Writing and Public Relations

Hello! My name is Melody Aguiba.  Writing has been my passion throughout life. To be able to help institutions grow in their missions, I opted to become a Public Relations person. Here’s what businessman and politician Donald Trump said of the importance of PR:

“You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to be worth much. You need to generate interest, and you need to create excitement. One way is to hire PR people…If the New York Times writes even a moderately positive one-column story about one of my deals, it doesn’t cost me anything, and its worth a lot more than $40,000.”

Of course PR has no cost if you do it for yourself. But even if you hire one, it’s still most cost effective. And the most important thing is its value is worth a lot more!

I hope you will get passionate too about the stories we write about—the products and causes we will share.  We hope knowing about them will be valuable for you, your home, your job, and your world!

For I will make many interesting business and socio-economic development missions more meaningful, relevant to our world, and even exciting!

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Me and a Dieg Mendoza artwork
Me and a Dieg Mendoza artwork

Biotechnology crop area down heftily 21% due to fake Bt corn seeds

 

By Melody M. Aguiba

 

Production of biotechnology crops in the Philippines fell heftily by 21% to 642,000 hectares due to the proliferation of counterfeit Bt corn seeds that had taken up an estimated 10% of the market for registered seeds.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) reported that while biotechnology area globally sustained growth by 3% to 189.8 million hectares, the local market fell as seven companies are reportedly involved in fake seed production.

Yet, the Philippines is still now one of world’s largest biotechnology producer at thirteenth place.

Monsanto, the pioneer biotechnology developer of Bt corn, the only genetically modified (GM—or biotechnology) crop commercialized in the country, is continuing to seek Department of Agriculture’s (DA) assistance in stopping fake seeds production.

“Under the regulations, only registered seeds may be distributed to the market.  Presence of counterfeit seeds is a disincentive to technology developers that have put in their investments,”said Gabriel O. Romero, Monsanto regulatory affairs chief, said in a press briefing.

Aside from the concern on fake seeds, ISAAA Vice Chairman Paul S. Teng said governments, especially developing countries like the Philippines, should improve other regulations in GM crops.

One major concern is the need to speed up approval of biotechnology crops in order to arrest opportunity losses placed at cost of $1.5 trillion by 2050 in low and lower middle income countries.

“Governments are concerned on the safety, access and profitability of biotech crops, as well as local interests on biodiverisity protection and trade competitiveness.  Hence, regulations become stringent which stifle access of farmers to the technology and its economic benefits,” noted ISAAA.

“Suppression of the technology in Africa is equal to $2.5 billion from 2008 to 2013.  Delays in Golden Rice release in India alone costs $199 million per year.  This is in the form of health costs. This is also hurting education because health is most important for learning in early childhood.  It impacts cognitive development,” Teng said.

The non-adoption of Bt eggplant in India is costing it $500 million per year.

Biotechnology crops commercialization approval have slowed under certain conditions as some sectors fear an adverse effect on health and the environment as genes are transferred from one species to another under GM.

Breeding experts asserted though that GM has extremely strict regulatory policy especially in the Philippines where GM crops go through scrutiny for adverse health effects like allergenicity and toxicity.  These also go through testing on effects to the environment and biodiversity and substantial equivalence (comparison to non-GM crops in nutrient content).

Teng stressed that benefits to ecosystem of GM crops is huge with 183 million hectares saved from destruction due to higher yield from these crops that require  a smaller area for a bigger yield.

GM crops have also cut carbon dioxide emission equivalent to 16.7 million cars off the road.  There is also a reduction of use of insecticides-pesticides by 18.4% from 1996 to 2016.

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Moreover, gains of farmers have grown by $186.1 billion in the form of increased yield and income largely from Bt corn, GM soybean, Bt cotton.  These have helped 16 to 17 million small farmers globally and their families totaling 65 million.

Teng also cited opportunity costs of non-adoption of biotech canola in Australia is estimated at $377.9 million.

 

Private sector asked Dar to explain COA findings on misuse of at least 46.681 B fund supposedly allotted to help farmers during the critical Covid 19 pandemic

September 22, 2021

The private sector has asked Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar to explain the findings of Commission on Audit (COA) showing the misuse of an estimated P46.681 billion of public funds supposedly expected by farmers amid their sufferings due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

   In a letter to Dar dated September 1, 2021, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said it is “disturbed” about COA’s 2020 regular audit report.

   “Sixty days have now passed from the release of the final report of COA regarding the performance of DA on the use of public funds. We would like therefore to seek clarification from your office,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

    “As you are well aware, we are working very hard to help increase the budget of Department of Agriculture  (DA) and these COA findings will greatly jeopardize our effort of generating additional resources for our agriculture sector.”

   At least seven items have been cited by COA in ita audit.

   The three main items are a P4.553 billion “unobligated amount” due to delays in procurement process and discontinuance of project implementation; P9.896 billion (16.6% of total DA budget) returned budget due to delay in delivery of goods, delayed submission of disbursement vouchers for payment; and P17.542 billion “non-liquidated” fund. 

   This non-liquidated fund is in the form of DA’s fund transfers to non government agencies (NGA), local government units (LGU), government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC), and people’s organizations (PO).

   “Government officials are the steward of public funds and it is incumbent upon them to make sure that these funds are properly accounted for in the interest of the public that it serves,” said Fausto.

   PCAFI lamented that DA just “returned” the budget supposedly allotted for the fight against African swine flue (ASF).

   “We can only speculate that DA failed to obligate the additional amount of P4 billion recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for DA’s budget for the swine sector in order to address the problem of the ASF. Thus, no real addition to the budget of DA.”

   A total of P9.454 billion was separately found by COA  to have been misused.

   “Audit suspensions, disallowances and charges during the year and in prior years amounted to ₱1.331 Billion and ₱10.506 Billion, respectively or a total of ₱11.837 Billion.  Only ₱2.33 Billion or 20.13% were settled.  This leaves unsettled suspensions, disallowances and charges of ₱9.454 Billion.”

   Even the use of Bayanihan 1 and 2 fund has been questionable while it supposed to be what farmers depended on in rice seed assistance during these critical times of the pandemic.

   “Out of the total allotment for Bayanihan I & II of ₱27.035 billion, ₱24.8421 billion was utilized or obligated leaving an unobligated amount of ₱2.193 billion due to the delay in the procurement process, non-implementation of projects due to unavailability of inbred certified seeds and late release of funds.”

   These are the other concerns for which PCAFI asked DA to explain:

1.   Procurement contracts of nine DA offices of ₱2.076 billion involving procurement of fertilizers, seeds and other agricultural products;

2. Non-compliance with DA memorandum orders and circulars in the distribution of livestock, feeds, fertilizers, seeds and other agricultural products by 12 DA offices with a total of ₱1.057 billion.

3. Reimbursement of claims for fertilizer resulted in overpayment of ₱214.894 million due to payment to unqualified beneficiaries and erroneous computation.

   These overpayments are a result of misapplication of the unit price of fertilizers monitored by the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA); errors in the number of bags used; and error in the unit price and the number of bags used in the computation of the reimbursements.

    “There is unreliability in the reimbursement of ₱0.963 million due to management’s failure to provide the data on area planted, number of procured fertilizer and the correct information on the number of fertilizer procured as basis in the determination of the total amount to be reimbursed.”

4. Laxity in the reporting of farmer beneficiaries in the master list submitted to Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP)  resulted in the over remittance in the payroll amounting of ₱35.83   million. 

5. Over remittance represents financial subsidy of ₱21.494 million and food assistance of ₱14.336 million of  7,146 beneficiaries that were reported two or three times.

6.  Leniency in the reporting of farmer beneficiaries  in the master list for rice subsidy submitted to Land bank resulted in the over remittance of payroll P35.64 million. This over remittance is caused by 6,912 beneficiaries (85% of whom are from Region I) that were reported two to three times.

   “Despite the cleaning and correction of errors in the list of beneficiaries by the regional field office (RFOs), the payroll files submitted by the DA-ICTS to Land Bank still included the names of beneficiaries that are listed twice or thrice.”

   “Moreover, farm size of farmer beneficiaries was not provided in the master list or payroll file. Without the required farm size, it is difficult to validate if the farmer beneficiaries were qualified for the financial assistance of ₱5,000.00 paid thru cash/pre-paid cards.

7.  Accuracy of farmers’ data base could not be relied upon due to the assignment of multiple Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) numbers to a single farmer beneficiary and the assignment of RSBSA number to two or more farmer beneficiary.

   “RSBSA serves as a requirement and basis for providing financial assistance, subsidiary funding and insurance services for farmers.  Those registered in the electronic database by government agencies are given priority in the targeting of their respective programs.

   “It is a means to identify farmers and fishermen that shall benefit from agriculture-related programs including  Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF), Rice Farmers Fertilizer Assistance (RFFA), and Cash and Financial Subsidy for Marginalized Farmers and Fisherfolks (CSFMFF).

7. “Six provinces/city in Regions IX, X, XII had issued a single RSBSA number to at least 20 or more farmer beneficiaries. Example: RSBSA No. 10-13-21-10 was issued to 208 farmer beneficiaries and RSBSA No. 10-13-012 issued to 178 farmer beneficiaries in Bukidnon province.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Telemedicine help on reproductive health heightens as Family Planning services reduced by 50% since the pandemic

September 20. 2021

Telemedicine support platforms continue to expand as pandemic restrictions tighten, with women turning to the internet and social media to access reproductive health services.

   In turn, Bayer Philippines’ ‘Ask Mara’ chatbot on Facebook has expanded its features to include access to teleconsultation services.

   The Facebook chatbot can now also help one locate nearby Mercury Drug, Watsons, Southstar and Rose Pharmacy drugstores, or get more information soon on topics like androgen excess and endometriosis.

Ask Mara Facebook chatbot offers help for any questions on Family Planning and Reproductive Health

   In an exclusive online event entitled “The PILLipina Choice: Your voice for your empowered choice” held September 18, 2021, leading womens health advocates and influencers looked back on the history of the contraceptive pill and reaffirmed the importance of giving Filipinas safe and easy access to the right information and support to make informed reproductive health choices.    

   “It’s great that Ask Mara is there as a friendly resource for Filipinas who want on-demand advice about contraception and reproductive health. It’s accessible, expert-driven, and most importantly—non-judgmental,” said Jillian Gatcheco, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Philippines and a supporter of reproductive rights.

   “With our current limited access to professional advice, Mara gives us real power through reliable information” said Inka Magnaye, voice talent and host behind popular podcast series Sleeping Pill with Inka.

   “Ask Mara can help me get in touch with a doctor, locate the nearest drugstore, and even send me reminders. She gives us options, provides reliable information, and just enables us to make an informed choice.”

   “Mara is really your go-to-girl for relevant health choices and now she makes it easier for us to access our partner experts” said Dr. Marie Michelle Dado, a Fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.

Ask Mara daily pill reminder available via Facebook

   “In this pandemic where it can be difficult to get in touch with doctors and find options for contraceptive and reproductive health, these new features help take some of the worry out for women and let us focus on ourselves, on work and our family.”

   Digital avenues needed for womens health

   At the start of the pandemic last year, family planning services were reduced by over 50% in March and government-run reproductive clinics operated with limited staff due to lockdown measures.

   To open up new lines to access to these services, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) also set up hotlines for remote medical consultations and door-to-door delivery of birth control supplies.

   “While we have since built up systems for women to gain access to health services through a variety of channels”, said USec. Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM’s Executive Director, “we need innovative solutions from both private and public sectors that champion women’s reproductive health choices and empower women to make informed choices.”

Benefits of pills. Credit: Birth Control Pharmacist

   On top of the new features, the ‘Ask Mara’ chatbot provides information on the different contraceptive options available, both natural and modern methods. Mara shares the usage, pros and cons of contraceptive pills, condoms and intrauterine devices among others.

   She also responds to frequently asked questions and includes a pill reminder feature to help those who are just getting started. To start chatting, just message Ask Mara on the Facebook Messenger app or visit https://www.facebook.com/AskMaraPH/

DENR taps abaca exporter Newtech Pulp to buy abaca fiber of 3 forest communities in Lake Lanao

September 19, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has linked forest communities in Lake Lanao with abaca exporter Newtech Pulp Inc. , bringing hope of sustained livelihood while conserving the watershed that is the largest hydroelectric source in Mindanao.

    Three people’s organizations (PO) are now partners of Newtech Pulp in the supply of abaca fiber.  Newtech Pulp has an abaca pulp manufacturing plant in Maria Cristina Balo, Lanao del Norte

   The POs are   Sunrise Producer Association, Wato Balindong Farmers Cooperative and Sania Farmers Association.  These POs operate in Piagapo, Balindong, and Maguing all in the Province of Lanao del Sur.

   Newtech Pulp is sourcing abaca fiber from an estimated 200 hectares of abaca plantation that are under DENR’s Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP).

Abaca stripping at the Lake Lanao River Basin project

   “These people’s organization used to harvest (rice and other crops like abaca, and banana) just once a year.  Their production in abaca is being sustained because they are now supplying directly to Newtech Pulp Inc.,” said Samsodin Taha, operations manager at INREMP’s Lake Lanao River Basin (LLRB).

   The LLRB within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim MIndanao (BARMM) is the largest lake in Mindanao. It is also known to be one of 15 ancient lakes of the world.

   Lake Lanao’s hydroelectric facilities provide 65%  of Mindanao’s power demand.

   However, Lake Lanao’s watersheds have been confronted with  deforestation, unsustainable farming, limited economic opportunities, and limited development projects.  All of these further worsen natural resources degradation and poverty.

   INREMP has integrated a Maranao Ethnic Development Plan in its natural resources program in LLRB.  The Maranaos have kept their own culture in keeping with the environment under the Al Khalifa Islamic concept  of people as stewards of nature.  

   However, due to pervasive poverty, some residents have resorted to illegal resource extraction and conversion of forests into farm lands.

Turmeric processing at the Lake Lanao River Basin project of DENR

   This is why DENR has carried out extensive natural resource management or NRM in LLRB.

   As of the end of May, NRM  includes reforestation area of 145 hectares and agroforestry area of 1,300 hectares.

   Commercial tree plantation covers 527 hectares; and  conservation farming, 110 hectares.

   Forest trees planted under CTP are the following:  Falcata and Mahogany.    For conservation farming, the trees include fruit trees such as Durian, Rambutan, Lanzones, forest trees such as Falcata and Mahogany, together with cash crops and root crops. 

   Agroforestry areas are planted with rice, corn, banana, and palapa or white dallion (a root crop used as appetizer) and fruit trees and forest trees.     Reforestation areas are planted with Narra and Lauan.

   The NRM at Lake Lanao has a total of P78 million budget.

   DENR is looking further in partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR-LDS), Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE-LDS), and  Department of Agriculture (DA) for a future expansion of the abaca plantation. 

   If these three agencies will infuse investment into the abaca project, the LLRB abaca area  can expand by three times more in the future,  Taha said. 

Natural Resource Management projects at the Lake Lanao watershed

   INREMP covers rehabilitation of six subwatersheds in LLRB These are the subwatersheds of Marawi-Saguiaran, Ramain, Malaig, West, Taraka, and Gata.

   INREMP is jointly funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Philippine government.

   INREMP’s livelihood enhancement includes provision of turmeric processing machine for the Mapantao-Saguiaran People’s Organization and its mini warehouse.

   A solar drying pavement has been put up for Dimapatoy Farmers Association.

   An abaca stripping machine has been provided for the Harith Tree Planting Farmers Association.

   There are six rural infrastructure projects in the LLRB site and 29 Livelihood Enhancement  Support projects.  Beneficiaries are a total of  41 people’s organizations involved in NRM.

. Rural  infrastructure has a total of P97 million budget

Lilivehood Enhancement Support project at the Lake Lanao River Basin project of DENR

   An ADB project profile indicated that the rural Infrastructure projects include access roads, farm-to-market access facilities, and potable water supply.

   INREMP provided small irrigation systems in forest lands  that do not have access to National Irrigation System and Communal Irrigation System.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Healthcare waste management to be implemented by DENR to address increasing infectious waste problem from Covid 19

September 7, 2021

A Philippine Healthcare Waste Management Project (PHCWMP) will be implemented by the government to address the huge waste problem brought about by the pandemic Covid 19 that consequently has adverse health impact on the population.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is concerned about the increasing generation of healthcare wastes particularly due to the Covid 19 pandemic that just came about in late 2019.

   As such, the healthcare waste management project was approved for funding by DENR’s partner Global Environment Facility (GEF) for $4.65 million.

Healthcare waste. Credit-SPREP

   The healthcare waste management work will involve four components. The first is the reduction of unintentionally-produced POPs’ (persistent organic pollutants) release to the environment.

   Management of mercury-added products  and mercury wastes from the healthcare sector will also be addressed as these can have important adverse effect on human health once released to the environment.

   “We  need to strengthen the management of non-pathological infectious healthcare  wastes generated from the healthcare system brought about by Covid 19.   These wastes should be properly treated and disposed of to prevent further spread of the virus,” said DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director William P. Cuñado.

   “The project will also demonstrate a low cost and non-combustion treatment of wastes suitable for small scale and remote hospitals.  This will be implemented in a cluster of healthcare facilities.  The project upgrade the capacity of waste service providers with best available technologies, techniques, and practices.  

   It will also link local governments  to public and private investments.

   DENR is mandated to reduce the use and release to the environment of mercury under its obligation as a party to the Minamata Convention. 

   Human exposure to mercury has been linked to disorder of the central nervous system resulting in incognitive motor skill, kidney failure, and anomalies or birth defects.

   The Philippines is also committed to the elimination of POPs under the Stockholm Convention.

   The project will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)  and EMB as the ​lead executing agency.

    The DOH’s Healthcare Waste Management Manual (4th Edition) indicated that Infectious waste ​is most likely to contain pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) in sufficient concentration or quantity to cause diseases in susceptible hosts.

   ​Aside from infectious wastes, ​there are other types of ​hazardous healthcare  wastes health authorities are concerned of which are the following

1. ​Pharmaceutical wastes ​includes expired, split, and contaminated pharmaceutical products, drugs, vaccines and sera that are no longer usable and needs to be disposed of appropriately.  This also includes discarded items used in handling of pharmaceuticals, such as bottles, vials and ampoules, or boxes with residues, gloves, masks and connective tubing.

2.Sharp wastes must be managed with utmost care because of the double danger it poses such as accidental pricks, cuts, or punctures that can potentially spread infection through these injuries.

3.       Chemical wastes consists of discarded solid, liquid, and gaseous chemicals used in diagnostic and experimental work and in cleaning, housekeeping, and disinfecting procedures. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Covid 19 pandemic accelerates digitalization of marketplace, Go Shopping Philippines foresees sustained boom in cashless transactions

September 6, 2021

The Covid 19 pandemic is accelerating digitalization of the marketplace, propping up e-commerce sales of Filipino-founded Go Shopping Philippines(GSP)which foresees a sustained boom in cashless transactions.

   Boasting of branding differentiation and protection from online shopping, GSP Mall has easily joined the league in successful online transactions among now famous online companies due to the pandemic Covid 19.

   “The pandemic has drastically hastened the use of online shopping among residents of Metro Manila and nationwide.  People can no longer do the normal transaction on the malls for fear of Covid 19 and the new variant delta,” GSP Chief Executive Officer Neil Garcia La-as in an interview with a broadcast firm.

   “With the  imposition of lockdowns, it’s  inevitable people can’t go out. This paved the way for  online e-commerce to blossom like mushroom. This is an industry that has a great future.”

Neil GArcia La-as, GSP Mall chief executive officer

   With such phenomenal growth the digital mall has been experiencing in one year or so, it will take just a matter time before GSP Mall franchises out to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

   “Partnering with GEP solutions, a developer based in Singapore, is an advantage for a localized company like ours because they have been 26 years in the business,” La-as said.

   Big brands with the traditional brick and mortar stores can no longer ignore opportunities that have emerged in digital transactions.

   That compels them to put up venues for people to buy their products online.  And GSP Mall comes out as a preferred consumer outlet with the ecosystem it is building that offers solution to every need.

    “As a previous leasing manager of the one of the major mall operators in the Philippines, I have seen drastic change of brick and mortar stores in presentation of their products. There’s no way they can’t be present online as it naturally bccomes a support to sustaining sales momentum,” he said.

   “Visibility is the name of the game.”

   While the pandemic has brought consumers the convenience of shopping while at home, it has also caused proliferation of low quality and fake items available online. 

   But GSP Mall commits to give consumers the digital lifestyle they deserve.  It scrutinizes legitimacy of merchants and the quality of products or service they offer.

   It makes sure products like cosmetics and skin care produts are  FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-registered.

   “We have a self regulatory body to make sure the kind of merchants we choose is the kind of concept we want to offer to Go Shopping community.We started a bit slower because our game plan is not really to massively allow a lot merchants  to be on board for as long as I don’t have enough manpower to scrutinize them all one by one, he said.”

   “We’re very slow, but very consistent. We target 1,000 merchants to be on-boarded  by the end of the year. We have a timeline so we can secure inventory before the ‘ber’ (September to December)  months take off.   We are alluring all of them to be with us these coming months.”

   Go Shopping Philippines has already made a distinction for itself as it is not just a retail e-commerce site. 

   It is an entire community, an ecosystem.

   “We aggregate other apps to exist with us.  We try to synergize with other e commerce platform  like Metrodeal and Tourism Ph, restaurant bookings.  We move beyond what’s currently the status of e commerce platforms.”

   GSP will provide its consumers its own Go TV under which it will produce its our own shows and news and current affairs program.  It will offer its Gflix or online movie offerings.  It will , we have its own Cineplex to  showcase online cinemas on a  pay per view feature.

   To top it all, it will have a foreign exchange venue.

   “It’s a huge ecosystem where anybody can converge and do business with us.”

   GSP is targeting a revenue of P500 million by the fiscal year 2021-2022.  Its revenue comes from percentage of sales from merchants from different product categories.

About GSP Mall

   GSP Mall will be a big virtual mall where practically all one needs can be delivered via what is called Smart Logistics.

   Through an easy access from the GSP app from one’s smartphone, one can have his desired product delivered at his doorstep via GSP’s Smart Logistics.  The logistics systems aggregate third party couriers with warehouse and delivery services.

   GSP’s strategically located warehouses make sure a product from within the country or overseas is tracked and delivered as expected.

   GSP  has an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that automates business processes including warehousing and logistics.

   Technology will be a tool through which anyone is protected, assuring anyone that his well-earned money is well-returned with the added perks.   It should create full satisfaction from the digital lifestyle. 

   Digital also now operates under Artificial Intelligence advancements.  GSP Mall’s Analytics Program enables GSP and its merchants to systematically sell goods based on data, statistics, and market demographics.

GSP Mall offers Filipino products

   A fraud detection system, on top of firewalls, secures GSP Mall’s transactions. 

   And double protection security systems ensure that when cyber-attacks are attempted against the system, at the worst case scenario, only a portion, not the entire ecosystem, can be affected.  That is given the self-locking capability of the digital mall systems’ various components.

   On top of supermarket products, food and beverage, fruits and vegetables, apparel, fashion accessories, and jewelry, the GSP Mall offers practically everything—appliances, furniture, home furnishings, most department store products.

  The GSP Mall app makes purchasing fast and friendly.  Registration is easy through Facebook or email.

   To keep one protected, a verification system is required to make sure the real person is the one who really makes the transaction.  That is done as a user is asked to take a selfie of himself and also send a copy of his legitimate ID card.

   Medical, dental, and veterinary services, architectural and interior design, carpentry, and upholstery services, sewing and embroidery can all be easily arranged from the mobile phone.

   As GSP promises to give what once can only be imagined, the features of the mega GSP Mall are all-encompassing —  leaving one without anything to ask for even in the middle of pandemic’s lockdowns.   

   These services, though, will be offered one after the other,  one phase at a time.

   The GFlix offers on-demand movie — both local and international films — now possible for viewing via one’s mobile phone. GO LIVE is a livestreaming platform for conferences, trade exhibitions, and events.

GSP Mall, your go-to digital mall for all

   GO CINEPLEX is a 3D virtual cinema that has multiple halls, secured online ticketing system, and high-quality audio and video setup. It is enabling feelings of warmth among people commonly watching theatre shows and live presentations, virtual nevertheless.  Fashion shows and sports activities can now all be viewed at the flick of a finger.

    With the first mega digital mall in the Philippines will be its own GoTV. It will be airing 24/7 to entertain  users any hour of the day, or night.  It will air select television programs accessible anywhere through one’s own mobile phone.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Israeli tech company sees market growth in telecommunications, AODF market post Covid 19 as need for internet connections heightens

September 2, 2021

An Israeli technology provider is seeing market growth in automated optical distribution frames (AODF) as investment in telecommunication soars particularly for advanced technologies useful in floods and natural disasters in the post Covid 19 scenario. 

    As government and private investors bounce back to pouring investments in infrastructure for connectivity that is much needed today and, in the post Covid 19 situation, Israeli Teliswitch sees tremendously bright prospects for its AODF technology.

   Now more than ever, the need for internet connectivity in offices and residences is surging arising from the Work from Home (WFH) mode that has since prevailed due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

   As floods and natural disasters further highlight the Covid 19 condition, Teliswitch sees huge opportunity to provide telecommunication and data center operating companies a resilient AODF technology. 

    AODF is an important support equipment in cable interconnections for the optical transmission system as part of the communication networks critical in long distance trunk lines and network relay transmission.

   “Our new Network Service Recovery solution allows optical network operators to switch automatically to alternate, predefined fiber links in case of fiberoptic cable failure caused by natural disaster or human-made damage,” according to Teliswitch. 

Multi-operator automatic optical switch

   Fiber optic cables are the backbone of network infrastructure today. 

   In case of partial or complete damage to a cable arising from man-made or natural calamities like typhoons typical in a typhoon belt as the Philippines, large parts of the network are disconnected.   

   It may take weeks or even months to renew the service to the damaged areas.

   TeliSwitch’s solution enables quick and automatic connection to alternate or backup cables– employing its Automatic Optical Distribution Frame (AODF) to make the connection on real time.

   Its technology’s advantage is fast– effectively zero- time lag on the part of users — and automatic repair of damages. 

   “There is no time lag in term of user connection because the subscribers will not even notice something went wrong somewhere because the switching from one broken or defective line to another is automatic.” 

   Robotics is making a difference in seamless user connectivity. No human presence is needed at the site. 

   The company’s AODF is a cost-effective, all-optical switch, using a single switching robot and advanced image recognition.

   The AODF is operated remotely and can withstand harsh weather conditions, thus assuring the connection is made even when there is no physical access to the AODF.

    With the new release, users can now use the Elements Management Software (EMS) to monitor and manage complex, end to end interconnection scenarios that can be executed automatically once the system detects fiber link failure.

   “TeliSwitch’s opto-mechatronics design keeps our AODF link connections alive, even during power loss events or system maintenance.  The AODF solution includes an SW-based element manager system for a real-time, holistic view of the fiber optic networks’ physical layer.”

   Part of the effort to prepare for expected climate change damages to the communication networks, optical networks have to be automated at the physical layer, according to TeliSwitch Chief Executive Officer Rafi Benatar. 

   Automatic Feature Recognition (AFR), an essential tool in automating computer systems, should be implemented to provide quick recovery from natural disasters.

    Teliswitch is the leading vendor of Automated Optical Distribution Frames for fiberoptic network connectivity. 

   Its Elements Management Software (EMS) provides remote and central management.

The company’s systems are deployed successfully by telecommunication operators around the world.

   As Covid 19 has intensified the global need for connectivity, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) foresees continuing growth of the telecommunication industry as 49% of the world does not use the internet.

   “The network coverage gap is even larger at 83.9 per cent of the world’s population is not covered by 5G.  A large portion of the rural population remains unserved by broadband networks: 29 per cent of the world’s rural population is not served by 4G networks.”

Digital Around the World. Credit-Datareportal

   The provision of state-of-the-art network and data Solutions are increasingly effected to adeptly build and better manage telecoms and Data Center fiber optic infrastructures in order to attain utmost efficiency while bridging the present gaps in network deployment. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Two rice mills, VCO facility, solar dryer put up in Wahig Inabanga River, Bohol, uplifting livelihood of poorest watershed dwellers

August 31, 2021

At least two rice mills, a virgin coconut oil facility, and a multi-commodity solar dryer have been put up in the Wahig Inabanga River Basin  in Bohol, uplifting the livelihood among Philippines’ poorest upland communities.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has put up the rice mills as part of a project protecting the watershed around Wahig Inabanga River. 

   Water Inabanga is the largest and most important river in Region 7 (Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor).  It is recognized as a watershed reservation under Proclamation No. 468. 

Inabanga River, Bohol. Credit-Wikipedia

   It has a huge potential source of water for agricultural, commercial, industrial, and household uses.  The National Irrigation Administration has constructed a dam to provide irrigation to about 5,000 hectares of agricultural land in four valley towns here (Sierra Bullones, Pilar, Dagohoy, and San Miguel).

   The dam also supplies the domestic water needs of 637,097 households.

   The rice mills are now managed by the people’s organization (PO) of DAFA and MVEGEGRO (Matinao Vegetable Growers Association).

   A separate all-weather dryer facility has been put up for the KUFFARD (Kauswagan United Farmers for Forest and Agro-Forest Resources Development)  and the multi-commodity solar tunnel dryer for COMASFARMA (Confraternity of Mayana Small Farmers).

   Since these facilities have been constructed, around 2,700 beneficiaries have enjoyed their production of nearly 450,000 kilos of palay, corn, cassava, and assorted fish.

   The DENR project — Integrated Natural Resource and Environmental Management Program (INREMP) — has also put up a virgin coconut oil facility to enhance the livelihood source of the communities. For the fishing residents, a fish pen coral in the area has been constructed.

Natural Resource Management-Reforestation Inabanga, Bohol

   INREMP has allocated P17.7 million for these livelihood projects totaling to 66 units. These have a total of 52 people’s organization beneficiaries.

   For their water supply, a concrete water reservoir and a water system transformer have been constructed.

   While the upland communities are helping the government in natural resource management (NRM) as they protect the forests and mountains, INREMP provided them with the farm-to-market road (FMR). 

   These FMRs   are desperately needed by the upland communities in order to transport their agricultural goods to the market from the watershed areas.

Farm-to-market road

   Such roads, among around 15 rural infrastructure projects, have been constructed with the help of local government units (LGU) in the towns of Danao, Inabanga, Trinidad, San Miguel, and Talibon, among others.

   INREMP is funded by the Asian Development Bank with a counterpart fund from the Philippine government.

   As the project nears completion, a total of 4,316.67 hectares  of forestland has been been properly put under NRM. 

   This consists of the following:

  • 758 hectares of reforestation with a contract cost of P19.169 million, benefitting 24 POs 
  • 1,439 hectares of agroforestry area, with a contract cost of P43.684 million, benefitting 47 POs; and
  • 1,644 hectares of Assisted Natural Regeneration area with a contract cost of P46.625 million, benefitting 30 POs.
  • There is also a conservation farming area of 331 hectares with a contract cost of P19.8 million and 30 PO beneficiaries. 
  • A total of 134 hectares of commercial tree planting area has been put up, benefitting five POs. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)
Virgin coconut oil facility

Six delegates to represent the Philippines in virtual global Youth Ag Summit, young leaders to pitch for sustainable agriculture project

August 25, 2021

Six youth leaders from the Philippines are joining 100 delegates from more than 44 different countries in Bayer’s 2021 virtual Youth Ag Summit this November.

   The global forum and biennially organized conference selected young leaders between the ages of 18 and 25 with a passion for sustainable global agriculture for the opportunity to learn and collaborate with others on solutions to issues challenging food security.

   This year’s delegates come from more than 2,000 applicants representing nearly 100 countries.

   “This is a very important project of Bayer to really highlight the United Nations Sustainable Goals, particularly that of feeding a hungry planet. It’s also for us to empower the next generation, giving them a forum and chance to meet like-minded peers not just in the Philippines but across the world” said Iiinas Ivan Lao, Country Commercial Lead of Bayer CropScience Philippines.

   To be selected, this year’s delegates presented project ideas and examples of previous advocacy work based on the summit’s overall theme “Feeding a Hungry Planet”.

   The six delegates from the Philippines come from provinces around the country and are students in national and private universities. 

Delegates to the 22 Youth Ag Summit together with Bayer officials

   They are Grand Cayona Gascon (University of the Philippines Visayas), Remigio Mujar Lozano Jr. (University of the Philippines os Banos), Tracey Chua Tedoco (University of St. La Salle), Christian King Lagueras Condez (Ateneo de Manila University), Mark Virgil Casimo Jamer (University of the Philippines Los Banos) and Thoreenz Panes Soldevilla (University of the Philippines Diliman).

   “The Youth Ag Summit has always been a great opportunity for me to connect with the next generation of Ag leaders. These young people provide the passion needed to make a real difference in tackling food security challenges,” said Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and president of the Crop Science Division. 

   “By supporting and nurturing these future leaders, we aid them in what we hope is a lifelong journey of learning and action for a more sustainable food system.” 

   This year’s 5th biennial Youth Ag Summit will be the company’s first virtual YAS event and its first with a virtual idea incubator called YAS University.

   Within the YAS University program, delegates will continue to develop their business and communications skills, receive coaching from mentors, and complete weekly assignments that help them hone their own project concepts for 10 weeks following the summit, beginning in January 2022.

   At the end of YAS University, the delegates will have the opportunity to pitch their project ideas to a panel of experts to compete for prizes.

   Bayer’s partnerships for this year’s forum with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the tech company Babele make the unique experience of YAS University possible. Delegates will work with the UN SDSN and Balbele on a 10-week Youth Ag Summit (YAS) University program following the forum with mentoring from industry leaders, farmers, and YAS alumni.

   For more on the Youth Ag Summit 2021 and see a full list of selected delegates, please visit www.youthagsummit.com and follow #AgvocatesWithoutBorders on Twitter and Youth Ag Summit (@youthagsummit) on the YAS Instagram channel.  End

About the Youth Ag Summit

The Youth Ag Summit movement is a community of global young leaders championing sustainable agriculture and food security and working to bridge the understanding gap between those who produce our food and those who consume it. Every two years, 100 delegates are chosen to take part in the Summit. Previous editions have been hosted in Canada, Australia, Belgium and Brazil. Due to COVID restrictions, this year’s summit is the first completely virtual event.

About the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was set up in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. For more information, visit www.unsdsn.org

48-household bamboo community in Occidental Mindoro registers intellectual property right for distinct bamboo crafts

August 18, 2021

A bamboo community in Occidental Mindoro has filed with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for intellectual property right  (IPR) over their distinct bamboo crafts that have raised their income opportunities.

   The IPR is expected to  protect the business interest of the Ansiray Tree Planters Development Assn Inc. (ATPDAI) as they developed their own products and designs.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) implemented the “Handicraft Industry for Sustainable Community Development and Environmental Protection” in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

   As the DENR project helped maximize their production of bamboo, ATPDAI was able to produce 31 types of bamboo products. 

    These are four  types of lampshades, two types of wine holders, two types of centerpiece table, placemats, hamper, mobile speaker, tower racks, curtains, pitcher, cup, necklace, earrings, bracelet, key chains, ballpen holder, and tray.

   There are also two types of baskets, accessory organizer, Chinese design bamboo sala set, bilao, television rack, modern crib, modern style sala set, mugs, and pitcher.

   The government is promoting the use of bamboo as a substitute to wood as it is as durable as any wood, and it contributes to reforestation.

Ansiray community files for intellectual propetry right (IPR) over their own designs of bamboo crafts

   The Ilin island in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro  has abundant natural stands of bamboo. Ansiray, one of the island’s barangays, has been known for its bamboo furniture-making community.

   More than 30 households have furniture making skills.  Eighteen households are engaged in bamboo production.

   DENR’s project, costing P868,000, included capacity building,enterprise development and marketing, operations management, and project management.

   The project generated a product trademark and label that qualify for IPR and a business plan for the bamboo enterprise operations.

   The local government unit (LGU) of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro provided an area in San Jose población to be used by ATPDAI as display area to showcase their bamboo products.

   The San Jose LGU has also been planning to establish a bamboo eco-park in Ilin island.  It has been committing to engage in a project on diversification of the use of bamboo.

  Another collaborator, the Divine Word College of San Jose-Occidental Mindoro, is extending training for the community’s financial and technical literacy.

  DENR’s attached agency, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), is training the Ilin islanders on bamboo propagation and best practices in bamboo farming.

   Bamboo has huge benefits to the environment – one major function is fighting soil erosion, along with carbon sequestration.

   Bamboo can be used for  posts, roofs, walls, floors, beams, trusses and fences.   It is also a raw material for mats, baskets, tools, handles, hats, toys, musical instruments and furniture. Bamboo shoots are  considered a delicacy in some communities.

   Most bamboo species are fast-growing. But its use has not been increasing in the same pace.   

Lack of investment, weak institutional framework, and limited skilled people in the bamboo craft are among the reasons blamed for the slow growth of the bamboo industry.

   The absence of reliable raw material source also discourages investments in bamboo processing.

   Barangay Ansiray has a total of 224 households with an average of 8 members per household with a usual income per capita of P 3,000 per month. With the DENR project, the households have been observed to have raised their income.

   Almost 60-70% of Barangay Ansiray’s agricultural area are planted with bamboo.

   DENR is promoting sustainable kind of forest management in  Occidental Mindoro  as the forests are heavily threatened with illegal human activities such as charcoal making and kaingin.  These result in degradation of soil and forest destruction.

   ATPDAI  has a tenure over 382.15 hectares of forestland under DENR’s Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA).  They have 152 hectares of bamboo plantation that are now under the management of the National Greening Program.

   DENR’s city environment and natural resources office (CENRO) in San Jose has conceived the bamboo project as the community’s income from beds and sala set, their traditional products, are not enough to sustain their livelihood.

   DENR is asking assistance from other government agencies in maximizing business opportunities of ATPDAI.  Department of Science and Technology (DOST) can lend assistance in machineries and product design. 

   Bamboo is a very versatile construction material that some experts have developed “engineered, laminated bamboo.” It is beautiful design of wood finishing for flooring and walling that can command a high price in the market.  


Beautiful Filipino engineered bamboo for finishing for flooring or walling.  Credit-DOST

   Infrastructure should also be improved in Ansiray as their production area is in an island.  As such, they need a boat for the efficient transportation of their products.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

World’s first coconut cider soap developed for fair skin, anti psoriatic cure, facial cleanser by a Filipino advocate of the ‘natural’

August 16, 2021

 A Philippine kind of the ancient beauty secret apple cider—the coco cider soap — has been developed by a Filipino advocate of natural ingredients, now ensnaring many Filipino hearts who believe in the “natural.”

   A Filipino born and raised here but who has honed his professional skills internationally, Neil Garcia La-as, announced Filipino brand Bakku2Basik (literally Back to Basic) has released the world’s first multi-beneficial “coco cider soap.”

   Much as how apple cider is considered an ancient secret and cure to many ills, coco cider soap is a secret to beautiful skin and consequently treats psoriasis, a difficult dry itchy skin condition. 

   As coconut is known globally as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, Bakku2basik’s coco cider soap takes advantage of these qualities. It is made from the sap of the coconut tree’s flowers and is fermented for 8-12 months.  As it naturally turns into vinegar, it becomes a source of important nutrients and minerals.

   It is even formulated with detoxifier activated bamboo charcoal, giving it a dark color that assures cleansing ability.

Neil Garcia La-as, founder and chief executive officer of Bakku2Basik

   “What makes this product different? We asked, “Why do people have many different skin issues? That’s when we thought maybe people have forgotten how to go back to the basic,” said La-as, Bakku2Basik chief executive officer.

   Since it was launched in early 2019, primarily via online direct selling (https://www.facebook.com/Bakku2Basik/), the coco cider soap has been warmly received by many Filipinos who are reminded of the wonder native product coconut that they have long known since they were kids.

   “Coconut is a tree of life.  But this is not just coco cider.  It is infused with activated bamboo charcoal that effectively cleanses  the body.  It makes the skin lighter, closes pores, and saves the skin from pimple attacks.  Coco cider soap also makes many of our psoriatic patients very happy. It alleviates their auto immune symptoms,” said La-as.

   While still in its infancy stage as a product, coco cider soap has started to gain a solid market globally from overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

   “Our international expansion has been inevitable.  Once Filipinos discover it, anywhere they are, they welcome it. There is a Filipino who will soon distribute it to Las Vegas and California”. 

   After eight months from launch, Bakku2basik’s coco cider soap has immediately established a distribution network all over the Philippines—Iloilo, Cotabato, and Zamboanga.

   With its antibacterial property, the soap enables one to stay fresh-smelling even without using a deodorant. This way, anybody can save!

Coco cider soap is made from the sap of coconut tree’s flower and is fermented for 8-12 months

   La-as said OFWs in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Dubai and East Asia – Singapore, Malaysia—have started shipping the product abroad as a “Filipino natural brand.”

   Laas said he cannot be as proud of any other soap product as that of the local coconut. 

   After having established a good professional exposure as real estate agent at different levels for huge properties in the Middle East, the United States and Europe, La-as went back to the Philippines.

   He worked as a leasing manager for Philippines’ biggest department store — SM. 

   After some time as leasing manager screening through many different products, he started to dream visions of putting up his own company, particularly that having to do with skin care.

   “Many people want to have a fair skin.  But the product has to go through R and D (research and development) and through a battery of tests to make sure it’s effective and efficient,” he said.  “It has to go through stability tests.”

   Bakku2basik needed to make the coco cider soap go through nearly 10 battery tests.

   “When we started launching it, I was pretty sure it will soar high because everybody wants to have a fair skin.  This is a first in the world.  It’s a milestone,” he said.

   The word Bakku2basik was really inspired by the Japanese’s culture of loving their own.

   “I admire Japanese people for always having this unique personality of holding on to their unique culture.  They do not to forget to go back to the basic, to the  natural organic material,” he said.

   La-as said his success in the skin care business, while not having had previous experience in this industry, is a proof anyone can dream for as long as he has the persistence to pursue it.

   “As you journey in your life, you realize that your own skills, talent, expertise, and experience can  be your own capitalization. So I got out of my comfort zone. I decided to focus on a Filipino brand.”

   Coco cider soap is Bakku2basik’s flagship product.  But it has also developed other highly successful products that tap the Philippines’ rich natural ingredients.  One is the malunggay leaf gluta soap.  Bakku2basik now also has its own facial cleanser, lotion, and cosmetic products.

   “I wanted to help the local economy.  Ours is an  effective product.  But it will be lot more beneficial if all we Filipinos focus on consuming our own product. Coconut is under-rated.  It is time for us to patronize our own.  Coco cider soap is now in the market.  If you haven’t tried it yet, why not?   Buy your own product.  Love your country.  Love your product.”

   Bakku2basik has capitalized on coconut’s uniquely known properties (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral.)

   “If you have to introduce something new in market, you have to look at the formulation.  Or you will be introducing a new ingredient that is not well known.  Then everybody will ask you ‘What’s that?  I’m not familiar with that.’ They’re not confident,” said La-as.

   “But our coconut is unique in its own.  People immediately love the product.”
   Nevertheless, La-as admitted his business venture was not always instantly a success.  It had its own pains.  But he used all these challenges to further succeed.

Coco cider soap

   “Whatever I had invested in the past in terms of experience, in terms of failure, I always believed that what happened in the past brings learning.  My recipe is simple.  What is it that you want?  What is your passion?  Once you know it, get out of your comfort zone.  A lot of people have P1 million in their bank account.  But whether you succeed depends on how use you use it.”

   “My journey has been a painful process  But I love every bit of it. Every negative thing said about me,  about my product, about my vision, I savor it.   I’m allured to go forward.  The more people discourage you, the more you should go on.”  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)