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.

 

$11 million grants extended by UNDP Small Grants Programme to Philippines in 25 years 

May 26, 2022 

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna underscored the importance of building the resilience of community-based organizations (CBOs) in undertaking conservation and livelihood interventions as the country launched the Seventh Operational Phase of the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP-7) on April 8, 2022. 

       The SGP 7, which is being implemented by the UNDP-Philippines through the Foundation for Philippine Environment and with support from the GEF and DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), empowers CBOs including women, indigenous peoples, and youth through community-led projects that aim to achieve global environmental benefits while improving livelihood and reducing poverty. 

         Since 1992, SGP has implemented 26,429 projects in 136 countries. 

         In the Philippines, over US$11 million in grants have been distributed over the past 25 years. 

           With the launch of the SGP-7, Sampulna said that a more holistic landscape strategy will be implemented for the project sites in Aurora province, Catubig Watershed in Northern Samar, Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan, and Siargao Protected Landscape and Seascape in Surigao del Norte. 

     “It is urgent that we strengthen the resilience of our CBOs as they are the frontliners in undertaking conservation and livelihood interventions. In this period of climate change and biodiversity degradation impacts on communities and ecosystems, a more integrated effort of weaving together interventions is essential,” Sampulna said. 

        SGP-7 targets to support community organizations in enhancing the socio-ecological resilience of the four target landscapes through community initiatives to produce global environmental and sustainable development benefits. 

   The initiatives will be identified and implemented to support landscape level strategies formulated by multi-stakeholder groups composed of representatives of landscape communities, local government authorities, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. 

    The seventh operational phase also targets to effect change towards strengthening governance systems even for disaster response, recovery and resilience building. 

       “Catastrophic incidents like the onslaught of Typhoon Odette highlight the urgent need to continue our efforts on disaster risk reduction and resilience building,” UNDP Philippines Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran said. 

         “These devastating events exacerbate the already limiting and unpredictable situation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The promising changes being offered by SGP-7 are expected to effect change towards strengthening governance systems even for disaster response, recover, and building resilient communities,” Ramachandran pointed out. 

       The strategies that will be used for implementing the program will include expanding the coverage of protection mechanisms over actual Key Biodiversity Areas and critical habitats; maximizing the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems or E-NIPAS law; and increasing the support for indigenous peoples’ socio-cultural values about biodiversity through support for local community managed areas. 

Likewise, Building CBOs-People’s Organizations-government partnerships; increasing stakeholder participation; biodiversity-friendly and climate-resilient livelihoods and enterprises; and capacity building of communities and local government units are also included as strategies for implementation. 

   The program is expected to benefit NGOs, the academe, indigenous peoples, community groups, local governments, other sector agencies, and private sectors.

Amid imminent “food catastrophe,” government urged to support private businesses that invest 95% of agricultural production

May 25, 2022

The private sector has pressed government to bolster support for private businesses given the imminent “food catastrophe” arising from many global phenomena topped by the Russian invasion that compel food producers to ban export.

Russia, Ukraine, India, among others, have already stopped wheat exports while many other countries contemplate to keep their food production for their own security.

As such, Philippines faces food security threats, along with soaring food prices, because of its heavy food import dependence.

Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said the private sector plays a critical role now that the country still lurks with travails from Covid 19.

“Government should provide the right environment and incentives for the private sector to invest, expand their production, value chain and supply chain logistics,” said Fausto at PCAFI’s first face-to-face assembly two years since the pandemic began.

“Government should not kill them with competition from cheap and subsidized imported products.”

While the Department of Agriculture (DA) has made importation its pivotal policy to produce food, this is a mere short term solution.

“Providing cheap food for the consumers and fighting inflation through imports is a short term solution. Producing our own food requirements, although a longer process, will be more sustainable for our people,” Fausto said.

The private sector provides 95% of the investments that bring about agriculture production, he stressed.

In the face of world hunger, the more should agriculture sector get a bigger share in budgetary increase even despite the country’s ballooning debt of P12.7 trillion.

“We appeal that food production should not be sacrificed as the Department of Budget and Management undertakes hair-cuts for future budget allocation.”

Livestock and poultry, contributing a third or 30% of agricultural production should get a sizable budget from only 3-4% of the DA budget.

With the supply of imported feed wheat now limited, local corn production should be raised. Corn supply is currently at measly 57% sufficiency level. Feed wheat is an alternative to corn which represents 60% of feed ingredients. Feed itself represents around 70% of cost in growing chickens and pigs.

Cheaper alternative to feed inputs should be tapped as those developed by Filipino scientists from University of the Philippines Los Banos.

DA should promote use of inorganic oil-based fertilizers, utilizing organic materials, resulting in equally high yield and efficient production of rice and other crops.

PCAFI expects ratification of the Philippine Livestock Industry Development Act.
It has repeatedly appealed for the establishment of a first border quarantine facility, undertaking food safety measures amid the debilitating African swine flu and fighting smuggling of agriculture products.

All tax revenues derived from imported commodities must be utilized to the same sector where it was generated to help develop the said industry.

If the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is ratified, incentives should be given for export winners to expand jobs creation. More protection should be granted to losing products facing stiffer competition from imports.

“More products have to be supported to expand our variety of agricultural exports to bring in more dollars, We must not suffer the same fate from our painful lessons when we joined the World Trade Organization,” said Fausto.

“Appropriate laws were passed by Congress and the Senate. But the implementation of these laws were not done to keep our affected agriculture sub-sectors protected, compared to other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.”

PCAFI also presses government to implement the following long awaited programs.

  1. Establishment of reliable and real time data information system.
  2. Incentives to investments and easy access to credit and capital. Review of the implementation priorities of Philippine guarantee fund.
    Out of the total outstanding guarantee done by Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PGC) of ₱207 billion, only ₱500 million is for agriculture credit and ₱300 million for micro small medium enterpries (MSMEs).
    But a whopping ₱203 billion is allocated for real estate, benefitting big developers that do not need to be guaranteed by government.
    The farm sector also needs more the institutionalization of the use of warehouse receipts in guaranteeing credit which is a former function of the bankrupt Quedan and Rural Guarantee Corp.
  3. Rationalizing legal framework for the use of generic seeds for corn and balancing the use of organic fertilizers to reduce dependence on expensive oil- based inorganic fertilizers
  4. Accelerate effort to farm consolidation and clustering for mechanization and economies of scale. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

UBRA poultry farmers opposes reappointment as DA secretary of Dar who promoted ‘vested interests’ of food importers 

May 20, 2022 

The United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) has opposed the reappointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar who has promoted a regime of importation and the “vested interests” of importers “at the expense” of farmers. 

In an open letter to President-elect Ferdinand Bongbong R. Marcos Jr., UBRA said Philippines and its farmers became sacrificial lambs on Dar’s import policy that failed to lower food prices. 

Such misguided neo-liberalist position neglected to harness Philippines’ resources to achieve “food sovereignty.” 

“He (Dar) has been completely subservient to the misguided emphasis on import liberalization. The reality is that whether accidentally or intentionally, it has conveniently benefitted mainly the vested interests of importers at the expense of the majority of our people,” UBRA said led by its president, Lawyer Jose Elias M. Inciong.

  “Retail prices have remained high despite increasing importation through the years. It has made us dependent on overseas employment and business process outsourcing.” 

UBRA cited that during Dar’s term (2020), Commission on Audit’s (COA) found P9.454 billion in disallowances, audit suspensions, and charges, P17.542 billion in unliquidated fund transfers to implementing agencies and non-government organizations, P20.21 billion unliquidated fund transfers in prior years, and P9.806 billion returned to national treasury.  

Dar will be worsening Philippines’ vulnerability to climate change, consequently, food security.  

This is as irrigation source for rice farming has been adversely limited by conflict posed by China and droughts in countries where Philippines sources its food imports. 

“In Indochina, the area most relied upon by neoliberal economists for our rice imports, there has been saltwater incursion in the Mekong Delta up to at least 15 kilometers. Dams built by China have interdicted the flow of the Mekong River from its source,” Ubra said in the letter also signed by its chairman Gregorio San Diego.  

“In the Indian subcontinent, another source of rice imports, droughts are becoming perennial. The same with the whole of United States. The lakes along Rio Colorado are at 30% or normal levels. Australia has had drought problems for years. There is an increasing trend for banning export of food.” 

It will be the Marcos’s administration’s biggest fault to reappoint Dar.  

“He has been openly and aggressively campaigning to be retained as secretary of Agriculture. Please do not succumb to his shameless self-promotion and propaganda. As aptly stated by  Senate President Tito Sotto in a committee hearing on smuggling, that would be the ‘biggest mistake” of the next administration.” 

While some import liberalists assert that Singapore is a progressive food-importing nation, UBRA said “Singapore itself has decided to increase its level of self reliance given its limitations.” 

Singapore aims to reduce its food importation from 90% to 70%. That, despite its small population. End 

“Secretary Dar’s tenure has been about importation from heavily subsidized agricultural systems. We are on very dangerous ground because he implemented import liberalization to the hilt.   It (reappointing Dar) will not be an act of shooting oneself in the foot but in the head,” said UBRA. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Benefit sharing scheme to open economic opportunities for rural communities, Indigenous People from Ph “genetic” wealth 

May 13, 2022 
 
A benefit sharing scheme will be implemented by the government to ensure Philippines’ own “genetic” wealth from endemic plants and animals will give economic opportunities to indigenous people (IP) and poverty-stricken rural communities. 
   The Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework from the country’s genetic wealth will be adopted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as its compliance to the Nagoya Protocol (NP). 
    The NP is a 2015 global agreement for the access of all to genetic resources and traditional knowledge and their equitable economic sharing.  

A genetic resource is a physical object of biological origin and the intellectual information associated with it such as traditional knowledge (Learn Nagoya). An example is a native people’s knowledge on the use of a plant as treatment for an illness. 

Nagoya Protocol. Credit- Cryoarks

  The poorest of society that come from ancestral domains (indigenous people) in the boondocks and rural communities are among targeted beneficiaries of the treaty.   
   The DENR project will be carried out over six years to be financed under the seventh cycle of ghe Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 
   ”The project will increase economic opportunity and biodiversity conservation for local communities and IPs stemming from fair and equitable sharing  of biodiversity benefits,” according to a memorandum for DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Natividad Y. Bernardino. 
   The project “Implementing the National Framework for Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge”  costs a total of $26.015 million.  Of this, $4.384 million is taken up by GEF and $21.631 million is co-financed by Philippines, mainly government. 
   The first component of the project is harmonizing policies with the Nagoya Protocol on bioprospecting policies and scientific research.   
   These policies include commercialization of genetic resources on flora and fauna (plants and animal life).   
   Over the last decade,  scientific research activities have surged due to the rise of intellectuals and “Balik Scientist” Filipinos from abroad.   These intellectuals were given incentives by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)  to participate in the local “brain gain.” 
   Filipino researchers have been exploring the production of drugs, pharmaceutical products, natural ingredients for food, clothing and raw materials for home furnishings, commercial products, and industrial products such  as commercial vehicles’ accessories.   

They have been tapping Philippines’ natural resources of plants and animals from its rich biodiversity. 
   “Research undertaking with the private sector for possible uptake will be established,” according to the report submitted by DENR-Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Services Assistant Director Sabrina R. Cruz. 
   The Philippines was one of the first countries to implement access and benefit sharing under Article 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through Executive Order 275 (1995). 
   It has since been amended by the Wildlife Act (Republic Act or RA 9147) and supported by the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371 of 1997). 
    The DENR-BMB will lead the project.  Other implementing partners are Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, DENR Regions 3 and 4, Department of Agriculture (DA), PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office)-Sorsogon, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), DOST,  and local government units (LGUs). 
   The second component consists of information dissemination on the national policy on access to these genetic resources.   
   Policies on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR– patents and commercial licensing instruments) will be strengthened.   It will carry out capacity building for IPs and local communities in asserting their rights over their Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP). 

Nagoya Protocol. Credit-Learn Nagoya 


   The third component consists of facilitating negotiation for ABS agreements.   
   “It will support community protocols for security Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) to ensure fair and equitable sharing of both the monetary and non-monetary benefits of genetic resources.”  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR socio-economic resilience project in Catubig Watershed to sustain Samar Protected Landscape, support rice farmers  

 

May 9, 2022  

A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) project to build socio-economic resilience in the Catubig Watershed will protect the Samar Protected Landscape and Seascape while supporting the livelihood of rice farmers, craftsmen, and fishers.  

The Small Grants Programme (SGP) Phase 7, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), was launched by DENR last April 8.   

It involves livelihood and biodiversity projects in four sites. These are in Aurora province (Sierra Madre), Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan, and Siargao Protected Landscape and Seascape in Surigao del Norte.  

Phase 7 sustains the project that was started under GEF-Phase 5.  

The DENR-GEF SGP-7’s work in Catubig Watershed may have the biggest environmental and socio-economic growth impact among Samar natives.  

Calamianes Island, Palawan. Credit Coyxxx

While known to have a rich biodiversity profile with mixed dipterocarp forests, Samar Island is also known as the most cyclone-prone region in the country.   

The National Economic and Develoment Authority reported in 2015 that Northern Samar, where the Catubig Watershed is located, had a poverty incidence of 61.6 percent. This makes it one of the country’s poorest provinces.  

The SGP-7 costs $13.78  million of which $4.436 million comes from a GEF grant. The Philippine government co-finances $9.214 million. “  

“It is urgent that we strengthen the resilience of our community-based organizations. They are the frontliners in conservation and livelihood interventions. In this period of climate change and biodiversity degradation, a more integrated effort of interventions is essential,” DENR Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said.  

Siargao Protected Landscape and Seascape. Credit Travel Guide Pinoy

Greg Sarmiento, executive director of the Eastern Visayas Partnership for Rural Development, said the launch of SGP-7 is timely due to recent climate hazards experienced in the province.   

The Samar Island Natural Park is the second largest natural park in the Philippines covering 335,107 hectares. It has the country’s largest contiguous tract of old-growth forest.   

The Catubig Watershed is a major source of water supply in the household. The newly completed dam whose water comes from Catubig Watershed irrigates some 8,000 hectares of rice farm.   

“Catastrophic incidents like the onslaught of Typhoon Odette highlight the urgent need to continue our efforts on disaster risk reduction and resilience building,” UNDP Philippines Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran said. 

 

Samar Island Natural Park. Credit- Vismin.ph

“These devastating events exacerbate the already limiting and unpredictable situation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The promising changes being offered by SGP-7 are expected to effect change towards strengthening governance systems even for disaster response, recover, and building resilient communities.”    SGP-7 has a livelihood component. The project encourages natives to engage in biodiversity friendly enterprises (BDFEs) in order to help veer them away from illegal logging and fishing activities. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR project maps accreditation of People’s Organizations as “good forest stewards” in light of aim to export forest products, industrialize  

April 30, 2022  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is mapping an accreditation system for People’s Organizations (PO) to become certified “good forest stewards” under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) especially as POs desire to export their forest products.  

   POs are now planned to be accredited by DENR even as Philippines hopes to pursue industrialization that will require excellent management of natural resources.  

   “PO accreditation is an important mechanism to transform POs into exemplary resource managers. POs are considered as ‘de facto’ managers, a partner rather than a contractor,” according to DENR Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro.   

  Amaro said there is a need to revisit the draft Department administrative Order on PO accreditation in order to put this policy in place.  

“(We need) to conduct a national consultative meeting for possible institutionalization of PO accreditation with concerned CBFM (Community Based Forest Management) personnel by the fourth quarter of 2022,” he said.   

The PO accreditation will have a significant role in providing a sustainable livelihood for upland residents in order to discourage them from illegal logging and illegal wildlife hunting. The accreditation system was piloted as under DENR’s project Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP).  

   “The pervasive problems of poverty and landlessness have driven people to using public lands.  Inevitably, POs have become important players in the management of public land—timberland and multiple-use zones in protected areas,” said Dr. Manuel L. Bonita, DENR INREMP consultant.  

   The accreditation under FSC standards will enable POs to have easier access to export markets that look for international forest management certification.   

   Some 20 POs operating in nine provinces in four regions have already been accredited through the piloted accreditation program in 2019-2021 of INREMP. Having gained the trust of INREMP, the POs were allowed to enjoy substantial cash advances as  an intervention to natural resources management.  

   This allowed INREMP to accelerate lagging disbursement of the project’s fund.  

   ”In the future, forest products chain-of-custody must be added to the PO Accreditation System. This facilitates regulation of forest product harvesting  and inhibit corrupt practices,” said Bonita  at an INREMP Exit Conference last April 21.   

   DENR wants to sustain the accreditation program even after the closure of INREMP which is now on-going until June 2022.  

   POs are beneficiaries of DENR’s forest management contracts — Community Based Forest Management Program (CBFMP) and National Greening Program (NGP). The success of CBFMP and NGP depends on the transformation of POs into certified resource managers.   

   Being an accredited resource manager, one should abide by the Principles, Criteria, and Indicators (PCI) of good forest stewardship.   

   A PO applying for accreditation goes through an initial assessment and a series of annual assessments.    

   “An exemplary PO should not slide backward into an irresponsible resource manager,” said Bonita.     

   PO certification can be a testing ground for forest certification and “ultimately as an alternative or precursor to forest certification” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Biofin partners with Blue Finance in training programs for managing biodiversity-rich Oriental Mindoro marine resources 

April 23, 2022 

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (Biofin) has partnered with marine conservation organization Blue Finance to train people’s organizations (PO) in managing biodiversity-rich marine resources in  Oriental Mindoro. 

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in a project with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has been introducing biodiversity finance solutions to local government units (LGUs). 

   In Oriental Mindoro, its partnership with Biofin and Blue Finance is enabling it to raise fund in order to sustain conservation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). 

   “A key obstacle to effectively managing MPAs is a lack of economic resources.  But at the Oriental Mindoro MPA in the Philippines, a consortium of dedicated partners is turning one of the world`s most productive ecosystems into a working business case,” according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

   Oriental Mindoro has an MPA known to be home to endangered species including “whale sharks, hawksbill turtles, dugongs and many more exciting and critical species.” 

  In its second quarter report, Biofin indicated that it has developed a “private sector strategy.”  It is a program that will significantly aid in raising funds for biodiversity conservation programs. 

   Public Private Partnerships or PPP is a strategic approach to raising financing for biodiversity projects in protected areas. 

    “A study on the extractive industry with reference to potential financing mechanisms and the feasibility of third party monitors will be undertaken. Meetings with IKEA, Shore It Up, and BDO were held to explore potential CSR activities with NGOs (non government organizations),”  according to a Biofin report. 

   “A study on the extractive industry with reference to potential financing mechanisms and the feasibility of third party monitors will be undertaken.” 

   These are Biofin’s other approaches to raising financing: 

1.     Biofin will assist BMB-CAWED (Biodiversity Management Bureau-Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division) as it comes up with policy recommendations on the integration of biodiversity in the infrastructure sector 

2.     Development of Biodiversity Friendly Enterprises (BDFEs) particularly in protected areas in Mindanao where a survey has been completed and now under study 

   The Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), which started in 2015 and will last until year 2028, will cost P24 billion yearly.  A budget deficit of P19 billion yearly exists. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Bayer’s Pharma Business in Asia Pacific Drives Growth in 2021 with More Innovative Medicines to be Launched

April 21, 2022

–Pharmaceuticals division’s sales in the Asia/Pacific region grew 4.8%* to more than €5.8 billion in 2021
–This marked the tenth consecutive year of growth for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division in the region
–Four upcoming major launches of innovative treatments Finerenone, Vericiguat, Larotrectinib and Darolutamide underscore Bayer’s commitment to reduce burden of cardiovascular diseases and cancer in the APAC region

Singapore, April 21, 2022 — Bayer announced today that 2021 was another record year for its Pharmaceuticals Division in the Asia/Pacific region, with robust growth of 4.8%* delivering sales of more than €5.8 billion. Business in the region contributed to almost one-third of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals global sales.2

Despite lingering COVID-19 challenges, sales of Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division sales outside of China and Japan grew 1-2% in developed markets such as Australia/New Zealand, Korea, and Taiwan. Key growth drivers also came from South Asia with India delivering a strong 11%3 growth and Pakistan at 2%3, and the ASEAN cluster achieving 9%3 average growth across Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Newly appointed Head of Commercial Operations for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division in Asia/Pacific, Ying Chen, said: “2021 has been a successful year for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division as we increased our efforts to focus on what matters most – delivering both innovative and essential medicines to patients in Asia/Pacific, despite the challenges from the pandemic. Our consistent strong growth in the region is a testament to our innovation-driven portfolio that delivers value to patients in areas of high unmet medical needs.”

Outside of China and Japan, sales of Xarelto® in Asia/Pacific grew significantly by 12%3 in 2021 over the previous year. Similarly, there was a 10%3 increase in Eylea® sales and it represents one of the most successful product launches in Asia/Pacific to date.

Xarelto remains the most broadly studied novel oral anticoagulant with 100 million patients treated in 130 countries since 2008. More than 47 million vials/pre-filled syringes of Eylea have been sold globally, generating 6.8 million patient-years of experience in 100 countries.4

Bayer plans to grow its global pharmaceuticals sales by 3-4% in 20222 on a currency and portfolio adjusted basis. The market outlook for the Asia/Pacific region remains positive, as IQVIA projects an average growth rate of 4-5% in the pharmaceutical markets across the region from 2021 to 2025.

2022 will be a breakthrough year for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division in Asia/Pacific with four upcoming launches of innovative products in the fields of cardiovascular disease and oncology.

Chronic and Cardiovascular Diseases Leading Causes of Death
Every year across the globe, 15 million people die before age 70 from chronic diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and obesity. Couple that with the fact that by 2050, one in four people in Asia/Pacific will be over 60 years old. 

Along with ageing, the greatest cumulative impact on health comes from the striking rise in metabolic risks – namely high Body Mass Index (BMI), high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol – accounting for nearly 20% of total health loss worldwide in 2019. Diabetes prevalence is increasing in Asia/Pacific, with over 70 million people living with diabetes in India alone. One in 10 adults worldwide is living with diabetes and out of those, almost half are undiagnosed.

Bayer’s Finerenone, a non-steroidal, selective mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) antagonist has demonstrated positive kidney and cardiovascular (CV) outcomes in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Up to 40% of people living with diabetes have CKD, which increases the risk of renal failure/dialysis and CV outcomes.

Heart failure is the number one cause of death affecting more than 60 million people worldwide; 50% do not survive 5 years, and 1 in 5 patients will die in 2 years. One person in Australia is hospitalised for heart failure every 8 minutes. Patients in Asia/Pacific suffer from worse outcomes with late presentation of symptoms and huge gaps in treatment for the past decade to address this unmet risk. The key is to optimize treatment of worsening heart failure early and prevent the next hospitalization. To this effect, the European Society of Cardiology HF Guidelines Task Force published new guidelines in 2021 mentioning worsening heart failure for the first time and emphasized the urgency of establishing foundational therapies faster.

Many traditional therapies work by inhibiting signaling pathways. Bayer’s Vericiguat is a therapy that works by stimulating soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC), which leads to improved myocardial and vascular function

More People Diagnosed with Cancer Each Year
Despite seeing incredible progress over the past years, the overall burden of cancer is not decreasing, but increasing, with almost 20 million patients diagnosed with cancer worldwide in 2020. The global cancer burden is expected to be 28.4 million cases in 2040, a 47% rise from 2020.

Some cancers are caused by specific changes in genes and when a neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) gene joins with an unrelated gene, it is known as tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) fusion cancer. The cancer is not related to a certain type of tissue or the age of the patient; it can occur anywhere in the body, in both children and in adults.

Bayer’s oral precision therapy Larotrectinib has shown to be an effective treatment in children and adults with TRK fusion cancer. Only specific genomic tests can detect NTRK gene fusions, the underlying cause of TRK fusion cancer. By testing patients and finding out what is driving their cancer, doctors could target the root of the disease. With emerging research on TRK fusion cancer, we are one step closer to precision medicine, where tumor genetics, rather than where the tumor is in the body, help doctors select specific treatment approaches that could more likely benefit their patients.

Prostate Cancer Second Most Common Cancer in Men
Prostate cancer is the second most diagnosed malignancy in men worldwide. In 2020, an estimated 1.4 million men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and about 375,000 died from the disease worldwide. Treatment options range from surgery to radiation treatment to therapy using hormone-receptor antagonists, i.e., substances that stop the formation of testosterone or prevent its effect at the target location; however in nearly all cases, the cancer eventually becomes resistant to conventional hormone therapy. Bayer’s Darolutamide is an oral androgen receptor inhibitor (ARi) that binds to the receptor with high affinity and exhibits strong antagonistic activity, thereby inhibiting the receptor function and the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Clinical Trials Yielding Consistent Results

Globally, clinical trial activity across the pharmaceutical industry saw sustained growth through the pandemic with 5,500 new planned clinical trial starts in 2021, a 14% increase over 2020. Also in 2021, new drug approvals and launches accelerated, with 84 novel active substances launched, double the number five years ago. according to IQVIA. The 15 largest pharmaceutical companies invested a record US$133 billion of R&D expenditure in 2021, representing an increase of 45% since 2016 and a level of investment close to 20% of their recorded sales.

Bayer is continuing to build a strong pharmaceuticals development pipeline, advancing around 50 projects in Phase I to III of clinical development.2 Among these projects, many have the potential to treat various types of cancers, diabetic kidney disease, and chronic heart failure which represent areas of high medical needs for the region’s ageing population. Asia/Pacific is strongly represented in Bayer’s clinical development activities with 46 ongoing clinical trials conducted in the region throughout 2020 and 2021, and over half of these in the area of oncology.

“We have approximately a quarter of patients from Asia/Pacific represented and enrolled in three key global development trial programs for Bayer Pharmaceuticals’ new breakthrough innovations: for worsening heart failure, chronic kidney disease associated with type 2 diabetes, NTRK fusion cancer and for various stages of prostate cancer. With today’s digital and decentralized model, participation in trials is more accessible and convenient remotely, allowing us to generate meaningful data to monitor and improve patients’ outcomes,” said Dr Catherine Donovan, Head of Medical Affairs, for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division in Asia/Pacific.

Collaborate to Cure
Bayer is fostering collaborations with external partners for accelerating innovation in the development of new medicines. With the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) since 2007, Bayer continues to expand its collaboration activities in the Asia/Pacific region and has already invested S$27 million in projects with Singapore institutions to advance clinical and translation research in cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

At its recent Breakthrough Innovation Forum, Bayer announced that it will accelerate investments by its impact investment arm Leaps by Bayer with more than €1.3 billion in funding over the next three years.

“As recovery from the pandemic begins to take shape, the company is working with healthcare professionals across the Asia/Pacific region to transform patient health through science for a better life. Innovation is our company’s lifeblood and so are partnerships and integrating patient care. Putting more resources on the frontlines to educate, detect and treat conditions early before they become more serious can lead to improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare spending,” said Dr Catherine Donovan.

Commitment to Sustainable Health
For more than 50 years, Bayer has been supporting education programs and rights-based family planning in more than 130 countries, particularly by providing access to modern forms of contraception, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – reaching 7 million women in Asia Pacific in 2021.

With its expertise in women’s healthcare, the company has committed to provide 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to family planning by 2030. Bayer consistently runs local support programs in the Asia/Pacific region to educate and support women living with hormonal disorders, like endometriosis – a painful disorder affecting 10% of women of reproductive age worldwide – many of whom do not seek early diagnosis and treatment due to various misconceptions. Many women are also affected by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a condition that usually develops in a woman’s late teens in which the ovaries produce high amounts of androgens (male sex hormones) that are usually present in women only in small amounts.

In the Philippines, Bayer held a #DontLiveWithPain online roundtable last March 21, 2022 to highlight the challenges of diagnosing and living with endometriosis, build a community of support for OB-GYNEs and patients; and to encourage women to seek out more information on this debilitating condition. The call for awareness on endometriosis continues on April 27, 2022, 6:00 PM with “Breaking the Cycle: What Pinays Need to Know about Endometriosis”, an online talk to be streamed via Facebook Live on Bayer’s Ask Mara and Mercury Drug Facebook pages.

The Bayer Ask Mara chatbot on Facebook was also upgraded last year with additional features such as a store locator to help find nearby drugstores and an expanded knowledge base covering topics like endometriosis and androgen excess – on top of providing advice on contraception and reproductive health topics at any time.

“Forging ahead with our leadership in women’s healthcare, Bayer Pharmaceuticals is supporting women across Asia/Pacific not only with their family planning needs but also through various stages of their reproductive lifecycles. We are committed to patient programs to shift the treatment paradigm from traditional illness-based and hospital-bound to more sustainable patient-centered preventive care,” said Dr Ying Chen.

DENR USAID ‘SIBOL’ project boosts environment protection, economic activity in farflung rural areas  

April 20, 2022  

 
A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) project that estimates the economic value of the country’s natural resources is seen to boost environmental protection and will support economic activity in farflung rural areas.  
   A DENR project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) called Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes (SIBOL) has elevated Philippines’ appreciation for natural resources and biodiversity protection. Project cost is P1.1 billion. 
   SIBOL has trained  Filipino natural resource managers on how to properly account for environment-provided benefits.  
   A total of 275 government staff and researchers from Philippine public universities has completed a three-month training that will support the government’s promotion of economic growth through the conservation of the country’s ecosystems.  
   The training serves as a foundation for incorporating environmental valuation into the design of economic plans at the local level.  
   The Philippines’ capability to quantify the economic value of its natural resources will be applied in natural capital accounting.  


   “When we have competent natural resource managers who are able to account for and monitor the economic value of ecosystem services, the country is in a better position to understand the drivers behind natural resource depletion. It’s a necessary intervention that will preserve the country’s biodiversity, oceans, and landscapes,” said USAID Philippines Environment Office Director John Edgar.  
   Natural resource managers and researchers from the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Economic and Development Authority, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, and six public universities learned various methods for measuring the value of benefits derived from the environment such as food, water and fuel, soil conservation, and coastal protection.  
   “This (capability will help in) updating the country’s asset accounts, or the value of resources found in Philippine forests, coral reefs, and fisheries,” said the DENR. 

Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve. Credit-Justgola

   According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Philippines is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, which account for 70% of the entire planet’s species of flora and fauna.    
   SIBOL is a five-year natural resources management and biodiversity conservation project.   It is among the biggest and most important initiatives in the country that could profoundly impact the environment in generations to come, according to USAID.  
    Launched in 2020, SIBOL aims to work with the government to achieve its goals of improving natural resource governance, stimulating public and private sector investments, and reducing environmental crime.   

Siargao Islands Portected Landscape and Seascape. Credit-Issuu

Such goals will lead to greater ecosystem stability and inclusive green growth. SIBOL has set up four sites in the following key protected areas in the Philippines:  

1. Masinloc-Oyon Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape, a coastal area that supports thousands of fishers and coastal communities threatened by mining, overfishing, and population growth  
2. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve, which are forest areas of the ecologically important Palawan province and significant habitats for biodiversity  
3. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, a forest area that is home to abundant biodiversity and more than 12,000 indigenous people threatened by logging and mining pressures  
4. Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape, a marine protected area surrounded by the country’s largest contiguous mangrove area and is threatened by over-fishing and the exploitation of other natural resources. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape and Seascape

DENR partners with Japan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, “decarbonize” society toward “Asia zero emissions community”

April 16, 2022  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has strengthened its partnership with the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) for the reduction of greenhouse gas emission toward a “decarbonized” society and “Asia zero emissions community.”  

During the Philippines-Japan Bilateral Environmental Policy Dialogue last March, DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said the Bilateral Environmental Policy Dialogue served as an avenue for DENR and MOEJ to partner in protection against the impact of climate change.   

“The Philippines, being an archipelago, is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Our country has faced several typhoons for as long as we can remember. Partnering with Japan in terms of technology and know-how on measures to mitigate climate change is indeed vital at this time,” Sampulna said.   

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said the Philippines remains committed to the”projected greenhouse gas emission reduction and avoidance of 75 percent.”    

MOEJ Vice Minister Tokutaro Nakai said the agency was deepening its cooperation with the DENR through strategies such as Initiative on Fluorocarbons Life Cycle Management, Joint Crediting Mechanism.    

Other initiatives are on transparency reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, city-to-city collaboration, and knowledge and tools sharing on climate adaptation projects and waste management technology support.   

“In the area of climate change, we were able to confirm that there are some areas of cooperation such as the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as well as the development of the long-term strategies. We will make efforts to work for that and hope to cooperate with you in the future attempts, too,” Nakai said.   

Nakai said that the MOEJ would accelerate its effort to decarbonize Asia for the establishment of the so-called “Asia zero-emissions community.”   

The Bilateral Environment Dialogue was part of the first-ever Philippines-Japan Environmental Week organized by DENR and MOEJ.  

The rest of the activities included technical level and plenary sessions on various areas of waste management, waste-to-energy projects, and climate change.   

Asian utilities are key to net zero carbon. Credit-Euromoney

Through a joint statement, the DENR and the MOEJ agreed to take actions to tackle climate change. The two countries will work on advancing the life cycle management of fluorocarbon in the Philippines and Japan to contribute to the Philippines’ hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions reduction.   

“On fluorocarbon, both sides confirm the ongoing and future cooperation between the DENR and the MOEJ in potential assessment of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) collection and destruction. Other cooperation projects are on capacity development of policymakers and technicians and utilization of the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) under the Initiative on Fluorocarbons Life Cycle Management (IFL),” the joint statement read.   

As part of the Partnership to Strengthen Transparency for co-Innovation (PaSTI) program, the DENR and MOEJ will continue to work on capacity-building in the Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) and waste sectors.  

Getting to net zero built in the environment. Credit-Arcadis

These projects will strengthen Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reporting and incentives for action.  

The partnership also calls for engagement of the private and local government stakeholders as a key component.   

Renewable energy sources in Southeast Asia. Credit-ResearchGate

“On adaptations, both sides confirm the importance of sharing the knowledge and tools for implementing adaptation projects in vulnerable communities through the Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Information Platform (AP-PLAT) and the National Integrated Climate Change Database Information and Exchange System (NICCDIES).”