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Coronavirus death toll in China now 2,715 with 78,064 infections

February 27, 2020

CHINA (MDN International News Service) - China, the epicenter country of the deadly coronavirus (covid-19), has now a total of 2,715 deaths, and 78,064 recorded infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported yesterday. New cases of coronavirus infections were also reported in 44 countries of the world, while a new infection is also reported in Latin America. Brazil confirmed its first case of the deadly coronavirus (covid-19) Middle East, Europe and other countries of the world are among those 44 countries hit by the strain. While in other cities in China, a slow down in the infestations of the virus was also observed by the World Health Organization. Outside of the coronavirus epicenter country, covid-19 started to wreck havoc in South Korea, Italy and Iran. Twelve people are now dead in Italy, and the infections rise to 400. In Iraq, government authorities banned public gatherings to contain the spread of the virus. The government also banned entry of travellers from Bahrain and Kuwait. Other countries banned, according to the health minister includes China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and Italy. The minister also classes in colleges and universities, including cafes, clubs, cinemas and othe public gathering businesses and spots in Iraq, from February 27 up to March 7, it was learned.  

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DENR: Unity Crucial to addressing environment woes

February 27, 2020

It is paramount that Filipinos unite their efforts if expect to successfully surmount the challenges posed by a degrading environment over the long term. This was the gist of the keynote address of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu read on his behalf by Undersecretary for Policy Planning and International Affairs Juan Miguel Cuna during the opening program of the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit which got underway at the Grand Caprice Restaurant and Convention Center in Cagayan de Oro City. “Our environment is what we make it. Unfortunately, we have not yet achieved that level of united consciousness needed to save our environment from the problems that humanity has caused.” Cuna noted that the call for unity had been previously expressed in the first two summits held in Metro Manila on 2016 and again in Cebu City on 2018. “Our envisioned unity is taking quite long to achieve, that is why we are intensifying this call,” Cuna stressed. “The 3rd Philippine Environment Summit hopes to address this divisiveness by building unity among all stakeholders of the environment.” In fact, Green Convergence Philippines President Dr. Angelina P. Galang, Ph.D. disclosed that the unity and cohesiveness shown by civil society, local and national agencies,  the academe and other sectors of society in Cagayan de Oro in addressing environmental issues in their locality was crucial in their decision in choosing the city as the venue for the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit. Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar S. Moreno admitted the unity of environment stakeholders in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao is best demonstrated by the partnership of the academe with other sectors and even schools abroad such as th0e research project, “Building up an Integrated Methodology for Water Resources Assessment and Management in Urban Coastal Areas” (BIMWAM), a joint undertaking of Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, University of St La Salle, Université de Namur, Catholique Université de Louvain, and Université de Mons of Belgium. Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.D.D., also cited the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council (CDORBMC)  as another example of how a multi-sectoral group of concerned individuals, agencies and institutions have converged to protect, preserve, rehabilitate and manage the watersheds, rivers, and forests of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin. The CDORMBC includes Government Agencies, Local Government Units, Non-Government Organizations, private sectors, religious groups, People’s Organization/Indigenous People (PO/IP), Security and Academe that seek to improve the quality of life of the stakeholders by upholding and implementing appropriate interventions to enhance better utilization of natural resources and to boost biodiversity along the watersheds and the rivers. Created in November 16, 2010 under the active leadership of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (ACDO) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Early on, the CDORBMC was chaired by ACDO and DENR with the latter acting as the ad hoc secretariat. Later Xavier University - Research and Social Outreach (XU-RSO) with the help of the Ecosystem Alliance – International Union for Conservation of Nature (EA-IUCN) volunteered to preside as the council’s official secretariat in November of 2011 to further strengthen the operation and management of the CDORBMC through facilitation of meetings, consolidation of council documents and coordination with other member agencies/groups. In closing, Cuna stressed how  the partnership between DENR and Green Convergence through the biennial summit is proving crucial in generating the groundswell of support needed to unite the various sectors of society in meeting the challenges of environment degradation and its attendant problems. “The 3rd Philippine Environment Summit showcases achievements in environmental programs and projects at the national and local levels. This is an important way of informing the public of the reforms underway, and inspiring them to be part of the restoration of the grandeur of our environmental heritage, through the pursuit of sustainable development.”

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Covid-19 now infected more than 80,000 people and killed at least 2,700

February 26, 2020

* Italian Government heightens alert level as coronavirus diseases death toll in the country rises to 11 MILAN, Italy (MDN International News Service) - The Italian Government on Tuesday has raised the alert level as infections of the deadly coronavirus increased by 45 percent in the country - bringing the death toll to at least 11 persons. The deadly coronavirus disease (covid-19) has already infected more than 80,000 people mostly Chinese and killed at least 2,700 as of yesterday. Government authorities in Italy reported 322 confirmed cases of the covid-19 as the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday told reporters during a press briefing that the world should prepare for the pandemic, in as far as the continuing spread of covid-19, which originated in Wuhan City, China in December last year. New cases of covid-19 infectios were reported in some parts of the country, outside of the two hard-hit regions - Sicily, 3 new cases; Tuscany, 2 new cases and Liguria, one case of the virus infection.  Italian officials told reporters the massive rise of persons under investigations (PUIs) and suspected of contractring the virus was worrisome. The virus spread fast from its epicenter in Europe to many countries of the world with the recorded number of vacationing Italians and Europeans who travelled in regions infected with the deadly covid-19. Meanwhile, another nation of concerns according to WHO was South Korea, as coronavirus also infected a lot of people in the country, with an estimated 1000 cases and also 10 deaths recorded by government authorities. Iran has also gained world attention after its own death toll reached 5 people, subsequently giving warning to all its residents and overseas workers to stay calm and instead consider staying at home after work hours.     In January, the World Health Organization has declared Global Health Emergency (GHE) on the basis of the coronavirus spreading fast in many countries of the world, now infecting close to 80,000 people and killing close to 3000 as of yesterday (February 25), mostly Chinese as the strain started in Wuhan City, China.  On February 24th, WHO called the current status not yet a "pandemic," which means the disease is able to penetrate in many countries and spreads rampantly within said communities. However, the alarming spread of the virus in Italy, Iran and South Korea ignited fears covid-19 could reach pandemic status.

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Agusan farmers freed from traders bondage

February 26, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur--Soon, agrarian reform farmers in the four towns of this province will no longer sell their palay to middlemen and traders. This will be realized in April this year when a large scale dryer and  multi-pass rice milling plant in Trento town is expected to be opened where the farmers themselves will already become rice suppliers initially to government institutions with huge demand of their produce. The P26.9 million plant, fully equipped with facilities including multi pass rice mill, recirculating mechanical batch dryer, five solar dryers, a 10-wheeler winged van hauler truck, a six-wheeler truck and a warehouse, is a project of the Department of Agrarian Reform under the Convergence of Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (Project ConVERGE). The large-scale dryer and rice milling plant are jointly funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Philippine government as part of Project ConVERGE’s P110 million allocation for the agrarian reform farmers in Veruela, Trento, Bunawan and Sta. Josefa or what they called VETREBUNS cluster of rice production processing and marketing. Local government units in the VETREBUNS cluster allotted 20 percent of the projects costs as their counterparts. The plant will be operated by Southern Agusan Seed Producers Cooperative (SASEPCO) which will served as consolidator of the rice produce from three other agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations-- Kahugpungan sa Malahutayong Mag-uuma Para sa Ekonomikanhong Kalambuan (KAMMPE), La Fortuna Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LAMUPCO) and Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi Purpose Cooperative (BARBMPC). Already, the organized agrarian reform farmer cooperatives have cornered a P16 million supply of rice with the Department of Social Welfare and Development after winning the competitive government bidding. They were able to secure a certification from Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PHILGEPS) with the technical assistance and capability building training from Department of Agrarian Reform Provincial Office in Agusan del Sur. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the D.O. Plaza Memorial Hospital will follow suit in ordering thousands of bags of rice from them. Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II Jamil P. Amatonding Jr. said the farmers under Project ConVERGE will be liberated from the cudgels of middlemen and unscrupulous traders since they will no longer sell their palay at the lowest farm gate prices and instead become productive rice entrepreneurs. Amatonding said the project when realized in April will in a way address the problems of farmers from the negative effects of Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) which also affected farmers in VETREBUNs cluster. Maximo Gegato, SASEPCO manager, said some 20 of their 200 members stopped tending their rice fields and converted their produce into bananas because of heavy losses in their harvest last year as a result of declining prices of palay. He said traders pegged the palay prices at P700 to 800 per 50-kilo bag from what used to be P1,000 to P1,400 before the implementation of RTL. But Amatonding assured the sad plight of the farmers on the bad effects of RTL will be a thing of the past as the VETREBUNS farmers is expected to increase their yield by 30 percent when they will fully benefit the cost effective mechanized farming system. Apart from the large-scale dryer and rice milling plant, agrarian reform organizations not only from ConVERGE cluster received a total of P17 million modern farm machineries and equipment during the turn over ceremonies here on February 13. Project ConVERGE allotted P13.7 million while the Climate Resilient Farm Productivity Support Project (CRFPSP) earmarked P3.3 million for the distribution of mechanized farm inputs. The machineries and equipment include farm and hand tractors, collapsible portable dryers, rice combine harvesters, water pumps, mud boats, shredder and a substrate mixer distributed to 10 agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations. Amatonding said the modern farm inputs would boost the production of the rice farms while significantly reducing the expenses incurred especially during planting season. Based on the results of their strategic plan with the farmers, Amatonding said expenses will be reduced to a minimum of P7,000 from what used to be P37,000 per hectare which  drove the farmers further into the quagmire of indebtedness from the traders. He explained that if a farmer yields P74,000 per hectare, with the mechanized inputs that lessen their expenses , a net income will go as high as P45,000 to P50,000 per hectare. Bernie Cruz, DAR Undersecretary of Foreign Assisted and Special Project Office (FASPO), told the farmers in jest in his speech that he hoped that they would become rice cartels in the province when he will return in April. ‘“We always consider the welfare of our farmer-beneficiaries in consonance with President Duterte’s mandate to pursue a more aggressive and genuine agrarian reform program and ensure that they are provided with the needed support services to increase their household income,” Usec. Cruz said.

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Workers hold rally as Honda announces to shut down Laguna plant

February 26, 2020

METRO MANILA (MDN National News) - Workers picketed in front of Honda Cars Philippines, Inc., as the Japanese carmaker announced it would close its manufacturing plant in Laguna after three long decades of operation. The main reason of its reported shutdown is not yet known at press time but initially, the company, in a statement said it would just optimize production particularly in Oceania and Asia. The said optimization eventually made its decision to shutdown its own manufacturing plant in the Philippines.     Unfortunately, the decision of the company to stop operation in the Philippines would also leave 387 workers feel sorry of losing their jobs in the coming month. Though, the company promised to give just compensation for the years of service of all its employees who will be affected by the shutdown. But according to Visor, a local automotive website, Honda is losing revenues nowadays as reliable sources reported a decline in company sales for at least two years in a row. The manufacturing plant in Laguna, report said, is currently producing two of the Honda car models namely Honda City and Honda BR-V.   The automotive industry, according to Visor, recorded a huge drop in sales volume especially in 2018. This, after the new administration of President Duterte reportedly increased the excise taxes on brand new vehicles. This new government rulings also coincided with inflation rates - eventually hurting consumer demands for new vehicles. Honda, according to the report, recorded a 26.7 percent drop in sales volume in 2018, or only a total of 23,294 units, followed by another drop in sales to 20,338 units the following year. Authorities are now investigating reports that for the past two years, there was massive importation of too many vehicles which resulted to the agony of the local auto manufacturing plants. Such probe also prompted a petition filed by a labor group of 13000-strong union members, recommending lawmakers to make a bill protecting the local manufacturing industry against heavy vehicle importation. Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already exerted efforts in probing the allegation of heavy vehicle importation in the past years. DTI noted there was enough evidence to "justify the initiation of measures" safeguarding the local manufacturing industry from such heavy importation of vehicles. 

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Air pollution a silent killer: Green groups call on govt to take immediate steps to improve air quality in PH

February 26, 2020

REPOSTED FROM GREENPEACE PHILIPPINES AIR pollution is a silent killer in the Philippines, and the government must take urgent steps to address the problem before it gets worse. Environmental, science, and health groups today raised the alarm following recent reports on poor air quality in the country.  A global report launched this week showed that air quality in the Philippines contains PM2.5 pollution[1] levels that significantly exceed the safety limits prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The groups — Greenpeace Philippines, Clean Air Asia, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), Health Care without Harm, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines — additionally called on the Philippine government to revamp and improve current air pollution monitoring systems in order to provide more reliable information on whether the air in our communities is still safe for daily living.   Khevin Yu, Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines: “The Philippine government should see the data as an impetus to overhaul air quality monitoring systems in the country, as well as to transition away from highly polluting facilities such as coal plants. Our safety standards for air pollution haven’t changed since 1999. But what’s worse is that there are still no efficient air quality monitoring systems in place. This situation has allowed industries and facilities to pollute the air we breathe with impunity. The good news is that the solutions to air pollution are also solutions to the climate crisis, and addressing air quality now will not just improve the liveability of our cities and municipalities, but also move the country away from dependence on fossil fuels.” The recent 2019 Air Visual report places the Philippines in the 58th spot out of 98 countries with locations from where air quality data was collected.  But the groups emphasize that while available Air Visual data did not place the Philippines as among the countries with the worst air quality, the data nevertheless shows that the country still has very polluted air. Year-on-year data also shows that the country’s air quality is getting worse. Average PM2.5 pollution levels in Air Visual sites increased from 14.6 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) in 2018 to 17.6 μg/m3 in 2019. The safety limit set by the  WHO is 10 μg/m3. The groups also noted that the report only looks at PM2.5 pollution, and does not include other pollutants such as sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and other contaminants that carry deleterious health risks.  A report released by Greenpeace Philippines earlier this month showed that these and other toxic emissions can cost Filipinos as much as 1.9% GDP loss and 27,000 premature deaths. [2] The groups are calling for better air pollution standards in the Philippines, including improved monitoring, transparency and analysis. In the case of the 2019 Air Visual report, the quantity and placement of air monitors from which data were collected provide only a small snapshot of the threat of PM 2.5 air pollution. To be effective, the groups say that the government should monitor places close to main sources of air pollution, such as coal-fired power plants and high traffic areas of motorized vehicles. Further, the groups have called for the following measures to address the impacts of air pollution:     • President Duterte to declare air pollution as a national issue and to order all line agencies involved in air quality monitoring and regulation to prioritize this issue     • Enhance transparency and expedite the review and update of the air pollution standards under Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999     • Issue a moratorium on all Permits to Operate Air Pollutant Installations especially for proposed coal power plants until the Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values and Standards and Emission Standards are updated     • Make air pollution monitoring devices mandatory in all cities, government offices, particularly in heavy polluting industries/facilities such as coal power plants and in areas with high concentration of motorized vehicles     • Allocate more funds and manpower to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to increase their capacity in air quality monitoring, including enabling the department to install its own emissions monitoring devices in existing coal power plants and, in the meantime, adopt a stringent process for validating self-monitoring reports of emissions rates     • Fully prepare and implement a National Plan on the Reduction of GHG, as mandated by Section 31 of the Philippine Clean Air Act     • Address the root cause of air pollution in the country by implementing a transition plan away from the use of coal energy and fossil fuels in the transport sector. Address the root cause of air pollution in the country by implementing a transition plan away from the use of coal energy and fossil fuels in the transport sectorPresident Duterte to declare air pollution as a national issue and to order all line agencies involved in air quality monitoring and regulation to prioritize this issue     • Enhance transparency and expedite the review and update of the air pollution standards under Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999     • Issue a moratorium on all Permits to Operate Air Pollutant Installations especially for proposed coal power plants until the Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values and Standards and Emission Standards are updated     • Make air pollution monitoring devices mandatory in all cities, government offices, particularly in heavy polluting industries/facilities such as coal power plants and in areas with high concentration of motorized vehicles     • Allocate more funds and manpower to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to increase their capacity in air quality monitoring, including enabling the department to install its own emissions monitoring devices in existing coal power plants and, in the meantime, adopt a stringent process for validating self-monitoring reports of emissions rates     • Fully prepare and implement a National Plan on the Reduction of GHG, as mandated by Section 31 of the Philippine Clean Air Act     • Address the root cause of air pollution in the country by implementing a transition plan away from the use of coal energy and fossil fuels in the transport sector ===================================================================== Notes: [1] PM2.5 is the term for fine particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. This pollutant can come from various sources, especially combustion of fuels. Because of its small size, it can impair lung function and is known to cause respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and premature death. [2]https://www.greenpeace.org/philippines/publication/4066/toxic-air-the-price-of-fossil-fuels/

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