetuate smoking.  “It hurts the health of the country, but also causes huge financial loss as tobacco-related mortality and morbidity costs, as well as the lost man-hours, rise, and by decimating an industry which could create jobs and revenue while improving the health of tobacco users,” he said.  “This economic argument is stronger now than ever as countries struggle to cope during the pandemic—the answer isn’t in giving sops to the tobacco industry as Bhutan has done by ending its decades-long tobacco ban, which was ineffective anyway, the answer is in allowing and promoting access to THR alternatives so while there is additional revenue, there isn’t additional death and disease,” said Chowdhery. He said such restrictions also violate human rights principles by denying tobacco users a means to prevent disease and early death.  “Personal liberty is built into almost all constitutions across the world, and especially when you take the second-hand risk out of the equation, as THR alternatives do, there remains absolutely no argument to prevent access without violating these basic principles. The failed war on drugs has led to the introduction of harm reduction as among the core tenets of drug policy, and it’s time it caught on in tobacco control too,” he said. Chowdhery said despite these adverse developments, there is a glimmer of hope as science is slowly but steadily winning over ideology. “Since the last edition of the GSTHR report in 2018, four countries have banned THR alternatives while 22 nations from various regions of the world have either reversed bans or put in place formal regulations allowing their use. The tide is turning, and I hope this trend continues in years to come,” he said.

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PCSO readies the 2nd Batch of relief goods for Cagayan

November 21, 2020

Having witnessed the massive effect of the typhoon Ulysses to our Kababayan in Cagayan, the Office of General Manager Royina Marzan Garma is set to deliver the 2nd Batch of relief goods in Cagayan.

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Navy seizes P150-M smuggled cigarettes off Tawi-Tawi

November 11, 2020

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Naval Task Force 61 and its 3rd Boat Attack Division have intercepted a shipment of PHP150 million worth of smuggled cigarettes off Tawi-Tawi, a top Navy official said Saturday. They seized the shipment in waters off the island town of Simunul at about 9 p.m. on Friday, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, Commodore Toribio Adaci Jr., said. Adaci said the wooden-hull vessel, M/L Nur 1, was intercepted following a tip-off on the entry of the smuggled cigarettes. He said the Nur 1 was found to be loaded with some 3,000 master cases of undocumented cigarettes with an estimated market value of PHP150 million. The boat came from Tarakan, Indonesia, and was en route to a private wharf in Indanan, Sulu. It was skippered by Sahibul Hiyang Sirajan and had an eight-man crew. “It has been the modus operandi of smugglers operating in the region to drop off their goods somewhere and utilize several smaller boats to distribute them to the different places in Western Mindanao,” Adaci said. He said the Nur 1 was escorted to the Lamion Wharf in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi for refueling and reprovisioning and would be escorted to this city for turnover to the Bureau of Customs. Appropriate charges will be filed against the owner of the cargo, the vessel, and its crew. (PNA)

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(Oped) Best interest of the child

October 29, 2020

ALMOST a month since classes reopened in all public schools, an estimated 22 million children and youth were not able to go to school to learn, play, and socialize with friends, schoolmates, and teachers because of the health risks of COVID-19.     Instead, learners began attending classes at home through various learning modalities such as distance, blended, or modular, as well as online and TV/ Radio-based instruction.   Adapting to these learning modalities has not been easy.While attending online classes at home, children rely heavily on parents and guardians to support them.   However, parents and guardians are also facing different challenges to make ends meet. Some have difficulties in their current work set up while others experienced loss of income and employment due to the lockdown and prolonged quarantine measures imposed to control the spread of the Coronavirus.   Most of the 800,000 public school teachers struggle with the technological difficulties of conducting classes in the digital platforms, compared to the ease of using blackboards and whiteboards. Teachers’ access to laptop and desktop computers, including internet connection, is also a major challenge in conducting online classes.     According to the Department of Education (DepEd), at least 13 percent or 99,155 public school teachers have no computers at home. The DepEd also said that even for 687,911 teachers with computers at home, 41 percent or 280,531 of them do not have access to the Internet, and 10 percent of them–71,128–said there is no Internet signal in their area.   Learning must continue   Amid all the challenges, children’s rights to inclusive and quality education, and to be safe from the health risks of COVID-19 must be fulfilled.   There are 1.6 billion learners globally, and 91 per cent of them were out of school, including children and youth from the Philippines because of the school closures due to the pandemic.   This is the first time in human history that an entire generation of children have had their education disrupted. By being out of school, children can feel anxious and can perceive time differently from adults. A few weeks or months out of school may seem a longer period to them. This means children tend to feel anxious about any period of time they are out of school and the learning and socialization they are missing. They fear they will not be able to catch up and start to worry that the longer schools are closed, the more likely they are to forget about the lessons.   Going to school is critical to children, especially to those living in the toughest places on earth.   For a period of five years, Save the Children has asked at least 1,215 children in six countries about their priorities during crisis. Nearly one in three or 29 per cent ranked education as their top priority, over food, clothing and shelter. These are children who were struggling to survive in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; child refugees from Syria and Afghanistan; children living in conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Rohingya children in refugee camps in Bangladesh; and Children displaced by fighting in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Classes may have resumed, but millions of children may not be able to return to school.   These are children pushed into poverty because of COVID-19 as their families are having a hard time putting food on the table and roof over their heads. These are adolescent girls who face risk of gender-based violence, early pregnancy or child marriage, trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty, and denied the chance to fulfil their potential. These are children living in conflict-affected areas who are at risk of being recruited into armed groups; children with disabilities; those living in places prone to extreme weather events; and children from indigenous people community.   The current pandemic exacerbates their dire situation, putting them behind and exponentially impacting their lives. This year marks the 30th year of Philippine ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), once described by South African leader Nelson Mandela as “that luminous, living document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception, to a life of dignity and self-fulfillment.” One of the guiding principles of the convention is for all governments to consider the best interest of the child in all decisions affecting them.   The reopening of classes will meet the learning and well-being needs of children during these times. To ensure the success of distance learning during the pandemic, children, parents and teachers must be provided with support, through an effective feedback mechanism that will help the Department of Education come up with context-based and evidence-based solutions.   The fulfillment of the rights of every child to education during the pandemic can be supported in three ways: keep learning alive during school closure through inclusive distance learning; support every child to return to school when it’s safe to do so; and build back better and more resilient education systems.   Schools give children a sense of normalcy, and the routine of attending classes calm their souls amid adversities.   Education gives children hope and empowers them to build better lives.      ATTY. ALBERTO T. MUYOT Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children Philippines 4th Floor Sunnymede Building, Diliman, Quezon Avenue Quezon City Contact number:(02) 8682 7283 Email address:ceophilippines@savethechildren.org

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