THE Congressional committees on government reorganization and appropriation approved the creation of a “Climate Change Commission.” The committees are consolidating several proposals related to the creation of this new commission, including House Bills 400, 1775, 3291, 4051 and 4853. These proposals were from Representatives Roilo Golez (2nd District, Paranaque City), Orlando Fua (Siquijor), and Carmelo Lazatin (1st District, Pampanga), Rex Gatchalian (1st District, Valenzuela) and Ignacio Arroyo (5th District, Negros Occidental). The consolidated measure will require local government units (LGU) to implement climate action plans based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The consolidated measure will also create a Climate Change fund for financial assistance to “priority adaptation” and “mitigation projects” identified by the commission. LGUs will also benefit from the Climate Change fund. Congressman Fua said the creation of a Climate Change Commission intends to lessen the impact of this global phenomenon to Philippines. "Sea level rise will exacerbate inundation, storm surges, erosion and other coastal hazards thus threatening vital infrastructure settlements and facilities that support livelihood of island communities," Fua said.
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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.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net COLLABORATION between the government, private sector and the academe is the key theme tying all the panel recommendations at the fourth en banc meeting of the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) held October 6. The six COMSTE panels presented in the meeting include agriculture and food, electronics and semiconductors, energy and environment, health services, IT and IT-enabled industries and science, math and engineering education. Of the six, COMSTE chairman and Senator Edgardo Angara said food and energy will be the body’s top priority. “First, we have to start immediately to resolve agriculture issues. For energy, the recommendation to activate an institute of energy studies is good” given senate passage of Bill 2046, the Philippine Renewable Energy Act, he said. During the meeting, Angara tasked each panel to itemize the cost of their recommendations so a budget plan can be allocated for urgent projects. According to him, aside from providing innovative ideas to advance COMSTE’s key panels, Angara said it is crucial to know the funding required for the projects. “We can only implement the projects and insert it in the 2009 budget once we know the cost,” he said. The Philippines as a “tropical greenhouse” gives the country leverage to be a major supplier of tropical fruits. Bringing to the panel’s attention is Bart Lapus, member of the agriculture and food panel. Lapus presented to the board citrus fruits produced in the Philippines to show that they are better than those from Asian neighbors currently exported in the market. He urged the body to provide a quality control (QC) system for the local agricultural produce and develop a cultivar for local growers. In response for the need for QC systems, food and agriculture Dr. William Padolina, said the panel will set up more analytical product testing laboratories that will test the physical and chemical composition -- vitamins, nutrients and healthful components -- of locally-grown agricultural crops to make them qualify for export. Lapus said the need to develop a cultivar -- to be distributed to local growers -- that will produce standard citrus, such as pomelo, which the Philippines can export globally. Growing spice crops will propel growth of the country’s agriculture, which he said will be the ‘condiment of the future’. The energy and environment panel led by Dr. Francisco Viray said that the Senate passage of Bill 2046 highlighted plans to tap renewable energy sources, specifically solar energy. The panel has high hopes the bill will become law as the congress and senate meet this week to settle details of the bill -- ushering the use of geothermal, biomass, hydropower and oceanic currents to supply the country’s need for power. Green energy is also a growth area for the semiconductor industry. According to Dr. Gregory Tangonan, head panel for the electronics and semiconductor industry, deployment of solar cell systems can be made possible by partnering with solar energy semiconductor companies with local centers. This is aimed to offset the cost of deploying photovoltaic systems with ten cells, which cost $10,000.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net EXPERTS from the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and several state colleges and universities are working to improve the Philippine organic agriculture industry and create a research and development extension program on organic agriculture. The agencies met during the recently held National Consultation Workshop on Organic Agriculture S&T Framework and Specific RDE Program fro 200702010 last July 26 and 27. The workshop includes organizing different activities into coherent focused strategic programs, most importantly the priority projects and roles of stakeholders in pushing and promoting organic agriculture. An organic agriculture S&T framework is hoped to increase the country’s food production. Organic agriculture relies largely on conventional farming techniques without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms. The plan is to get R&D partners, especially farmers and agricultural experts to participate in crafting the S&T framework for organic agriculture. A previous project by the DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) is the Investment Package for the Commercial Production of Organic Fertilizer, which hopes to provide information to potential entrepreneurs on organic fertilizer enterprise investments. PCARRD has already started organic vegetable production in Ilocos Norte and La Union.
THE SAMAHAN ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM) said the Philippines will continue to lose its best scientists unless it has national industries that accommodate their skills. And the problem, as described by the activist organization of scientists, cannot be solved even by the recent increase in budget to P839 million for the science and technology community. AGHAM national chairperson Giovanni Tapang said in a statement that the budget provided for scholarships and construction of scientific facilities is way below the standard set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is a two percent budget allocation from a country's annual gross domestic product. Tapang noted that even an increase in budget for the Department of Science and Technology would have little or no direct benefit to Filipinos. This is compounded by the fact that research materials by Filipino scientists are from companies that are owned and controlled by foreign entities. Tapang also said that increasing the number of scholars would be useless unless they are assured of possible employment in local industries. "One crucial factor that keeps our science and technology stunted is our dependence on imported goods and the export orientation of our industries which does not leave a place for a highly trained scientist to flourish," Tapang said. For example, investments in the mining industry in the Philippines are more on extraction of ores, instead of processing the ores to get into the raw materials. Tapang said the government should build downstream industries to support the larger mining companies in order to give more jobs to Filipino scientists. "The government's track of depending on foreign investments and exporting our agricultural products and raw materials is stunting the growth of local industries. These local industries could have benefited from the expertise of Filipino scientists and at the same time provided them with opportunities where they can exercise their knowledge and skills. It should comprehensively address this problem," Tapang said.