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)