Govt boosts investment interest for bamboo with launching of CITE Marikina training center for PBIDC

January 21, 2022

The government is boosting investment interest for bamboo as it launches the Center Innovation and Technology for Enterprise (CITE) as a training center for the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council’s (PBIDC) capacity building and consultative programs.

To be launched in February 2023, the CITE facility of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will be the home base for the sector.

It is the opportune time as bamboo is just starting to gain interest among private and public investors in light of the post Covid scenario and efforts to fight climate change, flooding, and natural disasters.

PBIDC Vice Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano said bamboo is now being recognized as a new “tree of life” that gives livelihood to the poorest in the countryside. That includes even Indigenous People (IP)-occupied ancestral domains that dominate 30-to 40% of Philippines potential productive land.

“DTI Secretary (Alfredo) Pascual who has reconvened the PBIDC has thrown his support for our bamboo programs. Even non-government organizations have laid out their plans for the industry. The private sector is very serious about planting bamboo,” said Savellano.

CITE Bambusetum in Marikina City

The CITE facility in Marikina City houses training machines, equipment, function rooms, a dormitory for in-house training, and offices. The CITE also has a Bambusetum in Marikina City that showcases different bamboo varieties and their uses. It has been offering training on bamboo propagule production and bamboo product processing.


“Nobody used to give attention to bamboo before. With PBIDC now reconvened, bamboo programs will have continuity,” said PBIDC Executive Director Butch Madarang.


As involvement of local governments units (LGU) is crucial to bamboo planting, Savellano said the PBIDC executive committee is enjoining the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and League of Cities to be part of PBIDC. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA and the Climate Change Commission should also be part of it.


“There is a big demand for bamboo. There’s an urgency in what we’re doing. We want to develop the bamboo industry under President Marcos’s term, and we now only have 5.5 years.” Savellano said. “(That’s why) we have to make our programs inclusive. It should involve everybod,y as many who want to support the industry,” he said.


“If we can’t do it now, when else can it be done? President Marcos already made a declaration during the United Nations General Assembly that fighting climate change will be a priority of his administration. He made a call on his birthday on Sept 13, 2022 during the Nationwide Bamboo and Tree Planting Program for us to uphold environmental protection.”


Other members of PBIDC are the heads of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), among others. DTI heads the PBIDC.


The PBIDC bill under House Bill 9576 has been approved for third reading in the Lower House and transmitted to the Senate which had two hearings. But the national election has halted the proceedings. Nevertheless, the bill will be refiled in the 19th Congress.


While the bill has not yet been approved, PBIDC is putting up with tapping resources from different agencies that have a budget, albeit minimal, for different bamboo programs. DTI, for one, has programs for bamboo commercialization and processing, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has bamboo researches.

“Since the budget and programs for 2023 are yet being planned, we are appealing to the different agencies to include bamboo in their programs. The DA, for example, has declared bamboo as a high value crop. Bamboo should be included in its High Value Crop program,” Savellano said.

PBIDC has been created under Executive Order 879. However, a budget has yet to be allocated for bamboo under the General Appropriations Act (GAA). PBIDC is not included in the 2023 GAA.

Even then, Savellano, who is founder of Kilusang 5K (Kawayan: Kalikasan, Kaunlaran, Kabuhayan, Kinabukasan) Foundation, has pushed for bamboo programs including nursery establishment.

Kilusang 5K carried out community-based bamboo reforestation, production and nursery establishment in the Marikina Watershed and at Sitio Karugo, San Rafael, Rodriguez.

Bamboo-made furniture exhibited at CITE. Credit-Bamboo Network PH


Such bamboo production in Puray, Rodriguez was participated by indigenous people, the SaKKAFA non government organization, and the Council Assn of Puray Inc.
Training was supervised by technology experts from the Philippine Bamboo Foundation and Bamboo professionals. It was funded by the Rotary Foundation Grant of the Rotary International districts 3780 and 3830.

Kilusang 5K, along with Rotary and other stakeholders, decided to choose these locations as the deforestation in the Sierra Madre mountains has been known to cause flooding in Metro Manila.

“We are proud to have accomplished many things in the last two years with zero budget. Bamboo is an advocacy for us. We’re fighting for bamboo because you already have the clumps available. With the proper management and rehabilitation, you have a livelihood. It’s a doable program. It’s productive in 3-4 years from planting. ” he said.

“If we can’t develop our bamboo industry, tell me what else are we capable of doing?” he said.

High value-added engineered bamboo. Credit-Bamboo Network PH


EO 879 saw a $8 billion global market for bamboo. It will have tremendous economic multiplier effect was it is seen to replace plastic, metal and other wood as manufacturing input.


Madarang said PBIDC looks forward in the future to have budget allocation.
“We need it for the upkeep of the CITE facility. We need to support how roadmaps of agencies (like the one drafted by DA mainly for bamboo production and food) will cascade into regional offices,” said Madarang.


PBIDC in the last two years has been coordinating agencies’ programs for harmonization and non duplication. It includes the following:

  1. Localization of bamboo programs with now 48 active local councils.
  2. Bamboo Resources Inventory and Technology-Enabled Mapping in the Philippines (Britemap) to develop bamboo resources inventory system.
  3. Consultative meetings with Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 2, 4A, 5, 6, and 7-12.
  4. Series of bamboo summits from Luzon to Mindanao that tapped the Mindanao bamboo advocates.
  5. Series of bamboo smmits n mining in a tieup with the Philippine Mining Club, DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
  6. Declaration of Bamboo Month under House Resolution No. 197 and celebration of World Bamboo Day in order to promote the significance of bamboo planting and production.
  7. PBIDC participation in Smart Bamboo Database Management System of the Philippine Bamboo Society of Advocates, Bamboo Bootcamp, DENR-Forest Management Bureau training,
  8. Pasig River Rehabilitation involving bamboo planting in its tributaries.
  9. Support for DTI’s shared services facilities establishment.
  10. Memorandum of agreement with TESDA on training protocols
  11. Rehabilitation of existing bamboo clusters in the first district of Ilocus Sur under the TUPAD program. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Phil. Bamboo Industry Development bill to establish Ph’s natural bamboo competitive edge in transport, construction, furniture, manufacturing

December 9, 2022

The Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Act (PBIDA) is seen to establish the country’s compettive edge in the natural bamboo market in transport, construction, furniture, and fabric sectors that can lead to industrial-manufacturing development.


Filed under House Bill 9576 which was approved for the third and final reading in August 2021, PBIDA is hoped to be certified as urgent by the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

“House Bill 9576 should be approved under the admnistration of BBM (Bongbong Marcos). It will substantially help advance our industrial development. We already have the clumps in our inventory. We just need the support for production, training, processing,” said Deogracias Victor “DV” B. Savellano.

Savellano leads private sector advocates of bamboo as nature-friendly, climate smart industrial material through the 5K (Kawayan: Kalikasan, Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran, Kinabukasan).Foundation Inc.

HB 9576 will be refiled by Bohol Representative Edgardo M. Chatto. It will be endorsed in the Senate by the House of Representative.

The bill which envisions to seize part of a global market placed in 2010 at $8 billion will institutionalize the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC).
Created by Executive Order 879 in 2010, PBIDC saw the prospect of bamboo replacing plastic, metal, and other wood as manufacturing input.


While Savellano has earlier been appointed vice chairman of PBIDC, the council has not yet been convened since the Marcos Administration stepped in. A budget has neither been allocated for the council.


Aircraft uses bamboo

The bamboo industry holds huge economic potential for contributing to industrialization, being a highly-durable and ecologically-friendly raw material.

Comparable to or even better than other hardwood, bamboo has already been technologically developed into engineered wood, composites, laminated wood, or strand woven bamboo as a sophisticated lumber or construction material.

Filipinos have extensively exhibited their creative genius in using bamboo.

The Cubo modular house, designed by Earl Forlales, is not only a modern but one that is also an aesthetic and durable house made of natural, indigenous materials. In 2017, designer Christopher Paris Lacson crafted the Banatti motorcycle whose body is made of highly durable, elegant-looking, light-weight bamboo.

Lacson himself said Philippines has long been a pioneer of industrial bamboo design as cited by a local newspaper in the early 1950s. Filipino Antonio de Leon designed a single-engine, light experimental aircraft XL-14-MAYA. It used a type of woven bamboo called WOBEX, woven bamboo experimental.


Cubo modular house made of bamboo designed by Earl Forlales

Another product is the bamboo mobile, a type of jeepney spearheaded by the Department of Transportation of long ago. Its body is made of bamboo. Bambu Batu (House of Bamboo) cites many other modern, fashionable furniture and clothing products made of bamboo.

Bamboo also holds tremendous promise as green ethanol or fossil fuel substitute as a renewable energy.

Bamboo mobile introduced by the old Department of Transportation

PBIDC

The PBIDC, according to EO 879, should be be composed of the heads of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Science and Technology (DOST), among others.


Bamboo advocates are now petitioning government to allocate at least P100 million to jumpstart the development of bamboo as a manufacturing sector.
EO 879 mandates DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and Laguna Lake Development Authority to use bamboo in at least 20% in their annual reforestation areas.


Rene Madarang, appointed PBIDC executive director but also actively supports bamboo promotion through 5K Foundation, earlier created a Technical Working Group (TWG) to support PBIDC functions.

TWGs have been put up for three functions– production and propagation, industry and commerce, and training of workforce for propagation and processing.

Chrostopher Paris Lacson’s Banatti bamboo motorcycle

Economic contribution

The Philippines now has an estimated bamboo area of around 104,000 hectares. It generates a value of $60 million yearly. With 5.59 million hectares of arable land, the Philippines can expand bamboo area to 400,000 hectares– if only to level up to at least 10% of China’s bamboo area of 4.2 million hectares.
Such area can yield a whopping $3 billion (P150 billion). The industry can employ one million rural folks including indigenous people that can be organized into cooperatives.
Each 10-hectare area can generate a net income of P922,995 per bamboo worker per year, according to a study of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).

Sustainable development

Bamboo is a sustainable material. It fights climate change in several ways, INBAR said.
First, its fast-growing trait enables it to sequester carbon more substantially than other plants. It releases 35% more oxygen than other trees. Bamboo plants sequester 12 metric tons of carbon per hectare annually.


“Durable products made from bamboo can also be potentially carbon-negative. Bamboo could also be a favorable substitute for hardwoods, even FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified ones.”

Bamboo also replaces fossil fuels and reduces deforestation. Its solid biomass is used for cooking (charcoal and briquettes) and It can be converted into pellets for electricity and heating.

It is harvestable year-round, providing a stable rural income.

As it thrives in problem soils and steep slopes, it is an excellent land restoration crop.

“It is an effective windbreak, and its sturdy rhizomes and roots regulate water flows and prevent erosion. A case in Allahabad, India, tells of the rebuilding of rural livelihoods where 80,000 hectares of degraded land were brought back into productivity using bamboo as a pioneer species.”

It has been found scientifically in abandoned mines in the Philippines to be useful as bioremediation tool, absorbing toxic metals, fully restoring mined-out barren lands. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Private sector pressed govt to grant tax incentives to mining’s investment in bamboo plantations which can generate $3B revenue

December 2, 2022

The private sector has pressed government to grant tax incentives to the mining sector’s investments in large scale bamboo plantations that will help boost watershed conservation, disaster risk reduction, and generate as much as $3billion in long term revenue.

   Bamboo propagation and mining sector advocates from the Junction Ridge Resources Development Corp.(JRRDC) and the Kilusang 5K (Kawayan:Kalikasan, Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran, Kinabukasan) said bamboo planting will be the best antidote to pervading criticisms thrown on mining.

   Banker and mining leader Isidro C. Alcantara Jr. of JRRDC said bamboo plantations in mining areas can generate huge revenue that can even equal the country’s gold, copper, and nickel revenue.

   The Philippine Statistics authority (PSA) reported in November 2020 that the mining and quarrying sector generated P189.9 billion ($3.45 billion) revenue.

   “To understand why we should concentrate on bamboo, it can generate $3 billion or 10% of China’s (bamboo revenue).  It can equal the mining industry’s output of gold, copper, and nickel,” said Alcantara at the 5K Foundation Inc.’s “Usapang Kawayan.”

Alcantara

   Alcantara was chairman of Marcventures Holdings Inc. (Marcventures Mning parent firm) prior to his retirement. Its mining operation in Surigao del Sur has so far grown 30,875 bamboo plants in the area, pioneering the effort in mining.

    The Philippines can earn $3 billion revenue if only at least 10% of such China industry ($35 billion) is created. 

   At an estimated area of around 400,000 hectares, this is less than 10% of China’s bamboo area of seven million hectares.

   “This is doable. We have so much land to make large scale bamboo plantations,” said Alcantara.

   He cites the country’s 5.59 million hectares of arable land.  This is only 4.4% of the country’s nine million hectares of mineralized land based on Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-Department of Environment and Natural Resources) data.

   Kilusang 5K Foundation Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano also said during the Usapang Kawayan forum bamboo is one of the best crops for land restoration.

   Bamboo plants are the best tools for fighting climate change as it releases 35% more oxygen than other trees.  Bamboo plants sequester 12 metric tons of carbon per hectare annually, he said.

   “Bamboo is one of the best crops for land restoration especially in mined-out areas,” said Savellano.

   It is President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr himself who said during the United Nations General Assembly that climate change preparedness is a priority of his administration, he stressed.

Savellano

   “Bamboo planting in mining areas has been required by DENR since 2020 to plant bamboo to 20% of their declared mining area,” said Savellano.

   Kilusang 5K Foundation Executive Director Butch Madarang said a “middleground” can be achieved between mining and environment advocates.  Bamboo planting in mining areas plays a significant role in balancing economic gains and environmental protection.

   “Environmental degradation in abandoned mines leave land barren and with permanent scars in the natural landscape.  (But) a middleground can be achieved as bamboo restores lands, and it is a ticket to our poverty reduction,” said Madarang.

   Among the incentives that may be granted mining companies are tax credits for the investment amount, special tax rate of 5% (under CREATE-Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Law), and limited term income tax holiday starting on the sixth year onwards, Alcantara said.

   Tax free import of bamboo processing equipment and related value added tax exemption may also be granted.

   Very important, Alcantara said bamboo planting makes for sustainable livelihood for poverty stricken rural communities, particularly boondocks-dwelling Indigenous people (IP).

   “What do we leave these indigenous people with?  Believe it or not, this is a question discussed in the (mining companies’) boardroom.  It is high time we stop the disinformation about mining,” he said.

   Alcantara cited a study showing a mine worker can earn four times more when a bamboo plantation becomes productive three to five years from planting.

   A 10-hectare bamboo farm can generate an income of P922,995, four times that of a mine worker’s P240,000 per year. 

   This is based on a study of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) on bamboo farming in Anji, China.  It was verified by University of the Philippines scientists.

   Government does not need to provide a subsidy or shell out money for mining companies to invest in bamboo plantations.

   That is given regulations under the Mining Act of 1995 for mines to allocate funds for SDMP (Social Development and Management Program) and EPEP (Environmental Protection and Management Program. 

   If the seven mining companies in Surigao del Sur will each grow bamboo in 1,500 hectares, that totals to 10,000 hectares that can employ IPs through cooperatives and village enterprises for a long time. The plantation becomes sustainable 3-5 years from planting.   Bamboo has a 100-year life.  It becomes sustainable given allowed limited harvesting over an area of perhaps 1o% yearly, making it a revenue generator for many years.

   INBAR,a multilateral agency promoting sustainable development through the natural bamboo and rattan, indicated that bamboo fights climate change in several ways.

   First, its fast-growing trait enables it to sequester carbon more substantially than other plants. 

   “Durable products made from bamboo can also be potentially carbon-negative.  Bamboo could also be a favorable substitute for hardwoods, even FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified ones.”

   Bamboo also replaces fossil fuels and reduces deforestation.  Its solid biomass is used for cooking (charcoal and briquettes) and can be converted into pellets for electricity and heating.

   It is harvestable year-round, providing a stable rural income.

   As it thrives in problem soils and steep slopes, it is an excellent land restoration crop.  

   “It is an effective windbreak, and its sturdy rhizomes and roots regulate water flows and prevent erosion.  A case in Allahabad, India, tells of the rebuilding of rural livelihoods where 80,000 hectares of degraded land were brought back into productivity using bamboo as a pioneer species.”

   It has been found scientifically in abandoned mines in the Philippines to be useful as bioremediation tool, absorbing toxic metals, fully restoring barren lands.   (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

$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.

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)

Bayer delivers  medical innovation fueling transformation of pharma business

March 3, 2022

Berlin, Germany. At its annual Pharma Media Day 2022, Bayer presented the latest developments in the ongoing transformation of its pharmaceuticals business, which is aimed at delivering long-term, sustainable business growth by bringing forward new options for patients.

   “We are taking bold steps into the future of drug development, investing strongly in areas at the forefront of the biomedical and technological revolution.

   “Our leadership in cardiology, radiology and women’s health is recognized worldwide, and we are expanding our presence in oncology, working tirelessly to bring forward new approaches that can change the treatment paradigm for patients,” said Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management, Bayer AG and President of Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division.

   Bayer’s research and development pipeline continues to grow as the company is building on its existing competencies, such as the expertise around small molecules, while expanding into new modalities, including cell and gene therapies.

   The company is advancing around 50 projects in ongoing clinical trials across a range of potential therapeutic modalities and indications, with a focus on oncology, cardiovascular and women’s health.

Strong pipeline with robust late-stage development program and broad potential across indications

   In the area of cardiovascular disease, Bayer is delivering on its late-stage pipeline including recent launches of Finerenone (as KerendiaTM or FirialtaTM depending on country and region) and Vericiguat (Verquvo™).

   The heart and the kidneys are closely linked in health and disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in type 2 diabetes (T2D) is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease with many patients at advanced stages needing dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

  Patients are also three times more likely to die from a cardiovascular event than those with T2D alone, so early diagnosis and treatment is important to slow CKD progression and prevent poor patient outcomes.

   It is estimated that CKD affects more than 160 million people with T2D worldwide. At the Pharma Media Day, Bayer presented recent advancements for Finerenone, developed for patients living with CKD associated with T2D.

   In this field, Bayer has a strong scientific and clinical base for Finerenone, including the largest Phase III cardiorenal outcomes clinical trial program to evaluate the occurrence of progression of kidney disease as well as fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events in more than 13,000 patients with CKD and T2D.

   Additionally, Finerenone is being investigated beyond the current indication in heart failure as well as non-diabetic kidney disease as further potential indications.

   Finerenone was approved under the brand name Kerendia® by the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and as FirialtaTM in other countries and regions.    

   Finerenone was just recently granted marketing authorization in the European Union and has also been submitted for marketing authorization in China, as well as multiple other countries worldwide and these applications are currently under review.

    Heart failure is a devastating disease affecting more than 60 million people worldwide, who are in need of treatment options.

   Bayer’s symptomatic chronic heart failure treatment Vericiguat (Verquvo™) provides a specific approach to managing chronic heart failure patients following a recent decompensation event, also known as a worsening heart failure event.

   A worsening heart failure event can mark the start of a downward spiral of disease progression and repeated hospitalizations.

   In fact, 56% of patients are back in hospital within 30 days.

Bayer Healthcare and Cell Biology Center

   Vericiguat works in conjunction with existing approaches through a different mode of action. It restores the deficient NO-sGC-cGMP pathway, which plays a critical role in the progression of heart failure, aggravating its symptoms.

   Vericiguat is jointly developed by Bayer and MSD (a tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA), known as Merck in the U.S., and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) in Japan among other countries.

   Vericiguat has also been submitted for marketing authorization in China as well as multiple other countries worldwide.

   “We are currently in the remarkable position to launch several important new medicines in parallel, and we are unlocking the full potential of our assets through systematic data generation, multi-indication approaches as well as building on new digital business models,” said Christian Rommel, Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer’s Pharmaceutical Division and Head of Research and Development.

   “Our scientific leadership in the area of cardiovascular diseases advances our mission to provide better treatment options for patients in need.”

Re-imagining Radiology

   Bayer is strongly positioned in the fast-growing medical imaging artificial intelligence (AI) market, combining a long-term expertise in radiology with a deep understanding of patients’ and physicians’ needs across a broad range of diseases, from oncology to cardiovascular, resulting in the ability to provide know-how and solutions from diagnosis to care.

   In times of limited resources in healthcare systems, growing as well as aging populations and changing lifestyles contribute to an increase in chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

   As a result, the need for tools delivering improved diagnostic information while helping save costs and time is increasing. Tackling this challenge with advanced technologies and products, radiology is a key enabler to transform healthcare, expanding personalized medicine and improving outcomes for patients.

   In particular, AI bears vast potential for advancing radiology.

   Bayer is developing a platform through which healthcare professionals can centrally manage AI-enabled medical imaging and imaging workflow applications.

   These solutions are being developed by Bayer as well as third parties, and aim to support the complex decision-making processes of healthcare professionals in their task to provide a clear direction from diagnosis to care for their patients.

   “One of the most pressing concerns in medical imaging today is the exponential growth of imaging data and its complexity due to an increase in radiology examinations, and the shortage of experienced medical staff to handle it,” said Zuzana Jirakova Trnkova, MD, PhD, Head of Medical Affairs and Clinical Development Radiology at Bayer.

   “Artificial intelligence can be a valuable tool that, when complementing the human expertise of radiologists and clinicians, offers vast potential to the healthcare industry and radiology in particular. This is why Bayer strives to be a key digital innovator in this area, with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes for patients and supporting their physicians.”

Shaping women’s health from menarche to menopause

Bayer has a long-standing commitment to delivering solutions to meet women’s needs across the different stages of their lives. While pursuing research to find new treatment options for gynecological diseases with a high unmet medical need, the company is also working on addressing women’s health needs during menopause.

  Elinzanetant, a non[1]hormonal development compound, is currently being investigated in the Phase III clinical development program OASIS for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms during menopause.

   “Every year 47 million women enter menopause, a period where women are at the peak of their life’s activity, personally and professionally. With increased longevity, maintaining functional ability and good quality of life is extremely relevant from both a healthcare and a socio-economic perspective. Unfortunately, menopause remains a taboo topic, leaving many women untreated,” said Cecilia Caetano, MD, Head of Medical Affairs Menopause at Bayer.    

   “With our strong heritage and deeply rooted expertise in women’s health, we continue to focus on providing innovative science, solutions and education to support the individual health need of women.”

Increasing access to modern contraception

   For more than 50 years, Bayer has supported educational programs and rights-based family planning in more than 130 countries, particularly by increasing access to modern forms of contraception.

   In 2019, Bayer pledged to provide 100 million women in low-and-middle-income countries with access to family planning by 2030.

    This initiative is part of Bayer’s comprehensive set of sustainability measures and commitments and in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) .

   “We believe every girl and woman deserves the chance to determine her own future. That’s why Bayer is partnering with local and international organizations, such as the United Nations Population Fund and the United States Agency for International Development, to empower women to make informed decisions about family planning,” said Mildred Nadah Pita, Head of Global Healthcare Programs/Sustainability Middle Africa at Bayer.

   “With Bayer’s commitment to provide 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to modern contraception by 2030, we are making an important contribution to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by improving the health, rights and economic status of women around the world, which is a fundamental prerequisite for greater equality, education and prosperity for all.”

   As part of this commitment, Bayer recently announced an investment of over €400 million in new production facilities for long-acting reversible contraceptives, including the construction of a new production site in Alajuela, Costa Rica and the expansion of production capabilities in Turku, Finland.

DA targets unprecedented 1.2 to 1.3 million hectares of hybrid rice area for 2022 after several years of lull

October 28, 2021

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has targeted a hybrid rice area of an unprecedented 1.2 to 1.3 million hectares for crop year 2022 after a lull in hybrid planting as it aims to beef up food security amid the continuing Covid 19 pandemic.

   At least 700 hectares of hybrid rice are being readied for the bumper dry season of 2022. That leaves around 500 to 600 hectares for the less anticipated rainy season, but still a big area compared to previous years.

   “For our third year now, we have aggressively pursued hybrid rice planting.  That is the reason why we have been able to attain the highest level of rice production this year. With hybrid rice, you’re sure to automatically harvest an additional 1.52 metric tons per hectare versus inbred,” said Dr. Frisco M. Malabanan, DA rice program consultant.

   The Philippines posted a record rice harvest of 19.44 million MT in 2020 from 18.81 million MT in 2019.

   Yet, the DA budget for the food security program for 2022 has yet to be assured for the hybrid rice program to sustain.

   “The budget of DA for food security has yet to be approved. It’s still being discussed in the Senate,” said Malabanan.

 

Hybrid rice gives higher yield and net income. Credit– Pinoyrice

  Private seed growers have committed to supply DA the needed hybrid rice seeds. They are readying the rice area particularly involving DA’s rice clustering program. 

   The clustering program consolidates a hybrid rice area of at least 100 hectares  particularly in 15 priority provinces.

   “We assure government of our support for this public partnership program.  It will be the key to our goal for food sufficiency and food security,” said Rice Board President Recher Ondap.

   “We hope to be assured of the government’s budget allocation as many farmers have started land preparation for the dry season 2022.  Budgetary support should not only be for this rice clustering program but for the entire food sufficiency and resiliency program.”

   Out of the 15 priority provinces, five provinces already have identified locations.  These top five provinces are Bukidnon, Bicol, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, and Ilocos.

   DA has been successful in restoring the hybrid rice program after DA secured a budget for this in the last two years.

   “Secretary (William) Dar has been supported by the economic managers in the budget for hybrid rice.  Prior to this, our hybrid rice area was only at around 300,000 to 400,000 hectares,” Malabanan said.

   Under the hybrid rice program, DA allocated a seed subsidy of P5,000 per hectare.  This is with a fertilizer support of three vouchers per farmer equivalent to P1,000 per voucher.

   But these are not the only things needed for the DA rice program to take off. The programs on irrigation, fertilization, mechanization also have to be funded.

   DA also has a separate program for certified rice seeds under RCEP (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

   DA envisions the Rice Clustering Program to be  a banner program for achieving a highly competitive status in rice sector.

   The Rice Clustering Program will be a model of best practices focused initially in the 15 priority provinces.  However, the model can be replicated in all of Philippines’ regions.

   The clustered area will be a model for the use of high yielding seeds, balanced fertilization, adequate irrigation, use of modern machines for land preparation and post harvest, availability of credit,  use of technology for various cultural practices, and market linkage.

   The clustered areas will no longer just be technology demonstration (techno-demo) or trial areas but will be sustaining commercial farms.

   The Rice Board has long been supporting DA’s hybrid rice program. In particular,

   Rice board’s private seed growers have consistently participated in the yearly National Rice Technology Forum (NRTF).  It is a competition for the highest rice yield administered by DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice).

  A total of 13 techno-demo trials had been carried out by the DA. local government units, and private sector under the NRTF in the last seven years as an effort to transfer hybrid rice technology to farmers. 

   The last one was held in Leyte.  Report on the trials came out last October 12, 2021.

   Under DA’s Memo Circular (MC) No. 11  issued June 2, 2021, these clustered hybrid rice farms should produce at least one metric ton (MT) higher yield than certified inbred seeds.  Or yield should be equivalent to at least 5 MT per hectare.

   The seed companies also provide the needed technical support to farmers and guide them on the proper management of their varieties.

   “The Rice Board adheres to this provision,” Ondap said. “In fact, seed companies are employing more technical people to better facilitate the transfer of hybrid rice technology to farmers.”

   As they are expected to churn out high yield, these hybrid rice farms should raise the country’s food self sufficiency. They should reduce rice imports now reaching to some two million MT yearly.  This program should also reduce production cost and increase the income of rice farmers.

   “Any country in the world, if it can produce its staple locally, it would do it because it’s difficult to be depending on the world market for your staple’s supply,” Malabanan said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Rice Board supports DA’s clustering program for 100 hectares of hybrid rice land in 15 provinces, presses for budget assurance

October 21, 2021

The private sector-led Rice Board has expressed support for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) clustering program that consolidates at least 100 hectares of hybrid rice land in 15  provinces even as it pressed for an assurance of the DA national budget for food sufficiency program.

    The Public Private Partnership (PPP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) will be supported by the Rice Board as the program requires the supply of high-yielding hybrid seeds.

   “We assure government of our support for this public partnership program.  It will be the key to our goal for food sufficiency and food security,” said Rice Board President Recher Ondap.

   “We hope to be assured of the government’s budget allocation as many farmers have started land preparation for the dry season 2022.  Budgetary support should not only be for this rice clustering program but for the entire food sufficiency and resiliency program.”

   Locations for five provinces out of the 15 priority provinces have already been identified. These rice farms are found in Bukidnon, Bicol, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, and Ilocos.

   The consolidated farms in 15 provinces will become a more permanent technology demonstration (techno-demo) site. 

   These hybrid rice clusters will also become regular commercial farms season after season.

   Techno-demo trials being held by government and the private sector under the National Rice Technology Forum (NRTF) are temporary. 

   The NRTF involves just one province with 100 hectares per season where the best of Philippines’ rice seed technologies are being demonstrated.

   A total of 13 techno-demo trials had been carried out by the DA. local government units, and private sector under the NRTF in the last seven years as an effort to transfer hybrid rice technology to farmers. 

   The last one was held in Leyte.  Report on the trials came out last October 12, 2021.

   Under DA’s Memo Circular (MC) No. 11  issued June 2, 2021, these clustered hybrid rice farms should produce at least one metric ton (MT) higher yield than certified inbred seeds.  Or yield should be equivalent to at least 5 MT per hectare.

   “Within the 15 provinces selected for hybrid rice planting and in the selected areas outside the 15 provinces, focus (should be) on areas where our last two field reports have indicated that hybrid rice has a yield advantage of 1 ton over the certified inbred seed and an average yield of 5 tons per hectare,” MC 11 said.

   Yield of the field reports is based on the harvest of 2020 Wet Season and 2021 Dry Season.

   DA and its attached Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRICE) used to provide subsidy for hybrid rice seed production and commercialization.

   Still, DA affirmed the private sector’s role in assuring hybrid rice seed supply for the rice productivity program to succeed.

   “The private seed companies’ role is recognized as crucial in attaining the hybrid varieties’ optimum performances and attainable yield. The companies can provide the needed technical support to farmers and guide them on the proper management of their varieties following the clustering approach, “ MC 11 noted.

   The Rice Board adheres to this provision, Ondap said. In fact, seed companies are employing more technical people to better facilitate the transfer of hybrid rice technology to farmers.

   As they are expected to churn out high yield, these farms should raise the country’s food self sufficiency.  This program should also reduce production cost and increase the income of rice farmers.

   Aside from the use of high-yielding hybrid seeds and crop protection products, these clustered rice farms will also demonstrate other farming technologies.

   These include best cultural practices, irrigation technology, use of machinery and drones for aerial seeding, pest/disease and nutrient management.

   Present hybrid rice area in the Philippines is placed at around one million hectares.  Of this, 600,000 hectares were under the DA’s hybridization program. The remaining areas  were put up under efforts of the private sector . 

   Any expansion is foreseen to significantly reduce imports of around two million MT yearly . (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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/