By Izah Morales MALUNGGAY is often known as one of the ingredients of “Tinolang Manok,” which makes this Filipino specialty's soup green and nutritious. But did you know that malunggay contains seven times more vitamin C than orange, four times more calcium than milk, four times more vitamin A than carrots, three times more potassium than banana and more iron than pechay. Hence the name “power gulay,” says the Department of Agriculture-Biotech Program Office (DA-BPO). Malunggay is key in government’s current strategy to reduce malnutrition in the country. According to DA-BPO director Alicia Ilaga, the country’s experts were able to extract oil from the seeds of malunggay, which can now be used as vegetable or industrial oil. Malunggay is now being developed into hair wax, tea, capsules and other health and wellness products. Amid all these benefits, only few seeds of malunggay for planting are available, Ilaga says. During a recent campaign led by the DA-BPO, the agency was able to collect only 1 metric ton of malunggay seeds. The DA-BPO is currently looking into several initiatives to boost supply of seeds. The agency hopes to create malunggay nurseries. It is also planning to develop a technology for mass propagation using tissue culture of malunggay. The Bureau of Plant Industry and the Department of Agriculture in Region III are now developing a commercial planting package of technology through the DA-BPO. Government has organized a network of growers, seed suppliers, technology developers called Malunggay Biotech Information Organization Network to also boost supply of malunggay seeds. “We would like to unify and combine efforts from different sectors so that we can support the development of the [malunggay] industry,” says Ilaga.
November 2008 Archives
By Anna Valmero Exposing the youth to interactive exhibits can inspire their curiosity in science and some concepts work. “Learning can take place with just 2 minutes of exposure to science exhibits,” says Philippine Foundation for Science and Technology (PFST) executive director May Pagsinohin. The Philippine Science Centrum is a flagship program of the PFST. By interacting with the exhibits, students and adults can play with the devices and explore how they work, Pagsinohin says. The Science Centrum houses about 150 interactive and integrative exhibits that students can explore to discover the science behind them. Now four years after moving from UP Manila, the 18-year old Science Centrum is now located at the Riverbanks Center in Marikina. It occupies a warehouse with a floor area of about 2,500 square meters. Before the year ends, there are plans to open a space and biotechnology galleries, she says. For the space gallery, the Department of Science and Technology has recently released P1.5 million, according to Pagsinohin. This would be allotted for the in-house development of exhibits, such as the human gyroscope and constellation display as well as the plan to order a spacesuit from NASA. As I toured the science museum, it was like reviving vague memories of childhood awe in exploring several of the classic displays. During my tour, two exhibits caught my eye: the Van de Graaff generator and the Tesla Coil. Invented in 1931, the Van de Graaff generator has a sphere that when touched by the hands supplies positive charges to the body and makes the hair stand on end due to positive charges on the strands repelling each other. The Tesla Coil is a resonant transformer that generates high voltage, low current alternating current that looks like lightning. Other exhibits feature how natural phenomenon like the cyclones, tsunami and whirlpools are formed. Favorite exhibits of students include the classics anti-gravity mirror, symmetroscope, ring bubbles, floating head, frozen hand, finger tingler and Archimedes’ screw (a machine for raising water). Fore less than a hundred bucks, anyone can access the center’s 10 exhibit galleries: lights, vision and perception, water, earth science, electricity and magnetism, children’s gallery, bodyworks and mechanics. The price is comparatively cheap compared to what you can learn and discover after a one-and-a-half hour tour. The center also offers traveling exhibits such as Adventures in Discovery, Sci-Fun Caravan and Science on the Move, which feature 40 replicas of PSC’s interactive exhibits. The moving exhibits tours the countryside - reaching 86 locations in the country -- to reach various individuals, communities and organizations who cannot visit Manila. All exhibits were developed by six Filipino designers under the PSC Fabrication Inc. The in-house team designs, builds and repairs the science exhibits using local materials. Every month, the maintenance cost allotted for repair of exhibits at the centrum and the traveling exhibits reaches P50,000, says Pagsinohin. Having an in-house team also allows for cheaper exhibit development. The team has created a Van de Graaff generator way for half of its total market cost, says Pagsinohin. The team also fabricates replicas of science centrum exhibits for shipment in local and overseas. International clients include Australia, Brunei, Singapore and Nepal. This provides the Science Centrum an alternative source for operating expenses aside from foundation grants, she adds. About 95 percent of visits at the Philippine Science Centrum are from school field trips, family visits account for the remaining 5 percent. Since 1990, the science museum has attracted close to 3 million visitors. Department of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus in a recent memo encouraged visits to the center for educational field trips. However, Pagsinohin says students on field trips often visit less educational institutions today as itineraries more often include amusement parks. She said if students and teachers are exposed to educational exhibits, it could help spark their curiosity to study science more and in the long run, help freshen up the local talent pool of scientists. “Through exhibits, students both the young and old, can learn things through hands-on discovery,” she says.
Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- Partnership with private sectors will answer the commercialization problems in research and development (R&D) institutions, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said. Universities and institutions should partner with private sector to help commercialize technology that will benefit the people, DoST Secretary Estrella Alabastro at the opening of the National Biotechnology Week. Research and development in biotechnology, for one, has yet to attract more investments from private sector, Alabastro said. Senator Edgardo Angara agreed, as he pointed out the lack of incentives for investors to pour resources in biotechnology research and development. “Biotech will not be successful if support system is not in place,” Angara added. In 2002, Angara said the Philippine government only spent 0.15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to research and development, while other Asian countries like Singapore invested 2.1 percent in 2006 and South Korea pouring $ 4.4B from 2000 to 2007 to R&D. Angara suggested that an independent biotechnology center of excellence should be established in the country. Meanwhile, Dr. Saturnina Halos, chair of the Biotechnology Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture, said scientists should focus research and development on products and services targeting the public. “Kung gusto talaga nila magproduce ng [If they want to produce a] marketable product, they should really study the market,” said Halos. Alabastro said scientists should be open to collaboration, as they also keep their eyes open to the needs of end-users. One of the highlights of the National Biotechnology Week is the launch of 17 biotechnology products from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, UP Diliman, Philippine Coconut Authority, Central Luzon State University, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center and DOST. Currently, biofertilizers, ethanol-production-inducing bacteria, micronutrient enhancement products are just some of the products being developed by these institutions.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net Can used oil be recycled as fuel for vehicles? “Yes,” according to Teodorico Badua, the inventor of a so-called “fuel energy saving device.” This device, he says, transforms used oil and other combustible liquid waste into flammable gas that can be added to the engine fuel, which can translate to fuel savings of up to 30 percent. This La Union-based inventor says the device harnesses the energy from used oil by heating the combustible liquid waste into a gas generator. This process then generates fuel vapor that can be used for gasoline-based engines. The device has been tested to work with used cooking oil, engine oil and washing fuel, the Filipino inventor says. “The device promotes safe disposal of combustible liquid waste into the combustion chamber of the engine, which burns it as fuel,” says Badua. The device is vying for the Tuklas (Most Outstanding Invention) category along with other novel inventions. It will be on display at the National Inventors’ Week exhibit at the Philippine Trade and Training Center until November 21. Badua has been working with vehicle engines since 1962. Seeing the load of used oil disposed as waste and hearing stories about waste disposal problems and the irreversible environmental impact of used oil, Badua says he started exploring how waste products, especially used oil, can be disposed in an eco-friendly manner and if possible, harness it further as fuel. The idea for the invention came while he was working in a power plant years ago. A co-worker added gasoline into the engine but some of the oil was converted into vapor because of an engine malfunction they discovered later. Despite this malfunction, he notices that the machine run faster. “I was inspired to develop a machine that can do this for used engine oil,” says Badua. It took Badua two years to develop the device. It became a project he did after work or during weekends. He already has invested about P100,000 for the development of the device. He tested his invention on a 1994 vehicle and was able to see increased engine power, torque and speed, which allows for longer mileage in every liter of fuel consumed. The lubricity of the gas oil reduces friction and heat between pistons and cylinders that also pronged engine life, he adds. Benefits for the environment include reduction of hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide exhaust emission in the atmosphere, as well as promotion of oil recycling to protect water resources from contamination, he says. “From processing a liter of used oil, you get several grams of sediments, which is a big help in reducing unnecessary disposal of waste oil,” he adds. With his invention, Badua says Filipinos should also learn how to extract from their experiences valuable lessons that can be developed into solutions to problems. For Badua who finished a vocational course in diesel mechanics, inventing the fuel energy saving device shows that every Filipino can be an inventor.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net PASAY City, Philippines -- Green colors local inventions and research in this year’s National Inventors’ Week, which happens every third week of November. “Going green is not a choice,” said Jean Lao, chief operating officer of Chemrez Technologies, which launched an award that will identify scientists, inventors, professionals, industry practitioners and members of the academe who have developed eco-friendly products and processes. “Normally in the country they use green products if it is less costly and does what it promises. But today we are seeing more informed consumers who are beginning to see the benefits of green products and are ready to pay the premium for it,” Lao said. The Chemrez Green Chemistry Awards aims to highlight Filipino inventions -- product or process -- that can help reduce or eliminate the use or generation of substances that are hazardous to the environment. Green chemistry describes the whole life cycle of a product, including design, manufacture, use and disposal, Lao said. Lao said the entries will be judged based on innovation of indigenous resources, impact on air, effluent and solid waste, industrial application and commercial viability. “The award aims to encourage inventions that lower the carbon footprint. We also want to bring this green consciousness to the public because after all, it is the environment that we all live in,” said Lao. Encouraging inventors and visitors to go for green innovations, Chemrez Technologies has displayed several of its green products in this year’s National Inventors’ Week event. The company has developed a biosolvent and oil spill dispersant, BioActiv fuel enhancer for diesel and gasoline and polycol unsaturated polyester resin. The award will have two categories: the Green Chemistry Special Awards for the general public, individuals, profit or non-profit organizations and the Sibol Special Award for high school and college students. Winners will receive trophies and cash prizes of P60,000 and P40,000, respectively.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net REMEMBER the blue Love Bus of yesteryears? Well, in today’s environmentally challenged times, green should be more “in”. I was walking along Ayala Avenue the other day when I chanced upon a line of buses marked with the letters CNG, which, I learned after closer inspection, meant compressed natural gas. Don’t expect to find these buses on Edsa, though. These buses belong to HM Transport and have been operating for two years now but these only take the Manila-Laguna-Batangas route. They were in Makati that day to bring some foreign dignitaries from Shangri-la Hotel to Malacanang. HM Transport is one of several bus operators accredited by the government under the Department of Energy’s Natural Gas Vehicle Program for Public Transport program. The DOE’s goal is to have at least 200 of these CNG-powered buses -- most of which are made in China -- operated by several operators. The thing, though, with alternative fuels such as CNG is availability of refilling stations. Shell has established a refilling station along Mamplasan Exit in the South, sourced from the Malampaya gas fields in Palawan. So how do these buses perform on the road? I hopped on one of these buses and got it straight from the driver’s mouth.
By Agence France-Presse MEXICO CITY -- Mexican scientists have turned the country's national tipple tequila into diamonds, and are seeking applications for their discovery, with the crystals too small to be used in jewelry. The tequila diamonds could be used to "detect radiation, coat cutting tools or, above all, as a substitute for silicon in the computer chips of the future," Miguel Apatiga, one of three researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico who made the discovery this summer, told AFP Tuesday. The scientists found that the heated vapor from tequila blanco, when deposited on a stainless steel base, can form diamond films. They began experimenting some 13 years ago with synthetic diamonds -- made by a technological process, as opposed to natural diamonds, produced by geological process -- from gases like methane. Later they produced diamonds from liquids, and then noticed that the ideal compound of 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water was similar to the proportion used in tequila. "One day I went to the campus shop and bought a bottle of cheap tequila. I used it under the same experiment conditions as for a test with ethanol and water and obtained positive results," Apatiga said. The diamonds formed were small crystals, too tiny to be used in jewelry. "It would be very difficult to obtain diamonds for a ring," Apatiga said. But the scientists are now investigating other applications for tequila diamonds. "It's true that the fact it's tequila has a certain charm. It's a Mexican product and Mexican researchers developed the project ... but a businessman can say to me: 'Great, how pretty! But how can I use it?'" Apatiga said. After the first test with a common make of tequila blanco, the group is now studying the effects of more select tequilas to find the best adapted to the surprising transformation.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net ORTIGAS City, Philippines -- Anticipating the growth in local demand for biofuel, Seaoil Philippines Inc. said it will increase its total number of filling stations from 114 to 500 units by 2011, an executive said. Biofuel is an alternative fuel that blends natural substances like ethanol from sugar cane and coco methyl ester (CME) from coconut to regular gasoline and diesel. Seaoil Philippines expects to grow their number of stations by 300 percent because of the anticipated increasing local demand following the signing of the Biofuels Act in 2006, which will become effective in February 2007, said Art Cruz, marketing director of Seaoil Philippines. “The consumers are more mature than before in exploring alternatives available to them. The youth, which are more open-minded in trying the biofuel, is creating the growing demand for it,” he said. The Biofuels Act mandates that 5 percent of the annual volume of gasoline fuel sold and distributed by each gasoline company in the country will comprise bioethanol. This will be required two years after the effectivity of the law or starting February 2009. By February 2011, the Department of Energy will mandate the increase in blend to at least 10 percent bioethanol (E10). A blend of 1 percent coco methyl ester (CME) extracted has taken effect in 2007 for biodiesel and will increase to 2 percent within the next two years. This year, Seaoil Philippines has conducted repiping of its biofuel distribution systems to eliminate localized corrosion from pipes, pumps and tanks, said Bernadette Raymundo, vice president of supply and QCPD. The company has invested P15 million for the project, excluding the costs for the depot sites. The company replaced underground G1 pipes of filling stations with flexy pipes of fluoropolymer base material (Polyvinylidene fluoride-PVDF) to prevent problems in chemical compatibility with the biofuel, said Raymundo. Tanks especially for CME were not coated because coated tanks tend to peel as CME or ethanol penetrates the undercoat adhesion, she added. “The repiping was done to prevent leaks in nearby water pipes to enter the biofuel storage,” said Raymundo. She said any water in the biofuel tank can contaminate the solution. This can cause phase separation of water and ethanol from gasoline. Moisture in gas can emulsify, resulting to a product with hazy appearance. In September, Raymundo presented Seaoil’s biofuel program at the 2008 Ethanol and Biofuels Asia Conference in Singapore. The program, which includes practices in transport, handling, blending, storage and other operational concerns, was recognized as model for adoption in Southeast Asia. “We are the only country in the Southeast Asia with a law on biofuels. This bodes well for the Philippines as it gives us three years advantage in refining the technology and its implementation. With further efforts for development, this creates opportunities for sustainable energy production and thus, achievement of national energy security,” said Cruz. Biofuels bring other benefits aside from cheaper cost, greater engine efficiency from cleaner burn and less air pollution. “Adoption of biofuels will also create market opportunities for the local coconut and sugar cane industries,” said Cruz. The upcoming Asian free trade will create surplus of global products in the local market, which can kill local industries if regulation of imported goods is not well implemented, said Cruz. By tapping the sugarcane and coconut for the production of ethanol and CME, respectively, Cruz said they are creating alternative markets for and support sustainability of the two local industries. In September 2007, the Department of Agriculture validated a total of 60,250 hectares of new sugarcane areas that can produce a combined 274 million liters of bioethanol, Raymundo said. This volume, she said, can meet the requirement under the Biofuels Act on the blending of crop-based alternative fuels with gasoline by 2009. She cited the Sugar Regulatory Administration identified the 60,250 hectares are on top of the existing 388,003 hectares of sugarcane farms that can meet the country's sugar requirements Seaoil has introduced biofuel, specifically the ethanol blended (E10) gasoline, through its 50 local filling stations in August 2005. Raymundo said marketing E10 a year earlier before the Act was signed was difficult. They launched a massive campaign to address the resistance of motorists especially those with carbureted and older model vehicles. “Our efforts to advocate the use of biofuels are gradually paying off,” said Raymundo. “Right now, countries are turning their attention to the Philippines as global biofuel supplier. Countries in Southeast Asia eye the Philippines as a model for starting and implementing a biofuel program.” Seaoil Philippines has teamed up with national Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency of International Development, Sustainable Energy Development Program and Chemrez Technologies in promoting biofuels. To build motorists’ confidence in biofuels, Seaoil inked an alliance with the Automobile Association of the Philippines in 2006. Up to this day, all cars racing in the Philippine Touring Car Championship run on Seaoil E10 fuels and drivers are impressed by the cleaner burn they get from E10. “Biofuels are preparing the world for the inevitable depletion of petroleum resources,” said Cruz. “And the Philippines is in a good position to reap the benefits of this growing market.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MAKATI CITY, Philippines -- Watch that sugar! Diabetes is one of the most common non-communicable killer disease in the world especially in developing countries, a medical expert warned. Death from the disease among people above 20 years of age will hit 301 million by 2025, of which 226 million will come from developing countries like the Philippines. Diabetes ranks as the eighth common killer in the world and is the fourth leading cause of death in the Philippines, Dr. Rosa Sy who is an expert on endoctrinology, metabolism and nutrition during a recent forum on Diabetes Mellitus and Pre-diabetes. Good news is diabetes is preventable. Diabetes comes from a Latin word meaning “to pass water like a siphon” and melittus is the Greek word for “sweet as honey.” According to Dr. Sy, it is a long-standing disease characterized by high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood. When a person has high blood glucose (a case called hyperglycemia), the high amounts of sugar are moved out of the body through urine, thus the layman’s term “sweet urine.” Our body works like a machine. Let’s think of body cells or the building blocks of our body as small power plants, glucose or sugar as fuel for the cells and insulin as key. When we eat, the food or fuel is broken down into particles like sugar that can be absorbed by the body cells in a process called digestion. Insulin is produced by the pancreas especially during meals so that glucose can be absorbed by the body. One of these two things can happen aside from good nutrient absorption: the body produces insufficient insulin or the body cells cannot use insulin. These two causes of diabetes mellitus are termed medically as insulin resistance, said Dr. Sy. Diabetes mellitus is categorized as Type I, in which insulin is absent in the body. Type II diabetes, on the other hand, involves defective insulin receptors with insufficient insulin. The latter is the prevalent type among Filipinos, said Dr. Sy. There is an increase in blood sugar (or postprandial glucose) after eating a meal and it is normal if it is within the normal levels, said Dr. Sy. Under Type II diabetes, the postprandial or post-meal glucose in the body spikes above normal levels due to excessive, unregulated sugar in the diet -- ushering the increase in insulin resistance among individuals. Dr. Sy said that this high post-meal glucose, even for short periods, leads to complications including heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness, stroke and amputation. Before these complications, these symptoms show up: excessive urination, increased thirst, increased appetite, weight loss, weakness and fatigue, blurring of vision and poor wound healing. In addition, there are several risk factors for diabetes. These include genetic history, obesity, aging, stress and other metabolic diseases. Doctors say diabetes is a preventable disease since it develops due to lifestyle choices of people, said Dr. Sy. To prevent diabetes, one must have at least 150 minutes of exercise per week; control intake of food high in fatty acid and sweets; maintain a desirable weight; avoid smoking and cope with stress. If one has diabetes, drugs such as Acarbose from Bayer Schering Pharma can be taken to help control the blood sugar levels. But as the cliché goes, prevention is better than cure. So start moving away from your sedentary lifestyle and unbalanced diet. A good lifestyle leads to a healthier, longer life.
Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines took home the silver medal at the recently held World Robot Olympiad 2008 in Yokohama, Japan. The Philippine team known as “Gracean Whizkids” from Grace Christian Elementary School beats 21 other schools. The team is composed of Joseph Aldrin Chua, Edrich Hans Chua and Dominique Hannah Sy. They were coached by Melanie Tizon and Warren John Ong Pe. Their project, dubbed "The G-Tech Robot Engineering a Better World," included 12 different types of robots doing various types of activities to save the environment. The Open Category required contestants to create robots under the theme, "Saving the Global Environment." Teams were judged according to appearance, uniqueness, interactive behavior, good engineering and stability. All the robots were made from parts of LEGO toys. South Korea took the gold medal in the elementary school level for open category, while Malaysia won bronze medal. South Korea also won gold medals for the Regular Category in the Elementary and High School Levels. The country was also represented in WRO 2008 by Benigno Aquino High School and the International School of Manila. They took 6th place in the Open Category in the High School and Elementary categories, respectively. This is the first time that the Philippines won a medal in the Elementary Level Open Category. The country had won medals in the High School Open Category in previous years.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net HOW can eco-friendly paint reduce air pollution in Metro Manila? The Manila Observatory and the Pacific Paint Philippines, Inc (PPI), manufacturer of Boysen paint, will have the walls of the Guadalupe MRT station painted with paint containing nano-sized titanium oxide in February 2009 to see if this eco-friendly paint will deliver upon its promise. PPI vice president Johnson Ongking noted the Guadalupe station has the most number of commuters, most number of vehicle traffic and the largest surface area. They chose the station as the first trial site for the eco-friendly paint. “The focus of eco-friendly paints has been to minimize paint’s negative effect on human health and the environment through limiting levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and prohibiting the use of hazardous chemicals,” said Ongking. In Europe, titanium oxide was tested at Sir John Cass School, Aldgate, London, where pollution levels were reduced by more than 60 percent, said Cristal Global senior technical service adviser Steve Forrest. Forrest explained that the nano-sized titanium oxide technology can eradicate nitrogen oxide through the following process: 1) The sunlight activates the titanium oxide in a film or wall and absorbs that energy, which creates a chemical reaction that allows pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide to react with that film; 2) The nitrogen oxide is pulled out in the air and is trapped to a set of reactions inside the film with calcium carbonates and essentially there is a small release of moisture of carbon dioxide; 3) Since the calcium nitrate is a water soluble, it can taken off a surface when it rains. “If a place has a low-level of pollution, then you can destroy all the NOx (nitrogen oxide) in the area. If it’s very high, then you have to take into account many things like weather, temperature and conditions, which is why we’re so interested to do this MRT trial, to see how effective it might be here in the Philippines,” said Forrest. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, nitrogen oxide is a generic term for a group of highly reactive gases containing nitrogen and oxygen. In 2007, the Philippine Environment Monitor, a joint report of the World Bank and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, noted that exposure to poor air caused 5,000 premature deaths in Metro Manila. “Since the year 2000, we’ve been monitoring pollution. Our studies show that the main concern is road side. In Metro Manila, the most polluted region is EDSA,” said Manila Observatory program manager Dr. James Bernard Simpas. Simpas said nitrogen oxides are the precursors for pollutants, which can affect the ozone. Nitrogen oxide also forms particulates that can get that can develop into respiratory disorders, added Simpas.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net EVERY year, three million people die of pneumonia. Of that number, 29 percent are children under the age of five, according to the University of the Philippines Manila-National Institute of Health (UPM-NIH). In 2004, pneumonia ranked third in the 10 leading causes of infant deaths based on the 2004 Philippine Health Statistics. With that, UPM-NIH and the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination have unveiled the “Strike Out Pneumonia” campaign which aims to reduce cases of deaths due to pneumonia. “I hope that the public will know that there are ways that they can do to avoid getting sick and to prevent illnesses. Aside from good nutrition, breastfeeding and battling pollution, the most effective way of fighting pneumonia is vaccination. Vaccination is the first step to getting protection,” said UPM Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Lulu Bravo. While vaccination for measles is available through the Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI), the Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) and the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, which are also effective in preventing pneumonia, are not included in the government EPI. “The problem is the lack of resources in government to include the two more vaccines in the national immunization program. What we need to know is how we can get funding for vaccines from agencies like GAVI [Global Alliance for Vaccination Initiatives)],” explained Bravo. About a hundred people attended the Strike Out Pneumonia campaign and vaccination program. Among the attendees was Aileen Napoles, mother of four kids who believes getting complete vaccination equals a healthy life. “Vaccines given to a child should be recorded because prevention is better than cure. And cure is more expensive,” added Gel Dagatan, mother of five children. Pneumonia is a serious infection that affects the air sacs in the lungs, resulting to significant reduction in oxygenation. It is caused by bacteria and organisms, such as Hib, streptococcus pneumoniae and measles. Symptoms of pneumonia include high fever, rapid or difficulty of breathing, cough, chills, headaches, loss of appetite and wheezing. Among infants, the common symptoms are convulsion, unconsciousness and feeding problems.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net CEBU, Philippines -- Following the ban on melamine-contaminated milk products from China, health officials here reassured that the Department of Health will continue implementing strict controls and inspection on imported food products while ensuring information sharing to avoid another health scare. At the opening ceremony of the 5th Asian Conference on food and nutrition safety, Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) director Leticia Gutierrez said government will continue monitoring milk and milk products from China. "We also make sure that imported products entering the country have a certificate of product registration," added Gutierrez. Chinese Center of Disease Control director Junshi Chen admitted that the Ministry of Health of China has used "a level of 15 mg/kg of melamine in infant formula for risk communication purposes." "The 15 mg, it's not likely to cause adverse health effects to consumers. If it's higher than 15, then it's risky," said Chen. Dr. Robert Baker, global head of food safety at Mars Incorporated, however, stressed that any form of adulteration should not be happening. Apart from food contamination issues, Dr. Masami Takeuchi, Food Safety officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN), noted the impact of trade, economics and policies on world food supply and food safety. Takeuchi said the increasing volume and diversity of international food trading can affect food safety and food supply.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net CEBU, Philippines – Scientists today are using genetic engineering to improve the short shelf-life and post-harvest losses of papaya and lessen use of pesticides on eggplants, experts said during a symposium on biotechnology and nutritionally enhanced food crops here. According to Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza, research professor of Biochemistry at the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines Los Banos (IPB-UPLB), the transgenic papaya or genetically modified papaya by recombinant has now longer shelf-life than the ordinary papaya. "The papaya usually ripens two days after having a full yellow color and you have to eat it on the second or the third day. Otherwise, it won't be edible. With this technology, we can delay it from 4 up to 14 days," elaborated Mendoza. Delaying the ripening of papaya was made possible through suppressing the production of ethylene. This was done by inhibiting the ACC synthase from synthesizing through the antisense technology, Mendoza said. Since 1997, Mendoza has been using molecular techniques to solve the problem on post-harvest losses measuring from 30 to 40 percent and the shelf-life of the papaya. But it was only after 10 years that they conducted the first field testing of a homegrown papaya. Based on the results of the various biochemical testing, Mendoza said the nutritional value of the transgenic papaya is similar to the ordinary papaya noting that both have Vitamin C and antinutrient benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) contents. Dr. Frank Shotkoski, director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II Cornell University, for his part, related that the nutritional values of Bt eggplant and the ordinary eggplant are identical. Both Shotkoski and Mendoza are optimistic about the eventual transfer of the technology to farmers. Shotkoski cited that farmers in India have a high demand for the Bt eggplant. Mendoza disclosed that it will take two years before farmers in the Philippines can use the technology. "Because this is a technology that involves recombinant DNA technologies and there are biosafety regulations. We need to do field testing under biosafety regulations and we're also into progression of incorporating the PRSV (papaya ringspot virus) resistance," explained Mendoza. Meanwhile, Shotkoski deemed it important to analyze the socio-economic impact and risk assessment of the technology. "We don't want to spend an enormous amount of national public money on a project that has very little or no return on investment. If we plan to spend $2 to 3M on a project and it won't have any benefit to the consumer or the farmer, then the technology won't be adapted. We use this as a guide to assess the probability or the likelihood whether the technology would be adapted," said Shotkoski.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net CEBU, Philippines -- Among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines is the most advanced in implementing safety regulations for genetically modified (GM) crops, experts said here. "Pinaka-advance tayo kasi we were able to commercialize GM products such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn and herbicide-resistant corn. [We are the most advanced because we were able to commercialize genetically modified products such as Bt corn and herbicide-resistant corn.]," said Reynaldo Ebora, executive director of the Philippine Council for Advance Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). In contrast, LAO PDR and Myanmar are still in the initial stages of developing biosafety policies. Biosafety laws in Cambodia and Malaysia were approved in January 2008 and July 2007, respectively. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam that have existing regulations are conducting field trials, said Ebora during a symposium on Biotechnology and Nutritionally Enhanced Food and Crops here in Cebu. Ebora pointed out that market acceptance of GM crops is not a problem in the Philippines. "Kasi ang mga farmer, mas gusto nila dahil mas mataas ang yield. Sa general public, it seems na mataas ang public acceptance. Kasi kung hindi mataas ang public acceptance, kakaunti sana ung bibili ng seeds na itatanim.Ang problema ngaun, kulang ung seeds na itatanim. [The farmers wanted Bt corn because it has higher yield. It also seems that the public acceptance is high. If the public acceptance is not high, then only few would buy seeds for planting. But the problem now is that there are few seeds.]," Ebora said. Safety regulations GM crops can bring back trust in them, added Dr. Junshi Chen of the Chinese Center for Disease Control. "The Chinese government has decided to give a larger amount of financial investment to further study new GMOs for the Chinese population. It is serious on safety evaluation and safety assessment of new products," Chen said.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net CEBU, Philippines -- The growing number of the population, the rise in food prices and the increase in cost of global fuel can affect food and nutrition in Asia, Assistant Secretary Maria Bernardita Flores of the National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health said during a symposium on biotechnology and nutritionally enhanced food and crops during the 5th Asian Conference on Food and Nutrition Safety here. In the Philippines, government hunger mitigation programs like the “Food for the School” program and “Tindahan Natin” are existing efforts to address the problem of food security, Flores said. "'Yung food for school program aims to address hunger among the families but the delivery is through the child who is in school while the Tindahan Natin, run by National Food Authority and Department of Social Welfare and Development offer rice at reduced prices [The food for school program aims to address hunger among the families but the delivery is through the child who is in school while the Tindahan Natin, run by NFA and DSWD offer rice at reduced prices.]," Flores said. Flores recommended the development of a conceptual framework for understanding hunger and malnutrition; establishment of surveillance and monitoring systems; strengthening of food production; scaling up of effective nutrition intervention programs; and formulatation of policies supportive of food and nutrition security. She also stressed that food and nutrition program should prioritize the needy. Flores said the Department of Health has launched a multimedia campaign that aims to lessen local consumption of rice and promote rice substitutes, such as root crops. Rene Burt Llanto of Department of Science and Technology Region VII, for his part, said the agency is planning to create food safety teams in all regions next year to help food processing and food service industries meet the requirements of government agencies like the Bureau of Food and Drugs. "The demand now for food safety measures is increasing among hotels and other food companies," added Llanto. Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher Leaver of the University of Oxford suggested that investments should be placed on science and technology to increase agricultural efficiency while attempting to reverse the impact of climate change on economies worldwide. "Through the partnership of International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), we will put up a convergence of experts, one way by which we can enrich the capacity of our local scientists on current issue of food and nutrition safety, " added Dr. Mario Capanzana, FNRI-DOST director.
By Kenneth Hartigan-Go, MD WHILE Filipinos complain that the cost of medicines is prohibitive, they need to understand some of the problems associated with the local pharmaceutical industry. We hope that an enlightened public can participate in meaningful discussions and debates and offer solutions. The Philippine Pharmaceutical Industry in general, lags behind its global and even Asian counterparts. It has been continuously confronted and impaired by various challenges for so many decades. A number of issues have been raised and addressed both locally and internationally. Comparative studies and criticisms were brought into the limelight leading to some attempts at reform. Nonetheless the Philippine pharmaceutical industry as a whole remains incompetent as indicated by inaccessible and poor-quality drugs, aggravated by the threat of inappropriate use, the insufficient quantity and quality pharmacists, poor research and technological development. We are not exactly self-sufficient and hence pose a problem in drug security. Despite regulatory efforts from both the government and some of the private sector, the pharmaceutical market remains inflicted by perception of substandard, counterfeit drugs that threaten the life of the patients. This observation also contributes significantly to pharmaceutical market failure. While substandard drugs may be cheaper, there is a perceived quality problem and thus there is lowered patronage for their use, affecting even true quality generics products. Aside from the regulatory mechanisms, accepted standards in manufacturing, such as the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), are still just an ideal concept. There are fewer than 10 drug companies complying fully with GMP. The implementation of full compliance to GMP has been repeatedly postponed. The prevailing argument of domestic drug companies is that they cannot afford to invest in compliance to GMP. Compliance to regulatory bodies and accepted standards remain widely unimplemented. The inability of the bureau and low compliance in accepted standards undermines the quality, safety and efficacy of the pharmaceutical product. The Philippine Pharmaceutical industry, in general, falls short of generating research to extract and produce raw materials and chemicals from local sources. Some reports assert that there is research that is happening. However the problem is that it remains at the academic level and is not translated to commercial development. The research fails to reach industry and thus is not utilized into marketable innovative products or processes. Local industry hardly innovates, in terms of basic research to provide inputs for further local development. The industry’s manufacturing capacity is primarily limited to compounding, formulating, and packaging. It remains highly reliant on imported raw materials and chemicals. The production process in the local pharmaceutical industry basically involves the conversion of the imported basic raw materials into pharmaceutical preparations or finished pharmaceutical products, except for a few companies engaged in the manufacture of active substances. As shown by the World Health Organization Study in 2005, about 95% of the materials compounded in the country are imported and that the industry is dependent on products discovered and developed in another country. Industry reasons out that this is either due to the absence of these raw materials or that producing innovative products or processes entails high cost that the industry can not sustain. As it is cheaper to import finished medicine products or readily available raw materials than come up with innovative one, reason coerces industry to take advantage on it. From a philosophical perspective, our country has to decide and resolve how to treat medicinal products and the health professionals who are proxy to access to health care. Are medicinal products a regulated public good to serve the needs of a growing but poor population or are they treated as like ordinary commodities of trade subject to the market forces? Are health professionals who exercise great power over access to health care services and products to be treated like an economic commodity likewise subject to the laws of market forces or are they regulated professions intended to serve the public good? Kenneth Hartigan-Go is a former BFAD Deputy Director and is currently Executive Director of a foundation. He is an appointed expert member of the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) Health Panel.