Friday, March 30, 2012

Root crops keep bad cholesterol down, DOST study says

By Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service

If you want to control your cholesterol level, better include camote or its cousins in your daily fare. In a study by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, it was found that root crops abundant in the country can keep bad cholesterol level down.

 Led by DOST-FNRI’s Dr. Trinidad Trinidad, the study team discovered that daily intake of root crops significantly lowers  bad cholesterol levels in the body.

“Root crops are able to lower bad cholesterol levels because of their dietary fiber content,” said Dr. Trinidad. Dietary fiber or roughage is that part of the vegetable or fruit that is not digested and not absorbed in a human's digestive tract.

“Dietary fibers come from a family of carbohydrates that ferments in the colon, turning into short-chain fatty acids that release energy,” Trinidad explained. “These fatty acids include butyrate, which prevents the risk of colon cancer, and propionate which helps prevent cholesterol synthesis.”

Aside from dietary fiber, root crops also contain vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.

The study involved subjects aged 30-55 years, physically and mentally fit, and with moderately-raised serum cholesterol levels.  The subjects were non-smokers and were not under any medication. They were all fed with test food for two weeks.

The team used various root crops such as camote (sweet potato), gabi (taro), tugi (lesser or Chinese yam), ube (purple yam), and cassava.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that the cholesterol level of the subjects remained stable. Trinidad’s team concluded that root crops, due to their cholesterol-lowering effect, would be important in the proper control and management of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.

In individual analysis, the team found that all the root crops used in the study decreased the level of bad cholesterol, especially cassava and camote. The team also discovered that tugi, a root crop abundant  in the north, even increased good cholesterol.

In another study, researchers found that corn is good for the heart. It contains
folate that lowers the level of homocysteine, a kind of amino acid that damages the lining of arteries and may make blood clot more easily than it should. High homocysteine levels may lead to heart attack.

Corn also has thiamin and pantothenic acid that help in producing energy for the body and in reducing stress.

Root crops and corn are traditional Filipino foods that, in some parts of the country, serve as staple food. For the average Filipino, root crops and corn are best eaten as snacks—tasty, filling, and inexpensive.

So if you want to keep your cholesterol down, junk the grease and go back to eating boiled corn, camote, and cassava. “These foods used to be labeled as ‘pagkain ng mahirap’ (food for the poor) but now it is also for the rich,” quipped Trinidad.

Even that sweet camote que is good, “as long as there’s not much sugar in it and you eat in moderation,” Trinidad advised.

Bishop calls for end of criminality

MALOLOS CITY—A ranking Church official here called on the government to show political will in fighting criminality instead being preoccupied by the impeachment trial.

He also urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to not just find out who are behind the crimes, but prevent it from happening.

Bishop Jose Oliveros of the Diocese of Malolos said increasing crimes in the country must be addressed by both national and local government.

“What’s happening in Bulacan is now isolated, it’s a picture of crisis today that is happening all over the country,” Oliveros said.

He added, “Ano ba talaga ginagawa ng gobyerno, may political will ba to fight criminality in our midst.  Ang problema naka-concentrate sa impeachment, pero ang daming patayan, nakikidnap, ninanakawan araw araw in other parts of the country.”

Oliveros was referring to crime incidents in Bulacan and in other parts in country specially Mindanao, Visayas and Metro Manila.

He said that crime incidents in Bulacan is nothing compared with incidents reported everyday.

On Wednesday, a church worker was killed in this city following the spate of killings that and other crimes that led Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado to convene the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), as Bulakenyos especially businessmen expressed apprehension.

In the said PPOC meeting, the provincial police office said Bulacan remain general peaceful noting that crimes recorded in 2011 is lower than those recorded in 2010.

The provincial police office also reported that crimes reported in the first two months of 2012 is lower than crimes reported in the same period last year.

However, Alvarado said the PPOC must convene at least four times a year to address increasing crime incidents in the province that may deter businessmen in investing in the province.

Alvarado also expressed alarmed over the audacity of criminals who committe crimes in broad day light.

This include the killing of Cristina Roxas, a businesswoman from Paombong town who was shot dead just meters away from the capitol compound here; and the killing of a lawyer in the City of San Jose Del Monte.

Both crimes were committed at mid day last month.  (Dino Balabo)

50% of PHL ODA comes from Japan

BALAGTAS, Bulacan—Close to 50 percent of overseas development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines are coming from Japan, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said.

The disclosure came during the inauguration of an interchange here along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) which also opened the 6.87 kilometer Plaridel by-pass road.

Singson and other and some businessmen said continued flow of ODA to the country is a sign of confidence to the Aquino presidency.

“At least 44 percent of overseas development assistance that we are receiving are coming from Japan,” said Singson noting that it will be spent for more infrastructures projects in the country like road, bridges and flood control projects.

He said that Japan is willing to fund more projects in the country  and insinuated that it’s a sign of continuing confidence to the current administration which introduced ‘wise spending’ of funds since 2010.

Singson said that Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has vowed to finance new infrastructure projects in the country through ODA.

This include the packages two to four of the 24.61 kilometers arterial road project in the province that will link the NLEX to the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway located in San Rafael town.  The 6.87 kilometer package one of the project has been completed and is now known as the Plaridel By-pass road.

Aside from the said project, Singson said disclosed that Jica is also ready to finance the proposed Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx) that will link the Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) in La Paz town in the province of Tarlac to Cabanatuan City in Neuva Ecija.

This was affirmed by Akio Yonezawa, the second secretary on economic affairs of the embassy of the Japan in the Philippines.

He said that aside from the CLLEx, the Japanese government though the Jica is also ready to finance the proposed alternate road project to Dalton pass in Nueva Vizacaya.

“Once the feasibility study and design is ready, we will be willing to finance it because we want to help the Philippines, Yonezawa said in an interview.

According to Siongson, Jica has earlier other road projects in Central Luzon including widening of the MacArthur Highway from Bulacan  to Tarlac, and the Gapan-Olongapo road that traverses the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales.

This developed, Antonio Tencgo and Rudy Calalang, both members of the Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) hailed Jica’s assistance in Central Luzon.

They said that it will not only fasttrack development in rising urban centers in the region, but will spur economic growth in remote areas in the region.  (Dino Balabo)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CL FLOOD CONTROL PROJECT: Relocation of families living along river banks assured

By Dino Balabo

 MALOLOS CITY—Families living along river banks will be relocated with the impending implementation of massive flood control project in Central Luzon.

“Dislocation will be addressed, may mga resettlement components na kasama yung flood control project sa Pampanga River Basin,” he said noting that it will cover the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan.

He said that the first part of the flood control project is to remove obstruction along water ways and river banks.

“May requirement sa batas na dapat may easement, this has not been respected, we have to start imposing the restriction, dahil sila din mapipinsala pag bumabaha,” Singson said.

Among those that are likely to be affected are residents of Hagonoy, Paombong and Calumpit towns in Bulacan who are living along the man-made Labangan Channel dug in the 70s.

Residents of the said towns, especially in Calumpit, are worried on the impending resurrection of the phase II of the Pampanga Delta Development Project (PDDP-II) which was stalled in the early 90s when it was opposed by Bulakenyos.

The Phase I of the PDDP was completed in the late 80s after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) dredged fishponds on both sides of the Pampanga River from Apalit town to the Manila Bay.

However, Singson said that the flood control masterplan not only include construction of dikes and embankment, but water resource management as well.

As the appointed “water czar” by the President, Singson explained that only 20 percent of total rainfall in the country annually is being utilized.

“Nakakalungkot, 28 percent lang ang nagagamit ng ating ulan, and the rest either cause problems like loss of lives and property, or natatapon sa mga ilog at oceans at di na napapakinabangan,” he said.

The secretary stressed that despite getting abundant rainfall all throughout the year, there are parts of the country that suffers from shortage of water for irrigation due to lack of integrated water management.

This means that the proposed filtration system along the Angat River in Bulacan will be integrated in the whole flood control master plan.

According to Antonio Nangel, administrator of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the establishment of a series of filtration system along the Angat River will address looming groundwater shortage.

He said that water from the river can be pumped into reservoirs that will be constructed, then, filtered before distributing it to household through local water district’s pipelines.

Nangel added that that the proposed water filtration system will also address perennial flooding in Bulacan.

Singson affirmed that Nangel’s proposal will be considered in the proposed flood control masterplan which also include a flood warning and forecasting system.

He said that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) along with allied agency, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration and the Department of Transportation and Communications is rolling out a flood modeling, forecasting and warning system.

The system will be implemented in 18 river basins in the country which straddles 33 provinces.

Singson said that through the system, they will be able to warn residents living along the river banks six hours before the flood.

Infra master plan for Luzon bared

MALOLOS CITY – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) bared a network of infrastructure master plan for Luzon further extending reaches of existing roads.

The plans which are expected to be implemented next year following the Aquino administration’s underspending on infrastructure projects last year include massive flood control project in Central Luzon and the P12-billion infrastructure master plan to support the country’s tourism industry.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the P29.2-billion two phased Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx) will be implemented next year.

“Nakalinya na rin through the guidance and funding ng JICA ang Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx),” Singson said referring to the 63.9 kilometers expressway that will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The CLLEX will branch out at La Paz, Tarlac section of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) and will link to cities of Cabanatuan and San Jose in Nueva Ecija.

Singson added that while CLLEx is waiting to be implemented, the DPWH is now working on the design for the Dalton Pass alternate road for faster and safer travel to the province of Nueva Vizcaya.

He said that providing an alternate road to Nueva Vizcaya will further boost its economic development.

“Hindi kasi pupwede na umulan o lumindol ay close-open na yung Dalton Pass, we need an alternate route towards Region II,” he said.

Singson said that the new alternate route to Nueva Vizcaya will include boring tunnels in the mountains.

Along with this project, he disclosed plans to pursue implementation of the highway to the province of Aurora on the country’s eastern seaboard.

“Hopefully, maumpisahan na rin ang papuntang Aurora, we are completing the Baler-Casiguran Highway,” he said.

With regards to the TPLEx, the secretary said its two lanes up to Gerona in Tarlac will be completed this year.
He also said the DPWH already told the proponent of the TPLEx to submit a proposal to convert it into a four lane highway.

“Hindi pwede yung two lanes lang, tapos salubungan pa, medyo delikado,” he said.

With regards to infrastructure development that will support the tourism industry, Singson disclosed that he met with tourism officials early this week.

He said they discussed a P12-billion tourism infrastructure support master plan that will be implemented next year.(Dino Balabo)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

NLEX, SCTEX gears up for Holy Week, to open express lanes

The North Luzon Expressway and the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway will implement an express payment program, the “Holy Week Express Lane”.  The program is intended for Class 1 vehicles traveling to the North this Holy Week. Class 1 vehicles include cars, vans and jeepneys.  The program will start at 2 pm of April 4 (Holy Wednesday) and will end at 5 pm of April 5 (Maundy Thursday).  It seeks to shorten transaction time in busy plazas like Dau-Mabalacat in Pampanga, Subic-Tipo and the Tarlac exits in SCTEX.

Under this program a Class 1 motorist exiting Dau and Subic-Tipo or Tarlac via SCTEX may already pay his/her toll fees in full as he/she passes the Balintawak or Mindanao Avenue Toll Plazas.  Motorists exiting Dau will pay a total toll fee amounting to P218.00 while motorists exiting Subic via SCTEX will pay P408.00 and motorists exiting Tarlac via SCTEX will pay P322.00. This program aims to alleviate queuing at the Toll Plazas especially during peak hours of the Holy Week exodus. Designated Express Lanes are located at the   left side of the Toll Plazas.  Motorists intending to use the Express Lanes should keep left as they approach the toll plazas for their entry and exit.

Ambulant Tellers and Spare Lanes

To speed up transactions at the NLEX, ambulant tellers will be deployed   and spare lanes will be opened at the Balintawak, Mindanao Avenue and Dau Toll Plazas during peak hours. At SCTEX, manual lanes will be set up at Tarlac and Tipo Exits. The deployment of ambulant tellers may be expected on the afternoon of April 4 (Holy Wednesday) till the afternoon of April 5 (Maundy Thursday). Deployment is also set on April 7 (Black Saturday) until April 9 (Araw ng Kagitingan) at the Southbound Bocaue, Dau and Mabalacat Toll Plazas.

Additional Traffic Management Personnel

NLEX/SCTEX traffic personnel will extend working hours to ensure the smooth flow of traffic during the Holy Week exodus. Additional traffic vehicles and enforcers will likewise be deployed to ensure high visibility and immediate assistance to distressed motorists. These additional traffic enforcers will be deployed from April 3-10. They will closely monitor traffic in Balintawak, Mindanao Avenue, Dau and Bocaue, Mabalacat, Tipo and Tarlac and will be ready to assist at Interchanges and stretches of expressways in case of traffic build up.

Balagtas Interchange

NLEX recently opened the Balagtas Interchange, which connects to the Plaridel Bypass Road, a DPWH project, making Northbound travel easier for those going to the towns of Plaridel, Bustos and San Rafael in Bulacan and the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan. Instead of taking the Sta.Rita Northbound Exit, motorists may now exit through the Balagtas Interchange. Heading back to Manila, motorists may take the South Bound direction of the new interchange.

 Traffic Increase

The Tollways Management Corporation (TMC), operator of the NLEX and SCTEX expects traffic to increase by 15 to 20 percent from the daily average of vehicles this coming Holy Week.. This daily average of vehicles in NLEX is  160,000 and  24,000 in SCTEX .  Traffic is expected to become heavier starting in the afternoon of April 4 (Holy Wednesday) until the morning of April 5 (Maundy Thursday).

On the other hand, heavy volume of vehicles traveling back to Manila is expected from the afternoon of April 7 (Black Saturday) to the evening of April 9 (Araw ng Kagitingan).

More motorists are expected to go to the provinces this year because of the long weekend.


With the experience of TMC in the past holidays, the manpower and equipment that will be deployed are sufficient to ensure safe, fast and comfortable travel inside the expressway. For assistance and inquiries, motorists are advised to call the NLEX hotline (02) 580-8910, 35000 or (0920) 96-SCTEX (72839) for SCTEX. These hotlines are available 24 hours a day. They may also the website and the NLEX-SCTEX Facebook account Travel On Great Roads.

7 outstanding papers vie for PPI awards

Four weekly and three daily regional publications have made it to the finalists' circle in the 2011 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.

Weekly publications Mabuhay (Malolos, Bulacan), Baguio Midland Courier (Baguio City), Edge Davao (Davao City) and The Mindanao Cross (Cotabato City) figured prominently in the screenings.

Daily publications Sun.Star Davao (Davao City), Sun.Star Cebu (Cebu City) and Sun.Star Pampanga (City of San Fernando) also made it to the initial round of judging.

All seven community newspapers will be vying for excellence in six major categories:  best in photojournalism, best in culture and arts reporting, best in science and environmental reporting, best in business and economic reporting, best editorial page, and best edited community newspaper.

The winners will be announced during the awards program on April 24 at Traders Hotel Manila during the 16th National Press Forum and Annual Membership Meeting of the Philippine Press Institute. 

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales will be the guest of honor and speaker for the 16th awards season.  No less than President Benigno S. Aquino III will keynote the opening ceremonies of the conference which has "Media Accountability and Public Engagement" as this year's theme. 

The PPI is celebrating its 48th founding year and 25 years since reactivation after the People Power Revolution.

The additional category on culture and arts, which is this year's theme for photos and stories exhibit will be presented by the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA).  The winner of the exhibit will receive trophy and cash.

The management of the awards, cash prizes and trophies are being funded by The Coca-Cola Export Corporation (TCCEC) and the six newspaper-members of the Board such as Malaya, Philippine Daily Inquirer, BusinessWorld, The Philippine Star, Manila Standard Today, and the Journal Group.  The TCCEC is the major strategic partner of the PPI for its project on Building Better Communities Through Civic Journalism since 2002.

The forum and awards are also being supported in part by St. Luke's Medical Center which is this year's corporate partner.  Other major sponsors are:  Chevron Philippines Inc., Liwayway Marketing Corporation, Metro Pacific Investment Corporation, First Philippine Holdings Corporation, Anflo Management Investment Corporation, Petron Philippines, United Laboratories, Land Bank of the Philippines, Pilipinas Shell, McDonald's Philippines, and Smart Communications, Inc.

Part of the donations will go to the training fund of the Institute to support workshops and seminars for its members for continuing media education and professionalization.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stop Impunity now!

Today, March 23, we mark the 28th month of the Maguindanao Massacre where 58 persons, including 32 journalists were killed.

Justice for slain journalists

Today, March 23, we mark the 28th month of the Maguindanao Massacre where 58 persons, including 32 journalists were killed.

Remembering Maguindanao Massacre

 Today, March 23, we mark the 28th month of the Maguindanao Massacre where 58 persons, including 32 journalists were killed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Military and Police Coddling Morong 43 Rights Violators

Months after summons have been issued by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court, several respondent military personnel and police officers in the P15-million damage suit filed by the Morong 43 health workers remained officially unnotified of the charges. The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for the complainants, asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Brig. Gen. Herbert Yambing of the Office of the Provost Marshall General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to locate and provide information on the “missing” respondents but to no avail.

 “This is tantamount to a cover-up of the military and the police for their peers whose accountability is being sought for their involvement in brazenly violating the rights of the Morong 43 health workers,” said the NUPL through its Assistant Secretary for Legal Services Atty. Ephraim Cortez.

Addressed at their last known assignments, the summons against Gen. Jorge Segovia, Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Maj. Manuel Tabion and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong were returned unserved on the ground that they were no longer assigned thereat.

 “With their cynical unwillingness to cooperate, state forces have put up another roadblock to justice that effectively frustrates efforts to seek accountability for human rights violations against the Morong 43 health workers,” said Cortez.

In a letter sent to the NUPL, Yambing declined to give information on the whereabouts of the military personnel purportedly because his office has “no direct knowledge” on the whereabouts of the military officers and that he supposedly has no authority to release such information. On the other hand, the PNP, through Records Management Division Chief Manuel Gaerlan, CEO VI, said in its reply that the names of P/Supt. Balolong and P/Supt. Nubleza, who have been publicly known to be part of the service, strangely do not appear in the roster of the PNP.

“Either they are  deliberately  hiding any information about those involved or they are giving us a run-around through technicalities in  disclosing very simple standard details about their personnel for the purpose of serving summons, or both” Atty. Cortez said.

The summons to the respondents in what is considered the first civil case for human rights violations against former President Gloria Arroyo and her security forces were issued last November 28, 2011. The Morong 43 health workers were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal on February 2010. They were illegally arrested, detained, and tortured on the baseless charges of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Against all odds, they had filed the countersuit way back in April 2011.

 Aside from Segovia, Zaragosa, Baladad, Abawag, Tabion, Balonglong and former President Arroyo, the other respondents in the case are former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Victor Ibrado, and Gen. Delfin Bangit.

 “This obstructionist attitude demonstrates the manifest bias of the military and the police in favour of those from their ranks who commit rights violations,” Atty. Cortez said.

 “And it  shows once again how hard and sometimes frustrating it is to pursue justice for human rights violations under the present legal and judicial system  and how impunity is perpetrated before, during and after a violation,” NUPL Secretary General Atty.  Edre U. Olalia added. “But we shall not let up. They cannot just get away with it just like that.”#

Int’l lawyers group challenge gov’t to arrest Palparan

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a non-governmental organization founded in 1947 that has consultative status with the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, has called on the Philippine government to use all its powers, resources and machinery in immediately arresting retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. who has gone into hiding for three months now.

Gen. Palparan has been indicted for the enforced disappearance of two young activist students Sherilyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno who were forcibly abducted, brutally tortured, and repeatedly raped in 2006. He faces a string of other pending and potential suits for his involvement in hundreds of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other violations when he was in active service during the time of former President Gloria Arroyo.

 In the recently concluded meeting of its governing Bureau in Brussels, Belgium over the weekend, the IADL approved by consensus and in principle an omnibus resolution challenging the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to leave no stone unturned to immediately arrest Gen. Palparan and prosecute him forthwith, noting that he is reportedly the highest-ranking military official that has ever been criminally indicted for human rights violations after the Marcos dictatorship.

The IADL resolution said that violators of human rights anywhere in the world, wherever they are, must answer for their crimes against humanity. The IADL emphatically stressed that targeting of civilians violates the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It underscored that those who violate these laws must be held accountable.

The IADL, which reputedly has members in 90 countries, asked its country affiliates to blast the information about Gen. Palparan and to closely monitor the case/s against him even as it twitted Pres. Aquino for striking a distant and uncaring pose about pressing social and economic issues.

The IADL, headed by its President Jeanne Mirer from the New York-based National Lawyers Guild (NLG) that has thousands of members in all the states of the US, noted that there continues a bubble of impunity even under the present government. It expressed concern that serious and credible reports of killings, disappearances, torture, urban poor demolitions and other human rights violations continue; that the government has by and large not undertaken clear, strong, concrete and effective steps to make perpetrators accountable; and that political prisoners still unjustly languish in jail.

The IADL said that unless perpetrators are punished and held accountable for their actions, the violations will continue with impunity. It pointed out that unless positive and concrete actions are taken by the government to improve the dire human rights situation, there will be more victims and the likes of Gen. Palparan will continue to sow terror.

Consistent with its various campaigns to work for the release of political prisoners all over the world, the IADL also joined appeals that the more than 300 political prisoners be immediately released through a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty or through any other mutually acceptable mode of release.

The Bureau was also informed how the legal and judicial system in the Philippines has perpetrated the injustice against these prisoners through the filing of false or wrong charges – a practice that is also incompatible with international human rights law and international criminal law principles- ,  the improvident use of generic names to persecute branded “enemies of the state,” and the infectiveness or impracticability of existing local legal remedies.

The IADL agreed that if the Aquino government is really serious and sincere in its commitment to improve the Philippine human rights situation, the release of political prisoners is only proper and an imperative as a matter of law, principle and justice.

The IADL also resolved to ask the Philippine and US governments to stop US intervention in the country through deceptive and unequal visiting forces agreements or arrangements and is expressed alarmed at talks to expand the presence of US troops, facilities and materiel. It pointed out that this is contrary to the general principles in international law, particularly on national sovereignty and the right of peoples to self-determination.

The IADL has consistently opposed and campaigned against any kind of foreign intervention in any country including economic, political, and military interference. It lamented that US troops remain in the Philippines despite the historic struggle and laudable victory in kicking out in the 1990s the two largest military bases outside the US mainland.

Finally, the IADL resolution called on the Philippine government and the liberation movement National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume their peace negotiations to address and resolve the roots of the armed conflict, even as it noted that the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) marked its 14th anniversary while the Bureau was in session. The Bureau was informed that the CARHRIHL conforms to international legal principles and standards that the IADL stands for and in fact contains provisions on the foregoing issues contained in the IADL Resolution.

In a related vein, the IADL affirmed its full support to its officers and members who make up in their individual capacities the majority of the International Legal Advisory Team (ILAT) to the NDFP Negotiating Panel. The ILAT gives its advice and opinion pro bono on matters of international law related or coming out of the peace negotiations.

 Those present at the Brussels meeting were lawyers who are key leaders or prominent representatives of different  democratic lawyers associations in 16 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America including  Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Germany, France, Haiti, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Philippines, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

 The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the affiliate of the IADL in the Philippines and which represents the families of the disappeared university students and several other victims of human rights violations, was represented by its Secretary General in the Bureau meeting

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

President Aquino, Ombudsman Morales lead PPI Press Forum speakers

For the first time in its history and in celebration of its 25th year since reactivation, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) will have President Benigno S. Aquino III and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as keynote speakers during its 2-day by-invitation only 16th National Press Forum on April 23-24 at the Traders Hotel Manila. 

This also marks the 48th founding year of the Institute since 1964.  It was rendered moribund during martial law, re-activated after the People Power Revolution, and incorporated in 1987.

President Aquino will be the first head of state to address the only annual gathering of owners, publishers and editors from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, representing 72 publications. 

 The President is expected to deliver a message on the “protection and preservation of press freedom and democracy” in the opening ceremonies on April 23.  Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales will keynote the Community Press Awards, honoring the best civic journalism reportage of the previous year.

Justice Carpio-Morales administered the oath of office to President Aquino on June 30, 2010, the first female magistrate to do so.  The PPI Board was inducted by the President on October 3, 2011 in MalacaƱan.

The National Press Forum is the only conference of its kind when the collective leadership of the nation’s influential publications convene in Manila to discuss matters concerning the industry and issues affecting the professional and ethical practice of journalism. 
This year’s conference theme “Media Accountability and Public Engagement” will serve as opportunity for the media to assess itself since the restoration of democracy over 25 years ago.  Attendant issues to be discussed will be the Asian Media Barometer: The Philippine Study, media self-regulation and the safety and welfare of journalists.

Since 2009, the annual National Press Forum, one of the most-anticipated print media events, is being consistently supported by The Coca-Cola Export Corporation (TCCEC) under its long-term project on “Building Better Communities Through Civic Journalism” which started in 2002 with training programs.

This year,  St. Luke’s Medical Center stands as the exclusive corporate partner for the forum.  Platinum sponsors are Chevron Philippines, Inc., First Philippine Holdings Corporation, Liwayway Marketing Corporation, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.  Other major sponsors are Anflo Management Investment Corporation, United Laboratories, Land Bank of the Philippines, Pilipinas Shell, and Petron Philippines.  The United Print Media Group (UPMG) is the print media partner.  Tv5 agreed to give full coverage of the event.

The Philippine Press Institute is the national association of newspapers.  Its principal mandate is to protect press freedom and continuously professionalize newspapers via seminars, workshop, forums and strategic partnerships with other media organizations.  It also collaborates with corporate supporters for the conduct of these activities.

Local experts eye sponges, snails to discover new drugs

By Luisa S. Lumioan, S&T Media Service

Researchers from University of the Philippines are studying marine microorganisms in sponges that may lead to the discovery of new drugs for tuberculosis, pneumonia and other infectious diseases, and snails that could provide anti-pain agents.

Led by UP’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Gisela P. Concepcion, researchers from the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI) have isolated microorganisms associated with sponges and are currently confirming their anti-infective  properties or ability to combat infections. This is part of the program called Pharmaseas Marine Drug Development Program which was funded by Department of Science and Technology--Philippine Council for Marine and Aquatic Resources Research and Development (PCMARRD) which is now Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Also part of the Pharmaseas program is the discovery of anti-pain drugs from the venom of turrid snails. Anti-pain drugs are important in the management of cancer and other debilitating illnesses.

Sponges, the oldest multi cellular animals, are regarded as the “most successful organisms.” They are physically defenseless, soft-bodied and sedentary making them easy prey, yet they have survived millions of years. According to experts, their survival rests on their ability to produce different kinds of bioactive compounds to protect themselves.  Scientists recently have discovered that microorganisms in the tissues of sponges produce some of these compounds. 

The emergence of drug-resistant pathogens or microorganisms that cause diseases has propelled the need to produce new drugs.  The researchers from MSI have isolated compounds that could be used to produce new drugs to combine with existing antibiotics. Combination therapy is the thrust nowadays to combat drug-resistant pathogens, according to Dr. Concepcion.

The researchers have isolated and characterized several peptides, in which molecules are formed by joining two or more amino acids or building blocks of proteins, from the venoms of turrid snails that were collected from the rich marine diversity of the Philippines.

Aside from the two main projects of Pharmaseas which entail isolating, purifying and characterizing compounds from marine microorganisms and venoms of turrid snails for drug discovery, there are three other support projects under the program.

The first support project, MMO’s and Turrids: Collection, Ecology, Biology, and Bioinformatics, successfully gathered data for the program and this database website can now be accessed through the UP local network.

The researchers were also able to do optimization studies for the culture of bioactive compounds through another support project “Marine Microorganisms: Characterization and Culture Optimization.”  Culture optimization will let the researchers culture the microorganisms in the laboratory so that they do not have to keep collecting the sponges thereby preserving marine biodiversity.

The researchers of the last support project, Marine Microorganisms and Turrids: Genetics, Molecular Phylogeny and Gene Expression, are classifying the organisms and the turrids according to their genetic markers or specific genes that produce a recognizable trait and can be used in family or population studies.  The group is leading the classification of turrids which are at least 12,000 species worldwide 5,000 of which can be found in the Philippines.

The Pharmaseas program has so far achieved its objectives, but Dr. Gisela admits that the roll out of drugs based on their research will come in later.

“It is unrealistic to say that we can roll it out in five years. But if nobody is going to start now with the biodiversity that is right beside us, who is going to provide this 15 years from now?”  Dr. Concepcion said.

The average time for research and development for new drugs is around 15 years.

Dr. Concepcion and her team are now preparing the terminal report for the Pharmaseas program.  They have submitted a phase two proposal to continue its initial achievements.

Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC to Philip Morris: Education Alone Will Not Curb Youth Smoking

Higher cost of cigarettes is the immediate deterrent. “Kapag mahal, ang sigarilyo, mas mapipigilan sa pagyoyosi ang kabataang Pilipino.”

This was stressed by the National Youth Commission (NYC) today in reaction to the claims of Chita Herce, spokesperson of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation Inc. (PMFTC), the top tobacco manufacturer in the country, that education and not additional taxes will prevent young people from smoking.

Education is vital in curbing youth smoking but it must be reinforced by  mechanisms that will make tobacco inaccessible, NYC Chairperson Leon Flores said. For the past years, the dangers of tobacco smoking have been taught in schools and have been part of wellness campaigns. However, the percentage of youth smokers continues to increase despite the education drive as well as the advertisement ban on tobacco products.

According to the 2007 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), 69.6% young people had been taught in class during the past year about the dangers of smoking.  Moreover, 69.3% had been taught in class the effects of tobacco use. These numbers did not have any effect in decreasing smoking prevalence among the youth. In 2011, already 2 out of 5 teens aged 13-15 smoked.

The Philippines has some of the cheapest cigarettes in Asia and one of the cheapest cigarettes in the world. Parallel to these data are the alarming smoking rates in the country: The Philippines ranks 9th in the adult male population and 16th in the adult female smoking population in the world.

NYC Commissioner Perci CendaƱa said that raising taxes right now is the most viable option to decrease the number of young smokers. “Kapag nagtaas ng presyo ang sigarilyo, maraming kabataan ang hindi na maninigarilyo.” The recent study by the University of the Philippines Communication Research Society with the support of Health Justice supports this claim. According to it, that 60% of the sample population will quit smoking if cigarettes will be priced at 5 pesos per stick.

NYC as the voice and advocate of the youth calls on the immediate passage of House Bill 5727 that will restructure the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol. The Commission firmly stands that we must maximize all means to protect the health and wellness of our nation’s youth.(NYC Press release)

Taiwan needs more OFWs

Raymond Wang, TECO Representative to PHL

MALOLOS CITY—Good news for over seas Filipino workers (OFW)!

The Taiwanese government announced on Thursday that they are hoping that more Filipinos will work in Taiwan.

This came as Raymond Wang, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO Representative to the Philippines said they are eyeing for closer bilateral relations with the country.

“We are hoping to import more workers and hire OFWs to Taiwan,” said Wang in an interview with the STAR on Thursday night after the ceremonial turn over of 800 tons of rice donated to flood victims in Bulacan.

Wang said that there are at least 90,000 OFWs working with Taiwan, and they have greatly helped their economic.

He also said that Taiwan-based OFWs has contributed a total of $650-Million for the Philippine foreign reserves last year.

“They helped our economy moving, they are also helping yours through their remittances which sent children to schools,” Wang said.

Aside from inviting more OFWs to Taiwan, Wand stressed that they are also working to bring more investment to the country especially in Bulacan.

Friday, March 16, 2012

20 Years of NIPAS Law Implementation Reviewed

Marble slide at the mineral reservation are of the Biak-na-Bato National Park in 2006.

MANILA- On March 15, 2012, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Silliman University launched the ““An In-depth Review of NIPAS and Related Statues on the establishment and management of Protected Areas in the Philippines”.

The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (Republic Act No. 7586), commonly known as the NIPAS Act was enacted primarily for biodiversity conservation.

This law provides the legal and developmental framework for the establishment and management of protected areas (PAs) in the Philippines. The review is aimed to identify which of the law’s provisions should be amended to improve its ability to provide stronger legal and policy backstops for multi-scale Protected Area (PA) management in the Philippines.

The Philippines adopted the Protected Area Management system as an approach for protecting and maintaining the natural biological and physical diversities of the environment notably on areas with biologically unique features to sustain human life and development, as well as plant and animal life through the legislation of RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS Act).

However, the implementation of NIPAS Act remains a challenge because of its certain provisions which are in conflict with other environment laws.

There were 202 identified initial components of the NIPAS comprising of proclaimed national parks, game refuge and wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves, wilderness areas, mangrove reserves, watershed reservations, fish sanctuaries, protected landscapes and seascapes, among others.

Thus far, of the 202 initial components, there are 112 protected areas formally proclaimed by the President under the System covering 3.54 million hectares. However, only 13 protected areas have been officially declared by law as part of the NIPAS.

The Study critically assessed nine legislations namely: National Integrated Protected Areas System, Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, Philippine Fisheries Code, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, Philippine Mining Act, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, Local Government code of 1991 and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It builds on the experiences of the study team in the implementation of various environmental projects in the Philippines. Complementing the policy study is the management effectiveness assessment conducted by the joint Philippine-German team in identified six sites representing terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 duly acknowledged that the implementation of various laws and policies are confused by overlapping and conflicting policies and mandates.

Thus, the need for an in-depth review and harmonizing a number of conflicting relevant laws and policies affecting natural resources was undertaken.

“We are very appreciative of GIZ for providing financial assistance in order to conduct a review of the NIPAS Act and Other Related Laws on the Establishment and Management of Protected Areas in the Philippines.

The results of the Study and its accompanying recommendations will indeed be valuable for the Protected Area and Wildlife Sector to further improve our policy on the management of protected areas in the Philippines.

 The results of the Study may also be used as basis to further the advocacies on protected area management,” a statement from Dir. Theresita Mundita S. Lim of DENR- PAWB.
The recommendations of this study will hopefully be used to clarify and ultimately resolve conflicting areas in the implementation of the NIPAS and the other legislations.

GIZ is a federally-owned enterprise that supports the German government in the
field of international development cooperation. For more than 30 years now, GIZ has
been cooperating with Philippine partners in strengthening the capacity of people
and institutions to improve the lives of Filipinos in this generation and generations to
come. Together we work to balance economic, social and ecological interests through multi-stakeholder dialogue, participation and collaboration.
Most of its activities are commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic
Cooperation and Development (BMZ). GIZ also operates on behalf of other German
ministries – in particular the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Environment
Ministry and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research – as well as German
federal states and municipalities, and public and private sector clients both in
Germany and abroad. These include the governments of other countries, the
European Commission, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

25-M Pinoys now enrolled in PhilHealth

MALOLOS CITY—About 25-Million poorest Filipinos are now enrolled under the Universal Health Care Program (UHCP) of the government, Health Secretary Enrique Ona disclosed yesterday.

Ona’s disclosure came as he led the inauguration of new facilities of the Bulacan Medical Center (BMC) here which he described as the best health facility in the country operated by a provincial government.

“This year, almost all poorest Filipino families are enrolled in PhilHealth,: he said noting that said number is easily equivalent  23-M to 25-M individuals.

Ona said that the national government is paying P12-Billion a year for the premium of health insurance of poorest families.

“It only shows na hindi lang slogan yung Universal Health Care program ni Pangulong Aquino,’ he said and added that the President is really sincere in improving health care system in the country.

Ona said the key in the UHCP is the increasing enrollment of Filipinos to Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), which is he said is one of the examples of public private partnership.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SLIDESHOW: Albay in my Mind

Albay in my Mind Slideshow Slideshow: TripAdvisor™ TripWow ★ Albay in my Mind Slideshow Slideshow ★ to Bacacay (near Sorsogon) and Legaspi City (near Donsol). Stunning free travel slideshows on TripAdvisor

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Crime-prone places in Bulacan

This is based on the latest date released by Bulacan PNP on March 5.

Bulakenyo car crash victim to be repatriated next week?

MALOLOS CITY—Jeamelle Mangonon and her children were ready to go to Canada to join her husband Joey.

That dream was wiped away when Joey along with three other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) died in a road mishap on late Sunday night.

The news was devastating for Jeamelle that the only words she was able to utter in an interview on Wednesday was “please help us.”

Those words were directed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as a request to hasten the repatriation of the bodies of the victims.

In another interview yesterday, Jeamelle repeated the same to Radyo Bulacan, but noted that Joey’s remains might be repatriated by next week.

“It might be next week, we don’t know yet, please help us,” she said in vernacular during a phone patch interview.

A resident of Barangay Bambang in Bocaue town, Jeamelle said she still do not know what to do.  She had four children with Joey.

Joey is a member of the housekeeping staff of the Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel in Edmonton City, Alberta, Canada.

On Sunday, Joey along with fellow hotel workers Anthony Castillon, Josefina Velarde, and another unidentified Filipina died in a mishap along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway in Innisfail, some 120 kilometers north of Calgary.

Another Filipina identified as Josephine Tamondong suffered serious injuries and was rushed to Alberta Hospital.

The CBC News website said that Tyler James Stevens, the driver of the Range Rover that slammed to the victim’s Dogde Journey van is now facing multiple charges including impaired driving causing death.

It was also reported that some motorists along the Queen Elizabeth III Highway were almost hit by Steven’s vehicle who was driving northbound on a the southbound lane. 

London hosting 'greenest' Olympics says envoy

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie.

MALOLOS CITY— It will be the greenest Olympics!

This was how British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie described the 2012 London Olympics that will be held in July to August this year.

Lillies remarks came when asked by this writer in an ambush interview during his recent visit here.

He said that in construction of the Olympic Park in London, the British government demanded the utilization of environment friendly technology.

This include the use of less concrete in the construction of structures and other facilities.

“We were able to reduce amount of energy in constructing the facilities through the utilization of advanced technology that reduce use of concrete,” he said.

Lillie also cited the over-all planning of the London Olympic Park which took into consideration accessibility to public transport.

He said that it was well-planned with the end goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission from private vehicles.

“Olympics is a great opportunity to bring people together around the world and we will show to them the greenest Olympics,” he said.

With regards to threats of terrorism like in the Montreal Olympics, Lillie made assurance that all participants and visitors will be safe.

He said, “terror is a fact of life, but we are fully prepared for it.”

The ambassador added that they have implemented comprehensive security arrangements to ensure a fair and enjoyable games.

With regards to Filipino Olympians, he said that he wish that they  win first Olympic gold medal in London.

Lillie also noted that while the Olympics is more than four months away and no Filipino Olympian won the old medal yet; a Filipino graphic artist won design for the Olympic commemorative coin.

This is in person of Roderick Enriquez who came from Zambaonga, City.

UK envoys eyes more trade with Bulacan

British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie holds a token from the provicial government of Bulacan led by Gov. Willy Alvarado (second from left). They were joined by officers of the Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (right).

MALOLOS CITY—British Ambassador to the Philippine Stephen Lillie is looking forward for increase trade and economic relations with Bulacan.

This came as global businessmen predicted that economic opportunity and potentials of the 21st century is in South East Asia, particularly in the Philippines.

“We look forward to strengthen our relations in with South East Asian countries, particularly the Philippines, and increase trade and economic relations in Bulacan,” Lillie said in a recent visit here.

The ambassador said that one of the areas that they are looking into is in the development of renewable energy.

He said, the country is a global leader in geothermal energy and has potentials for wind and biomas energy developments;  while Bulacan is one of the leading provinces in the country as far as hydropower generation is concern.

This is due to 246 megawatt Angat River Hydro Electric Power Plant (Arhepp) located in Norzagaray town.

“Bulacan has so much potentials and opportunities in renewable energy development. With more opportunities, I believe more British companies will come here,” he said.

Lillie said that British businessmen are looking for more opportunity renewable energy development.

“Its part of our plant to be less reliant on oil and gas and to have energy security,” the ambassador said.

He added that renewable energy is not only environment friendly, but a step towards combating impacts of climate change.

He cited the aftermath of typhoons Pedring and Quiel in the province last year nnotinf that climate change is increasing probability of similar severe weather conditions in the world.

Meanwhile, Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado welcomed Lillie’s move to foster stronger relations with Bulacan

He said that British businessmen are welcome in the province noting that there are few that has already established business in Bulacan.

Alvarado also said that closer relations with Britain will give opportunity for Bulakenyos to join cultural exchange program in the future.

At present, at least nine British students has been undergoing community immersion in Hagonoy town facilitated through the Global Exchange program.

More British students are expected to arrive in April in the City of San Jose del Monte under the British Global citizen program.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trip to island village of Pugad

It was a cloudy Sunday morning, the sun is hardly up, but i was already at the old Hagonoy Public market where the passenger boat for the coastal village of Pugad is anchored.
The boat can fit 60 persons and supposed to leave by 7AM, but 30 minutes before, it was almost full.  The pilot and his two men were busy loading cargoes of their passengers on the boat.

I asked the guy on the steps, and he confirmed that its the first trip for Pugad, which at least one hour boat ride from the Hagonoy town proper.

I stepped on the boat and found an empty seat in front, just behind the cargoes.  I thought it was a good seat. I can shoot a lot of photos along the way and see a different perspective of how people on riverside and coastal communities lives.

But my excitement was coupled with some concerns as more people and cargoes came. The pilot said they will fit, but some older passengers expressed concern that we may capsize along the way.  Some even cited their sad experience.

I didnt say anything.  I just listened to them.  One even teased a gay passenger saying "ikaw lang ang bumigay sa Pugad." I secretly smiled knowing that an island village is a close knit community, each one knows another, eve in the boat, and Im the odd man.

I was born and raised in the coastal town of Hagonoy, and as journalist I have travel almost all places in my home province of Bulacan, but this trip was my first to Pugad, one of the two coastal villages of Hagonoy.

As the engine of the boat roared away from the river bank, I mind wondered what will I see in the next three hours.

CCTVs to secure Papal Nuncio's visit

MALOLOS CITY—With rising crime incidence, the mayor of this town assured security of Bishop Giuseppe Pinto, the papal nuncio to the Philippines who will visit the province on March 10.

Pinto will be in this city along with 46 bishops in the country on the said day for the opening of the year-long 50th Jubilee celebrations of the Diocese of Malolos.

Mayor Christian Natividad of this city said yesterday that they are now rushing installation of 50 new high definition close circuit television (CCTV) cameras along networks of thoroughfares here.

“We want to secure the visit of the papal nuncio and other guests in the Jubilee celebrations,” Natividad said noting that installation will be completed by end of March.

However, he said they prioritized installation of high definition CCTV camera’s along the MacArthur Highway from Guiguinto town to this city and along Paseo Del Congreso that leads to the Basilica Minore in the city’s downtown where main celebrations will be held.

“I asked PLDT to fast track installation along the MacArthur highway so that we can monitor movements in real time,” the mayor said.

The new high definition CCTV cameras will be added to similar equipment installed about two years ago.

Natividad added that they will field addition police officers along with quick response teams in case of trouble.

He said that at present, there are only 71 police officers guarding over 240,000 residents of this city.

Aside from the above preparations, Natividad also asked local citizens for vigilance to avert increasing crime incidence in the city.

The other day, a construction worker named Ramil de Leon was murder in Brgy. Sto. Rosario here.

The incident came tow days after four men robbed Pamana Cooperative in Matimbo followed by a stabbing at the Marcelo H. De Pilar National High School where a junior student was killed by a school mate.

On January 25, a businesswoman from Paombong town was killed in broad daylight near the provincial capitol compound here.  It was followed by the post Valentines Day murder of Crisanto Tolentino, a employee in the city’s vice mayor’s office.

Earlier, Bishop Jose Francisco Oliveros announced that Pinto along with bishops from 45 other dioceses in the country will join the 50thjubilee celebrations of the Diocese of Malolos on March 10.

He said that Pinto will lead the canonical coronation of the image of the Virgen Inmaculada Concepcion de Malolos.

Oliveros said that thousands others, including priests, nuns, high government officials, and parishioners will be present at the celebration. (Dino Balabo)