$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/

Wheat imports feared to cause downward spiral on the already depressed corn price of P12 per kilo; govt urged to invest in storage, buy farmers’ produce

September 1, 2020

Domestic corn price is feared to go through a downward spiral from the already depressed P12 per kilo due to feed wheat imports coinciding with the harvest, compelling corn farmers to press government to show political will by prohibiting import arrival at harvest.

   Corn farmers have also challenged government to address perennial poverty among corn farmers by intervening in putting up corn storage facilities.  The lack of such storage facilities compel Filipino farmers to give in to low prices, or their produce just spoils. This renders farmers helpless at the mercy of traders trying to haggle for bargain prices.

      The Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize) and the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) have denounced that Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) allowed feed wheat import arrival during this current corn harvest.

   Feed millers’ recent importation of a reported 81,200 metric tons (MT) of feed wheat is unfortunately bringing price further down to P12 per kilo or below. This is against expected farmgate of say P15 per kilo and above.  Feed wheat is a usual cheaper substitute to corn.

   “Imports of feed wheat accounts for only 1 to 2% of corn production.  But still, their effect on pushing down local corn price is significant. It becomes worse as the NFA (National Food Authority) no longer supports corn price as it now has a different mandate due to the RTL,” said PMFI President Roger V. Navarro.

   NFA is no longer buying corn from farmers even as its function has been limited by the Rice Tarrification Law implemented since 2018-2019.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said government must continue its price support function for corn even especially amid the pandemic.

   “Government should immediately initiate aprogram to buy the corn being harvested at a viable price from the farmers for storage as buffer stock to support future demand during non-harvest season,” said Fausto.

   State competition-policing agency Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has just released a study showing local corn price is significantly adversely affected  by feed wheat imports.

   “The Philippines imports feed wheat every month and therefore, when local corn harvest coincides with the arrival of feed wheat, the price of local corn is usually depressed, “ according to the study commissioned by PCC.

   “This is a more pronounced during the third quarter when the Philippines has the big bulk of local harvest and the quality of which is affected by lack of mechanical dryers.”

   Navarro said DA-BPI which issues import permits and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPICS) should have known beforehand of this import arrival.

   “Feed wheat imports can arrive year-round because they have storage facilities from their origin. But they are timing arrivals even during the corn harvest just to take advantage of lower prices,” said Navarro.

   Philippines’ feed wheat imports come from Australia, Bulgaria, United States, Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, European Union, and Black Sea.

   With the Bayanihan 2 program intended to uplift Filipinos’ livelihood, the government should immediately intervene in supporting corn price and put up storage. This is along with providing technology and funding to counter the highly devastating Fall armyworm, Fausto said.

   “Corn is one of our major crops where millions of our farmers depend on for their livelihood. It represents around 10% of total crop production.  Government should protect our corn farmers especially during this time of crisis to allow them to survive. Importation of corn substitutes such as feed wheat should be regulated when corn is being harvested,” said Fausto.

    A PCC-commissioned study carried out by the Asian Social Project Services INc. (ASPSI) came up with this conclusion:

  • Local farm gate prices of corn go down even if international market prices might be high; this is primarily due to the lack of storage capacity when import delivery (corn and/or feed wheat) coincides with local harvest
    • Lower price (and income) dampens the interest and capacity of farmers to plant the next season hence feed millers have to buy high the next time around because of reduced local supply
    • This explains the boom and bust cycle in the Philippine yellow corn industry; but with more feed wheat imports, yellow corn farm gate prices might continue to be in a bust. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

ATTACHMENT:  Philippine Competition Commission study by ASPSI

First border inspection customs facilities to be put up by DA in Ph’s 5 major international ports to control diseases from meat imports

July 4, 2020

Facilities for the First Border Inspection (FBI) in the five major international ports will be put up this year by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to bolster inspection control on infected meat imports and on critical laboratory test kits and disinfectants.

   Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar has committed to construct the FBI customs facilities in 5 international ports in response to such private sector recommendations. 

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Fisheries Inc. (PCAFI) and United Broilers Association (UBRA) complained against Philippines’ infection of African swine flu (ASF) and avian flu due to infected, poorly inspected meat imports.

       PCAFI and UBRA complained that more diseases and more mis-declared meat importation will happen with the FBI customs facilities. This is also depriving government of huge revenue from meat importation taxes along with destroying the entire livestock and poultry industries with diseases.

   In order to further boost animal production – cattle, carabao—without needing to import animals, DA will distribute semen straws under the Unified National Artificial Insemination Program, Dar said in a letter to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   DA and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) also plan to invest in biosecurity measures to more adequately provide for Cold Storage Warehouses. It will keep poultry and livestock products’ quality for a long time.

   “Investment in biosecurity is a necessity and may be part of the new normal,” said Dar in the letter.

   Dar said DA is also asking linking farmers and farm producers with buyers including big manufacturers that need farm raw material inputs. The link is also with  local government units (LGUs).

    “The secretary has always been vocal encouraging our meat processors to source raw meat from local producers especially in this time of crisis where imports are restricted.  He also asked LGUs to consider buying chicken and eggs directly to the poultry raisers and include these in food subsidy packs for distribution.”  

   DA has  asked Cebu to lift ban on transport of hogs and pork products so as to allow more buying of farmers’ goods.  Southern Leyte has already lifted a similar ban on transport of pork and related products from General Santos City and South Cotabato.

   Transport of pork and meat products from Visayas and Mindanao to bigger markets in Luzon is  under way to help stabilize supply and prices in Metro Manila.

   “The Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita is the main platform to address market and logistical support.  It is not just in NCR (National Capital Region), but in other regions.  Aside from different marketing modalities, it includes rentals of delivery trucks and cold storages, and use of the Food Terminal Inc as depot.”

   While no specific timelines have been indicated for their implementation, some of which have been plans of DA and its attached agencies for many decades,  here are the other commitments of Dar in response to PCAFI’s reform recommendations:

  • Implementation of the Fisheries Resiliency Project including 1. Urban aquaponics; 2. enhanced aquaculture and sustainable capture fisheries in inland waters; and 3. fish production support program for the rehabilitation of disrupted fish supply chain.
  • Provision of the National Dairy Administration (NDA) for insurance coverage of dairy animals during calamities and disease outbreaks, and a stimulus budget or capital for the production of Total Mix Ration (TMR). 
  • The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) is also expanding its dairy business.  The private sector, though, believes this is not the business of government.  PCC will provide assistance in consolidation and marketing of milk production to farmers..  It will encourage local milk companies to buy local produce as input to their processing of high value milk products (powdered, canned).
  • Bureau of Plant Industry will distribute seeds and planting materials and will implement border control and quarantine measures to also prevent entry of imported plant diseases and pests.
  • White corn will be produced to raise food security and input supply for feeds for livestock and poultry.
  • Engagement in feasibility studies on use of copra as ingredient in animal feed to enrich protein content.  It is under a program of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and National Livestock Program. PCA will also produce feed grade copra and coconut oil in Coconut Hubs.  Equipment will be provided to beneficiaries.
  • Palm oil production will be integrated with animal production as a response to Covid 19 crisis.  The NLP and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are also studying the use of fish oil and fish meal in animal feeds.
  • P400 million “Balik PRobinsya” that will allow urban transferees to engage in integrated farming (entrepreneurial agri-fisheries).
  • Increase on premium to  P20,000 by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp (PCIC) to cover cost of agricultural damages of farmers during typhoons and related calamities and important, pests and diseases infestation. DA only “partially” covers cost of production inputs now for palay production.  

“PCIC’s rice insurance will be provided free to rice farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).” Insurance coverage is P20,00 per hectare for a maximum of 3 hectares per farmer.

  • P400 million will be proposed under the Expanded Production for High Value Crops (vegetable, spices, fruits, and root crops). Urban agriculture will be promoted to further boost food security and nutritional security via vegetable production.  This is also in response to the Covid 19 crisis.
  • Pump irrigation systems such as those from open source, shallow tube wells, and engine sets will be put up to deliver fast irrigation systems.  Fertilizers will also be distributed.
  • The Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool (AGFP) will be strengthened to mitigate risks in agricultural lending. This function as transferred to the Philippine Export Import Credit Agency’s (Philexim) implementation with the expectation of higher efficiency guarantee program.
  • Strengthening of the Agri 4Ps (Plant Plant Plant Program). Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Seed producer Bayer Crop Science targets 100,000 farmers by 2021 to migrate to highly-profitable hybrids resistant to diseases

June 22, 2020

Rice and corn seed producer Bayer Crop Science (BCS) is targeting by 2021 to reach 100,000 Filipino farmers who will migrate to using highly profitable hybrid seeds resistant to diseases so as to enjoy yield gain of 50 to 130%, grossing P200,000 per hectare for rice.

   Through partnerships with the Department of Agriculture (DA) in technical training of farmers and with others stakeholders (farmers’cooperatives, seed distributors, financiers), BCS believes the target is  reasonable. 

   The number is an increase from the 60,000 farmers it has so far helped to step up to using the high-yielding seeds since its first launch of its online agriculture training site Bayer Agricademy.

   The hybrid business is part of its aim to contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  These include “zero hunger” (Goal 2) as one in 9 people in the world are undernourished. The other goal is “no poverty” (Goal 1)—providing everyone healthcare, security, and education.

   “In the Philippines, the average landholdings for farming is less than 2 hectares and it could barely support the needs of a family of five, which is also the national average,” according to BCS.

   Given the technology and financial aid they need to succeed in rice and corn farming, it is foreseen that mostly family-run farming businesses will contribute significantly to economic growth from the grassroots, from the countryside. 

   “Of the estimated, 550 million smallholder farmers worldwide, it’s estimated that 97 percent work on farms that are smaller than 10 hectares and produce more than 80 percent of the food in developing countries. These farms are often family-run businesses that have a long history in the communities where they live.”

   Hybrid seeds can substantially raise yield and income attributable to traits such as disease resistance from Asiatic corn borer and the now emerging fall armyworm (FAW)  in corn farms nationwide.

13-tonner Dekalb 8899S is resitant to Asiatic corn borer and fall armyworm

   From the usual three to five metric tons (MT) per hectare, BCS’s FAW resistant corn variety Dekalb 8919S has posted an all-time record high harvest of 14.85 MT in a hectare.  It was specifically in a yield competition co-administered by the DA in Compostela Valley.

   Another Bayer superior corn variety, the  Dekalb 8899S, recorded 13.38 MT per hectare in the same competition in Davao City.

   For the Arize Bigante hybrid rice, farmers have been experiencing up to 2x increase in yield from the average four MT per hectare from inbreds to at least seven to eight MT per hectare from hybrids.  It enables farmers to double gross earnings from P100,000 to P200,000.

  While encouraging many farmers to step up to learning hybrid seed farming, BCS parent firm Bayer Philippines Inc. also has a crop relief programs to famers all over the world.

   Through this initiative, Bayer plans to help up to two million smallholder farmers that provide food security to tens of millions of families in vulnerable communities.

   Through its new “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative, Bayer will complement its current commitment to support smallholder farmers in key countries by donating seeds and crop protection inputs. It will provide farmers assistance with market access and support for health and safety needs.  

   The donations help boost food security by supporting up to two million smallholder farmers facing increased challenges as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic

   “To assist smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America who are facing additional challenges resulting from COVID-19, Bayer, as part of its societal engagement activities.”

   “Better Farms, Better Lives” is in line with Bayer’s overall aspiration to help build a world where there is Health for All, Hunger for None.

   “Smallholder farmers are essential to providing food security to billions of people, but the on-going COVID pandemic is placing extra challenges on their ability to produce food for their communities and beyond,” said Liam Condon, President of Bayer’s Crop Science Division.

   “In this critical time, our hope is that our Better Farms, Better Lives initiative, additional support and partnerships with local and global NGOs will not only result in resiliency for smallholders but will also ensure this current health and economic crisis does not turn into a hunger crisis.”

   The COVID pandemic has caused logistical issues for many farmers globally due to enforced lockdowns which has limited access to seeds, crop protection inputs and labor. As a result of disruptions to food supplies, consumers may ultimately see higher food prices, ironically at a time when many farmers are seeing reduced incomes due to disruptions in the supply chain and the subsequent lack of market access.

   Bayer is committed to helping more than 100 million smallholder farmers in developing countries by 2030. The immediate COVID-19 response through the “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative complements on-going smallholder support which will aid in mid-term recovery as well as long-term resilience.

   Additionally, in collaboration with others and to ensure the greatest successful impact for smallholders, Bayer will work and expand its partnerships with governments, internationally recognized NGOs (non-government organizations) and local organizations; create a Smallholder Center of Excellence for sharing successes; provide accelerated access to digital farming tools to increase capabilities; scale up existing and new value chain partnerships and further expand value chain partnerships across Asia-Pacific countries.

   The Better Life Farming Care Packages will be tailored to specific local needs and may include seeds for crops such as tomatoes, peppers, rice and corn to sustain livelihoods, crop protection products, personal protective equipment and safety and training materials.   For more information on Bayer’s “Better Lives, Better Farms” initiative and its commitment to smallholder farmers, visit http://www.bayer.com. Melody Mendoza Aguiba/Bryan B. Rivera