New genetically modified hybrid corn gives stable yield with additional 1.7 MT per hectare; farmers to net as much as P70,000 per hectare

October 19, 2021

A new corn hybrid with superior performance that can yield an additional 1.7 metric tons (MT) per hectare has been released by Bayer CropScience Philippines Inc.

   Called Dekalb 8282S, it has shown reliable performance in both wet and dry seasons with strong resistance to a wide variety of pests, protecting potential yield that can bring Filipino farmers an estimated net income of as much as P70,000 per hectare.

Two modes of action that kill four highly destructive pests

   Given recent challenges in local corn production and high demand from the feeds industry, the new hybrid can help farmers increase their production and match those demand.

   “We’ve called it a ‘blockbuster’ hybrid because we have that much faith in this new hybrid. It will be a big help to our farmers in the corn business and they can be assured of the high quality that has always been associated with the Dekalb brand” says Iiinas Ivan Lao, Country Commercial Lead of Bayer CropScience (BCS) Philippines during the online launch at the BCS Philippines Facebook page.

   “The corn market in the Philippines is continuously evolving. Year on year, farmer demands change, price fluctuations, drought or heavy rains contribute to farmers’ unstable production. This is why Bayer is launching Dekalb 8282S in the Philippines,” Erwin Vibal, Grower Marketing Head at BCS.

Dekalb 8282S gives additional yield of 1.7 metric tons per hectare versus other hybrids

   “We want farmers to have a stable, reliable product that they can count on to perform despite difficult market and weather conditions and infestations – and Dekalb has a hybrid that provides that protection from risks and losses in corn production.”

   Potential to earn higher than average yield

   Achieving full maturity at 110 days, Dekalb 8282S has a relatively high shelling recovery at 84% which is higher than the 72% of other hybrids.

   It is also capable of yielding up to of 6.2 to 8 MT per hectare, which is an increase of 1.7 MT per hectare compared to the Philippines’ national corn average yield of 4.5 to 5 MT per hectare.    

   Given a conservative price of P15 per kilo at farm gate, farmers can earn a gross revenue of P120,000. This is equivalent to P50,000 to P70,000 net income given cost of P50,000 and yield of 8 MT per hectare.

Dekalb8282S has high shelling recovery of 84% compared to 72% in other hybrids

   This is true to farmers who follow experts’ recommendations including their adaption to recommended agronomic practices such as the ideal planting population of 80,000 to 90,000 plants per hectare.

   Strong resistance to FAW, variety of pests Dekalb 8282S also has strong resistance to the highly destructive Fall Army Worm (FAW) which has infested corn farms across the Philippines.

   It is the only corn seed in the market that has full approval for FAW-resistance from the Fertilizer and Pest Authority (FPA).

   “Fall Army Worm is very destructive because it is not selective. It does not only attack for one cycle. But it can attack two or three times over seasons,” said Vibal.

   The hybrid can also resist other highly destructive pests such as the Asiatic Corn Borer, Common Cutworm, and Earworm.

   Field trials showed that the corn variety has 46% less damaged kernels versus other varieties due to its VT DoublePro which has two modes of action in killing pests.

   Ready for rain or drought

   Another notable trait of Dekalb 8282S is its durability in either rainy or drought periods as evidenced by its stable high yield whether in drought-prone Isabela or the rain-rich farms in Pangasinan.

   “Whether it’s dry season or wet season, farmers have 88% winning chance in using Dekalb 8282S—whether it’s corn after rice planting or corn after corn,” said Vibal.

   “Not all hybrids have that trait. We strive to bring new technologies to farmers. Our vision is ‘Health for All, Hunger for None,’” said Vibal. “It’s not only for business, but we want to address hunger and the food security crisis by offering technologies. It’s not enough for  farmers to earn. We want them to prosper. We want to take them to a different dimension, to the next level.”

Dekalb 8282S gives an additional 1.7 metric tons per hectare versus other hybrids

   New interactive, digital experience for farmers Aside from the new hybrid, Bayer CropScience Philippines also introduced the DEKALB 360 Virtual Bayer Learning Center featuring Dekalb 8282S. This interactive virtual experience brings the Bayer Learning Center to life online which farmers can explore and learn from while in the safety of their homes. They can watch yield and grain quality tests and listen to experts and farmer feedback about the new Dekalb hybrid. It can be accessed via any Internet browser on any device or via their smartphone which can also be complemented with a clip-on VR device. For more information, follow the Bayer CropScience Philippines and Dekalb Philippines Facebook pages. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Online loyalty portal and ordering platform gives farmers digital farming advantage

October 14, 2021

Filipino farmers who want easier access to agricultural  supplies can now place orders online and earn rewards via a website called “myAgroLink”. 

   Launched by Bayer CropScience Philippines Inc. (BCS), “myAgroLink” is an online ordering platform and  loyalty portal that enables farmers to place an order for a variety of agricultural supplies.  That is whether  for high-yielding seeds or crop protection products, it can now be done all from the comfort of his home. 

   “At Bayer, we continue to research and develop ways to help our agricultural community. In this  digital age, we’re looking at what we can do to help make farming easier.  In a  pandemic where movement is limited, this can help ensure the continuity of farming activities to  secure food production and supply” said Erwin Vibal, Grower Marketing Head at Bayer  CropScience Philippines.

   Through myAgroLink, farmers can choose their dealer or distributor of choice to place their order  which can be paid and picked up at the store.

myAGroLink online ordering platform helps in continuity of countryside farming amid pandemic

   It’s also a rewards system for loyal customers who can earn points from their purchases and instantly claim those points to get a prize.

   “What’s good  about the reward system is that it’s an instant reward. You get points that can be claimed as  vouchers for mobile load, SM, Jollibee, Puregold, 7-11 and other establishments once you place  your order” said Aaron N. Cano, BCS New Business Activation Head.

   Bayer is targeting that a majority of the 3,000 plus dealer networks for agricultural inputs be  registered on the platform to serve farmers.

   “We are convincing more dealers to sign-up and  register to serve farmers’ orders” said Cano.          

  “The farmer places his order on myAgroLink, and the  dealer is notified of this order. Both farmer and dealer earn loyalty points once the purchase is validated.”

   Dealers nationwide are likewise expected to be linked to networks and they can also  register to become a dealer of choice for farmers.

Accessible, adaptable platform for Filipino farmers

   There’s also no need to download a specific app since myAgrolink can be accessed via Android  or iOS smartphones through any mobile browser, or via any laptop or PC that has Google  Chrome, Firefox, or equivalent web browsers while connected to the Internet.

How to claim reward from using myAgroLink online ordering platform

   Considering the growing trend of farming communities connected to the internet via smartphones  and other devices, there’s potential for the platform to take off.

   “We’re going there (full internet  connectivity). We want to introduce myAgroLink while farmers are getting connected to the  internet and see how we can improve as we get feedback from farmers on what is important to  them” said Cano.

   “This pilot program will help us to determine the acceptance and user  experience. We want to have a system that is relatable, easy to use and meaningful, not just any  off-the-rack solution that is available. We want myAgroLink adapted to the Philippine condition.”

   To explore myAgroLink, visit their website at https://ph.ecom.myagrolink.net/ and reach their  support chat via 0926-653-2733 or 09685452264. For more information, check out the Bayer  CropScience Philippines Facebook Page and watch their Facebook Live event recording of the  online launch. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Corn farmers asked to defer low tariff corn implementation, incurs P10 billion revenue loss from low corn price of P8-10 per kilo


October 13, 2021

Corn farmers have asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to defer implementation of lower tariff on corn imports as this will be a “death sentence” to farmers given the prevailing low price of corn, bringing revenue loss of P10 billion.
House Resolution 2289 has been filed by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez with the pleadings of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize) and the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA).
The resolution was directed too as a petition to the National Economic Development Authority and the Tariff Commission.
“The abundance of production did not increase the income of farmers which shows the ‘incompetence of the DA in promoting and managing our own agricultural resources’,” according to the House Resolution.
Corn tariff is now low at 5% if importation is within the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA). It is slapped with a 35% duty within Minimum Access Volume (MAV) importation and 50% outside MAV.
DA just created a Technical Working Group to study lowering of corn import duties in order to bring down animal feeds and livestock and poultry prices.
Philmaize has debunked the assumption that feed prices will go down given lower corn price (consequently pulling down livestock and poultry price).
“Philmaize stated that these corn prices do not have direct and immediate correlation to the decrease of feeds and meat price. In the last two years, corn price plunged to P8-9 per kilo, but there was no reduction in the price of feed and meat.”
Rather, it is the huge importation of feed wheat and corn that caused the fall in local con price to its lowest level. This is based on a study of the Philippine Competition Commission, Philmaize cited.
Philmaize attributes the fall of local corn price to the “uncontrolled, unabated and uncalibrated large arrivals of feed wheat and imported corn during the wet season harvest. This displaced local corn harvest from getting into warehouses and silos of livestock and feed mill sector.”
Corn price plunged by a hefty 33% to P8-9 per kilo, far below the P13.25 per kilo support price established by the National Food Authority (NFA).
The economic loss at P10 billion in revenue experienced by farmers was exarcerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic.
Rodriguez said UBRA President Jose Elias Inciong also stressed that the price of poultry and livestock are “not dependent on the rate of corn tariffs but on the highly in-demand dynamics of the commodities.”
Moreover, even the Bayanihan sa Agrikultura admitted a low import duty on corn does not guarantee significant reduction in the price of livestock and poultry.
The resolution cited the Magna Carta for Small Farmers in invoking the low corn tariff, saying it is the state’s role to assure “equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities realized through empowerment of small farmers.”
“The state should recognize the need to keep our local farmers motivated, encourage them to continue planting, and keep their production stable by implementing a more strategic approach to balance enterprise resource planning,” according to the resolution. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR adopts National Plan of Action for prevention and reduction of marine litter toward “zero waste” Philippine waters by 2040

October 12, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has adopted a National Plan of Action for the prevention and reduction of marine litter (NPOA-ML) toward “zero waste” Philippine waters by 2040.

   DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said the adoption of the NPOA-ML through Memorandum Circular (MC) 2021-10 will serve as guidance to enhance efforts in resource and waste management in the country’s waterways and marine environment. 

   Considering that marine life and biodiversity can only well survive within clean waters, the implementation of MO 2021-10 has become critical for Philippines, being a country of many islands.

   “This initiative is timely as the country has been named by external studies as one of the main sources of plastic leakages into oceans.  It also presents opportunities to revisit current efforts in municipal solid waste management, particularly reduce-reuse-recycle or 3Rs approaches, and eventually help localize the NPOA-ML,” he said.

Innovative solutions to marine litter reduction. Credit- Nature

   Leones took note of MO 2021-10 as the globe celebrates World Habitat Day in the first week of October.  It is a reminder to each citizen and local government units (LGU) of their contribution to waste management, climate change mitigation and sustainable development goals.     

   The World Habitat Day  is supported by the Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI). It is funded by Japan government to enable local governments to strengthen capacity to  implement  reduction of marine litter. The Philippines heads the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) of the HOCCI.

   “This will bring the focus of marine litter to marine management and biodiversity issues,” Leones said.

Sources of marine litter. Credit- Surfer Today

   He also took note of the ratification of the Philippine Green Jobs Act (Republic Act 10771) which promotes a green economy. It provides “incentives to enterprises that provide green goods and services, green jobs, green technologies and sustainable development.”

   Green jobs refer to employment that restores the environment’s clean quality especially in the agriculture, service, and industry sectors.  Examples are jobs in water conservation, sustainable forestry, biofuels, geothermal energy, environmental remediation, energy audit, recycling, electric vehicles, solar power, and wind energy.

   It is also important that the Philippines adopts programs on climate change mitigation and adaptation since it is one of the world’s climate vulnerable countries, Leones said. Disaster risk reduction is a very important goal for the country.  It is plagued with around 20 tropical cyclones yearly and daily seismic tremors being in the Pacific Ring of Fire. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Tackling marine debris. Credit- National Academies Press

DENR partners with German economic agency for security of land tenure in Mindanao to encourage investments, economic development

October 3, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered into a partnership with The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development towards achieving the sixth of the 10 Socio-Economic Agenda that ensures security of land tenure, encourage investments, and address bottlenecks in land titling.

   This DENR project is also part of the  “Ambisyon Natin 2040.”  It is a 25-year visioning led by the National Economic Development Authority that seeks Filipinos’ enjoyment of  a“strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life.” 

   The sixth of the 10 Socio-Economic Agenda states that government’s aim is to “ensure security of land tenure to encourage investments and address bottlenecks in land management and titling.”

   The project titled “Responsible Land Governance in Mindanao” aims to orient local governments and communities including indigenous cultural communities in Misamis Oriental (Region 10), Davao del Sur (Region 11), and Agusan del Sur (Region 13-CARAGA) on management of public lands. 

   The effective management of lands is believed to have ripple effect– benefitting the economy as government taxation process also becomes effective. 

   Moreover, investors needing land may find it easier to invest with better land identification and titling processes.

GIZ Conflict Sensitive Resource & Asset Management Project Achievements

   The vision takes into consideration sustainability and conflict sensitivity among ethnic groups and indigenous people on effective land management.

   To date, a study on the Land Sector Development Framework (LSDF) was conducted. 

   It is a 10-year roadmap for the land sector for effective administration that will usher Philippines to economic development.

   “This shall provide direction towards the achievement of a highly efficient and effective land sector whose potential is so great to contribute in the economic growth of our country,” according to the Land Management Bureau.

GIZ Conflict Sensitive Resource & Asset Management Project Achievements

   The project also aims to support mitigation of conflicts within selected areas in Mindanao.     

   A study on the operations of the DAR-DENR-LRA-NCIP Joint Administrative Order No. 1 in Regions 10 and 13-CARAGA was conducted to determine if joint committees are functioning on the ground.

   The JAO (Joint Administrative Order) clarifies and restates the functions of each land titling agency. 

   It provides guidelines in resolving land conflicts in both the national and regional level.

   Functions of these various land agencies used to overlap with each other, creating conflict or confusion.  The JAO resolves this problem even as there are instances when various land uses conflict with each other. For instance, mining areas may overlap within ancestral domain or Indigenous People’s lands.

Land use mapping using unmanned aerial vehicle (AUV) in Bgy. Kapatagan, Digos City, Davao del Sur

.  DAR stands for Department of Agrarian Reform, LRA for the Land Registration Authority, and the NCIP for National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. 

   Laws and policies also serve as an enabling environment for responsible land administration and management.

   RLGM initiated studies to clarify the definition of terms and frequently asked questions for lands, and review land-related laws and policies on tenure.

   Partner agencies and local government units were re-oriented on national policies such as the enhanced Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) guidelines.  GIS (Geographic Information Service)  application for land titling is also being explored. 

   The project also offered capacity building activities to LGUs in using Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) for land use planning.

Aerial view of a geographic area that helps determine land uses

   Future activities are being eyed as potential activities for the project.

   The DENR is proposing a review of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and a unified map to identify existing tenurial (land titling) instruments.

   The unified map would make it easier for national and local government units to access data to carry out their own mandates. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines’ population to grow at a slower pace to 110.881 million in 2021, Family Planning and contraceptives remain imperative to economic growth

October 3, 2021

The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) noted that Philippines’ population will grow in 2021— at a slower pace though—as the number is projected to reach  110,881,756..

   The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) latest Census of Population announced the country’s population in 2020 at 109,035,906.

  “Despite the rise in absolute numbers, the population grew gradually to 1.31% by the start of 2021,” POPCOM reported. 

   In comparison over the last decade, Philippines traditionally posted a 2.3% population growth pe

   However, this remains to highlight the need  to empower women to take control of their health and make their own choices on family planning and contraception in the digital age amidst challenges due COVID-19.

   During the World Contraception Day online event last September 23 by the Department of Health (DOH), POPCOM and Bayer Philippines, Inc, POPCOM highlighted the impact of the pandemic on access to  contraception and family planning, particularly for adolescents.

   “Worldwide, the COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impaired access  to and awareness of the far-reaching benefits of contraception. It’s essential that we continue to support self-determined family planning and make contraceptives more accessible to a greater number of Filipinos,”said POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III.

   “During this pandemic, our plans for our families, led by mothers who are minors or teenagers, can be easily compromised by this health emergency,” Perez said.

   Angel-Michael Evangelista, managing director and Pharmaceuticals head  of Bayer Philippines, Inc., said Bayer has intensified its commitment to providing unbiased, accurate, and  trusted information about contraceptive methods.

   “In 2019, we launched the Ask Mara automated chat via Facebook where you can know more about pregnancy, the pill and other contraceptive methods,” Evangelista said.

  “Educating and enabling women, especially adolescents, to make more informed choices on contraception helps improve their quality of life and economic capability. Together with our partners, I’m sure we can contribute to enhancing young women’s knowledge about the different contraceptive choices and importance of family planning.”

Slower population growth in NCR

   The foreseen slower population growth is attributable to government’s having stepped up efforts to reverse the adverse effect of the Covid 19 pandemic. Thus, in 2020, Metro Manila registered significant gains for having had among the lowest population growth of only 0.97% in the last five years. 

    POPCOM reported a favourable development that many Filipino women in Metro Manila (National Capital Region) now opt for smaller families. 

   It resulted from lower fertility rate, POPCOM disclosed.  Sizes of families are trending lower at 4 members, POPCOM reported. That is compared to family size of at least 7 members in previous years.

Women’s reasons for using birth control methods. Credit-Guttmacher

Supporting women in the Philippines and across Asia Pacific

   Recognizing the urgent need for more dedicated work to secure continuity of access to healthcare, Bayer convened an Asia Pacific virtual roundtable last September 24, 2021 titled

#TakeControl: Shaping Digital Health for Women in the COVID Decade.

   The virtual event gathered healthcare professionals, policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), telehealth providers, industry associations, and digital influencers and underlined their commitment to support women in taking control of their health.

   Comprised of 3 distinct expert panels, the virtual roundtable also marks the 15th anniversary of

World Contraception Day with 15 key partners.  Among these are the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Pathfinder International, POPCOM,  Indonesia Midwives Association, Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology (TAOG), DOC2US, Malaysian Pharmacists Society and Reach52.

   The first expert panel “No Woman Left Behind: COVID-19 and Unplanned Pregnancies” drew

attention to the urgent impact of COVID-19 on women’s access to healthcare and family planning resources and the burden of unplanned pregnancies.

   “With a third of the country affected, health services for the women of reproductive age have been reduced.  One-third of our women have had to take difficult transportation means to get to health services” said Perez.

   He also stressed that “the most important problem women experienced in the middle of the pandemic is unplanned pregnancies ranging from teen pregnancies to pregnancies among the general population.”

    “Women today in the Philippines are also concerned about violence during the period of pandemic– emotional, physical, sexual violence.”

   Movement restrictions (lockdowns) have driven women to go online for more information on healthcare and family planning. However, misconceptions and cultural and social stigma are still challenges within these topics.

   The second expert panel “Step Into Her World: Engaging to Empower Online” discussed key drivers of misinformation on family planning and contraception online, the need for credible voices on popular platforms, and the importance of sustained dialogue.

   “A lot of women in the Philippines are going online now. I’ve seen a shift in attitude and demand for more doctors to also be online. What’s sad is that many women are online, but not the doctors,” said Dr. Michelle Dado, OBGYN and president of Quezon City Medical Society District IV.

   “Education is the only way to encourage healthcare professionals to become more digitally savvy and translate what they do in a face-to-face consultation onto an online platform. This will help to break the endless cycle of misinformation online that may in turn lead to many young women making misinformed contraceptive choices.”

   The pandemic has also accelerated healthcare digitization on an unprecedented scale.

   Experts on the third concluding panel “The New Phygital: Innovating Expanded Access to Women’s Health” shed light on how technology has been a critical enabler in the recovery and  resilience of today’s health systems.

   At the conclusion of the virtual roundtable, all 16 panelists collectively pledged to renew their

commitment to empower women to take control of their health and lives despite the pandemic.

   They also called for wider public support to join in the pledge and give voice to women’s health needs and empowerment.

   Across Asia Pacific, Bayer has been collaborating with governments and organizations to introduce initiatives that promote greater contraception awareness and education.

   The partnerships are with the BKKBN in Indonesia, POPCOM in the Philippines, Department of Health’s Bureau of Reproductive Health in Thailand, and the Family Planning and Women’s Union (FPWU) and Government Office of Family Planning (GOPFP) in Vietnam. For more information on contraception awareness and education, please visit https://www.your-life.com.

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)