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INNCO alarmed over impact of foreign grant on Philippines FDA

November 21, 2020

An umbrella group of more than 35 national consumer organizations has expressed concern over the growing influence of foreign grants on health regulators that may adversely affect the campaign to reduce the harm caused by combustible cigarettes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) including the Philippines. The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) particularly mentioned the influence exerted by non-government organizations backed by Bloomberg Initiative[SC1]  on regulators such as the Philippines Food and Drug Administration. “There is also an element of corruption aided by the Bloomberg NGOs, who are co-opting tobacco policy through the sheer force of money. The legislators in Philippines recently questioned the conflict of interest in their FDA receiving funds from these NGOs while pushing anti-vaping policy,” Samrat Chowdhery, president of INNCO and a leading tobacco harm reduction advocate, said during the recent virtual presentation of “Burning Issues: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) 2020” published by UK public health agency Knowledge Action Change (KAC). Chowdhery was referring to the Philippines FDA’s admission that it received foreign grants from American business interest groups Bloomberg Initiative and The Union while in the process of drafting regulation on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).   A ranking FDA official admitted that the agency received grants from foreign anti-tobacco advocates when confronted by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing and Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano during a public consultation on the guidelines for e-cigarettes and HTPs. The GSTHR report also records various kinds of opposition to low-risk products being mounted by anti-vaping organizations such as the position paper by the influential Paris-based Union which called for a ban on vaping and HTPs in LMICs.   “This is, of course, highly discriminatory, will increase health gaps between western and developing nations, and is a prime instance of the philantro-capitalism kind of thinking that is highlighted in the GSTHR report,” said Chowdhery. He said that aside from bans in LMICs, there was also a growing number of restrictions on vaping and other risk-reduced alternatives—from higher taxation and restrictions on online sales, to the new favorite of tobacco control, which is flavor bans. He said this is happening across many US states and in Europe. Chowdhery said the war was also heating up on oral nicotine pouches—a new innovation that is like snus but without the tobacco and low on the harm spectrum, close to nicotine gums in risk.  “We are seeing attempts to ban them in Baltic countries and the Bloomberg network is doing the same in Africa by spreading misinformation and overstating risks without any concern that they are affordable, less risky and effective in helping smokers switch.”  He said these bans and restrictions which prevent access or increase barriers to tobacco harm reduction are now the biggest hurdles to achieving a society in which people do not die in millions per year from the harmful use of tobacco.  The GSTHR 2020 report said that globally, 36 nations currently ban low-risk alternatives, and most of them are LMICs in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.   Chowdhery said this is alarming because almost 80% of over a billion smokers worldwide live in developing nations, where most of the 8 million annual global deaths from smoking are recorded. He said that in most countries where there is a ban on tobacco harm reduction products, the main argument is that it was done to ‘save the children’.  He said this goal, in reality, is jeopardized as there is inadequate enforcement of the ban and black market mushrooms which is difficult to control.  “We have seen this in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and now in India. Recently, South Africa reversed its tobacco ban during the Covid outbreak over concerns that the resultant black markets would be difficult to shake off,” he said. He said that ultimately, any move away from the concept of risk-differential taxation and increasing barriers to tobacco harm reduction ultimately serves to perpetuate smoking.  “It hurts the health of the country, but also causes huge financial loss as tobacco-related mortality and morbidity costs, as well as the lost man-hours, rise, and by decimating an industry which could create jobs and revenue while improving the health of tobacco users,” he said.  “This economic argument is stronger now than ever as countries struggle to cope during the pandemic—the answer isn’t in giving sops to the tobacco industry as Bhutan has done by ending its decades-long tobacco ban, which was ineffective anyway, the answer is in allowing and promoting access to THR alternatives so while there is additional revenue, there isn’t additional death and disease,” said Chowdhery. He said such restrictions also violate human rights principles by denying tobacco users a means to prevent disease and early death.  “Personal liberty is built into almost all constitutions across the world, and especially when you take the second-hand risk out of the equation, as THR alternatives do, there remains absolutely no argument to prevent access without violating these basic principles. The failed war on drugs has led to the introduction of harm reduction as among the core tenets of drug policy, and it’s time it caught on in tobacco control too,” he said. Chowdhery said despite these adverse developments, there is a glimmer of hope as science is slowly but steadily winning over ideology. “Since the last edition of the GSTHR report in 2018, four countries have banned THR alternatives while 22 nations from various regions of the world have either reversed bans or put in place formal regulations allowing their use. The tide is turning, and I hope this trend continues in years to come,” he said.

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PCSO readies the 2nd Batch of relief goods for Cagayan

November 21, 2020

Having witnessed the massive effect of the typhoon Ulysses to our Kababayan in Cagayan, the Office of General Manager Royina Marzan Garma is set to deliver the 2nd Batch of relief goods in Cagayan.

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Navy seizes P150-M smuggled cigarettes off Tawi-Tawi

November 11, 2020

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Naval Task Force 61 and its 3rd Boat Attack Division have intercepted a shipment of PHP150 million worth of smuggled cigarettes off Tawi-Tawi, a top Navy official said Saturday. They seized the shipment in waters off the island town of Simunul at about 9 p.m. on Friday, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, Commodore Toribio Adaci Jr., said. Adaci said the wooden-hull vessel, M/L Nur 1, was intercepted following a tip-off on the entry of the smuggled cigarettes. He said the Nur 1 was found to be loaded with some 3,000 master cases of undocumented cigarettes with an estimated market value of PHP150 million. The boat came from Tarakan, Indonesia, and was en route to a private wharf in Indanan, Sulu. It was skippered by Sahibul Hiyang Sirajan and had an eight-man crew. “It has been the modus operandi of smugglers operating in the region to drop off their goods somewhere and utilize several smaller boats to distribute them to the different places in Western Mindanao,” Adaci said. He said the Nur 1 was escorted to the Lamion Wharf in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi for refueling and reprovisioning and would be escorted to this city for turnover to the Bureau of Customs. Appropriate charges will be filed against the owner of the cargo, the vessel, and its crew. (PNA)

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(Oped) Best interest of the child

October 29, 2020

ALMOST a month since classes reopened in all public schools, an estimated 22 million children and youth were not able to go to school to learn, play, and socialize with friends, schoolmates, and teachers because of the health risks of COVID-19.     Instead, learners began attending classes at home through various learning modalities such as distance, blended, or modular, as well as online and TV/ Radio-based instruction.   Adapting to these learning modalities has not been easy.While attending online classes at home, children rely heavily on parents and guardians to support them.   However, parents and guardians are also facing different challenges to make ends meet. Some have difficulties in their current work set up while others experienced loss of income and employment due to the lockdown and prolonged quarantine measures imposed to control the spread of the Coronavirus.   Most of the 800,000 public school teachers struggle with the technological difficulties of conducting classes in the digital platforms, compared to the ease of using blackboards and whiteboards. Teachers’ access to laptop and desktop computers, including internet connection, is also a major challenge in conducting online classes.     According to the Department of Education (DepEd), at least 13 percent or 99,155 public school teachers have no computers at home. The DepEd also said that even for 687,911 teachers with computers at home, 41 percent or 280,531 of them do not have access to the Internet, and 10 percent of them–71,128–said there is no Internet signal in their area.   Learning must continue   Amid all the challenges, children’s rights to inclusive and quality education, and to be safe from the health risks of COVID-19 must be fulfilled.   There are 1.6 billion learners globally, and 91 per cent of them were out of school, including children and youth from the Philippines because of the school closures due to the pandemic.   This is the first time in human history that an entire generation of children have had their education disrupted. By being out of school, children can feel anxious and can perceive time differently from adults. A few weeks or months out of school may seem a longer period to them. This means children tend to feel anxious about any period of time they are out of school and the learning and socialization they are missing. They fear they will not be able to catch up and start to worry that the longer schools are closed, the more likely they are to forget about the lessons.   Going to school is critical to children, especially to those living in the toughest places on earth.   For a period of five years, Save the Children has asked at least 1,215 children in six countries about their priorities during crisis. Nearly one in three or 29 per cent ranked education as their top priority, over food, clothing and shelter. These are children who were struggling to survive in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; child refugees from Syria and Afghanistan; children living in conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Rohingya children in refugee camps in Bangladesh; and Children displaced by fighting in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Classes may have resumed, but millions of children may not be able to return to school.   These are children pushed into poverty because of COVID-19 as their families are having a hard time putting food on the table and roof over their heads. These are adolescent girls who face risk of gender-based violence, early pregnancy or child marriage, trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty, and denied the chance to fulfil their potential. These are children living in conflict-affected areas who are at risk of being recruited into armed groups; children with disabilities; those living in places prone to extreme weather events; and children from indigenous people community.   The current pandemic exacerbates their dire situation, putting them behind and exponentially impacting their lives. This year marks the 30th year of Philippine ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), once described by South African leader Nelson Mandela as “that luminous, living document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception, to a life of dignity and self-fulfillment.” One of the guiding principles of the convention is for all governments to consider the best interest of the child in all decisions affecting them.   The reopening of classes will meet the learning and well-being needs of children during these times. To ensure the success of distance learning during the pandemic, children, parents and teachers must be provided with support, through an effective feedback mechanism that will help the Department of Education come up with context-based and evidence-based solutions.   The fulfillment of the rights of every child to education during the pandemic can be supported in three ways: keep learning alive during school closure through inclusive distance learning; support every child to return to school when it’s safe to do so; and build back better and more resilient education systems.   Schools give children a sense of normalcy, and the routine of attending classes calm their souls amid adversities.   Education gives children hope and empowers them to build better lives.      ATTY. ALBERTO T. MUYOT Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children Philippines 4th Floor Sunnymede Building, Diliman, Quezon Avenue Quezon City Contact number:(02) 8682 7283 Email address:ceophilippines@savethechildren.org

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DAGYAW 2020: 3rd Episode feature challenges of the business and economic sectors

October 29, 2020

The succeeding episodes of Dagyaw 2020 became a hit and It has reached thousands of viewers and users online. The 3rd episode which dubbed as USAPANG NEGOSYO AT EKONOMIYA will be rolled out on October 30, Friday, 9 to 11 AM.       The 3rd episode will bring us to know the state of the Business and Economic Sector in the Region especially during this most challenging time when we are put under the state of national health emergency due to COVID19 pandemic.      The Participatory Governance Cluster of the Cabinet through the Department of the Interior and Local Government Region X (DILG-X), Department of Budget and Management (DBM-X), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-X) will host the 3rd episode of Dagyaw 2020.        NEDA 10 and Oro Chamber will be the guest speakers for the said episode while DOLE 10 and DTI 10 will be the responders. The event will be available through the DILG-X official Facebook Page and will be simultaneously live-streamed on various government agencies’ social media pages.       Moreover, Dagyaw 2020 aims to build mutual trust between the government and the Filipino people by providing open, neutral, and protected space for dialogue on key national and local issues and plans in the post of COVID-19 pandemic. (DILG 10/LGCDD/ Roque Salvo)

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Building a Strategic Comeback for 2021

October 21, 2020

For the past several months, hundreds of companies continue to be on the defense because of the influx of unforgiving adversities presented by the pandemic. As most businesses know by now, the lack of preparation and foresight, in a time when massive changes are happening rapidly, can bring a swift yet painful death.   Even if the atmosphere surrounding this health crisis has simmered down, the hard realities faced by executives such as the collapse of demand, the rise in unemployment, changes in psychosocial attitudes and behavior, supply chain interruptions, and the crippling economic recession should still be addressed to ensure the revival of struggling organizations.   A clear direction towards the future which also takes careful consideration of the present situation will help you transition into the much-awaited phase of renewal. To determine the proper course of action that will be followed by your business to effectively enter a period of growth and sustainability, business owners and key leaders must understand the gravity of strategic planning.   Strategic Plan — Seeing the Resurgence of Your Business   The thought of making decisions in the presence of uncertainty can be overwhelming but a solid strategic plan becomes your greatest asset in identifying these uncertainties and in constructing a roadmap that will drive your organization from where you are now to where you want to be.   In strategic planning, long discussions that revolve around the appropriate allocation and adjustments of limited resources and the needed flexibility of structures and operational systems to function in this new normal are expected to take priority as certain calls have to be made.   Familiar questions about the mission and vision will also be revisited as conventional solutions might no longer be viable in this ever-changing environment. Key business leaders must learn to quickly adapt and react to ensure that brand new opportunities will be maximized and that operations will not be damaged by the useless pursuit of obsolete ideas and processes. This will introduce a new competitive strategy that can guide the organization to where it wants to be years from now.   Apart from all that was mentioned above, the overlooked and underappreciated practice of family business governance plays a major role in the company’s goal of staging an impressive comeback for 2021 and it should be included in the strategic plan especially since most of the businesses in the country are family-owned. The crisis has revealed weaknesses in succession plans as leaders get sick without a successor stepping into the plate. We need to be reminded that no matter how groundbreaking the strategy is, if the people responsible for its implementation fail, then all efforts will be rendered pointless.   Now, the most important question we have for you is this: “Is your company prepared enough to plan for your future?   W+B Advisory Group and Icon Executive Asia, who have mounted several conferences and webinars attended by hundreds of high net worth and high profile business individuals and their management teams, recognize the significance of supporting all businesses — whether struggling or thriving — in their path of starting their strategic plan for the next year.   As they continue to champion their “Save Our Business” advocacy which produced the successful Family Business Governance entitled “The Power of Succession” that happened last August 29, W+B and Icon invites you to their upcoming webinar entitled  “Strategic Plan 2021: Setting the Stage for a Major Comeback” on October 24, 2020, Saturday, at 10 AM.   This event about strategic planning and corporate rehabilitation will feature top-tier speakers, namely Mr. Stephen Lin and Prof. Eric Soriano, who are renowned subject matter experts all over Asia.   Should you have any inquiries, you may reach W+B Advisory Group at 0945 342 4446 / 0917 324 7216 or send an email to inquiries@wbadvisoryasia.com

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