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LGUs urged to raise public awareness on emerging health hazards in waterways

November 21, 2019

The Kagay-anon team leader of a research project investigating the effects of untreated wastewater on public health is urging local government units to double their efforts to raise general public awareness about emerging health hazards. Dubbed Philippines - Project 7-128: “Baselining persistent and emerging organic pollutant levels in environmental and engineered systems (PEOPLES) for healthy Philippines”, the research project which aims to provide baseline information on emerging and persistent organic pollutants to help local government units (LGUs) devise combined natural and engineered wastewater treatment plans. The pilot study areas cover engineered wastewater in Manila and natural environmental systems from a watershed to basin scale in Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, and Davao City. “There is an alarming lack of public awareness about the emerging threats from  effluents which pollute rivers systems due to the lack of sewage treatment facilities which pose an increasing threat to the health of Filipinos, “ said Dr. Caroline Marie B. Jaraula-Mateo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the Organic and Stable Isotope (OASIS) Geochemistry Laboratory of the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines-Diliman in a recent follow up interview regarding the status of the research project. “What is most alarming is the lack of awareness and qualified expertise even extends to the LGU personnel charged with monitoring rivers and waterways, and even more depressing, oftentimes even the lack of personnel such as Pollution Control Officers (PCO) at the local and barangay level as mandated by law,” she added. A 2017 DPWH report said “over 20 million Filipinos do not have access to improved sanitation; many who have toilets do not have septic tanks; many septic tanks have open bottoms; and most septic tanks are not regularly desludged. Moreover, when septage is removed from septic tanks, it is often not properly treated.” “The effects of this neglect include economic losses exceeding P78 billion per year, 55 deaths per day, and damage to ecosystems and biodiversity,” it added. Cagayan de Oro Situation Cagayan de Oro and Davao, currently both lack wastewater treatment plants, although at least one project in both cities is being constructed. Environmental baseline information prior to the operation of the wastewater treatment plants are key information this project can provide. As of 2018, the Cagayan de Oro City Health Office reported that only 21of the city’s 80 barangays were declared Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) ZOD status in 2018. City Health Officer Dr. Lorraine Nery said they are working hard to provide more households with access to basic toilet facilities this year. The CHO launched its ZOD competition in 2017 The DOH's zero open defecation program is aimed at stopping open defecation practices; ensuring that everyone uses a sanitary toilet, wash hands properly, handles food and water in a hygienic manner; and disposes animal and domestic waste safely to create a clean and safe environment. The CHO, through the National Sustainable Sanitation Plan (NSSP), aims to have all of the city’s 80 barangays declared ZOD by 2022. October 14, 2019.   The P200 million Cagayan de Oro Septage Management Project was approved for procurement thru the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program last year and will be implemented by the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD).  The project is part of the Sanitation Strategy developed by the city in 2012 with support from the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA).  The legislation of a Septage Ordinance in 2016 facilitated subsequent actions after the strategy was adopted.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted the COWD and the CLENRO to prepare the PPS for the 150 m3 septage treatment plant. Most of the customers of the COWD expressed willingness to pay an environmental/septage fee of up to P50 a month. Two other components of the strategy that were implemented involved the construction of an interceptor and sewage system and a central wastewater treatment plant. The sewerage component that has been prepared by the PPS will be linked to the DPWH’s NSSP which helped the city, with a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Clean Water Act Under Republic Act No. 9275 (The Clean Water Act of 2004) all local government units are mandated to implement a program on sewerage and septage management, including a priority list of sewerage, septage and combined sewerage-septage projects for their respective areas based on population density and growth, degradation of water resources, among others. However, a 2017  report said highly urbanized cities outside Metro Manila have yet to implement the National Sewerage and Septage Management Program (NSSMP) in their respective areas, leaving unused a P650-million allotment for subsidies in the care of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) “due to no applicants,” The NSSMP aims to have all local governments develop septage management systems and 17 highly urbanized cities sewerage systems by 2020, giving 43.6 million Filipinos access to septage treatment facilities and 3.2 million Filipinos access to sewage treatment services. The Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act No. 9275) tasked the DPWH to prepare and enforce the NSSMP. Seventeen cities alone would need P26.3 billion to undertake sewerage and septage projects. The DPWH says highly urbanized cities are hesitant to apply for the subsidy because of the high cost of constructing sewerage systems, lack of political will, the slow passage of pertinent local ordinances, conflicts between local governments and water districts, and a lack of funding for feasibility studies. To help these cities, the DPWH got the nod of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) on June 27, 2017 to increase the national government’s sewerage project subsidy to 50 percent and to also include a 50 percent subsidy for septage projects. The Neda also allowed other cities and first-class towns to avail themselves of funding support. The cities of Cagayan de Oro and Butuan have been selected as pilot areas. Jaraula-Mateo admits the huge capital outlay needed for a water treatment plant is one of the main challenges facing LGUs in putting up the needed infrastructure. PH Sewage Problem Generally, sewage in the Philippines is treated insufficiently, if at all. In 2010, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported that only about 15% of the 11.6 million people in Metro Manila were connected to sewage pipes, and the rest use poorly designed and maintained septic tanks. In 2011, only 16% of the households in major cities around Manila Bay had access to sewage treatment. And in 2016, only 50% of the western service area of Metro Manila was connected to a sewage system; and that excludes millions in illegal settlements, and the eastern service area. In 2006, the Philippine Environment Monitor estimated that 95% of the wastewater from households all over the country is released into the environment, after minimal treatment, if at all (World Bank, 2007).  “This research supports USAID Philippines' Development Objectives by providing baseline knowledge so that proper government policies and community action can be taken to quantify and manage related environmental and governance challenges,” said Jaraula said. The team is a grant recipient of the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Cycle 7. Administered by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), PEER is a competitive grants program that invites scientists in developing countries, partnered with US Government (USG)-supported collaborators, to apply for funds to support research and capacity-building activities on topics with strong potential development impacts. “The overall goal of this project is to increase the number of wastewater treatment plants sampled for antibiotics analyses, then expand the sampling to point sources and into the receiving river and marine environments,” said Jaraula, who is the youngest daughter of former Mayor and Congressman Constantino and Mrs. Divina Jaraula. “This will provide baseline data to identify critical areas that will be prioritized for further data acquisition and analyses for a combined engineered and natural wastewater plan that is useful for local governments and organizations to leverage further detailed planning and application for business-government partnerships,” she added. The project aims to consolidate watershed and basin information from various academic, local government sectors, and literature as a map focusing on land-use, locations of point sources (e.g. livestock farms, pharmaceutical industries, hospitals, urban or agricultural or industrial drainage, and landfill) in the study areas. It aims to collect and collate data on current or planned size, type, and wastewater treatments in various business, municipal, and provincial establishments. Antimicrobial Resistance Threat The research study also aims to help build a database on the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) situation in the Philippines on which no research has ever been conducted. The AMR database can help LGU officials decide on what measures to take in addressing this rising global threat. Drug-resistant infections are estimated to cause 10 million deaths a year and cost up to US$ 100 trillion by 2050. Historical evidence shows that the impact of antimicrobial resistance can be reduced through sound public health policies. AMR develops when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi develop resistance to an antimicrobial drug, threatening the effective prevention and treatment of infections. AMR has increasingly become a problem because the use of antimicrobials is steadily rising, while the pace of discovering and developing new antibiotics has slowed down. AMR is mainly sustained by the improper use of antibiotics and has become a global public health concern both in the field of human and animal health. Multidrug-resistant microorganisms' infections are associated with increased risk of complications, higher hospitalization rates, increased healthcare costs, loss of productivity and increased mortality. (Ciorba, Odone, Veronesi, Pasquarella , Signorelli, 2015) Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and food borne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public. The Philippines is especially vulnerable to the AMR threat due to its warm and humid climate conducive to the proliferation of deadly bacteria in the water runoff from rains, floodwaters and untreated  sewage that carry antibiotics excreted by livestock and poultry in natural and engineered water systems.  Thus, another key objective of the research project is to determine antibiotics types and concentrations in influent, effluent and in-between treatment in existing wastewater treatment plants, terrestrial and marine environments of Davao, Manila and Cagayan de Oro, as stipulated and standardized in the US National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for International Research Exposure’s (PIRE) Halting Environmental Antibiotic Resistance Dissemination (HEARD). PIRE HEARD is a US National Science Foundation funded international collaboration focused on quantifying the role that wastewater treatment plays in global dissemination of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It addresses AMR– an emerging global threat; and quantifies how wastewater treatment processes affect antimicrobial resistance and how wastewater treatment plants and the receiving environment interact to affect this spread. “Wastewater treatment plants serve as critical nodes for the collection and potential dissemination of antimicrobial wastes, bacteria, virus, resistance genes, and ecological stressors,” Ms.  Jaraula noted. This study also aims to determine persistent (i.e. pesticides) organic pollutants in the watershed and coastal areas of the proposed sites; characterize possible sources and/or end-member assemblages of pollutants in various matrices (agricultural, urban, industrial, land-fill, feces, etc) and detect antibiotic resistant genes. “This study along with NSF’s PIRE HEARD are anticipated to lay the foundation for environmental monitoring of antibiotics in the Philippines, as AMR is not just a national, but a global issue,” Ms.  Jaraula explained. This research project will provide baseline information on effluents so that proper government policies and community action can be done to quantify and manage these challenges. Wetlands, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows provide natural wastewater treatment that are naturally abundant and proliferating in the Philippines, but are poorly managed and under enormous pressure from overutilization, degradation, natural disasters, pollution, now exacerbated by warming seas and rising sea levels. “The Philippines provide an end-member tropical high biodiversity dataset that is necessary for all types of datasets. The area also provides a unique opportunity to test the clean-up efficiency that naturally evolved in coastal ecosystems. As countries share the influence of seaways, an integrated global environmental sustainability framework is necessary to battle AMR,” Dr Jaraula highlighted for the context of the study The Philippine environment provide natural wastewater treatment in aquifers, mangrove forests, wetlands born out of hundreds of millions of years of evolution that afforded potable water to our standards. A consolidation of best practices in the Philippines and in the international arena on a combination of engineered and natural wastewater treatment will be reviewed and evaluated to garner the best possible combination of wastewater treatment for Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Lessening the environmental pressure on untreated waste will contribute to ridge-to-reef resilience.

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Seda Centrio’s Giving Tree Glistens with Best X’mas  Feelings

November 21, 2019

Seda Centrio kicked off its annual Christmas Tree Lighting last November 15 with a bang and the theme, “Glisten” inspred by one of the most widely seen color palettes during the Christmas season “I would like to thank you for joining us tonight for another run of our annual Christmas Tree Lighting symbolizing the commencement of the Christmas festivities in Seda Centrio, treating guests to holiday sights, smells, tastes, and sounds,” said newly appointed Hotel Manager Rhett Villaruz. Seda Centrio's Sinamay All-a-Glisten With over 25 years of experience in the hotel industry across multicultural environments, Mr. Rhett has listed countless relevant accomplishments in providing guests with quality service while maximizing hotel revenue and productivity, and developing key talents. He was previousldy Director of Operations of the Quest Hotel Clark and Conference Center in Pampanga, and Crimson Resort & Spa, Mactan’s Director of Rooms. “This year;s theme “Glisten”, showcases prestine decorations and adornments in elegant glimmering colors of gold, honey, and chesnut brightening up the hotel’s atmosphere and complementing our signature neutral colors,” Mr. Rhett noted. He recalled how last year’s tree lighting was made extra special with the hotel’s partnership with Smile Train Incorporated, the hotel group’s long-running corporate social responisbility project. Smile Train “Last year was beyond fullfiling as Seda Centrio was able to raise enough to sponsor two (2) kids’ cleft sugery. This year, the hotel would like to aim for more as this is not only for a good cause but through your donations, together, we are able to drastically improve a child’s life including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive in life,” Mr. Rhett stressed. Smile Train is an international organization and charity providing free corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. It also training local doctors and provides hospital funding for the procedures. In Cagayan de Oro, Smile Train partners with hospitals like Xavier-Maria Reyna, Cagayan Polymedic Medical, CU Medical Center, and the Northern Mindanao Medical Center. to provide cleft care all year round. With the event, Seda Centrio relaunched its Smile Train tree (The Giving Tree) --- where guests may donate by buying Christmas ornaments priced at at P100, P200 and P300 and hanging them on the tree. Donors also get to take home 1 of the 2 ornaments as a remembrance to decorate their Christmas Trees with. Donors may also opt to choose to buy a P500 gift card to share with their family, friends and colleagues to let them know that a donation to Smile Train has been made in their honor for the holidays. Last day of selling will be on December 24, 2019 and all collected donations will be forwarded to Smile Train. In 2017, Seda hotels raised P349,700 and sponsored 29 children’s corrective clip and palete surgery. Last year, the amount almost doubled to P 661,919, benefitting 55 kids.    Host Nicole Abas-Datayan also introduced the Smiler Train Philippines Region 10 team headed by ENT Surgeons, Dr. Stephanie Jacutin and Dr. Ann Christie Lluisma - Alovera. The mother of one of the beneficiaries also delivered her personal testatment and thanks on how the surgery offers them a new hope for their child’s future. Glisten     In a departure from the usual Christmas tree lighting that’s become de rigueur for the city’s upscale malls, Seda Centrio opted to take the road less taken by switching on its “Christmas Corner” to ensure each of its four elements are properly highlighted: Santa’s sleigh, with Seda mascot Seddy as Santa’s Little Helper, and of course the traditional reindeers; the fireplace and chimney that’s been Santa’s little “not-so-secret” passage to deliver and place those wonderful gifts under the Christmas tree and fill up treats in our Christmas socks! The Nutcracker believed to be symbols of good luck to ward off malevolent spirits; and not the least the entire ensemble lit up with Mr. Rhett’s candy cane for the grand finale. After a toast led by Mr. Rhett, the audience was regaled with dances by Grace and Pointes Dance Center inspired by the Nutcracker Suite and Favorite Christmas Carols by the Singers for Christ Choir. Seda Centrio Holiday Treats   Seda Centrio’s Christmas celebration kicks off with Misto’s Thanksgiving Dinner Feast on November 29 with a bountiful spread of premium holiday roasts best enjoyed with family and friends. Revel in memorable dining experiences with Misto’s indulgent menu highlighting holiday feasts of Christmas classics and favorites to celebrate this festive season starting December 12 to December 23, expertly prepared by the hotel’s culinary team headed by Executive Sous Chef, Christopher Ben Lugtu. Contact Seda’s Events Executives and usher in the festive season in style. Choose from the hotel’s “Glitzy Get-Togethers” packages with rates starting at P950 nett per person, with a minimum of 30 guests. Enjoy inclusions such as waived corkages, complimentary centerpieces, and a special Christmas-themed buffet menu.   The hotel is also preparing for both Christmas and New Year celebrations with lots in store for the whole family to enjoy. Tickets will be available on December 1 but reservations are already accepted at the Front Desk. Not the least, create lasting memories in one of the hotel’s well-appointed guest rooms and enjoy 25% savings for every stay. Plus, get a complimentary P 1,000 dining voucher when you book for two nights! Stay-in packages for Christmas Eve and New Year’s are also available with rates starting at P 7,198 nett. (special thanks to Ms Nicole Abas-Datayan)

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Cop exec's wife spearheads groundbreaking of PRO13 New Day Care Center

November 21, 2019

Camp Rafael C Rodriguez, Libertad, Butuan City --- Madam Elvie M Esquivel, the wife of Police Regional Office 13 Director, Brigadier General Joselito T Esquivel, Jr, and the President of PRO13 Officers Ladies Club (OLC), spearheaded the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Day Care Center of this PRO held last November 21. Maria Angelica Rosedell Malbas Amante–Matba, the District Representative, 2nd District of Agusan del Norte, also graced the ceremony and led the capsule laying at the construction site. The ceremony was attended by PRO13 Director, Command Group, Regional Staff, PNP members, OLC members, teacher and students. “PRO13 Officer’s Ladies Club aims to provide PNP PRO13 dependents a quality and successful learning ambience. Thus, the parents could do their job without worrying at their children as they are well taken care by PNP teachers assigned at the day care center,” Madam Esquivel said.

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Police arrest fish vendor in Iligan on sexual assault

November 20, 2019

ILIGAN City--Police arrested Tuesday evening a fish vendor for allegedly sexually molesting his 15-year old neighbor in Barangay Tambacan this city. Police Major Abogado Mautin, chief of Iligan City Police Station 4, identified the suspect as Joel Madrazo, 30, a resident of Purok 4, Barangay Tambacan. Mautin said the victim, who is a neighbor, reported to the police after she was able to escape from the suspect’s house where the crime happened. “The victim was invited by the suspect for a drinking spree, when she got dizzy, she was dragged into the suspect’s house and started molesting and allegedly raping her,” the police report said. The suspect was arrested from his house and is now detained Police Station 4 waiting for the charges to be filed against him while the victim was advised to undergo a medical examination.

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8 hurt, dozens affected in Bukidnon earthquake

November 19, 2019

ILIGAN City--Four injured, 100 families affected while dozens of buildings and residential houses were damaged when a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck Kadingilan town, Bukidnon on Monday night. Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management  (MDRRM) Officer Shane Therese Romo said more than 20 houses were damaged. Four were reported injured: one with injuries in the head, one lost his consciousness and two experienced trauma due to severe anxiety. All of them were brought to the nearest hospitals, said Romo. As of 8:31 a.m. on November 19, she said 56 families were affected in Barangay Sibonga, 14 in Salvacion, seven in Husayan, 11 in Malinao, seven in Kibogtok, and five in Baroy. She said the houses of the affected families incurred minor damaged, they were all advised to stay outside while the engineering department of the municipality is doing their inspection and assessment. In Sibonga, eight houses incurred major damaged after its concrete walls fell, window glasses shattered and toilet and comfort rooms collapsed while in Kibogtok, aside from the houses, its barangay health center had cracks on its walls. Seven houses were also damaged in Husayan, two are also declared unsafe by the Municipal Engineer’s Office, said Romo. Some houses in Barangay Pay-as were partially damaged and no damage has been reported in Barangay Bagor, but residents were advised to continue staying in open areas. In Barangay Cabadiangan, there are cracks on the columns of the public terminal and three families reported that their appliances were busted. The earthquake also caused cracks on walls and columns of a two-storey building in San Andres National High School in Barangay Cabadiangan while its ceilings were shattered. Cracks on walls and debris from classrooms in Kibalagon Elementary School were also visible while there were no reported injuries and damages. As of 5:56 am Tuesday, residents in Kadingilan experienced 37 aftershocks according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs). Quake in Valencia Patients from different hospitals in Valencia City in Bukidnon were back to their respective rooms, two hours after they were evacuated following the earthquake. Lieutenant Colonel Surki Sereñas, chief of Valencia City Police Station, said around a hundred of patients of Esther Hospital, Adventist Medical and Valencia Medical Hospital were advised to return inside at 12:30 a.m. after they were evacuated outside. The management of Esther Hospital temporarily put their patients at the municipal covered court and in tents while those of the Adventist Medical Center and Valencia Medical Hospital were evacuated just outside the buildings. Initial rapid damage assessment by the City’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and Valencia Police said that two houses, one in Barangay Tugaya and one in Barangay Laligan, incurred damages when its walls collapse but none was reported injured, according to Sereñas. Three schools are also damaged: Lumbo Elementary School and Sinabuagan Elementary School with cracks on classroom walls; and Tongan-tongan Elementary School with cracks on the walls of its admin building. City Mayor Azucena Huervas has declared suspension of classes in all school levels. In Maramag town Eighty families in Maramag town in Bukidnon were displaced while 10 houses in Barangay Camp-1 were also seen partially damaged as per initial assessment of the Municipal’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO). Four persons are reported injured after they were hit by falling debris. Alejandro Navarro, head of Maramag, said the displaced families, with around 400 individuals, are temporarily housed at the barangay’s covered basketball court. “These number of houses partially damaged are only from one barangay. We are still awaiting the official report of other barangays that we expect to receive by noon today (November 19). We are now starting to roam around for the rapid damage assessment,” Navarro said in a phone interview. Aside from the residential structures, some schools and establishments are also reported to have incurred damages, according to Navarro.

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Two NPA assassins arrested in Bukidnon

November 19, 2019

VALENCIA City--Two suspected assassins of the outlawed communist New People’s Army (NPA) were nabbed after a shootout with pursuing law enforcers here, the police said. Lt. Col. Surke A. Sereñas, said identified the suspects as Frederic M. Tagurda, a.k.a “Ric Ric,” 27, farm laborer, of Lilo-an, Lumbayao, Valencia City and Pedeng M Matrikinong, a.k.a “Agay,” and “Santo,” 26, married, of Balakayo, Namnam, San Fernando, Bukidnon. Sereñas said that the suspects, both alleged members of the dreaded “Sparrow Unit,” the assassination arm of the NPA, were reportedly responsible for extortion activities victimizing the local businessmen here. He said that a concerned citizen tipped off the presence of the  suspects who were reportedly collecting “revolutionary taxes” in the community, prompting the police and the military to launch a pursuit operation. Sereñas said that the pursuing lawmen caught up the suspects in Tongan-Tongan, Valencia City, which resulted in the shootout and the wounding of the suspects. He said that the suspects were immediately brought to the hospital for treatment. Doctors later declared the suspects safe and out of danger. Sereñas said the law enforcers recovered two .45 caliber pistol, 13 rounds of live ammunitions of .45 caliber pistol, a hand grenade, a black bonnet,  a hand held radio and assorted mobile and android cellular phones (some without batteries) after the shooting incident. The police and military also recovered four pieces aluminum blasting caps, one piece US dollar bill, two sling pouches, tw0 kitchen knives, a black wallet with one picture, wiring assembly with switch, one piece Casio wrist watch, one piece Sony battery charger, a black jacket, assorted medicines, assorted documents, and personal belongings. Sereñas said that the suspects, now in the custody of the Valencia City Police Office, were undergoing investigation pending the filing of appropriate charges against them.

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