Archive for the ‘July-September 2008’ Category

Patent disputes and Innovation

November 24, 2009

Patent disputes and Innovation

 

If disputes are a measure of dynamism and action, this may say a lot about inventions and innovations in Europe, America, and the Philippines as early as in the 1800s to the present.

   Disputes on intellectual property rights, particularly on patents, were naturally part of the lifestyle of inventors long ago.

   As related by the “World Famous Scientists and Inventions” (WFSI), American inventor Lee de Forest, recognized as the “Father of Radio” and “Grandfather of Television,” wrangled with scientists and patent lawyers as to the originality of his inventions.  Attributed to him are more than 180 patents.

   When he was 13, he invented gadgets such as a miniature blast furnace and locomotive and a silver plating device.  As a doctoral student, he worked on a thesis, “Reflection of Hertzian Waves from the Ends of Parallel Wires.” This had to do with what is now commonly known as the radio.

   Through a company, De Forest Wireless Telegraph Company,  that he and his financiers founded, he showed businessmen and the public how the electrolytic detector of Hertzian waves that he developed could be used as a communication tool.  He later developed a more powerful receiver of wireless signals called the “audion” which enabled him to broadcast sounds.

   De Forest was known to have developed this audion vacuum tube, a two-element device used as electronic amplifier that is an important part of communication systems such as radio, telephone, radar, television, and computer systems. It became the predecessor of the more advanced triode vacuum tube as a device with three active electrodes used for signal amplification.

   The Wikipedia noted that the United States Patent 879,572 for the three-electrode device was granted to De Forest in February 1908. 

   But De Forest was a man that could hardly succeed in business. 

   “A poor businessman and a poorer judge of men, De Forest was defrauded twice by his partners,” said the WFSI.  “Throughout De Forest’s lifetime, the originality of his more important inventions was hotly contested by both scientists and patent attorneys.”

   This may have happened as De Forest apparently hadn’t fully recognized the great potential of his invention nor had he known exactly how it worked, the audion in particular.

   “(I) didn’t know how it worked, it just did,” was his famous words.

   An explanation of how the audion work was later laid out in 1914 by Edwin Armstrong.

   “When the two later faced each other in a dispute over the regeneration patent, Armstrong was able to demonstrate conclusively that De Forest still had no idea how it worked,” according to the Wikipedia.

   Perhaps tired of disputes, De Forest then later “reluctantly” sold his patents to communication companies for further development some of which, and the more important ones, were sold cheaply to American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T).  Nevertheless, the three-electrode device, known since 1919 as the triode which can amplify electric signals for radio reception, has also been known for the name De Forest Valve.

   Another American inventor, Elias Howe, who developed the first sewing machine in place of hand-sewing, was also involved in suits in an attempt to protect his asset.

   Howe grew up working in his father’s farm, gristmill (flour grinding mill), and sawmill in Spencer, Massachusetts.  In 1835, he worked at Lowell, Massachusetts for a textile machine manufacturer. 

   But it was in 1837, in his work in Boston with a watchmaker, that he got the idea of mechanizing sewing.  This led him to invent the lock stitch that used two threads in sewing and had the same concept as the looms he worked on at Lowell.  Howe went to England to work on the commercialization of his machines. 

   But back home, American manufacturers began replicating his machine in violation of his patent rights.

   He then ran after his offenders in a suit that lasted for five years until he was able to collect royalties from the machines.

   The cotton gin was a pioneering work in mass production– the assembly lines. 

   Its inventor, Eli Whitney, developed it as he saw cotton plantation workers go through the drudgery of separating cotton seeds from fibers.  In 1794, he patented the first cotton gin.

   But his cotton gin was copied by other manufacturers. 

   At the time, Whitney may have wanted to sue his copycats, but the WFSI said he never had the money for such disputes. He nevertheless got his rewards from his works in mass production as he received contracts in 1812 to make 15,000 muskets, a smooth bore long gun that was the predecessor of the rifle, through his mass-producing gun assemblage and factory.

   In the Philippines, there are rarely  celebrated or popular disputes on patents or other intellectual property assets.  However, the Bureau of Legal Affairs of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) record showed  six patent-related cases. These only involved companies, rather than individual inventors. 

   These are the suits of Philippine Pharma Wealth Inc. (PPWI) against Glaxo Group Ltd. of England on pharmaceutical compositions; PPWI against Pfizer on method of increasing effectiveness of a B-Lactam antibiotic using penicillanic acid 1, 1-dioxide or an ester; Natrapharm against Smithkline Beecham PLC on method for treatment; Philippine-Cuvest Inc. against Bayer Healthcare AG on infusion solutions of 1-cyclopropyl-6 fluoro-1, 4-dihydro4-oxo-7-(1-piperazinyl)-quinoline-3-carboxylic acid; and the Philippine International Trading Corp. against Pfizer Ltd on improvements in pharmaceutically acceptable salts of amlodipine.

   If there were ever suits initiated by an individual inventor-entrepreneur in the Philippines, this may just be on a low-technology item such as one related to “gulaman” (seaweed-based food item) which may not mean a lot at all, according to an IPO Director General Adrian S. Cristobal.

   With hardly an important patent dispute, questions arise as to how that may indicate a lackluster environment for technological advancements in the Philippines.

Filipino Cosmetic Biotechnology

October 15, 2009

Filipino Cosmetic Biotechnology

By malourdesaguiba

Filipino Cosmetic Biotechnology

By Virginia Ann T. Burgos

Biomart Asia, a local firm specializing in body care products, has become a successful venture all because it has parlayed biotechnological processes to beat competition.

Dr. Gisela Padilla Concepcion, a professor and a researcher at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) who is also Biomart Asia president, has made a mark in the industry through products that are considered at par, if not better, than French products.

Concepcion and her team of biotechnologists have maximized the use of locally-available, cheaper, natural ingredients like malunggay (moringa oleifera), takip kuhol (centella asiatica), guava (psidium guajava), and many other herbs that contain anti-oxidants and flavonoids.

They have also isolated and characterized compounds from marine organisms and profiled chemicals that contain anti-cancer and anti-diabetes compounds.

Biomart Asia’s lines of products are all Biogenins-based.

Biogenins was created and trademarked by Biomart Asia. It refers to a general class of phytochemicals or plant secondary metabolites consisting principally of compounds found in most fruits, vegetables and woody plants. These phytochemicals have been shown to have potent anti-oxidant activity, provide UV protection, and possess anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Concepcion launched one of Biomart Asia’s product lines, the Herbal Woman, with only three products, the body wash, facial wash, and the feminine wash.

From then on, the company flourished and offered far superior quality products at very reasonable prices. “I want to teach people that good things need not be expensive.”

One of Biomart’s most promising products is the body contouring cream, which is a rich blend of herbs with fat burning properties that would help reshape target areas of the body.

Biomart Asia has come a long way in the business through biotechnology.

It has created two other product lines, Metroman, which offers the basic hygienic needs of men like the deodorizing and anti-bacterial body wash, and the body gel that moisturizes the skin and at the same time protects the skin from harmful UV rays.

The Tubtime Line was also created to pamper pets with products like soap and shampoo that were especially formulated for pets. They contain substances that repel insects or pests and protect pets from parasites.

Through that success of Biomart, Concepcion has proven that biotechnology and biochemistry, indeed, are very promising fields in which Filipinos can venture into and excel.

Concepcion considers biochemistry as a way of life since she has been a researcher throughout her life, working particularly on anti-cancer substances. Now that she has succeeded in manufacturing wellness products, Concepcion believes the market can benefit from her company’s products.

Concepcion is also an advocate of scientific enterprise, and she encourages her colleagues to propagate knowledge by having their papers published.

In which she co-founded, Philippine Science Letters (PSL), Concepcion encourages more Filipino scientists and researchers to come out with their papers and show them to the entire world through the interactive journal. She notes that there are a number of studies by Filipino scientists and researches that have not been published due to funding issues. PSL offers a solution to this issue.

PSL is a new peer-reviewed on-line Pinoy scientific Journal, featuring the science being done in the Philippines and the work of Filipino scientists abroad. To ensure the high quality of PSL, 30 Filipino experts in various fields have agreed to serve as reviewers of the research works that are expected to pile up in the site soon. On their shoulders lie the task of evaluating, validating, and offering advice to the authors.

Concepcion said PSL will accept short studies or those that are limited in scope and performed with limited budget, as long as they are of good quality. PSL will be privately funded until it reaches its desired performance level and will solicit support from private and government foundations to prevent hindrances to its operation by bureaucratic procedures and politics.

PSL is the window to a better quality of life through the technologies and innovations of Filipino scientists. It offers collaboration with other experts.

” If the fundamental science is good, then it can eventually yield good technologies –good products and services that are useful to the country.

Vaccines

October 1, 2009

Vaccines

 

 

Designing a vaccine by manipulating a virus’ epitopes (an epitope is a site to which an antibody binds) introduces a novel vaccine-making strategy that can attack viruses even with their continuing mutation.

Flu vaccines are traditionally designed every year in order to fight mutations of a virus whose symptoms, strength, or duration may vary each time.

Have you ever wondered why you could get the flu every year, or have to get a flu shot every year so as not to get sick? That is because of the constant mutation of the flu virus.

In designing a more potent vaccine that can withstand mutations, Dr. Eduardo A. Padlan of the UP Marine Science Institute and a former research scientist at the US’ National Institutes of Health in Maryland does it by manipulating the epitopes in two identified molecules of the flu virus.

The two molecules are the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase which are found on the surface of the flu virus that infects cells.

Since the hemagglutinin is the first molecule that enters the victim cell in our body, antibodies produced by our own body, or those induced by vaccines, aim to stop the function of hemagglutinin. But because the virus mutates, our antibodies no longer work to fight the mutated virus.

In order to make a vaccine work for a longer period of time, not just one year, Padlan said scientists had to identify the immunodominant epitopes (the parts which are most reactive to antibodies) in the two molecules where mutations in the virus actually occur.

“If we could locate the immunodominant epitopes in the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase and generate new molecules in which those epitopes are no longer immunodominant (we can do this by protein engineering, whereby we replace the residues in the immunodominant epitopes with amino acids whose presence results in lower attractiveness to antibodies), we could use those engineered molecules as vaccines,” he said.

With protein engineering, vaccines could be directed at producing antibodies that attack the parts of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase that do not change.

“As long as the virus continues to localize its mutations in its immunodominant epitopes (of course, it cannot know that our vaccines no longer contain those immunodominant epitopes), we have a weapon against it,” said Padlan.

Filipino scientists are hopeful that the country can produce a universal vaccine out of Padlan’s strategy. The development of a vaccine against seasonal flu based on the strategy is being funded by DOST.

Rich Ground For Pharmaceuticals

October 1, 2009
Rich Ground For Pharmaceuticals

 By Melody M. Aguiba

 

A haven for lovers of the natural, the inactive Mt. Isarog volcano, deemed as Southern Luzon’s highest peak at 1,966 meters above sea level, is visited for its cloudy morning fogs, clear streams, fresh and fl ushing waterfalls, sulfur springs, a deer farm that keeps Australian deer species, a butterfl y farm, monkeys, chirping birds, and orchids all-around.
Found in Camarines Sur, its accompanying national park is a protected area under the NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) Act.

Behind what is visible, Mt.Isarog may be an opulent source of medicinal or pharmaceutical raw materials which scientists at the University of the Philippines-Manila and Ateneo de Naga are now looking at. But the end-use of the rich fl ora and fauna for drugs is on the tailend of a project fi nanced by the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Development (PCASTRD).

It is establishing a database of natural resource which takes a scientifi c approach of mapping the resources fi rst and later identifying through molecular markers their active compounds.

“We’re standardizing the system and putting the infrastructure in place. We can use this for drug discovery, but that’s not the priority. That may be third or fourth (phase),” said Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, PCASTRD executive director.

The natural mechanisms of life are being used as a basis for discovering what may be later useful to human health. Plants have defense systems against predatory animals, perhaps a poison disgorged on an incoming invader.

Or a chemical that sends signal to isolate a part of the plant infected by a pathogen so that the entire plant would survive. These natural compounds in the plant may have ingredients for a drug. Government allocates more than P29 million for a bioinformatics program which includes this Mt. Isarog natural resource mapping.

The budget includes those for acquisition of software and equipment– HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) and capacity building for training of experts. Dr. Marilou Nicolas, bioinformatics project leader and former UPManila Arts and Sciences dean, said the Philippines, rich as it is in biodiversity, has to build its own molecular marker-assisted drug discovery capacity. Or it may lose the economic benefi ts from its indigenous resources.

“Other countries started out sending their plant species abroad to test a compound for a specifi c purpose, such as for treating stomach ache. But they lost their claim on other active ingredients because there was no agreement on the use of other compounds in the plant,” she said.

icolas was talking about rosy periwinkle, a native plant in Madagascar’s tropical forests, whose vinblastine and vincristine compounds have been found to help leukemia patients to survive. Madagascar natives traditionally used the rosy periwinkle as diabetes treatment.

But they lost to western drug makers its economic value “Worldwide sales are worth over £75 million a year, but virtually none of this money fi nds its way back to Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world,” according to the Living Rainforest. UP Manila is also collaborating on bioinformatics with UP College of Medicine which is dealing on health informatics “We’re determining bio-marker for breast cancer,” she said.

Auto Transmission Hub

October 1, 2009

Auto Transmission Hub

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Local manufacturing industries have long been threatened by global competition. Some have totally shifted into trading, while others just died a natural death. There are a few left but are struggling to maintain their footing.

One such industry is the local automotive sector, although it is also under threat by global liberalization as shown by the steady inflow of imported completely built-up units that now account for half of the total cars sold in the market.

At best, the automotive sector’s most tangible investment is in transmission manufacturing facilities. As a major car component, the transmission is a building block to the country’s cherished dream of fi nally building its own car.

Automotive transmission is a device in the power train of a car that provides different gear or drive ratios between the engine and drive wheels. Its principal function is to enable the vehicle to accelerate from rest through a wide-speed range while the engine operates within its most effective range.

As a major automotive part, transmission accounts between 10- 20% of the total car parts depending on the vehicle model.

I N V E S T ME N T S

Japanese car companies have invested in transmission facilities in the country.

Toyota Automotive Parts Inc. (TAP) has invested P10 billion to produce transmission for export in Laguna. Honda Parts poured in P1.3 billion to start production of manual transmission, case and gear. Isuzu Parts also put in P1 billion also for its transmission facility. Asian Transmission Corp. (ATC) invested P378 million for transmission and engine.

TAP, the auto parts manufacturing arm of Toyota Motor Philippines Corp., is not only producing G-type manual transmissions but also constant velocity joints at its plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

TMP vice-president Rommel Gutierrez said its expanded transmission plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna is now operating at full capacity with total output of 180,000 units per year.

The company’s P5.6 billion expansion, which was completed only last year, would double its production output to 330,000 units each year.

The multi-billion Sta. Rosa facility is Toyota’s fourth R-type transmission production plant in the world in addition to Aisin Al Japan,

Aisin Al Thailand and ToyotaKirloskar AutoParts in India. The group also produces transmission assemblies for the Toyota Innova model and the Hilux pick-up truck.

TAP’s transmissions are exported to Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakista and even South Africa.

“TAP has made substantial inroads in the markets. The demand is almost global,” Gutierrez said.

Honda Parts Manufacturing Corp. (HPMC), the parts manufacturing arm of Honda Cars Philippines, also invested in transmission assembly bringing its total investments to P2.89 billion in Laguna Technopark.

HPMC is also producing gears and shafts for transmission using a new technology of laser welding gear.

ATC, the parts manufacturing unit of Mitsubishi Motor Philippines Corp., has a paid-up capital is P420 million.

In 2008, ATC assembled a total 73,503 transmissions of which 9,441 were supplied to MMPC and 64,062 units were exported to Mitsubishi affi liates in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Takeshi Okada, ATC executive vice-president for fi nance, said that since its establishment in 1974, their local sales have been growing relative to the growth of the local automotive industry.

The company’s exports, however, have been experiencing ups and downs depending on the auto market situation abroad.

The current global fi nancial crisis is also adversely affecting ATC’s exports this year.

But these investments were largely driven by the ASEAN Brand to Brand Complementation program in the automotive sector.

The BBC program calls for the assembly of a major automotive part in one ASEAN country with the aim of sharing it with other ASEAN countries for their respective fi nal assembly of a motor vehicle.

Thus, the Japanese car companies investments in the transmission facilities in the country.

I N C E N T I V E S

Okada said that car companies are already exporting transmissions to other countries, but exports are also facing stiff competition especially from the low cost China manufacturers.

“We do not see new incentives to support the existing local automotive industry, while we face tough competition from similar companies in developing countries, mainly from China,” he said.

“With some more incentives, we believe there is a big potential that we can increase our export volume. If the volume will increase, there are more chances that the automotive industry will further grow in the Philippines,” Okada said.

While transmission manufacturing entails a big investment in the automotive sector, the government does not grant other incentives in this sector other than those granted under the Motor Vehicle Development Program (MVDP).

An MVDP participant for the passenger car segment is required to invest $10 million and $8 million for commercial vehicles for parts manufacturing and as such is entitled to income tax holiday incentives and duty-free importation of capital equipment.

T R A N S M I S S I O N H U B

Most transmission assemblies for regional distribution by Japanese car manufacturers are done in the Philippines, making the country a de facto hub for auto transmission manufacturing.

Okada, however, said the establishment of transmission facilities in the country was mainly due to the existence of the free trade agreement in the ASEAN region and not because the country has the established supply chain.

“If we talk about the supply chain for transmission assembly in the country, we cannot easily say that the Philippines is the most preferred country to be a hub of transmission assembly, considering that there are less automotive (parts)-related companies in the country, compared to neighboring countries, like Thailand, Indonesia,” Okada said.

Although the government is promoting automotive parts manufacturing, transmission has remained the only major auto part being produced here. Other auto parts produced here include wiring harness, tires and lead-acid storage batteries.

Nonetheless, Trade and Industry Undersecretary and Board of Investments Managing Head Elmer C. Hernandez cited the transmission investments in the country.

“The Philippines is already being considered as a transmission hub. Majority of the car assemblers have transmission manufacturing facilities with about 90 percent of output being exported worldwide,” Hernandez said.

The Philippines does not only export transmission assemblies but also component parts for transmission (gear parts and shafts). Other countries like Thailand assemble transmission from parts imported from the Philippines, he pointed out.

“The good thing about the transmission projects here is that 90 percent of its production is exported and only 10 percent are being used by local car assemblers.

“Our auto parts exports have been steadily growing and have been making a reasonable dent in the export market to developed countries such as Germany, Japan and the United States,” Hernandez said.

Latest BOI data showed that transmission exports in 2006 reached $141.2 million.

Hernandez believes that there is a potential for the transmission industry to make it big in the international market outside of ASEAN.

“As it is, manufacturers are already exporting to some countries outside of ASEAN and there is no reason why they could not tap other export market,” Hernandez said.

He even cited Toyota for using local transmissions for cars manufactured in Japan.

 

 

Breaking into Pharmaceuticals

October 1, 2009

Breaking into Pharmaceuticals

 

Researchers started in the 1990s to look under the sea for compounds that can be used as cure to our time’s most difficult diseases including cancer. Just now, and not too late still, the Philippines is starting to demonstrate its capability to surface as a strong collaborator in the development of pharmaceuticals.

A forerunner in this is Dr. Baldomero Olivera, awarded Harvard Scientist of the Year in 2007 for his work on conus peptide. A professor of Biology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, he developed a drug from the snail for relieving severe chronic pain as an alternative to morphine that is non-addictive.

It is sold with the brand name PRIALT with ziconotide, the synthetic form of the conopeptide or conotoxin from fish-eating marine snail, as active compound. (The snail’s toxin, when spewed upon a clownfish, leaves the fish motionless). Injected into the spinal cord, the drug, commercialized by Neurex at Menlo Park in California, is being developed into a pill for more convenient oral intake in order to benefit more patients.

More clinical trials in various stages are being conducted on conopeptides since Olivera published the structure of these compounds in the 1980s.

The science community lament that the Philippine government during these times never had the chance to conduct research and development onto commercialization phase of these important conopeptides.

“Since this happened, the University of Utah has been patenting most of the peptides that Dr. Olivera isolated,” said one scientist. With Olivera’s pioneering works, the Marine Science Institute (MSI) has partnered with the University of Utah for the development of more venous snails into drugs.

New compounds are expected to be discovered from another group of venomous snails, turrids. Turrids, the largest family of marine gastropods (snails and slugs belonging to the marine phylum mollusks), are an even richer marine resource with more than 4,000 identified species, according to the seashells of NSW website.

Turrids are much smaller than the cone and are found in the deep seas. Isolating peptides from it requires more of the snails, in the hundreds. The research on these marine compounds, now a major government program, is receiving a P129 million fund from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The fund enables researchers to acquire equipment such as an NMR (nuclear magnetic resource) spectroscopy. An NMR gives information on the number and type of chemical properties of a molecule and is a tool in analyzing protein and nucleic acid structure and function.

The peptides can be a very rich pharmacological resources as Olivera estimates there are 50 to 100 bioactive peptides in one venom or one specie.

This may be the reason why MSI researchers devote so much time working on their equipment, such as on the HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), taking their shift 24 hours daily over six days in a week.

Bureau of Agricultural Research R&D

October 1, 2009

Bureau of Agricultural Research R&D

 

Wild Raspberry

A wild raspberry, sapinit, is eyed to be put in the market by the Bureau of Agricultural Research BAR).

Similar to strawberry and bignay, sapinit can be processed into jam, wine, vinegar and other food products.

BAR is developing technologies to enhance sapinit’s production and processing.

Conservation and development of sapinit, found in Mt. Banahaw, Quezon Province, are also of primary concern.

Sapinit is a spiny, branchy shrub that grows up to a height of 1.3 meters. Its leaves are pinnate or feather-like. It has white-colored flowers. The fruit only measures up to three centimeters in length and 1.8 centimeters in diameter at the fruit base. When ripe, it is orange-red and has a sweet-sour taste. This kind of wild raspberry is widely distributed in open secondary forests from Luzon to Mindanao at low to medium altitude specially where there is abundant soil moisture.

The Quezon Agricultural Experiment Station, DA-Region IV is already processing sapinit into jam and wine at the Research Outreach Station.

DA has identified a potential demonstration farm in Sitio Bangkong Kahoy, Kinabuhayan in Dolores, Quezon where farmers are raising sapinit and are processing this into vinaigrette for salad dressing.

Members of the Rural Improvement Club of Kabuhayan are being trained on sapinit production and processing.

Sapinit’s commercialization is one of BAR’s 13 high-potential projects under the 2KR-Grant Assistance for Underprivileged Farmers co-funded by the Japanese government. Christmas B. de Guzman

Biofertilizer

Who would have thought that farmers can still extract profit from residues?

An innovative, environment-friendly technology to convert sweet sorghum bagasse into bio-organic fertilizer has been developed by researchers from the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research (BIARC), according to Romulo C. Cambaya, BIARC assistant manager.

Bagasse from sweet sorghum is derived from the waste from the extraction of juice. This can be converted into more valuable by-products like biofertilizer.

BIARC’s Soil and Water Research is commercializating this jointly with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU). This resulted in the successful testing of sweet sorghum varieties suitable in Bicol.

One hectare of sweet sorghum plantation yields 50-75 tons of stalks and produces 22,000 to 35,000 tons of bagasse.

Bagasse can be converted into 88-151 bags of organic fertilizer valued at P22,000 to P37,750.

There are six basic steps in biofertilizer production– collecting of sweet sorghum leaves after stalk stripping; gathering of bagasse; shredding of the bagasse using a machine; composting the shredded bagasse (combining the inoculant called compost fungus activator or CFA with bagasse, chicken dung, kakawate); turning over of the compost after two weeks; and harvesting of the bagasse.

This technology uses the Rapid Composting Technology (RCT) which inoculates the substrate along with small amounts of animal manure with trichoderma, a cellulose decomposer fungus. The use of CFA reduces composting time. RCT uses sweet sorghum bagasse, 80%; chicken dung, 15%; kakawate leaves, 5%; and eight packets of CFA (per one ton mixture). A 25,000-kilo sweet sorghum bagasse produces 125 bags of fertilizer which can be sold at P230 per bag, grossing P28,750. Rita T. dela Cruz

Oregano Tea

The Philippines is not a traditional tea-drinking country, but its tea consumption has been increasing as health-conscious consumers choose it for its medicinal benefits.

The Euromonitor International attributed this growth to urban people’s now busier lifestyle and the emerging health and wellness trend.

The Philippines has been importing tea from China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. With this, government has been looking for local raw materials which may substitute imported tea. One of these is the Philippine oregano, a popular cough cure.

The Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC) is commercializing oregano tea under the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR)-funded “Wine, Fermented Juice, and Tea Product Development from Philippine Oregano.”

The high marketability of oregano tea has been apparent in a few agri-trade fairs. Tea enthusiasts who had sampled the product are spreading the news its medicinal powers along with its nice taste.

Sales records show that the product has been gaining local acceptance. There has also been an increasing interest to plant oregano among farmers and investors.

Dr. Estela C. Taño, Quezon Agricultural Experimental Station head, has established the Green Rescue Organic Products Enterprise (GROPE) which now employes women of Tiaong, Quezon in producing oregano tea. Its products have gone through physical, chemical, microbiological, and nutritional tests that ensure their quality. Improved packaging also improved product quality.

GROPE’s raw materials are supplied by the Magsasakang Tagapangalaga ng Kalikasan ng Munting Paraiso and the Southern Luzon State University. It buys the oregano leaves at P10 per kilo. Dealers are also benefiting from the enterprise. GROPE has grossed P500,000 since June 2008. The enterprise has also started producing oregano wine, oregano juices, and oregano vinegar. The newest product, oregano soap, will be introduced in the market as OREG soap which comes from organically-grown oregano plant. product.

Edmon B. Agron

Fighting onion anthracnose

The Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UP-NIMBB) have been developing techniques to combat newly-discovered onion pests associated with the highly-destructive anthracnose in aim to help restore farmers’ higher yield.

Losses from anthracnose can range from 10-100% in different crops.

Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, a plant pathogenic fungus that causes the highly-destructive, largely seed-borne, anthracnose disease, has been detected in a Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR)-funded study by CLSU’s Ronaldo T. Alberto and NIMBB’s Vermando Aquino. The UP- Natural Science Research Institute is a co-funder of the study which characterized the pathogen, enabling formulation of management strategies against the disease.

Researchers earlier thought Colletotrichum gloeosporioides is only a causal organism but found out later that it causes a serious onion disease. The Bureau of Plant Industry has recommended crop rotation and sanitation to fight anthracnose. Alberto and Aquino are recommending the safe and judicious use of fungicides like phenylthalimides, benzimidazole which proved efficient in fighting colletotrichum gloeosporioides.

“The use of Triazole fungicides together with a gibberellin inhibitor could be one of the best approaches in managing the disease because of the high probability of gibberellins produced by G. moniliformis playing an important role in disease development,” reported Alberto and Aquino.

BAR is also running the Onion Production Resource Management System (OPREMS) which involves a custom-built software application system developed specifically for use by the onion sector through a community-based resource management system. This database provides a unified information system applicable for multi-stakeholder development projects in a cross-functional environment.

Edmon B. Agron and Rita T. dela Cruz

Rubber Markers

The Bureau of Agricultural Research has funded the molecular characterization of rubber varieties in an aim to accelerate production of superior planting materials.

The “Development of Molecular Markers for Identification and Authentication of Rubber Clones,” being implemented by the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), is a three-year project in Kabacan, South Cotabato which aims to develop procedures for the reliable and rapid detection and sorting of planting materials.

It is establishing molecular markers for identifying rubber genotypes and is developing a package of technologies for dissemination to rubber stakeholders.

Rubber is an important latex-producingtree crop that has wide range of industrial uses.

A perennial crop, rubber has long breeding and selection cycles. Molecular marker techniques make identification of good rubber breeds easier.

The methodology of this project has been divided into two parts. Study 1 covers the survey, collection, and evaluation of different rubber clones based on the leaf blade, leaf storey, stem, crown, branching and trunk. Study 2 covers the development and screening of molecular marker (SSR and AFLP) protocol for rubber.

The USM reported that 99 out 109 targeted clones have already been characterized. The project which is part of government’s National Rubber Development Program (NRDP) will be completed this year.

Don P. Lejano

25 Sweet Sorghum goods

A total of 25 products have been developed by the Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC) as processed products out of sweet sorghum which could be a good source of revenue for many farmers and entrepreneurs.

These are soups and porridge (mushroom in sorghum soup, sorghum soup, veggie-sorghum soup, sorghum porridge with chicken, sorghum porridge, sorghum-choco porridge, pepper leaves in sorghum, and sorghum con moringa); native delicacies (pastillas de sorghum, sorghum native cake, native cake sorghum with langka, sorghum sapin-sapin, sorghum suman, sorghum-yam native cake, sorghum-squash native cake, sweet sorghum tupig, and sweet sorghum espasol; and meals (burger sorghum, sorghum in salty taste, sorghum in sweet taste, sorghum-veggie in oyster sauce, fresh spring rolls with sorghum, and shanghai sorghum). PAC has also developed a vinegar from the sweet sorghum stalks.

PAC’s initiative is in line with the 4Fs (Food, Fuel, Feed, Fertilizer) program which the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) introduced here.

Dr. Estrella C. Zabala, PAC food technologist, developed the food products with Drs. Fortunato M. Battad and Norman G. de Jesus.
For the flour, sorghum grains are used. Dr. Honorio M. Soriano, Jr., PAC president, said sweet sorghum can be of huge economic value. Even its grains can be processed and used as alternative to rice.

Sweet sorghum can be grown throughout the year or at least twice a year.

“It is the only crop that provides grain and stem which can be used to produce ethanol, sugar syrup, jaggery, flour and other food items,” Soriano said.

With Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) funding, PAC has been conducting R&D on sweet sorghum since 2004 including varietal testings, fertilizer trials, development of sweet sorghum-based food products and animal feed, and ethanol production.

Sweet sorghum grain is higher in protein and lower in fat than corn. Its vitamin content is similar to that of white corn. A 200-gram cooked sorghum grain is a rich source of protein, vitamin B1, B2 niacin. iron, zinc, and provides 14 grams of dietary fiber.

Rita T. dela Cruz

Three Screens

October 1, 2009

Three Screens

 

TV, and now internet. addicts too.
Have you ever hoped you can watch TV or access the internet all the time?
This is precisely how technology forecasters see it. That up to the next two-three decades, every person will have “three screens” near him.
Nielsen’s Three Screen Report in the first quarter indicated that the average person (survey done in America) spends 153 hours monthly on TV at home.

That is on top of three hours of online video at work or at home for 131 million viewers, while 13.4 million viewers watch video at 3.5 hours monthly through their mobile phone, a leap of 52% from the previous year.
AT&T’s Three Screen Digital Lifestyle is integrating communication and entertainment so that they become available just anywhere– on TV, the PC, and the wireless phone. The three mediums may be using three separate and distinct networks at present.

“But in the near future, the lines between networks and access technologies will be blurred. And communications and entertainment services will be delivered to the ‘three screens’ in an integrated and familiar way,” according to AT&T.
With internet’s even increasing ubiquity, more companies are tapping Filipino programmers to work on software specifically for mobile internet applications that can work side by side with the PC. Google, Globe Telecom, and Morph Labs have been holding workshops in an aim to employ people skilled in it.
One Filipino-American, Arnel Guiang of Guiang Corp., is establishing a presence here to support his California-based operations. A big part in Guiang’s incubation work with Microsoft’s mesh.com involves synchronization of files in a person’s desktop and his mobile phone. Mesh is already doing synchronization, file sharing, and common access between one computer and other computers connected to the internet.
But Guiang is working on automatic updating of files between the desktop and the mobile phone.
The company has developed mTools which includes Mobile Home (mHome) which edits and upload files, contacts, settings, appointments and tasks online; mShare, transfering files from mobile phone to another mobile phone, mobile phone to computer, or computer to mobile phone; mSync, to back up files online through Guiang’s web interface on the mobile or on the computer; and VingTalk, a communications platform converging messages for voice and text.
It appears that the problem with developing software for mobile internet is that there are 15 operating systems, unlike the only three operating systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux) in PC, said Guiang. But this is also turning out to be a challenge.
“There are so many technology to build for all the operating systems. There is no one way to do it. The best thing to do is to cover a big share of it, so you can claim 60-70% of the market. It’ s hard to cover 100%. In the US, 15-20% are on iPod, another 20-30% on Blackberry. All the rest is divided evenly. If you cover the two (iPod and Blackberry) alone, you cover a big percentage of the market base. That’s a great challenge,” said Guiang.
He hopes Filipino programmers will get into the mobile software applications, knowing that by 2015, all mobile phones will be internet-capable. Guiang’s market will be enterprise-based mobile phone makers like Nokia, carriers, internet giants, OEMs (original electronics manufacturers), and TIOs (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman). And the Three Screens? That Guiang said will be a real thing for the next 25 years.

Nanotechnology

October 1, 2009

Nanotechnology

 

A nanotechnology program supported by the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) eyes the development of biosensors and chemical sensors as a new research area.

The program identified nanotechnology priorities primarily based on local manpower presence, existing facilities, investment requirements, and domestic need.

Dr. Fortunato B. Sevilla III, University of Sto . Tomas professor, who holds a Ph.D. in Instrumentation and Analytical Science from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, said chemical sensors have many applications in agriculture, food, environment, plant and animal health monitoring, and industrial process control. It can have a large global market placed at $8 billion by 2010.

These can be used to detect pests and pathogens in plantations, toxins and contamintants in food and other processed agricultural products. “(There is a) need for simple, sensitive, and rapid chemical analysis” in these sectors that chemical sensors can do, he said.

Chemical sensors are capable of real time, in situ, and continuous chemical measurement. Sensors, biosensors in particular, have two essential devices– a transducer which converts a type of energy to another, usually electrical, electronic, electro-mechanical, photonic, or photovoltaic for varied uses and a molecular recognition element, a reagent enabling measurement of substances.

Popular sensors in the market are the ph sensor, dissolved oxygen sensor, and blood sugar sensor.

As nanotechnology refers to technologies using materials designed at molecular level of around one to 100 nanometers, sensors can detect chemical contaminants, viruses, bacteria in agriculture and food at a very small amount.

The Marine Science Institute also sees the use of biosensors for increasing sensitivity of disease detection with the more specific binding of an antibody with a targeted antigen. This eliminates the use of less sensitive device like ELISA (enzyme-linked immuno-assay) as the sensitivity of the instrument rises to the picogram (one-trillionth of a gram) level.

The major sectors identified under PCASTRD’s proposed five-year nanotechnology roadmap are food and agriculture (food packaging, nanosensors); health and medicine (nano-diagnostics); energy (photovoltaic solar cells, nanoceramics against corrosion and nanocomposites); ICT and semiconductors (fabrication of nanodevices and nanoprocessors, and synthesis of nanomaterials).

Monoclonal Antibodies

October 1, 2009

Monoclonal Antibodies

 

Many years since monoclonal antibodies have been used as diagnostic tool for cancer, this remains to be a rich ground on which to nurture a research and development fi eld.

 

Researchers at the Marine Science Institute (MSI) are looking at a more advanced technique in the use of monoclonal antibodies for diagnostics called a “sandwich format” which can be an inroad into this still widely fertile area.

Monoclonal antibodies are important in cancer diagnostics and in therapy because of the specifi city it provides in detection and cure as the antibody binds particularly to the targeted cancer cell, thereby leaving the healthy cells unharmed.

A magic bullet for disease cure was fi rst envisioned by German scientist and Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich who was the fi rst to coin the word “chemotherapy” and noted for the development of the fi rst antibacterial drug.

He thought that if only there is a compound that selects precisely an organism that causes the disease, that highlyselective compound could be delivered with a toxin to attack that organism.

The cancerous B cells was then known in the 1970s to produce an antibody which was used to study the structure of antibodies. In 1973, Jerrold Schwaber conceptualized the production of monoclonal antibodies from the hybrid cells of human and house.

But it was yet in 1984 when the invention of the monoclonal antibody has been fi nally attributed to Georges Kohler, Cesar Milstein and Niels Kaj Jerne who then shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology.

 

 

Monoclonal antibodies are produced from the B cells from the spleen of an animal, mouse in particular and later rabbit B cells, that has been immunized with the targeted antigen.

Antigens are parts of disease-causing bacteria, virus, or other microorganisms that not only call for the body’s defense from antibodies but also bind to very specifi c antibodies when they enter usually normal cells.

The B cells are subsequently fused with a cancerous immune cell, myeloma tumor cells, to form hybrid cells or hybridomas. These cancer cells then multiply to produce the desired antibodies in volume.

These antibodies are called monoclonal since they come from only one time of cell, the hybridoma cell, which carry the advantage of two qualities— sustaining growth (a property of myeloma cells) and producing pure antibody a (property of B cells) in large volume, producing identical clones.

A type of engineering, the production of monoclonal antibodies bring out antibodies that are more pure than those from conventional means or from polyclonal antibodies as they come from isolated targeted cells (B cells and myeloma cells).

Monoclonal antibodies can help diagnose leukemia as they can distinguish B cells and T cells (immune system cells belonging to a group of white blood cells).

They can help classify tumors based on defi nite markers and help determine the nature of primary tumor as these can attack antigens such as prostate spe- Antibodies Monoclonal Antibodies cifi c antigen (PSA) associated with prostate cancer. They can help detect metastases (spread of disease in one organ to another) in cancer through immuno-cytological (enabling a phenotypic tumor cell characterization) analysis of bone marrow, tissue aspirates, and lymph nodes.

They can help determine the organ or tissue of origin of metastases.

These instruments of immuno-cytological analysis help spare patients of painful and expensive procedures or speed up the beginning of therapy. In the “sandwich” use of monoclonal antibodies, also called immunometric assay used in determining antigenic substance levels in fl uids, two monoclonal antibodies are used.

It is believed the sandwich format raises the ability of the technique’s sensitivity in cancer detection.

“The sensitivity of total monoclonal sandwich assays for multivalent antigens can be greatly increased if multiple (e.g., at least two) antibodies, each against a different epitope on said antigen, are immobilized,” according to freepatentsonline.com.

Improving mining regulation

September 22, 2009

Industry:

Improving mining regulation

By Rochelle V. Campos

Efforts to reform government processes in granting permits in the mining sector has met good, if not better results.

“Mining firms are more responsive knowing that they can move on with the programs faster. If permits are granted faster, activities could be done on the ground faster,” said Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Economics chief Glenn Noble.

Noble said the MGB, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) attached agency, has been shortening some processes in a transparent manner to hasten implementation and keep tab on priority projects and government targets.

Private mining companies have been clamoring for permitting procedures to be streamlined.

Before, the granting of permits has been taking years. The processing time is now down to five to six months from the submission of requirements.

This is true for environmental clearance certificate (ECC), exploration permit (EP), minerals production sharing agreement (MPSA), and even financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAA) which allows for 100 percent project ownership.

“Sometimes the problem lies not with the MGB. Companies sometimes complain they could not get an endorsement or proof of consultation from local government units (LGU). Also, the people of the locality sometimes mount opposition that could be another factor for the approval to be delayed, Noble explained.

“In some areas, people assert that they should be consulted. The LGU leaders also maintain that since they are voted by the people, it is just rightful that they represent the voice of the people. It really creates a scenario of ambiguity,” he added.

Mining firms have no objection, in general, to the ongoing streamlining of permits and are actually pushing for this.

However, they have a standing concern about the implementation of a new permit – the minerals ore export permit (MOEP), a policy under Administrative Order (AO) 2008-20 requiring all mining firms to secure permit before shipping out minerals overseas.

“This is just a matter of check and balance. We understand that the DENR should implement this. Otherwise it will lose control over mining operations,” said a senior mining official from a top mining firm.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) President Benjamin Philip Romualdez said the MOEP will help MGB to strictly monitor tonnage and grade specifications of mineral ores and concentrates exported to foreign buyers and from which the value of exports are based.

He said it will also prevent technical smuggling and ensure that government gets the excise tax share from mineral resources.

CMP has been reporting since last year about the discrepancies in the import statistics of nickel ores from China with the export figures from the Philippines.

“While there may have been gaps in the declaration based on standard classification in both exporting and importing countries, the re-imposition of the mineral ore export permit is deemed important in looking at where the gaps can be traced and how government will proceed in the process of ensuring that the right amount of taxes are paid and utilized in a transparent manner,” said Romualdez in a statement.

CMP will file several recommendations to the draft implementing rules and regulations that the DENR is crafting for the MOEP.

“We will request (DENR) Secretary (Jose L. Atienza Jr) to designate people to issue permits on the provincial level. We know he’s very busy, and we would not want to put much pressure on the secretary,” said Romualdez.

A day or two of delay in the issuance of MOEP would mean additional cost to the exporting mining firm.

“We don’t want companies to be held up by demurrage. We have to support the secretary, but we also have to ensure the viability of operations of mining companies, said CMP Chairman of the Board Artemio Disini.

“I think all the big mining companies had been honest with their taxes. Despite assurances, we don’t want everything to be centralized with the Office of the Secretary since it could delay operations.”

CMP said these are just a few of the minor refinements that they seek inclusion in the draft IRR as it understands that there is a need to strictly monitor tonnage and the grade specifications of mineral ores and concentrates exported to foreign buyers and from which the value of exports are based.

The MOEP, according to the AO, “will eradicate undervaluation, misdeclaration and red tape in the export of mineral ores and improve the collection of excise tax on minerals’’

It is also expected to monitor the shipment of mineral products to ensure that they are extracted legitimately.

Mining firms and traders used to seek an export clearance from the government before shipping out mineral products. But this requirement was eliminated after the government pursued a policy of export liberalization.

Improving mining regulations is part of an effort to boost mining export revenue in the country which by 2008 is targeted at $1 billion while mining investments up to 2011 is seen to reach to $10 – $13billion.

Financing:Unique Hapinoy convenient store

September 22, 2009
Financing:

Unique Hapinoy convenient store

If micro-financing has to create an impact in rural poverty, innovation must set itself in it.

That’s exactly what MicroVentures Inc. has started to do—do something nobody-else has done before.

In partnership with micro-financing institutions, primarily the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development-Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD-MRI), it has been putting in big value to sari-sari stores, known to be the smallest retail unit in the Philippines.

Its creation? The “Hapinoy” franchise of sari-sari stores in rural areas that are now in Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Caloocan, and Mindoro.

Small as these may be, the sari-sari stores are growing to be more managed, offering more affordable products to the poor, and creating a multiplier impact in the outskirts out of being a more prestigious “branded” market for Filipino-made products.

They are one-of-a kind now, the first in the Philippines, and maybe an innovation even on a global scale.

Who has seen 40,000 small stores getting the same look and receiving a systematic, franchise-like management at the micro-level?

“They also have village stores in India and Vietnam. But these stores are not consolidated (in a systematic way, so) we may even be the first in the world,” said MicroVentures Inc. President Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV.

Hapinoy member-stores get the advantage of cheaper purchases, maybe five percent lower, than the amount where they previously get their goods from.

Through MicroVenture’s aid of getting the goods directly from manufacturers, Hapinoy members get discounts that give them lower cost and higher margin. They can even pass on the discount to consumers.

MicroVentures, in turn, earn a portion from the sale of the goods.

Its other income stream is the services it offers to its partner-manufacturers.

Among the member-suppliers are Unilever (Surf, Sunsilk, Creamsilk), Colgate-Palmolive, Universal Robina Corp., Marca Pina, Monde Nissin (Lucky Me noodles, Skyflakes), Rebisco, Century Pacific ( Argentina , Century Tuna, 555), Nestle (Nescafe, Coffeemate), and Oishi.

Jeannie Trinidad-Bagutua, 36, a Nursing undergraduate, has already been borrowing from CARD-MRI for about two years until MicroVentures came in for more assistance in July 2007.

She started with a loan of P5,000 with CARD-MRI which was payable over six months. She was later able to borrow P40,000 upon her prompt debt payment.

Later on, since July 2006, the CARD-MRI-MicroVentures partnership has proven to be a more powerful synergy in micro-financing as Hapinoy store-owners got trained on more professional business managing.

“I learned things like inventory management. I used to just go to grocery stores, and buy anything I wished. With Hapinoy, we were advised to increase stock of fast-moving goods and refrain from stocking up slower-moving goods,” said Jeannie in Filipino.

Under the Sari-sari Skwela, each lead store owner is taught pricing, business expansion, and goal setting.

“We are asked to have a goal on the income we want to reach. If we don’t reach that, what could be the reasons for the failure?”

Without some form of training, it would have been less likely that Jeannie could really grow to become a “lead” store-owner that she now is. As a lead store owner, she supplies goods to other smaller sari-sari stores totaling now to 100.

Her sales has grown by about 10 times and has started to peak to P20,000 to P30,000 daily. From the 1.5 x 3-meter store that she ran prior to MicroVentures’ entry, her store has expanded to 10 x 2-meter plus her living room, measuring 8 x 4-meter has been transformed into a store too.

This has become possible as she got a credit line from CARD-MRI, Microventures, main microfinance partner and recent Ramon Magsaysay awardee, totaling to P250,000, enough to make her leap faster in her business.

A major supply partnership MicroVentures entered into was with Smart. A Nokia handset can be paid by a Hapinoy store-owner over six months, while cellphone load loans are paid weekly.

Interestingly, lead store owners do not compete with their member sari-sari stores even if lead stores can sell at retail to any customer. However, a lead store head has to sell goods at a price not lower than her member-stores’ price in order to also protect members’ sales.

Aquino said MicroVentures has been able to extend business management and training services to Hapinoy’s lead store owners with the combination of the experience and expertise of the company’s leaders.

Its managing director, Mark Joaquin Ruiz, is chairman of Rags2Riches Inc., co-founder of WhyNot?Forum, and is associated with the Creative Industry Initiative and Kolektib, a Filipino innovation-collaboration group.

Rafael Lopa, chairman of Microventures, Inc., is also executive director of the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation executive assistant to former President Corazon C. Aquino, and Pulse Asia Inc. president.

Manny de Luna, one of MicroVentures board members, was country customer and activation manager of Unilever, was senior officer of multinational companies like Coca Cola, Nestle, and Colgate-Palmolive, and is founder and president of marketing specialist ActivAsia Inc.

The company’s vice chairman, Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, founding president and managing director of CARD-MRI, has given directions to succeed in a field where only those who are dedicated to working with the less-privileged families have ventured.

CARD-MRI is Philippines’ largest microfinance institution and has 770,000-family membership. It has focused on helping sari-sari stores which take up 20 percent of its loan.

The company is really a collaborative effort.

“We have schools and students, volunteers who help us out with different things, ranging from doing our website to our trainings. We believe in open-source. More partners plugged in to the Hapinoy network with the same goal of nation-building,” he said.

Aquino himself is a World Economic Forum-recognized Young Global Leader, ABS-CBN’s “Start-Up” host, and former National Youth Commission chairman.

“It’s not easy. But we help many people in the process,” Aquino said.

The company has mustered financial resources by combining its own board’s investment and loan from CARD-MRI. This makes the venture “asset-light.” or less capital-intensive.

Aside from CARD-MRI, its micro-financing partners are the Taytay sa Kauswagan (with 207,210 clients operating in 490 towns; loan portfolio P864 million; 2005 Ulirang Kabalikat awardee); and Kasagana-Ka.

Another partner-MFI, the Lamac Multi Purpose Cooperative began as a “Samahang Nayon” in 1973, is composed of tenant tillers and small farm-owners, and now has 20,000 members in Carcar, Bogo, Oslob, and Mandaue.

The business strategy combines a host of value-added professional management systems.

These are merchandise consolidation– product sourcing directly from suppliers; branding—the Hapinoy brand lures customers to a “convenient” type of store that offers lower-priced goods; and skills upgrading of lead store owners.

“MicroVentures aims to be the preferred ‘Business Partner of the Poor. ’While big businesses see the so-called ‘bottom of the pyramid’ as a huge market opportunity, we believe this socio-economic segment is creating markets for new business,” according to a company primer.

From just 1,000 stores at its initial sites, the company’s target is to put up 100,000 by 2009.

From the nine lead stores at present, the target is to raise this to 80 lead stores nationwide specially in Cebu, Panay Island, and Mindanao provinces.

There are around 650,000 sari-sari stores all over the Philippines.

Consolidating their functions and resources will bring about increased income out of reduced costs for micro-entrepreneurs, empower women who are the target of these MFIs, and create livelihood in the countryside.

The newly-acquired business management skills of formerly mere “nanay’s” pass on to the children and youth.

Access to wireless communication likewise enhances rural people’s access to information.

The Hapinoy stores also become trading agents for Filipino-made processed agricultural goods.

These also become a promoter of social consciousness with the centers becoming “announcement” centers for local events and seminars through a bulletin board installed on the stores.

“Community centers,” prominent locations with computers and needed facilities for Hapinoy members’ enhanced learning and communication, are also now being put up.

“We’re in a talk with a large (computer) company who’s already setting up the system. The idea is to have each lead store have this community center,” he said.

Because of its evident success, big commercial banks have started talking with the company on potential partnership. As the amount of the loans of the stores are getting bigger, banks are seeing profitability prospects from Hapinoy.

“If we are successful, the Hapinoy members can eventually ‘graduate’ to (borrowing from) commercial banks. So the success of the micro enterprises in Hapinoy is for their benefit as well. We are already in talks with some banks for our training program,” said Aquino.

In the first place, MicroVentures is becoming successful because it saw this profit factor as secondary to helping small entrepreneurs become successful.

“Its a social business enterprise model. Our company subscribes to the double bottomline value — social impact and sustainability,” he said.

It is inspiring a good sum of nation-loving people.

“A number of individuals have come to us and said that they also want to put up social enterprises. We hope to pave the way for more companies such as ours. We believe in the transforming capacity of the social enterprise and how it can help in the fight against poverty.”

 

Infrastructure:RORO Links the Philippine islands

September 22, 2009
Infrastructure:

RORO Links the Philippine islands

By Riza Olchondra

Despite the Philippines’ richness in natural resources and agricultural products, a lack of infrastructure to bridge the archipelago’s many islands has resulted in uneven distribution of wealth.

This results in the ironic situation where both farmers and consumers go hungry. In Manila, for example, shortages in one product is not surprising anymore, while farmers in places like Mindanao often sell nearly at cost in nearby markets because they lose more to spoilage during shipping or don’t have enough stock for a whole container load.

Good thing, then, that Roll On Roll Off (RORO) Project, an infrastructure that is expected to link the different islands of the country.

The Philippine Ports Authority ( PPA) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MIA) are overseeing the project’s operations.

Seeing the ports and systems in place, private company Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) has pioneered a total supply chain service. Under its RORO program farmers can ship their goods, in bulk and retail-size quantities. FRUITS OF VISION

ATS’s 2G0, a supporter of the government’s Nautical Highway project through its RORO service, has also lent its expertise to the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) programs.

ATS has introduced the service to Mindanao fruit growers, among others.

RORO is a service that allows the loading and unloading of self-driven vehicles onto the vessel which results in increased efficiency and speed-to-market.

“We have simplified the process of distribution. With RORO, fruit shippers can reduce their post-harvest losses because we have cut the number of steps it takes to get their produce to the market,” Jerome Santos, sales manager for 2GO Solutions said.

“RORO is key to 2GO’s long-term goal of lowering our country’s total supply chain cost” company Chief Operating Officer Mike Camahort said.

2GO’s RORO was launched in 2004 and has significantly grown since then.

“The reception in the market for this service has been good as it simplifies the way of doing business,” Camahort added.

HUNGER ADDRESSED

2GO also worked with the DA when it launched its Less than a Container Load (LCL) service via the department’s Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) and Bagsakan sa Palengke initiative.

2GO’s LCL service allows farmers to ship small volumes of perishable products as often as needed.

“Through the LCL, 2GO can transport vegetables, poultry, meat, fruits and ice cream with a low minimum requirement of 0.5 cubic meters. It’s very suitable for small and medium businesses,” 2GO president Sabin Aboitiz said.

The company said that even big businesses can benefit from the LCL service.

Through the LCL, farmers can consolidate demand requirements and load them onto the 2GO cold-reefer trucks to be distributed to all areas via ATS’ RORO service.

Through this partnership between 2GO and the DA, farmers are able to send their goods without the need for middlemen which greatly lowers their costs.

Farmers are given a competitive edge in the Luzon market thus empowering them to sell not only at the farm level but at the wholesale level as well.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap stressed the importance of 2GO’s role in the department’s programs to connect farms to markets.

“2GO is very critical because we definitely need a logistics handler to move commodoties. If you don’t partner with the handler, they can give unreasonable rates. 2GO has given us a very competitive offer for the Mindanao growers and we are able to negotiate directly with them” Yap said.

2GO’s supply chain service, launched in January 2007, completed 2GO’s line of services which starts from the release of goods from the manufacturer/producer to the delivery of products to customers and their various selling channels as well. The Cold Chain LCL marked the entry of 2GO’s supply chain into the movement of perishable commodities.

Cold chain, a temperature-controlled supply chain, is an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities under a given temperature range. Cold chains are common in the food and pharmaceutical industries and also some chemical shipments. 2GO is offering this service as a new option for customers to send smaller volumes of cargo that require cold storage. Customers will no longer need to worry about filling up a truck or container first because by sending smaller volumes of their cold chain cargo, they can ship more frequently.

2GO piloted its Cold Chain service in October 2007. Since then, the service has grown continually and now helps expand the distribution reach of players like Mekeni and Creamline, among others.

“Aside from serving corporate customers, we dream of putting the farmers and fishermen in touch with retailers in the markets. We want to make fresh produce and seafoods more affordable for consumers and more profitable for farmers and fishermen,” adds Michelle Aboitiz.

Enabling the Cold Chain services are the CRYO companies – Reefer Van Specialist Inc. (RVSI) and Reefer Trucks Specialist Inc. (RTSI) – which the Aboitiz Transport group came to wholly-own last June 2007.

CRYO has been in the business of refrigerated transport since 1982 and has been a trusted partner of the Aboitiz group for years, making the acquisition strategic.

“CRYO has over a hundred reefer containers and 50 reefer trucks which will be used for 2GO’s Cold Chain LCL. This enables 2GO to offer farmers, fishermen, food manufacturers and processors, and SME’s (small and medium enterprises) a more cost-efficient way of shipping their temperature-controlled cargo,” says 2GO Cold Chain VP-COO Michelle Aboitiz.

CRYO national operations manager Manny Arcilla said the LCL started in Boracay, Cebu, and Davao and will continue in Cagayan, Manila and other ports “to encourage clients to experience the solutions provided by 2GO.”

 

E-Jeepney

September 22, 2009

Industry:

E-Jeepney

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The foray of the electric-jeepneys (e-jeepneys) in Makati and Bacolod has created not just a buzz, but an awareness that the actual use of a pollution-free public transport is possible. The ongoing test run is just the beginning.

This endeavor is a collaborative effort among three visionary groups.

The Philippine Utility Vehicle Inc. (PHUV Inc.), Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines’s (MVPMAP) business unit, assembles the e-jeepneys. The Green Renewable Independent Power Producer (GRIPP), with its Climate Friendly Cities (CFC) Project, is the initial market for the e-jeepneys. The DOEN Foundation, a Dutch organization that funds enterprising and sustainable ventures, is the financier.

But the pivotal role for this project to really takeoff is that of Local Government Units (LGUs).

GRIPP Project Director Yvonne Castro said they have eight units of e-jeepneys on the road already, six more are coming out in February, and six more by April this year.

“We will make sure there will be at least 50 units by the end of 2010,” Castro said.

An E-jeepney is sold to GRIPP at P600,000 per unit by PHUV. It would be distributed by GRIPP through LGUs.

PHUV already has memoranda of agreement to sell the vehicle to the LGUs of Makati, Puerto Princesa, Bacolod and Baguio. GRIPP is also hoping to partner with Pasay, Taguig, Marikina, Quezon City, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Iloilo cities.

The pilot test runs in Makati and Bacolod will ensure the technical, commercial, environmental, and social feasibility of the project.

PHUV Inc. President Ferdi Raquelsantos said the consortium has total committed investments of P350 million.

The consortium is composed of mostly MVPMAP members who share the same desire to do business with a cause. They are Autoliv Seatbelts, Glassworks, MD Juan, Manly Plastics, Nito Seiki, Sanoh Fulton, and Yazaki Torres.

MVPMAP is also now working to help make the project commercially viable and acceptable to the export market.

“There is also a big potential for exports,” Raquelsantos said.

While LGU beneficiaries and end users are expected to run the e-jeepneys only on either short, closed loops or experimental routes not currently serviced by the public utility jeepneys, Raquelsantos foresees e-jeepneys to serve the mobility requirement beyond these limited borders.

“The truth is our orders and inquiries are for large school campuses, resorts, golf and country clubs, villages, farm lands, theme parks, malls and even for mobile ads purposes. But we will prioritize the LGUs as we want to also disperse the technology to the countryside,” he said.

But the environmental benefits of the e-jeepney may be what would really make this PHUV project hot.

“It is very promising as it answers to environmental needs. It will continuously grow its market as people realize its benefits,” he said.

The assembly of e-jeepney will boost the capability of local auto parts manufacturers. Its formulated local content is around 80% already. But the consortium said that localizing the electric motor, which is imported from China, would spell a big difference for the project’s sustainability.

The Board of Investments (BOI) has thrown its support for the e-jeepney, having listed it in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP). Being in the IPP entitles one to tax and fiscal incentives– income tax holiday and preferential duty on the importation of capital equipment.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) has just established a category for electric vehicle– LSV (Low Speed Vehicle) allowing PHUV to register the e-jeepneys and be issued with license plate.

The PHUV, however, has urged LGUs to grant its assistance to e-jeepneys through a special incentives package.

“We hope government could provide incentives like special parking for this special vehicle,” Raquelsantos said.

For now, local patronage of the e-jeepneys is the most that the e-jeepney assembler can hope for.

Aside from the environmental benefits, e-jeepneys will provide increased income to drivers.

Statistics shows that the gross amount of fares that a driver collects in a day is roughly P1,800 to P2,000.

From that, he spends at least P800 on diesel and pays the jeepney owner P400 to P500 average “boundary” or a day’s rent for the passenger jeepney.

On a good day, a driver may go home with P240. On a bad, he can turn out subsidizing the boundary fee.

With the e-jeepneys, the net take home pay of the driver is expected to increase two to three times because of reduced fuel expenses. The pilot tests of e-jeepneys in the various cities are expected to firm up the revenue projections.

If it becomes successful, the e-jeepneys may find its way throughout the country. There must be a way to make it viable because of its environmental benefits which brings the issue beyond mere profit.

It will even provide additional livelihood to over 50,000 direct workers dependent on the local parts making industry for survival.

E-jeepneys would fit the Philippines scenery and terrain. First, it would not let go of the iconic Philippine jeepney. It would still represent the popular local jeepneys– minus the smoke emission and air pollution.

The e-jeepney is powered by rechargeable batteries and could drive for 120 kilometers a day at a maximum speed of 40-kilometers per hour on an eight to 10-hour charge. Like most public jeeps, it can carry a maximum of 14 passengers including the driver.

The e-jeepney can then take on up to an incline with 20% grade and wade in flooded streets of up to one foot in water level. That is the advantage of the local design. The e-jeepney can take on local road conditions unique only to the Philippines.

Perhaps, the e-jeepney is the answer to the local parts industry’s search for a truly Pinoy vehicle.

It will complement MVPMAP’s other projects such as the PhUV (Philippine utility vehicle) itself, PUJ (public utility jeep) refleeting program, and the One-Brand Project.

“It proves that given the opportunity and the resources, the Pinoy can design and build a vehicle that is truly Filipino in character,” Raquelsantos said.

When the project soon shifts to full throttle, he said, “This we hope will make the Philippines the leader in the electric vehicle industry in this part of Asia.”

The LTO’s agreement to issue a license plate to the e-jeepney has enabled PHUV to begin the next phase of the program, the mass production of electric-powered jeepneys.

PHUV is now planning to include the smaller electric tricycles in its product lineup of locally-assembled electric vehicles.

“Available in three different body configurations, the e-trikes will be the clean alternative for mass transport in the countryside. We will soon submit a proposal to some LGUs and transport cooperatives for the e-trikes to replace the gasoline-powered tricycles in their localities as part of our comprehensive Climate Friendly Cities Program,” he added.

The e-jeepney costs P625,000, the e-trike, P250,000.

Aside from trying to mitigate climate change’s effects, the e-jeepney also helps ease solid waste management problems.

GRIPP’s initiative to initially field a few e-jeepney forms part of a program on sustainable transport, waste management, and renewable energy-based technologies.

Its other components are the establishment of a depot as a charging station and maintenance center for the fleet and a power plant consisting of a generator, a solid anaerobic biodigester and a gas engine from which electricity will be generated from organic wastes collected from the commercial food establishments and wet markets of the city.

The e-jeepneys will then go to an electric depot – an ‘alternative to the gas station’ – where their batteries will be recharged overnight for at least a period of eight hours.

This is GRIPP’s way of demonstrating that there are climate-friendly alternatives to the current polluting modes of public transportation in the country.

During the launch of the project, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has expressed strong support for the promotion of this clean vehicle technology considering the volume of vehicles of around 777,000 during weekdays plying the Central Business District in Makati. These diesel-fed jeepneys contribute largely to the kind of air the city has.

“I believe the electric jeepney is an innovative way of addressing two major concerns of cities – pollution and waste management,” Binay said.

He said the city is moving toward creating a business climate that gives priority to clean air and quality of life along with attractive tax rates, infrastructure, and incentives.

“If we can further improve the air quality in the country’s financial district, then we are literally improving the climate for business, and more business translates into more revenues to fund our programs and innovations in education, health care, and social services,” he said.

Bacolod Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia noted that the coming of the e-jeepneys will project the city’s image for “openness to new ideas and economic dynamism” that will further enhance Bacolod’s image as the Most Business-Friendly City in the Visayas.

Nobel prize winning scientist Dr. Daniel Kammen said the Philippines’ e-jeepney project has the biggest impact on the transport industry in the future.

If the CFC Program is replicated in other mega cities, and vehicle sharing will be a norm in the Philippines, Kame said that the envisioned 80% reduction in carbon dioxide can be realized.

Cooperatives as venture capitalists

September 22, 2009

Cooperatives as venture capitalists

Ever heard of a cooperative that finances startup technologies?

Maybe not, at least in the PHilippines. But this is how Dr. Virginia A. Teodosio described cooperatives to be capable of doing given opportunities to serve its members in rural areas.

Among what they are eyeing to finance now are telemedicine and perhaps solar energy and malunggay biodiesel production.

“My plan is to connect Ateneo’s telemedicine, solar and water projects with the cooperative movement because coops can be investors, said Teodosio, a professor at the University of the Philippines-School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP-Solair).

“Cooperative financing can work in biotech. These women (cooperative) leaders welcome telemedicine because the cooperative movement is for the community. In Tabuk (Kalinga), they have many medical missions, so (the need for) telemedicine.”

What may be surprising, although this claim may have its own proof, is cooperatives have lots of disposable money to finance technology incubation.

“I’m energized because I’ve seen (the value of these cooperatives). That’s worth half a trillion. You just have to guide them. You have to capture their imagination,” she said.

One of Teodosio’s plans is to link telemedicine development at Ateneo’s Innovation Center led by Dr. Gregory L. Tangonan with cooperatives in Tabuk in Kalinga, in Batangas or in Quezon and with hospital cooperatives owned by doctors and nurses.

“Our doctors won’t have to leave the country. The hospital is owned by them.”

These cooperative leaders, traditionally leaders of their own barangays, are also interested in propagating malunggay for its application as a food nutrition enhancer and as a pharmaceutical product.

They may work too with Secura International which is pushing for a P1 billion malunggay biodiesel facility.

Cooperatives have a potential for financing technology at startup stage as they have the means to accumulate huge funds through several means.

“Collective action through cooperatives is one of the most important and yet least recognized dimensions of Philippine development. Overlooking their achievement reflects a failure to interrelate concepts of social capital and institutional development,” according to Teodosio.

Cooperatives gain capital by requiring members to learn first how to save before they are even allowed to borrow.

Cooperatives also earn from interest on loans as much as banks do. They can get funding from big banks like Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). They retail these funds to members or to community businesses.

Globally, the largest 300 cooperatives, believed to be part of the International Cooperative Alliance, recorded a $1 trillion revenue as of 2004, according to a Social Weather Station (SWS) publication of Teodosio.

She co-wrote this SWS book with Linda Luz Guerrero and Jeanette Ureta.

In the Philippines, cooperatives totaled to 30,000, according to the Cooperative Development Authority’s (CDA) 2004 annual report.

However, only a total of 8,000 cooperatives have been monitored for their financial record. Share capital paid by members totaled to P3.3 billion while their savings was at P6.7 billion; and loans, P297.8 million.

While there are some mass-based organizations that lobby for policy reforms with regard to how economic progress can be achieved, it is important to determine whose voice really counts, Teodosio said.

And this voice must be those who know the plight of the least economically privileged economically in the society who have at the same time shown proof on how upliftment of the poor is possible.

That has been demonstrated by cooperatives which have been effecting pockets of development in rural areas.

An SWS survey indicated that 63% of 1,000 cooperative members are in rural areas, and 74% belong to the D socio-economic class.

Cooperatives help small entrepreneurs in the provinces by lending to them at an interest rate lower than the interest rate they could get from loansharks such as the “Bumbays” that are lending at usurious “five-six” terms.

“Cooperatives don’t impose charges similar to bank charges. We help small entrepreneurs. We lend for farmers’ purchase of fertilizers and for their daily needs,” said Florence Pagcayan of the Tabuk Multi Purpose Cooperative Inc. (TAMPCO) in Tabuk, Kalinga.

Interest is 12-15% including service charges for a salary loan which can be reasonable enough as rural banks charge as much as 24% interest. Terms are four to five months just like a crop loan for rice and corn, 10 months, and 24 months.

Perhaps LBP can lend at a lower interest rate, but the charges too are significantly high if one is delayed in paying. But of course LBP also lends through its conduit cooperatives who pass on LBP’s rate at an additional spread.

At certain circumstances, TAMPCO, which started in 1983, lends to members in good standing without interest, but that is also because members are required to save in the cooperative fund first even before borrowing.

If one has a P60,000 deposit, he can borrow up to four times this deposit.

Pagcayan at one time has been able to borrow P150,000. Members at TAMPCO that have saved big enough can borrow as much as P1 to P2 million for as long a they have a collateral such as a land title.

One can borrow for his daily needs, for a business capital, or for his child’s education.

TAMPCO has been registering around P20 million income per year and regularly declares dividends to members. A members’ dividend income comes from his earnings from his share capital, 40%, while 60% comes from the cooperatives’ earnings from operations (lending and investments).

At a certain year, Pagcayan, who had once established a furniture and bakery business, earned P15,000 in dividend income.

Members also get the benefit of a mortuary aid that can amount to P55,000, hospitalization aid which can be claimed by up to three times a year, a medical consultation aid, and an educational loan of up to P4,000 per semester.

Salary loan of employee-members can amount to five times of one’s monthly wage.

TAMPCO has become profitable enough to build its own 60-person capacity hotel which is used as a seminar site for government clients such as the Department of Agriculture.

At the Infanta Credit and Development Cooperative (ICDC), a member and officer, Wilma Coronacion, has been able to borrow up to P300,000 to P400,000.

But cooperatives do get vulnerable to financial failures if managing funds err. In its effort once to help the poor, promote membership, and raise earnings, ICDC lost from its lending to individuals who never paid.

“We gave them debts even if they never had a share capital. We failed in not having investigated them,” said Coronacion.

But ICDC also learned its lessons from there and implemented reforms in lending.

Cooperatives have advantages over other lending institutions particularly as it does not pay for withholding tax, according to a cooperative member. It can raise funds from other institutions such as from NATCO (National Confederation of Cooperatives).

ICDC now owns two buildings one of which houses its office. It also owns a warehouse, a water purifying business, and a drug store. It had an original capital from a few members’ share of P1,116 when it was founded in 1967. It now has P78 million in asset.

The cooperative system works in the country because of the Filipino culture on “bayanihan,” the concept of helping at all costs a neighbor in the community who is in need.

Cooperatives have made a positive impact all over the world for the past 200 years, Teodosio said. This is specially true in countries where governments have subsidized it.

Consumer cooperatives in West Germany and Japan have been instruments of wealth reform there by the influential. New Zealand’s dairy farmers, 96% of whom are cooperative members, make up the sixth largest dairy-producing country in the world.

Agriculture has seen progress through cooperatives among coffee farmers in Africa, dairy farmers in India, and beef producers in Argentina and Brazil. In Italy, a federation of cooperatives, Emilia Romagna, has 8,000 primary cooperatives engaged in food retail and is present in 155 centers with six million members.

Unlike in a corporate environment where majority of the corporate stock is owned by a family, a cooperative is member-owned.

“It’s only through cooperatives that you can narrow the gap between the rich and the poor– spread the wealth. This is not just simply wealth creation. Cooperatives are there to serve the people, not just to make money. They need the surplus, but they will never use it just to do business but do what’s good for the community,” she said.

Teodosio herself founded the University of the Philippines housing cooperative which has been able to build teachers’ houses at 30 % cheaper cost. Building cooperatives can also be economically beneficial for other professions.

“The Associated Press is a cooperative. The National Times of Thailand is a cooperative. Ninety-nine percent of farmers in Japan are cooperative members. In the past, no bank went to the countryside. There were only savings and credit cooperatives. “

Despite its advantages and its presence in the rural areas where it could make the most help on poverty reduction, cooperatives in the Philippines do have to be improved.

“A cooperative must apply systems of innovation, create its own knowledge base, exploit business opportunities and learn to use networks of interconnected instiutitons,” said the SWS report.

The should provide more people with more training on cooperativism and should advance this learning in formal school curriculum from grade school to college.

“CDA should not only require reports but should provide trading and technical assistance such as accounting.

The government should build on the strengths inherent in cooperatives.

These are cooperatives’ ability to upholding people’s right to participate and converting economic activities into forms of social ownership.

Filipinos are global software leaders

September 21, 2009

Filipinos are Global Software Leaders

 Who would have thought Filipinos can emerge internationally renowned in a hightechnology area? A few years back, this was doubtful since any skilled Filipino’s dream is to find greener pastures abroad. But as genius knows no race, Filipinos have come out living up to this status. Among them, Gurango Software’s Quezon City-based software engineers and Cebu-based Filipinos forming Exist Global, an engineering and software services firm, are proving to be a challenge to software developers elsewhere in the world. Already keeping a US office, Gurango Software Corp. (GSC) further expanded its global market as it bought last year Absalom Systems, making its presence in South Africa, Singapore, and Australia. It now has more than 400 clients globally including those in US, Europe, and the Middle East. Exist Global, led by successful serial entrepreneur Winston Damarillo, is acknowledged as a global player open source software development. Damarillo’s latest founded company, Morph Labs Inc. is a top enabler of Software as a Service (SaaS) which is projected to have an industry value of $28 billion or 23% of US’s $120 billion software market by 2010, according to RBC Capital. SaaS has the capacity to draw immense demand growth with software delivered more cheaply via the internet or through subscription or rental rather than as an expensive product. Founded in 2003, GSC is a developer and distributor of software under Microsoft Dynamics platform. It was Microsoft Business Solution’s first Manila-based global software distributor for industry-specific business applications. The company has started to become known globally as its people led by Joey Gurango, who led a team of developers of Microsoft Excel, were being recognized for being Microsoft’s top Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner of the Year. The company has made it to Microsoft Dynamics (MD) President’s Club, an honor given to less than five percent of MD’s partners globally. Gurango finds accomplishment in having reversed the trend of multinational companies’ (like IBM, Intel) setting up shop in the Philippines as Philippines-headquartered GSC has started putting up offices in foreign countries. That made it the first home-grown multinational Filipino software company. Exist Global was awarded in 2006 as Asia’s Top 100 Innovators and Top 20 Open Source Innovators of the Red Herring, a California magazine for high-technology ventures. Exist’s customer-focused approach to strategic software development for start-up companies, enterprises, and independent software vendors (ISVs) around the world has earned it numerous awards, including ZDNet Asia’s Top 10 Techno Visionaries Award and Red Herring’s 100 Most Promising Companies in Asia. Damarillo, an internationally-known advocate and pioneer since early 2000’s of open source software development, prides himself of having proven that the software companies he founded were found valuable by big companies, and these have earned the trust of Fortune 500 companies. His Gluecode Software, an open source company, was bought by IBM in 2005 which was followed by the acquisition of Iona Technologies of another company he founded, LogicBlaze. Damarillo has merged his company with another global company that maximized synergy in operations. Simula Labs is now DevZuz, a Marina del Rey-based open source marketplace firm, that Exist Global acquired. It is not surprising how GSC and Exist Global have been making a global name for the Filipino talent since they believe in them. Gurango thinks that if only there are available jobs in the Philippines, systems analysts or software engineers will no longer leave the country for higher-paying jobs in Japan, Singapore, and Australia where wage is three to four times more than they receive here. “Given a choice, most Filipinos will stay here. Most of them leave because they don’t have a choice,” he said. “But if the difference (in salary) is just one-third or 25% (of what they’ll receive abroad) where the cost of living is three times higher, it doesn’t make economic sense (to go abroad),” he said. In Damarillo’s experience, while Exist Global, renamed from Exist Engineering, had experienced several threats of being closed down, his team of Filipino engineers who are the best in Java and in open source helped made it survive. To him, being listed by Red Herring among global software players tells of Filipinos’ ability for ingenuity, industry, and innovation. “They (Red Herring) mention that our biggest challenge is competing against IBM, Red Hat and the big Indian firms. First of all, that’s already something to be proud about,” he said. As technology consultant IDC predicted in its 2008 forecast that disruptive technologies like SaaS will be mainstreamed this year, Damarillo believes his pioneering companies will continue growing. “The key to Exist’s long-term success lies in driving cost down but improving our ability to innovate. This is not an easy task, but I believe the company is up to it.” Industry authorities believe the Philippines should really focus on software development where it can have a niche in an industry where value-added is multiplied by intellectual property (IP). “The business of software is unique –after the product is developed, the cost of producing the second copy, and the one-hundredth copy or the one-thousandth copy is virtually nothing. It makes good sense to market your software product on a large scale,” said Gurango. Software development, is the “highest-paid” high technology segment, according to Damarillo. Skills-intensive, it does not require huge capitalization but yields exponential growth from repeated earnings from IP license sale. The software industry in the Philippines is believed to face tremendous growth as market for software solutions and application development is at $500 billion, according to a Gartner report. However, Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) President Fermin Taruc, also GSC managing director, said unity is a factor to Filipino software firms’ capturing a bigger market. “ It will take a concerted effort among all players to sell the Philippines as an outsourcing hub for software development,” he said. Now with 110 members, PSIA companies grossed an estimated $300 million in 2007. Around 80% of this is from export. Yet, that revenue obviously has immense room for growth with software’s growing global value. To promote Philippine software abroad, PSIA has embarked on programs on skills development, export promotion, intellectual property protection, and stimulation of domestic demand. Taruc, who was once president of Jupiter Systems Inc. (JSI) and awardee of e-Champion for business development in software development industry, said PSIA has been succeeding in beefing up software specialists in the country which has reached to 73,000 as of December 2007. The PSIA-initiated “Fly High” software roadmap, implemented in 2005, targets hiring of 100,000 software workers by 2010. While many factors has led to the founding of technology incubators in the country, Taruc said PSIA’s advocacy on better local environment for software engineers also helped put up incubators in the country like that of Ayala Technology Business Incubator (TBI). Ayala TBI now keeps several software start-ups that are engaged in software research and development (R&D). Among these are AET Tech Astra Phils. Inc., Education and Development Initiative, Technologies Inc., and Systema Computer Solutions Corp. Financing from angel investors is also coming into software-focused small and medium enterprises while programs like Ayala Foundation’s PESO (Philippine Emerging Startup Open) have been identifying future technology leaders through its recognition program. There are reasons why developed countries are opting to outsource software development. Fortune 500 companies, according to a Blast Asia study, find this rational due to scarcity in internationally competitive software experts, due to a need to always advance IT skills and tools, and due to the necessity of cutting cost specially amid a recession. The US accounts for the largest 40% share of software products followed by Europe with a 38% share, and Japan, 12%. The Philippines’ prospect of gaining part of the world’s software development market is being heightened by India ’s rising cost. “The rising pay scale may dull India’s IT outsourcing industry… IT services is getting more and more expensive day by day,” said the Blast Asia. India’s share in outsourcing work was accounted at 38%; China, 6%; Mexico, Ireland, and Canada, 5% each; Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, and Singapore, 4%. The Philippines’ difficulty is in keeping up with India’s huge numerous software companies doing offshore work and the many Indian firms who have Level 5 Carnegie Mellon Universities Capability Maturity Model certification. The country’s software developers obviously have to obtain these certifications in order to keep ahead of a growing number of specialists from potentially competing countries China and Vietnam. Still, the hope of the country’s eating up a larger share of the software pie is apparent with Japanese firms’ long-term presence in the country for their software development. Among those here for their software needs are Advance World Systems, Inc., Astra (Philippines), Inc., Canon Information Technologies, Inc., Cybertech, Fujitsu Ten Solutions, Inc., WeServ Systems International, Inc., J-SYS Philippines, Inc., NEC Telecom Software Philippines, Inc., and Tsukiden Software. With more companies advancing in their quality assurance and global certification, it is not too incredulous after all that the country is now said to be third as a software destination in Asia. To intensify such local strength, several programs have to be undertaken, according to a Canadian International Development Agency Report. Among these are a review on the curriculum on the country’s Information Technology courses, establishment of IT competency centers, strengthening of companies’ system for CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) certification, support on the local productivity tool software (time tracker, progress reporting), and strengthening of linkage between local and international software developers and their markets.

Water Infrastructure: A Dire Need

September 18, 2009

 

Water Infrastructure: A Dire Need 

  By Melody M. Aguiba

Five years ago, when Abigail’s family moved to a subdivision in Montalban, one of the things they enjoyed the most at their new house was the splurge of strong water coming out of the faucet.

Developed by Sta. Lucia, the subdivision sourced water underground. It gave out water 24-7 (24 hours, seven days) and at a pressure the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) would have definitely approved.

But it wasn’t too long until the Sta. Lucia housing’s water flow came in trickles and then in drips. Three years after, water supply visited the houses just every other day.

Before water flow gets to dark brown from the occasionally tainted lucid water, Sta. Lucia, along with any other commercial firm, will no longer be allowed to tap water underground.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) just issued a ban on water extraction from deep wells all over Metro Manila and in all Rizal towns.

Of course issuance of this ban under NWRB’s amended Resolution 904 is just one thing. Enforcement of this prohibition is another.

And no matter how ordinary people ignore it, enforcement is obviously upon any person who drinks water or who bathes with it.

For groundwater exhaustion and the seeping in of untreated waste water into the aquifer and into the seas poses serious damage on human health and the environment.

A Department of Health (DOH) study indicated that water from deep wells in certain Metro Manila areas contain critical levels of lead, fluoride, mercury, aluminum, cyanide, arsenic, boron, manganese, and other chemicals. These harmful elements are found to harm the nervous system and disrupt other bodily functions like that of the kidney and of the reproductive system and to cause cancer. The

National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) reported that Metro Manila, based on a Manila South Harbor survey, is sinking (also called land subsidence) as sea level has been rising at a rate of two to nine million millimeters per year.

Such is blamed on excessive exhaustion of groundwater. Land subsidence can cause damage to infrastructure—buildings, bridges, highways. Worse, it can cause openings or cracks on the ground.

Also occurring with this phenomenon is salty water’s intrusion into groundwater, deterioration of fault lines, increasing flood depths and longer time for floods to subside, and increase in high tides.

An alternative to the excessive use of groundwater is tapping of surface water (rivers, lakes) which is the mandate of MWSS.

But there is another serious water concern the Philippines has to work on—the treatment of waste water.

Water consumption in the Philippine is placed at a rate of one cubic meter (cu.m., 1,000 liters) per household per day, or around 15 million cubic meters per household daily or 5.48 billion cu.m. yearly.

With such water volume used, polluted water is pouring on Philippine rivers uncontrollably.

While developed countries like the United States and Japan have been incorporating infrastructures on waste water treatment into city planning, the Philippines has been taking a piecemeal approach to this.

It is estimated that only three to seven percent of households in Metro Manila have waste water connected to sewage treatment plant (STP).

As the Clean Water Act (CWA) or Republic Act 9275 mandates the drafting of the National Sewerage and Septage Management Program (NSSMP), the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) is tapping a World Bank aid on this plan.

The CWA gave government agencies only 12 months to come up with this NSSMP. And it’s almost five years since CWA was passed in 2 004, but the actual NSSMP drafting has yet to start.

As the grand plan is still being awaited, an STP specialist, Engr. Andrew T. Montalbo, Eco System Technologies Inc. chief operating officer, said that integrating STPs into LGUs’ plans is a cost-effective option. This can make this common, cost-shared facility cheaper for everybody.

” We should go for big centralized treatment plants in cities which will have a greater regenerating impact on water flow on rivers and groundwater,” he said.

The CWA mandates the planning of a sewerage (drainage facilities for rainwater and household water, in general) and septage (septic tanks and sewage or human waste storage facilities) program in a national aim to treat pollution-causing water before this is thrown off to the environment.

Since concern for the environment is the least priority in the Philippines, pollution has already caused a tremendous strain on the environment.

Around 55 to 60% of waste water in the country is estimated to come from households while the rest comes from industries including agriculture.

On the industry side, the battle to control discharge of polluting water on rivers may already be advancing even on a slow pace, according to Engr. Jacinto S. Orcullo, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-National Capital Region (NCR) supervising environmental management specialist.

NCR only covers eight towns and cities Las Pinas, Paranaque, Valenzuela, Navotas, Malabon, San Juan, Mandaluyong, and Makati.

Of the 743 establishments in NCR that are potentially contributing to water pollution, only 400 have discharge permits, a permit to throw to the environment treated effluent (water discharge from known source). Of those that have discharge permits, 144 are connected to the Manila Water Magallanes STP in Makati; 42 get their waste water treated at the Rockwell STP; and nine at a Greenfield Development STP.

Other companies that do not have discharge permits may have pending cases with the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) which issues cease and desist order (CDO) on companies discharging non-compliant water. In some cases, companies issued with CDO that do not want to invest in treatment plants already shut down permanently.

But a serious concern now is on other non-compliant establishments that discharge not more than 30 cubic meters (cu.m.) per day like fast foods which have proliferated in Metro Manila.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now resolving questions on whether to exempt these establishments from the water effluent standard since previous regulations exempt them from it. Because of this previous rule, DENR may still issue closure orders on these small firms. But as soon as they’re able to put up treatment facilities, they can re-operate without having to pay penalties.

“It will be useless to regulate the big ones if you don’t regulate those that discharge less than 30 cubic meters per day,” said a DENR official. DENR is presently amending department administrative orders 34 and 35 which include resolution on this.

The government specifically monitors five major water quality aspects of effluents (water discharge from known sources).

The first is the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), the amount of oxygen required for the decomposition of organic matter from a pollution source which should be not more than 50 milligrams (MG) per liter. The next is total suspended solids (TSS), measure of undissolved solid particles in water such as silt, decaying plant and animal matter, and domestic and industrial wastes. TSS should not be more than 70 MG per liter. The rest are acidity which should be at 6.5 ph; color which should be at 150 units; and oil and grease, not more than five MG per liter.

Amid efforts on regulating water discharge in the Philippines, one glaring problem comes out prominently– the fragmentation of agencies regulating waste water in the Philippines.

While EMB-NCR monitors eight towns, waste water from majority of the establishments in Metro Manila and nearby regions is being monitored by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

In the provinces, local government units (LGUs) are tasked to monitor waste water from households while regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, particularly EMB, have jurisdiction over industries.

Under section 8 of the CWA, LGUs and related agencies are mandated within five years to “connect sewage lines to subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers, hotels, sports and recreational facilities, hospitals, market places, public buildings, industrial complex… and households to available sewerage systems” so that polluting water can be treated.

“Obviously, LGUs have not yet been taking the law seriously,” said a DENR official.

The government also apparently has to work out on a consolidated national report on compliance with effluent standards of industries, even those from the provinces.

An EMB official said that such national report may be available with the private sector– the Pollution Control Association of the Philippines or the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

The absence of such monitoring report obviously makes regulation of effluent discharge difficult. The enforcement of effluent standards in the Philippines is faced with other difficult problems.

While certain condominiums may be willing to put up treatment plants, some of these condominiums in Metro Manila are located in cramped areas within narrow roads where there are barely space to make way for treatment plants.

And with the numerous squatter communities crowding Metro Manila, one can only tell how much water pollution all of these are bringing.

“For squatters situated near rivers, we know where their human waste is going. But what about squatters in landlocked areas, where do you think do their feces go?” said a government official.

With a weak enforcement of water quality laws, it is not surprising why coliform bacteria is contaminating Metro Manila’s drinking water wells. And the Department of Health reports that 12 Filipinos, mostly children, die each day from diarrhea.

Moreover, the Philippines , courtesy of the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando rivers, also gets the notoriety of being on the Blacksmith Institute’s “World’s Most Polluted Places.”

As of 2005, the Meycauayan River had a BOD of 119.9 MG per liter, for above what is acceptable.

This happened as industrial waste from tanneries, gold, and precious metals refineries, waste from lead recycling facilities and other industries, and the rest of household waste are dumped in the rivers without regard for existing laws.

It is unthinkable that these river systems are a source of drinking water for 250,000 people in the area. Its pollution is also a reason why nearby residents also complain of many health problems such as respiratory illnesses and headaches.

The lack of compliance to the country’s water standards has already left Pasig River incapable of growing aquatic resources for food while Laguna Lake’s fishes like tilapia and dalag contain heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, and lead.

Filipinos are Global Software Leaders

September 18, 2009

Filipinos are Global Software Leaders

Who would have thought Filipinos can emerge internationally renowned in a hightechnology area?

A few years back, this was doubtful since any skilled Filipino’s dream is to find greener pastures abroad. But as genius knows no race, Filipinos have come out living up to this status.

Among them, Gurango Software’s Quezon City-based software engineers and Cebu-based Filipinos forming Exist Global, an engineering and software services firm, are proving to be a challenge to software developers elsewhere in the world.

Already keeping a US office, Gurango Software Corp. (GSC) further expanded its global market as it bought last year Absalom Systems, making its presence in South Africa, Singapore, and Australia. It now has more than 400 clients globally including those in US, Europe, and the Middle East.

Exist Global, led by successful serial entrepreneur Winston Damarillo, is acknowledged as a global player open source software development.

Damarillo’s latest founded company, Morph Labs Inc. is a top enabler of Software as a Service (SaaS) which is projected to have an industry value of $28 billion or 23% of US’s $120 billion software market by 2010, according to RBC Capital.

SaaS has the capacity to draw immense demand growth with software delivered more cheaply via the internet or through subscription or rental rather than as an expensive product.

Founded in 2003, GSC is a developer and distributor of software under Microsoft Dynamics platform. It was Microsoft Business Solution’s first Manila-based global software distributor for industry-specific business applications. The company has started to become known globally as its people led by Joey Gurango, who led a team of developers of Microsoft Excel, were being recognized for being Microsoft’s top Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner of the Year.

The company has made it to Microsoft Dynamics (MD) President’s Club, an honor given to less than five percent of MD’s partners globally. Gurango finds accomplishment in having reversed the trend of multinational companies’ (like IBM, Intel) setting up shop in the Philippines as Philippines-headquartered GSC has started putting up offices in foreign countries. That made it the first home-grown multinational Filipino software company.

Exist Global was awarded in 2006 as Asia’s Top 100 Innovators and Top 20 Open Source Innovators of the Red Herring, a California magazine for high-technology ventures.

Exist’s customer-focused approach to strategic software development for start-up companies, enterprises, and independent software vendors (ISVs) around the world has earned it numerous awards, including ZDNet Asia’s Top 10 Techno Visionaries Award and Red Herring’s 100 Most Promising Companies in Asia.

Damarillo, an internationally-known advocate and pioneer since early 2000’s of open source software development, prides himself of having proven that the software companies he founded were found valuable by big companies, and these have earned the trust of Fortune 500 companies.

His Gluecode Software, an open source company, was bought by IBM in 2005 which was followed by the acquisition of Iona Technologies of another company he founded, LogicBlaze.

Damarillo has merged his company with another global company that maximized synergy in operations. Simula Labs is now DevZuz, a Marina del Rey-based open source marketplace firm, that Exist Global acquired.

It is not surprising how GSC and Exist Global have been making a global name for the Filipino talent since they believe in them.

Gurango thinks that if only there are available jobs in the Philippines, systems analysts or software engineers will no longer leave the country for higher-paying jobs in Japan, Singapore, and Australia where wage is three to four times more than they receive here.

“Given a choice, most Filipinos will stay here. Most of them leave because they don’t have a choice,” he said. “But if the difference (in salary) is just one-third or 25% (of what they’ll receive abroad) where the cost of living is three times higher, it doesn’t make economic sense (to go abroad),” he said.

In Damarillo’s experience, while Exist Global, renamed from Exist Engineering, had experienced several threats of being closed down, his team of Filipino engineers who are the best in Java and in open source helped made it survive.

To him, being listed by Red Herring among global software players tells of Filipinos’ ability for ingenuity, industry, and innovation.

“They (Red Herring) mention that our biggest challenge is competing against IBM, Red Hat and the big Indian firms. First of all, that’s already something to be proud about,” he said.

As technology consultant IDC predicted in its 2008 forecast that disruptive technologies like SaaS will be mainstreamed this year, Damarillo believes his pioneering companies will continue growing.

“The key to Exist’s long-term success lies in driving cost down but improving our ability to innovate. This is not an easy task, but I believe the company is up to it.”

Industry authorities believe the Philippines should really focus on software development where it can have a niche in an industry where value-added is multiplied by intellectual property (IP).

“The business of software is unique –after the product is developed, the cost of producing the second copy, and the one-hundredth copy or the one-thousandth copy is virtually nothing. It makes good sense to market your software product on a large scale,” said Gurango.

Software development, is the “highest-paid” high technology segment, according to Damarillo. Skills-intensive, it does not require huge capitalization but yields exponential growth from repeated earnings from IP license sale.

The software industry in the Philippines is believed to face tremendous growth as market for software solutions and application development is at $500 billion, according to a Gartner report.

However, Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) President Fermin Taruc, also GSC managing director, said unity is a factor to Filipino software firms’ capturing a bigger market.

” It will take a concerted effort among all players to sell the Philippines as an outsourcing hub for software development,” he said.

Now with 110 members, PSIA companies grossed an estimated $300 million in 2007. Around 80% of this is from export. Yet, that revenue obviously has immense room for growth with software’s growing global value.

To promote Philippine software abroad, PSIA has embarked on programs on skills development, export promotion, intellectual property protection, and stimulation of domestic demand.

Taruc, who was once president of Jupiter Systems Inc. (JSI) and awardee of e-Champion for business development in software development industry, said PSIA has been succeeding in beefing up software specialists in the country which has reached to 73,000 as of December 2007.

The PSIA-initiated “Fly High” software roadmap, implemented in 2005, targets hiring of 100,000 software workers by 2010.

While many factors has led to the founding of technology incubators in the country, Taruc said PSIA’s advocacy on better local environment for software engineers also helped put up incubators in the country like that of Ayala Technology Business Incubator (TBI).

Ayala TBI now keeps several software start-ups that are engaged in software research and development (R&D). Among these are AET Tech Astra Phils. Inc., Education and Development Initiative, Technologies Inc., and Systema Computer Solutions Corp.

Financing from angel investors is also coming into software-focused small and medium enterprises while programs like Ayala Foundation’s PESO (Philippine Emerging Startup Open) have been identifying future technology leaders through its recognition program.

There are reasons why developed countries are opting to outsource software development. Fortune 500 companies, according to a Blast Asia study, find this rational due to scarcity in internationally competitive software experts, due to a need to always advance IT skills and tools, and due to the necessity of cutting cost specially amid a recession.

The US accounts for the largest 40% share of software products followed by Europe with a 38% share, and Japan, 12%.

The Philippines’ prospect of gaining part of the world’s software development market is being heightened by India ’s rising cost.

“The rising pay scale may dull India’s IT outsourcing industry… IT services is getting more and more expensive day by day,” said the Blast Asia. India’s share in outsourcing work was accounted at 38%; China, 6%; Mexico, Ireland, and Canada, 5% each; Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, and Singapore, 4%.

The Philippines’ difficulty is in keeping up with India’s huge numerous software companies doing offshore work and the many Indian firms who have Level 5 Carnegie Mellon Universities Capability Maturity Model certification. The country’s software developers obviously have to obtain these certifications in order to keep ahead of a growing number of specialists from potentially competing countries China and Vietnam.

Still, the hope of the country’s eating up a larger share of the software pie is apparent with Japanese firms’ long-term presence in the country for their software development.

Among those here for their software needs are Advance World Systems, Inc., Astra (Philippines), Inc., Canon Information Technologies, Inc., Cybertech, Fujitsu Ten Solutions, Inc., WeServ Systems International, Inc., J-SYS Philippines, Inc., NEC Telecom Software Philippines, Inc., and Tsukiden Software.

With more companies advancing in their quality assurance and global certification, it is not too incredulous after all that the country is now said to be third as a software destination in Asia.

To intensify such local strength, several programs have to be undertaken, according to a Canadian International Development Agency Report.

Among these are a review on the curriculum on the country’s Information Technology courses, establishment of IT competency centers, strengthening of companies’ system for CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) certification, support on the local productivity tool software (time tracker, progress reporting), and strengthening of linkage between local and international software developers and their markets.

RP has a Niche in Producing Natural Ingredients

September 17, 2009

 

RP has a Niche in Producing Natural Ingredients 

  

The Philippines should ban the export of its raw native herbs if it has to maximize the economic benefits from these indigenous plants for pharmaceutical and other value-added uses.

Local producers of semi-processed indigenous plants are seeking legislation prohibiting the export of inputs for natural ingredients which are now being exploited by foreign processors, importing them from the Philippines at their very raw form.

The call for this legal support has started as the Department of Agriculture (DA) has opened a facility for the extraction of active ingredients used in pharmaceutical goods.

Danilo Manayaga, chairman of Phytophils, the first locator at DA’s Biotechnology Business Incubation Facility (BBIF), said that this legislation will compel foreign companies to invest in manufacturing plants here.

It will generate jobs and accumulate added-value through processing these raw materials for export, unlike if the government merely allows export of these raw materials.

“We export banaba leaves to Japan at only P20 per kilo. But a bottle of a 30-capsule (medicine with corosolic acid derived from banaba leaves) is sold in the US at $120, said Manayaga.

“(Public-private sector biotechnology network) BIONET wants a stop on the export of our raw materials like leaves, barks, and roots. This way we can develop the local industry and produce the semi-processed goods that foreign companies need.”

For every 12 kilos of banaba leaves, one gram of the active ingredient corosolic acid (used in the treatment of diabetes, kidney-related diseases, and as anti-obesity drug) is produced. From one gram of corosolic acid, 167 capsules can be produced at six milligrams per capsule.

Japan has been known globally for processing banaba for medical uses. Ironically, Japan does not grow banaba. It simply imports the raw materials from the Philippines.

“We have the best banaba in the world in Sierra Madre (mountains) and Arayat (where corosolic acid content is higher),” he said.

Unfortunately, it is Japan that has sought patent protection for its banaba technology.

Maoi Arroyo, Hybridigm Consulting president, said. The country should maximize its opportunities in natural ingredients since it is extremely blessed with rich biodiversity.

“This is one niche the Philippines can participate in the global market,” she said. Phytophils will also be producing the active ingredient i-camphor from sambong which is known for curing kidney stones or as diuretic in hypertension.

Ari Halos, Phytophils president, said the extraction of the higher value-added active ingredients also gives better export chances for sambong since export to the US is easier in semi-processed form. The export of dried, crushed leaves, turned into powder form has earlier caused phytosanitary questions on certain locally-produced drugs.

But extracting the active ingredient first before shipping them out will cancel out quarantine problems.

Aside from banaba and sambong which Filipino technologists want to commercially tap, malunggay is another indigenous plant that may become a source of a thriving livelihood for more, farmers. With its rich numerous nutrient benefits, it can have expansive applications. Research and development on it includes use for biofuel, feed, food preparation, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals.

The natives of Porac, Pampanga and of Negros Occidental have started cultivating their lands for malunggay with a renewed hope of a better life.

The trait of malunggay, also moringa or kalamunggay in Visayas, is highlighted by its nutrient content unmatched by other popular crops. This is why it is being acknowledged as a “miracle vegetable.”

On a gram for gram comparison, malunggay leaves contain seven times the Vitamin C in orange, four times the calcium and two times the protein in milk, four times the Vitamin A in carrots, and three times the potassium in bananas.

If some children or even adults hate the taste of vegetables, food processors found a way to process malunggay to make it likeable for food. Dried in a dehydrator and crushed it in a hammer mill, it is prepared as mix for processed foods (noodles, pasta, tea) ready for marketing.

Here it becomes a food fortifier too.

I n Valencia, Negros Occidental, Florentino Vicuna, Contract Growers Association president, has started planting malunggay.

He looks forward to expanding this to supply a processing plant that may have a three metric ton- (MT) capacity per day.

Valencia’s initial try of shipping three MT of malunggay leaves to Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, where the dehydration plant of proponent Secura International is, has apparently failed.

Shipping the leaves to Mindanao takes eight hours from Dumaguete, rendering the materials perishing upon arrival.

But Vicuna doesn’t lose hope on the business because of its potential for creating numerous multiplier effect.

“We hope the government can help us finance a plant costing maybe P3 or P4 million. Planting malunggay is labor-intensive. It will give jobs to a lot of people,” he said. Labor need in tilling one hectare may be 15 people who will plant, fertilize, and harvest.

Valencia is convinced the technology on powdering malunggay is viable because the same process is done in a nearby plant that dehydrates okra, eggplant, and tomato. A shift in the design of shelves though is needed for using this plant for malunggay.

Alice Ilaga, DA biotechnology director, said Valencia is awaiting for the declaration of an agricultural zone in the province to allow for massive malunggay province.

Government’s “Pinoy Biotek Program” (PBP) has all-encompassing aims of supplementing nutrition of the poor, creating jobs, and stirring up the economy through export.

Its partners are DA’s regional field units, state colleges and universities, local governments, and DA agencies like Bureau of Plant Industry and the National Agribusiness Corp.

Producing malunggay extracts will solve many health problems like Vitamin A Deficiency Disorder, Iron Deficiency Anemia, and Iodine Deficiency Disorder. It will specially benefit children and women of reproductive age.

Malunggay is an ideal crop as it grows in marginal and sloping land and is grown easily by planting cuttings or seeds.

BIONET’s targeted areas for malunggay include La Union, Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Quezon, Negros Oriental, Cordillera Administrative Region, Caraga (Butuan, Agusan provinces) and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

Each BIONET center will have its own seed production area to make its operations independent.

For seed production, a center is foreseen to enjoy a net operating income of P246,720 on the first year and P258,982 yearly on the second and the third.

Previous estimates showed income will come from production of 1,875 kilos of malunggay seeds per hectare valued at P300 per kilo at farm-gate.

The PBP also aims to extensively propagate other plants unique to the Philippines where it can have a global niche. In Laguna, eyed to be grown in Sta. Cruz is banaba intercropped with luyang dilaw on 500 to 1,000 hectares.

In Magsaysay, it will be 200 hectares of land for banaba. San Jose will plant 100 hectares of land for anato through the municipal government and 200 hectares of banaba through Lingap Maralita.

A total of 1,000 hectares is being committed for banaba and banana in Sablayan, Laguna by Mayor Godofredo Mintu.

Other planting programs in Laguna the banaba-banana intercropping areas in Calintaan, 100 hectares; luya and ubi in Abra de Ilog by the Sun Vadeco Farmers Cooperative; ubi and luyang dilay through the Department of Science and Technology in Mamburao, 500 hectares; and banaba intercropped with ginger.

Abaca is also a PBP crop to be planted in Lanao province.

Supporting BIONET Lanao are the Southern Philippines Development Authority, National Anti Poverty Commission, and the Fiber Industry Development Authority which will provide the abaca seedlings.

Atsuwete, seeds used for dyeing and food coloring, is another crop that is contemplated to be planted in Laguna. A 32-hectare area is targeted by allocating two hectares from each Laguna town. Expected income from 300 trees per hectare is P422,000 a year. It is also eyed to be grown in Quezon on 750 hectares.

The five municipalities of Quezon‘s District 2 are committing to devote 17 hectares of land for malunggay and 10 hectares for atsuwete.

Another crop, papaya, will be turned into papain, as its latex has vast markets in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The Northern Mindanao Institute for Science and Technology is spearheading papaya planting in the Caraga Region in order to supply papain to Belgian firm Enzybel.

The Philippines has to hurdle many obstacles if it has to emerge as a leader in a natural ingredients industry.

Karen Hipol, Hybridigm chief operating officer, said focus on developing the industry should be on technologies that have existing scientific and clinical data, those with unserved or underserved markets, and those with sustainable supply chain.

Local companies should capture markets worldwide for addressing top health concerns including cardio-vascular disease which, according to the International Food Information Council, has a $5.5 billion market; obesity, $85 billion; and diabetes, $11.6 billion.

Among Hipol is recommendations for regulation that will ensure market acceptance of Philippine products are protection of consumers amid promotion of innovativeness, adoption of Good Agricultural Practice, Good Collection Practice, Good Laboratory Practice, Good Manufacturing Practice, and product labeling.

Growth from Technology-Based Industries

September 17, 2009

Growth from
Technology-Based Industries

Interview with Dennis Ramon Posadas

Growth Revolution: What do we need to establish technology-based industries?
Dennis Posadas: We need to create an ecosystem that’s friendly to small technology entrepreneurs so they can become large businesses. Intel started with eight engineers and now has around 80,000 people. The same thing with Nokia, an old lumber company in Finland that wanted to call its lumbermen in the forest. They had this Nordic mobile radio which became the basis for Nokia’s GSM (global system of mobile communication).

GR: How do we distinguish technology entrepreneurship from other entrepreneurship forms?
DP: We have nothing against regular entrepreneurship. But it’s just like everybody is already into it. What we want is to focus on science and technology ventures like software, hardware, semi-conductors, and other technology-related areas. We’re looking for businesses that rely on intellectual property. The Philippines has a lot of natural resources– mining, oil. These businesses are very capital-intensive, and we’re not rich in capital. But we have human resources. Our people may be poor, but they are intelligent. The trend in the new world economy is you use your human capital to transform its growth for the economy.

GR: Can the Philippines compete globally?
DP: No single country in the world can monopolize all technologies. There is always something that we can specialize in.

GR: What kind of education do we need for this?
DP: America graduates several thousand engineers and scientists annually. We should move away from obsolete programs. We have to evaluate if the curriculum is still appropriate. For example, in Mechanical Engineering, I think they’re still teaching steam engineering. Although there’s still demand for it, it’s not that big. Maybe we should take a look at new areas like microchips design. Let’s say there are about 500 technology companies in the Philippines . Is that a large number? To make a big progress, there should be 10 times more. We need to develop people who are capable of taking higher studies. Let’s develop them because they’re the kind of work that pay more, generate more wealth. We have to drop some programs and concentrate on these areas.

GR: What are critical factors to technological development?
DP: First is education. Next is research and development. The game here is maybe 50 people can design. But we need a critical mass, thousands of these people who can design. Universities have to come out with people with new skills every year. Then another pillar is entrepreneurial culture. We may have brilliant people, but the mindset maybe “I’m gonna work for a big company.” In China and the US , entrepreneurs are the smartest. There they say, “I want to become an entrepreneur because I have superior ideas.” And the environment is supportive. Also part of this culture is risk taking. You will have to do a product that no one else has done before– original intellectual property. There’s risk if no one buys it. But when it clicks, you’re the first mover. We should also have (mentoring by) successful entrepreneurs as role models talking about entrepreneurship. The mentor will teach you where to go for capital and how to be confident to sell your products to Japan, to the US.

GR: How about the role of financing?
DP: A kind of financing is loan typical in banks. The problem is a lot of people in banks are not familiar with business models. They’re only familiar with restaurants, factories. They do not necessarily understand technology businesses. So if someone comes to them proposing a chip design company, a lot of them will not be able to process the loan application. We need to educate these people about the business model of technology. For the first ten years of Microsoft, it was a small company employing not more than 20 to 30 people. But when it started to grow, it needed venture capital. But from zero to a small company, you normally go for an informal capital or you get loan financing. For some banks, it’s enough that you can show them POs (purchase orders) for you to avail of a loan. In the real venture capital, the capitalist puts money in a start-up. At the end of 10 years, he gets back his money because the life of the true venture capital is 10 years. Then the investor pulls out his money at a profit or a loss. One can also raise money through an IPO (initial public offering) or sell the company to other companies.

GR: Businesses normally involve risks. How do we lessen the risks?
DP: First, I have to explain “creative destruction” coined by Joseph Schumpeter. It says “if you want to see really successful companies, you should be willing to see many failures.” It’s like for every one start-up that grows into a Nokia, a Microsoft, or an Intel, there are 99 others which did not make it. From those failures, successful start-ups learn what not to do. For a conservative country like the Philippines , are we prepared to deal with those odds? If we don’t play the game, we will be left behind. If we can encourage incentives for people to invest in speculative start-ups maybe through tax credits, then maybe we will begin to see the emergence of companies that grow where others did not succeed.

GR Ayala has put up an incubator for technology businesses. What does this do?
DP: The value of the incubator (aside from providing auxiliary business assistance) is providing proximity to the sources of higher learning. When you want to develop it as a place like Silicon Valley, there should also be venture capitalists. The reason why we want to locate everyone in one place is very simple . The more they get to interact with one another because they’re near each other, the more they become socially closer to each other and are able to build trust and to work together. Geographic proximity is of course a multiplier because there’s concentration of brain power. For the local government, it needs to build the infrastructure. One simple example is we need a business hotel. With technology businesses, we deal with a lot of international clients—Koreans, Japanese. Where will you house them? We should make Quezon City more conducive for doing business.

GR: One local government put up a training center for animation artists for Japan, is this one of the things we should go into?
DP: You have to define carefully what is IT and what is IT-enabled. When you have PCs, IT equipment, and telephones, but the job is basically customer service, it’s IT-enabled. What we’re talking about is a focus on intellectual property based on IT businesses.

GR: What countries are now overtaking us in technology?
DP: Vietnam may overtake us if we don’t put our acts together. Taiwan definitely already did. But in the 1970’s, Taiwan and the Philippines were already both making chips, electronic equipment. The main reason why big companies (like Intel) were going to Asia was because it’s cheaper to run a business here. We established export processing zone areas, a union-free industrial estate where companies can locate their factories and employ people. However, we seem not to have outgrown that mentality. We’re increasing our number of export processing zones. But a real science and technology park is different. It has to be near centers of higher learning. Industrial zones have to be near centers of cheap labor. You have to remember that the Silicon Valley developed because in the 1930s, a dean at the Stanford University saw a world where universities work with the local community to help solve their problems. Universities are not Ivory Towers that just do research for the sake of doing research. In the 1970’s, in Taipei, they put all their top engineering, their top research facility in one area, and they built an industrial park that started attracting high-tech companies with the academe and research institutions also in that area. They purposely built it. Since they put it all in one place, normally people will interact because people are going to the same grocery, the same restaurant. Kids are going to the same school. So industry people link with the academe and research people. That’s what we’re are trying to do.

GR: Can start-ups grow by themselves as much as there have been many start-ups in Silicon Valley?
DP: The Silicon Valley model is a celebration of entrepreneurship because there they fund ideas. In the Philippines, we have some limitations and we may not probably do it the same way they are doing it, but we will try to come as close as we can.

GR: In what areas can government help?
DP: There should be massive spending in education. It should be free but quality education, and the standard should be world-class. If you have to force the new economy, government should fund education (which is estimated at P102 billion). If that’s really the cost, then government should find ways to de-prioritize other things. Just think of what happens when China learns to speak English? They’re cheaper. There are more of them. We can no longer claim it’s only we who speak English. Yes we’re able to generate chip designs, but too little. We can’t really say we’ve made science and technology a priority. It should be a national project that considers technopreneurship as a grassroots-driven, engine of growth for the poor.

GR: What can we learn from India, a world leader in IT and biotechnology?
DP: They did something significant. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s single biggest legacy is the Indian Institute of Technology (put up after India ’s independence in 1947 aimed to develop a skilled workforce to buttress economic development). It’s like the UP system. But courses are all science and technology. Enrollment is like that of UE (about 15,500 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students, ed.), but the quality of education matches that of the US . So if you go around the world in high-technology companies, chances are three out of five Ph.Ds in these companies are either Chinese or Indian.

(Dennis Posadas is author of “Rice & Chips: Innovation and Technopreneurship in Asia” and Ayala Foundation Inc. consultant).

Filipino Cosmetic Biotechnology

September 17, 2009

 

Filipino Cosmetic Biotechnology 

  

By Virginia Ann T. Burgos

Biomart Asia, a local firm specializing in body care products, has become a successful venture all because it has parlayed biotechnological processes to beat competition.

Dr. Gisela Padilla Concepcion, a professor and a researcher at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) who is also Biomart Asia president, has made a mark in the industry through products that are considered at par, if not better, than French products.

Concepcion and her team of biotechnologists have maximized the use of locally-available, cheaper, natural ingredients like malunggay (moringa oleifera), takip kuhol (centella asiatica), guava (psidium guajava), and many other herbs that contain anti-oxidants and flavonoids.

They have also isolated and characterized compounds from marine organisms and profiled chemicals that contain anti-cancer and anti-diabetes compounds.

Biomart Asia’s lines of products are all Biogenins-based.

Biogenins was created and trademarked by Biomart Asia. It refers to a general class of phytochemicals or plant secondary metabolites consisting principally of compounds found in most fruits, vegetables and woody plants. These phytochemicals have been shown to have potent anti-oxidant activity, provide UV protection, and possess anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Concepcion launched one of Biomart Asia’s product lines, the Herbal Woman, with only three products, the body wash, facial wash, and the feminine wash.

From then on, the company flourished and offered far superior quality products at very reasonable prices. “I want to teach people that good things need not be expensive.”

One of Biomart’s most promising products is the body contouring cream, which is a rich blend of herbs with fat burning properties that would help reshape target areas of the body.

Biomart Asia has come a long way in the business through biotechnology.

It has created two other product lines, Metroman, which offers the basic hygienic needs of men like the deodorizing and anti-bacterial body wash, and the body gel that moisturizes the skin and at the same time protects the skin from harmful UV rays.

The Tubtime Line was also created to pamper pets with products like soap and shampoo that were especially formulated for pets. They contain substances that repel insects or pests and protect pets from parasites.

Through that success of Biomart, Concepcion has proven that biotechnology and biochemistry, indeed, are very promising fields in which Filipinos can venture into and excel.

Concepcion considers biochemistry as a way of life since she has been a researcher throughout her life, working particularly on anti-cancer substances. Now that she has succeeded in manufacturing wellness products, Concepcion believes the market can benefit from her company’s products.

Concepcion is also an advocate of scientific enterprise, and she encourages her colleagues to propagate knowledge by having their papers published.

In which she co-founded, Philippine Science Letters (PSL), Concepcion encourages more Filipino scientists and researchers to come out with their papers and show them to the entire world through the interactive journal. She notes that there are a number of studies by Filipino scientists and researches that have not been published due to funding issues. PSL offers a solution to this issue.

PSL is a new peer-reviewed on-line Pinoy scientific Journal, featuring the science being done in the Philippines and the work of Filipino scientists abroad. To ensure the high quality of PSL, 30 Filipino experts in various fields have agreed to serve as reviewers of the research works that are expected to pile up in the site soon. On their shoulders lie the task of evaluating, validating, and offering advice to the authors.

Concepcion said PSL will accept short studies or those that are limited in scope and performed with limited budget, as long as they are of good quality. PSL will be privately funded until it reaches its desired performance level and will solicit support from private and government foundations to prevent hindrances to its operation by bureaucratic procedures and politics.

PSL is the window to a better quality of life through the technologies and innovations of Filipino scientists. It offers collaboration with other experts.

” If the fundamental science is good, then it can eventually yield good technologies –good products and services that are useful to the country.”

Poverty Situationer:Deteriorating State of the Poor

September 17, 2009

 

Poverty Situationer: 

 

Deteriorating State of the Poor

By Cai U. Ordinario

A few years ago, Filipinos would save and implement belt-tightening measures for the “rainy days.” But these days, Filipinos save to survive another day. This is probably the reason why there are so many who gamble their time and effort to join game-shows on television.

Scores of people line up in front of local television stations daily just to get a chance at winning the top prize on noontime TV. One show, ABS-CBN’s Wowowee, gives studio contestants the chance to show their “talents” in exchange for a chance to earn additional dollars or euros from The Filipino Channel (TFC) subscribers all over the world who visit the show everytime they’re in the country.

The situation has gone to the point that most of those who go to these TV shows to join the games only have P20 or less in hand–highlighting how much they want and need to win, that even a prize of few pesos would do. This brings us to realize that the bottom 30 or the poorest 30 percent of the population could no longer think of other ways to improve their situation other than trying their luck and hope that the next game-show brings them the money they need to survive another day.The government recently released its 2006 Poverty Statistics and the 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), and it was clear that the there are now more poor Filipinos than in recent years. The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said that 33 out of 100 Filipinos are poor in 2006 – similar to the population poverty situation six years ago.

The study showed that there was actually an increase in the number of poor Filipinos in 2006 to 32.9 million from only 30 million in the 2003 round of the same study.National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Director General Augusto Santos has even hinted at the possibility that more will join the ranks of the poor as 6.4 million families or 32 million Filipinos become highly susceptible to high oil and food prices.

Santos said that Filipino families earning a gross income of P10,000 a month will “suffer” due to high inflation and that only an additional income of around P3,000 to P4,000 a month will allow these families to cope.According to the 2006 FIES, expenditures of an average Filipino family increased by 3.6% as against the 1.7% increase of the total income of families between 2003 and 2006.

Data showed that Filipino families earned a total of P3.01 trillion or a total annual income of P173,000 each for an estimated 17.4 million families in 2006. The total annual family expenditure was approximately P2.56 trillion or P147,000 per family on the average.As a result, the total family income of the 10th decile of families, or the richest 10%, was estimated at P1.08 trillion or 36% of the total family income in 2006, slightly lower than their share of 36.3% or P0.88 trillion in 2003.Income decile is the distribution of families into 10 groups in terms of annual family income.

The first decile has the lowest income and the 10th decile has the highest income. The National Statistics Office (NSO) even said that the total family income of the 10th decile in 2006 was about 19 times that of the first decile, while it was 20 times that of the first decile in 2003.

The recent announcement of the Philippines‘ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 5.2% is a standing testimony that high inflation has already affected the country’s economic health–and consequently, the country’s poor.

NSCB Executive Director Romulo Virola said that high inflation has affected the industry sector which was considered the laggard among the three major sectors of the economy.

The GDP figures showed that while Services continued to grow at a robust 6.9% and Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (AFF) grew by a respectable 3% during the quarter, Industry only posted a 3.6% growth.

GDP data showed that the decrease in the growth of the Industry sector is mainly due to the contraction of the Manufacturing sector as seen in weak exports. According to the government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the sector is the “true engine of economic growth” and the way out of poverty for millions of Filipinos.

The PIDS said in a study that if the manufacturing sector grows, there would be an increase in labor productivity that would consequently increase the capacity of the labor force to participate in non-industrial activities.

More directly, in a study, University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP) economist Cid Terosa said that if prices of food and cereal increases, particularly rice and corn, there will be more Filipinos who will be classified as belonging to the bottom 30 or the poorest in the country.

Through a simulation done by the UAP, Terosa said a 10% increase in food and cereal prices (rice and corn) will translate into a 5.9% reduction in the budgets of the poorest 30%. This is higher compared to a 3.9% reduction in the budget of the country’s upper 70% and the 4.6% average in the entire Philippines.

The same increase, Terosa said, will also result in a 14.4% reduction in the expenditure of the bottom 30 for other items, higher than the 6.5% reduction in expenditures for non-food items of the upper 70%.

He also said that a 10% increase in rice and corn prices alone will result in a 2.8% reduction in the budget of the poorest 30% while a 10% increase in food, cereal, fuel, light, and water prices will result in a 7% reduction in the budget of the poor.To prevent even more Filipinos from falling below the poverty line, the government has decided to put forward a bill to exempt minimum wage earners from paying taxes.

The government also volunteered to make more hits by pushing back its balanced budget goal to 2010. This, Santos said, would give the government enough financial flexibility, around P75 billion, to increase the government’s spending for infrastructure and subsidies to buoy the economy and lift more people out of poverty. NEDA has bared additional fiscal measures being studied by the government to help Filipinos cope with soaring commodity prices.

Santos also earlier said that the separate boards of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) are currently studying the possibility of condoning loan penalties.He said this measure coupled with the passage of the law exempting minimum wage earners from paying their income tax would play significant roles in helping Filipinos cope with high prices.

However, only time can tell whether these measures will prove to be life savers. With more Filipinos now–88.6 million to be exact–there is an even greater possibility that more are living below the poverty line.

With the age of high inflation already upon Filipinos, making these measures work are an utmost priority. If the buck merely stops here and these measures do not become as good as they are in paper, who knows how many more will fall into the depths of poverty in the country in the next few years?

 

Population-relevant statistics

September 17, 2009

Population-relevant statistics: • Infant mortality rate: 36 for every 1,000 live births • Maternal mortality rate: 172 for every 100,000 live births • 10 women deaths every 24 hours from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes • Five out of every 100 children deaths before age five, 38 deaths are caused by curable diseases • 26% of women aged 15-24 years already started childbearing • Premarital sex prevalence: 4.9 million young adults aged 15-27 years old have already engaged in premarital sex; • 34 percent of sexually active young Filipinos have multiple partners • Only 19% used contraception on the the first time they had sex; and • 36% of hospital cases of abortion involve young women aged 15-24 years.

Quezon City Manages Population Growth

September 17, 2009
Quezon City Manages
Population Growth

In a country where one of the most important factors contributing to poverty is managed with extreme difficulty, one local government is working harder to solve it.

Quezon City (QC) has just introduced an ordinance allocating a fixed budget of P12 million for population management in its aim to provide better services to citizens.

This it does in recognition of the fact that there is hardly any government that can improve its economy well if its population is exploding, making its human resource undernourished, sickly, uneducated, and globally incompetent.

It is estimated that five out of every 100 children in QC are underweight, and one of the top causes of infant deaths is lack of birth spacing of mothers.

The city, having a 2.5 million population, actually has lower population growth rate, 1.92%, than the whole Philippines (2.3%).

But it has noted in a latest survey, as of 2004 of the QC Council on Population (QCCP), that 18.7% of married women aged 15 to 49 admit their need for family planning (both through birth spacing and limiting number of births).

Brisk population growth worries authorities since poverty is apparently more prevalent in families with more children– 48.7% of families with seven children are poor while only 15.7% of families with two children are poor, according to a National Statistics Office survey.

Moreover, an alarming incidence is the increasing number of birth given by teenage, unmarried women, which as of 2007 was nine percent of births in the city.

“It may even be higher (due to unmonitored births). It has been increasing. Before it was just seven percent, and then eight percent. Now it’s at nine percent of deliveries,” said Dr. Judy Gilda S. Martinez, acting assistant city health officer.

This obviously puts the health of more mothers at risk. It further requires QC to strengthen its information, education, and communication (IEC) drive on reproductive health specially in the younger age group, particularly high school students from first to fourth year.

Sadly, this increasing pregnancy among adolescents may mirror in an even worse condition the increased prevalence of pregnancy among teenagers in the country specially in poverty stricken areas, whether urban or rural.

Martinez said QC Mayor Feliciano Belmonte already has in place a population and reproductive health management program even before this ordinance was introduced by councilors led by Joseph P. Juico.

But this ordinance will firm up budget that should replace grants for contraceptives and IEC on reproductive health provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Now that the USAID fund for contraceptives (for which the country depended on for 80% of contraceptives) supply is running out, local governments have to take it upon themselves to finance this program.”The aim is really for contraceptives self-reliance,” said a QC official.

So far, the only other local government in Metro Manila that has a definite program on population management is Marikina, the official said.

The population management program of QC is based on four concepts—informed choice of families, responsible parenthood, respect for life (abortion is a crime punishable under the Revised Penal Code), and birth spacing.

It aims to entice both the rich and the poor families to plan the number of their families (without forcing them to limit their desired number) and to provide spaces of three to five years between births for better health of both mothers and infants.

But there is obviously a need to provide more health and family planning workers in areas where the really poor people are if the government is serious in addressing the problem of population growth.

QCCP data showed that the poorest and the least educated women are those that are unlikely to plan their families or use contraceptives, making the poor even poorer.

Use of modern contraceptives was lowest among those that only finished elementary, 30.3% compared to college graduates, 37.9%.

With the Philippine population now at almost 90 million and is seen to reach to 160 million in 2038, delivery of public services mainly education and health would inevitably suffer. Education service can worsen from the present high student to teacher ratio in public schools at 1:180. Health budget in the country is already at a dismal less than P1 per person, extremely low compared to Japan’s P344, Singapore’s P104, Thailand ’s P17, and Malaysia and Indonesia’s P12.

A Family Planning Survey showed that there is an unmet need specially among poor women for contraceptives as total fertility rate of 3.2 children is higher than wanted fertility rate of 2.5.

Population management may not be a top priority for the Philippine government. But the Filipino populace obviously sees its significance as a Pulse Asia survey indicated that 92% of Filipinos believe that family planning is important.

Similarly, a large chunk of 89% believes government should provide financial support for family planning and contraceptives including pill, intra-uterine devices, condoms, ligation, and vasectomy.

Legislators advocating government budget for contraceptives have a massive support of 75% of those surveyed.

As such, several bills have been filed promoting family planning such as Senator Panfilo Lacson’s Senate Bill (SB) 43, advocating two children in a family, and proposes to mandate 50% allocation for reproductive health out of 20% of the internal revenue allotment of local governments.

That of Senator Rodolfo Biazon’s SB 40 sought to allocate P50 million in support of reproductive health policies.

The Lacson bill also proposes granting of personal and corporate income tax exemptions for three years for local manufacturers of family planning devices. Manufacturers would also enjoy low-interest-bearing, concessionary loans and reduced tariff for importation of family planning devices.

Moreover, obstetricians and gynecologists will be asked to render reproductive health services free-of-charge or at reduced professional fee to poor patients.

Present laws already give incentives to families practicing family planning such as a head of the family’s tax exemption for each of his children for not more than four children.

The oppressive one-child policy in China will apparently not work in the Philippines.

Nevertheless, it appears obvious that more incentives for family planning may be needed, whether at national or local level, to make a population management program contribute to poverty reduction.

 

 

Mining Model

September 17, 2009
Mining Model
Longing for genuine economic development that reaches down the grassroots, many Filipinos wonder if mining does any good to the society.

Fortunately, one company is out there to show it.

The only Filipino mining firm that has been operating continuously for the last 50 years, Philex Mining Corp. (PMC) has opened for visit its Padcal copper mine to anyone—investors, students, observers—given enough notice.

It has always been Philippine government’s showcase for responsible mining as it has proven that mining and care for the environment and the community can coexist.

Early this year, PMC obtained a free prior informed consent, (FPIC, a government requirement for a mining contract) from indigenous people (IP) in Benguet after committing a sum mandated by government.

This is a huge amount equivalent to 1.25% of PMC’s yearly gross output (2007 revenue: P11.23 billion, net income P5.005 billion) for a small population. This is on top of the two percent of gross output for excise tax that the company pays to be shared by the national and local government (including provincial, municipal and barangay). For this big monetary benefit, PMC is orienting IPs on how to manage finances prudently.

“We’re telling them to allot money for education. This will be for the good of the future generation–of their children and of their children’s children. Mining is being opposed by some. But ours is an example that the community will gain from a mine,” said PMC President Jose Ernesto C. Villaluna.

PMC’s program for the IPs and its other beneficiaries will go to HELP—health, education, livelihood, and projects for infrastructure.

Dr. Walter W. Brown, PMC chairman said PMC first owed its amiable relationship with its host community in Tuba, Benguet to the late Henry Brimo, PMC founder.

“He was a very good man who showed a lot of concern to the community and the environment even if there were no legal requirements on these yet. He went beyond what was asked by the government,” Brown said.

Long before the implementing rules of the Philippine Mining Act compelled mining firms to carry out a Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), PMC has already built livelihood and education programs for its community.

Jovita Aliten, 45, Philex Integrated Sewers Association (PISA) sewer and officer, said PISA has given jobs to many wives of miners in the company.

The sewers’ cooperative receives contracts for the sewing of school uniforms, curtains, and home accessories such as appliance covers.

PISA, which presently has 25 sewers, enabled women to learn sewing through a training given by the Department of Labor and Employment.

Aliten and her husband have been able to send their five children to college through their jobs at the mine.

“My husband is a retired miner. Some of my children already finished college. This work has been a big help for us in sending them to school,” she said.

Edel Banggiacan works in another livelihood program engaged in food processing. The company and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) provides them training for making processed meat like embotido, tocino, and longganiza.

“(It’s not too big), but at least it helps the family,” she said. Another job program for mining families is honey production. One frame from the honey-making device produces two liters. One liter is sold at P300 to P400 in the Baguio market.

With PMC’s help, the credit cooperative of employees in the company now has a capitalization of P200 million.

In 2006, PMC spent P14 million for its SDMP which enabled construction of farm-to-market roads and water systems that brought water for irrigation of farms and potable water to residents.

Children at the PMC community enjoy free education. A total of 1,476 enrolled in the elementary school and 1,232 at the PMC high school in schoolyear 2006-2007. Children from neighboring communities, 280 in all, also benefited from the PMC-subsidized schools.

A vocational program trains female students on skills on dressmaking, tailoring, food processing, and cosmetology while male students learn machine works, welding, wood works, and auto-mechanic skills.

The company takes pride that some of its top managers now came from PMC’s schools, or are children of company employees, or mining area residents.

“Engr. Edgar Prangan, our number three man in the mine who finished grade school, high school with us is a son of an employee. Our number two guy, a mining engineer, (Engr. Eulalio Austin, vice president) grew up in the Mt. Province,” said Brown. PMC has made a coherent policy to enhance the community and environment in its other projects aside from the one in Benguet.

In its mining project in Surigao del Norte,

PMC has spearheaded the creation of the Community Technical Working Group (CTWG) which enables information exchange on enhancing harmony on environmental and community activities in the exploration site.

Since Mindanao is a big banana producer and exporter, it has opened in the site a P5.6 million cardaba banana project over a 15-hectare area.

Aside from making its people’s concern a top priority, PMC has exhibited concern for the environment and is the only metal mining firm in the Philippines that has an ISO 14001 certification. This it first received in September 2002 and has kept Certification International’s requirement to uphold it the following years through its Environment Management System.

It was an initiative toward excellence in sustainable development that was implemented even ahead of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s Administrative Order 14 which urged companies to adopt sustainable development policies.

The company was a consistent awardee for mine safety, reforestation, environmental protection, family welfare, health care, and community development. It received since it was established in 1955 more than 50 awards from various agencies including the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association and the Office of the President.

For its reforestation, it has planted more than six million seedlings of different tree species on about 1,700 hectares.

But it wasn’t always a perfect operation for the company as it has gone through many difficulties in dealing with its host. It has experienced unfavorable accusations which its people felt were unfair.

Brown thinks there are keys that made the company hurdle its own problems.

Top among these is looking forward to where problems might come up.

“Some try to solve problems when the problem is already there. We look ahead to see before a problem arises,” he said.

Dealing on cultural uniqueness in its area of operation is another problem-solver. Patience too is a virtue in an area where there can be many potentially warring tribes.

“There should be a cultural understanding in all these things. Our people live with the community (which makes things easier). Each community has its own quirks. These we should understand.”

The company has 2, 480 employees of which 15 to 20% is native to the site. However, the population in the mining site is 14,000. The company gives free housing within a self-sustaining community (with schools, hospital, sports complex) for its employees and their families for as long as they are in the company.

In many cases, Brown believes solving a problem with the community just takes dedication to educating mining communities.

“Sometimes there is lack of education of the community. Mining companies should put a lot of effort in developing proper relationships with them to make sure they deliver the right message–that they’re complying with regulations.”

Paying one’s due to the government and its host is something a mining firm can never veer away from.

As of 2007, it paid mine taxes and revenues totaling to P457.910 million. Provision for income tax was P615.6 million.

“We’ve been here for 50 years, and were a significant contributor to direct taxes in Benguet,” he said. Think of it, paying dues to the government has been easier for a company that has been prudent in spending all these years. PMC has a reputation for having adopted a debt-free policy as much as it could. “As far as banks and financial institutions are concerned, we are debt-free,” said Villaluna.

Very important, being an honest corporate citizen makes it possible for the company to refuse corruption.

“People try extortion on those who are vulnerable. It’s hard for them to extort from us because we’re not doing anything bad. There are times when you give a little more to the community than you should. But we will fight extortion,” said Brown.

All these have endeared this Filipino company to its host community. Its virtues are making it a living model of how mining should be a major contributor to development that’s up to impact on many poor people uphill.

 

 

Organic Pinoy Chicken a Backyard Livelihood Source

September 17, 2009
Organic Pinoy Chicken a Backyard Livelihood Source

An organic “Pinoy” chicken can become a livelihood source for rural folks who wish to make money out of their own backyards.

A farm in Batangas, owned by agribusiness consultant and farm entrepreneur Pablito Villegas, is now producing day-old chicks (DOC) from Grimaud Freres breeds from France and is selling these to free range chicken growers.

But raising free range chicken offers more prospects than just to entrepreneurs and gourmets.

It is opening up opportunities for government executives and policy-makers to look into a highly potential livelihood program for backyard growers specially when a Pinoy organic chicken will have been developed.

Dr. Erwin Joseph S. Cruz, Grimaud Freres country representative, said the breeding of a Pinoy organic chicken is possible. “We can create a ‘Pinoy Chicken’ by importing breeders and mixing these with native breeds,” he said.

“And let the poor farmers feed the rich.” Such breed should be a superior one.

It can even be known as Climate Change-adaptable breeds as Grimaud Freres chickens can be adaptable to weather that is four to five percent hotter.

These chicken breeds have been developed extensively by the French government and private farms. That’s why what came out were breeds that have good genetics, good manageability, and good nutrition absorption.

Grimaud Freres chickens are nutritionally healthy chickens. They have 45% less fat compared to commercial broilers. They find markets in discriminating shops like Rustan’s and Pamora’s niche distribution channels.

They say it clicks because the taste is distinctively palatable. They are marketed well at a higher price of maybe P230 per kilo, giving farmers better income opportunities. Yet, that is still a competitive price, nearly comparable with native chicken whose price ranges from P180 to P250 per kilo.

But it takes shorter time to grow it compared to native chicken’s six to eight months to reach one kilo. At 55 days, these chickens can grow to 1.5 to 1.6 kilos.

Free range chickens can be more cost-effectively grown in backyards since they can survive well in this environment even if they are not given the same antibiotics as those injected in white broilers.

They are known for their hardiness, ranging ability (the whites do not range), and ability to digest vegetation (legumes, herbs, and even napier grass eaten by goats).

But the key to a successful backyard chicken farming is the adoption of know-how on raising these chicken from a small number of animals to ensure one really gets to learn the rudiments of raising them.

” The objective should first be food on the table,” said Cruz.

For a family of four or five, 20 to 40 heads may be enough for the initial try. Aside from requiring a small capital, this size is easier to manage.

“If you’re looking for a livelihood component of a program, this is the cheapest cost,” said Cruz. The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have tied up to implement a livelihood program on this chicken in a northern Luzon province.

This involved a total of 400 pieces for 20 houses at 20 per house.

“This can be a cash crop for DENR (long-gestating) forestry projects,” he said, explaining foresters can already make money while waiting for forest trees to become harvestable. This backyard program is being adopted by local government units (LGU) like in Bukidnon which can use its excess corn profitably by feeding backyard chickens. There are farmers in Mindanao who put their chickens under their houses (silong).

For LGUs, this livelihood program is good for converting carbohydrates into proteins, literally from corn to meat.

After the first aim of simply putting food on the table, the time to shift to the second objective comes. That is skills efficiency, and then the third stage follows which is the semi-commercial operation.

Cruz, a diplomate of Philippine College of Poultry Practitioners, advises these stages have to be followed strictly. This is in order to give farmers an ample time to acquire the know-how since he has seen over 11 years of experience that many who have tried raising foreign-bred organic chickens have failed to sustain their operations.

There are presently several breeder farms of Grimaud Freres in the country– those of Villegas, another in Antipolo, one in Cavite, and Grimaud is looking for entrepreneurs hoping to put up a breeder farm in Visayas and Mindanao.

Villegas’s breeder farm offers a good business opportunity. The farm has 500 female breeders and 100 male which produce 1,200 to 2,000 (DOC) weekly.

These are sold at P35 to P40 per DOC while the farm pays P1.50 per hatching of each egg at an outside hatchery farm. These chickens can lay 320 times a year.

To maximize Grimaud Freres chicken raising, Cruz believes certain guidelines should be followed. One is F1s or the product of breeders should only be used for meat and not be used as breeders or else DOC production will be poor.

Breedership should only be started small at 250 to 500 head level.

Nutrition for the chicken should come from high quality feed—natural feed, with less antibiotics and chemicals. And the birds should be grown in correct farm housing and equipment. There is a standardized feed with an input of sili and oregano, watermelon, and banana.

There is a standardized system for housing, called a condo nest, that can be duplicated. This why there is a uniform weight too for the DOC which is 45 grams. The Villegas farm does not sell it at less than 30 grams to ensure quality. There is less medication and more herbal treatment.

These chickens have an herbal regimen, or are considered pre-herbed chicken. With this, they become free from carcinogens. Their immune system is stronger with intake of herbs like sili and oregano. They have genetic resistance to disease which makes them also healthier to eat. 

———-

 

BF’s Seven Major Roads

September 17, 2009
BF’s Seven Major Roads

The rehabilitation and construction of the seven major roads in Metro Manila may just be what this city needs to accelerate goods movement and enhance workforce efficiency.

More than any other government interventions, infrastructure– the more visible of which are roads– comes very prominently. Its presence is believed to have tremendous impact on poverty reduction.

” Infrastructure, in all its forms, is a catalyst for development. Well-planned and managed infrastructure enhance costs, enables established businesses to expand production levels, encourage small businesses to enter the market, (and) promotes trade and supports economic concentration,” according to a Development Bank of Southern Africa official.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has an initial seven-road project which will be a vehicle to economic growth for the entire Philippines.

Requiring a total of P6.43 billion until 2010, the seven projects will improve pedestrian safety through footbridge construction; improve travel convenience, safety, and speed through U-turns and road expansions; reduce traffic congestion; enhance productivity through public transport (through the Light Rail Transit); and enhance cheaper transport availability including through biking and walking.

The seven major roads are the 19-kilometer (KM) Circumferential Road 5 (C-5), C-5 Kalayaan Elevated U-turn, 10-KM Commonwealth Ave. (from Elliptical Rd. to Regalado Ave.), 23-KM Monumento-Roxas Blvd., EDSA LRT3 Corridor, 3-KM Marcos Highway (Katipunan Ave to Masinag Junction), 6-KM Quezon Avenue (from Elliptical Rd. to Mabuhay Rotonda), 8-KM Mc Arthur Highway, and 11-KM Radial Road.

MMDA has been faring relatively well in hitting its targeted completion dates.

” Before we commit anything, we undertake engineering and traffic studies, so we’re pretty sure of what to do. We have the best engineering group. Our people have done a lot of good projects in many places. When we talk about infrastructure, all things can be counted so you can ascertain the time table,” said MMDA General Manager Robert C. Nacianceno.

There are many times when MMDA’s road strategies—specially the U-turns– are questioned by motorists. But MMDA is starting to prove that its systems are scientific.

” We’re kind of confident that these are correct. When you’re on the road, it looks like we’re weaving in and out (of Commonwealth Ave. ). But on paper as it is drawn in pencil, the five lanes in Commonwealth (10 on both sides) are okay (and it happens in reality).”

MMDA asserts U-turns are really standard ways of ensuring smoother traffic flow— intersections take more time from travelers.

“Longer can be shorter,” aid Nacianceno. “They have U-turns in Bangkok, but we just don’t notice it’s a U-turn.”

Nacianceno cited Germany’s Autobahn– built in an aim to create jobs and reduce unemployment rate in the 1930s– has no intersections.

It is a major high-speed road restricted to certain vehicle types where recommended speed is a minimum of 130 kilometers per hour with no speed limit.

As anyone knows, MMDA goes through serious hardships just to get things done. And it is trying to overcome all these and is evidently succeeding in it.

The government agency felt a sense of success in one of such difficult situations as Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has already approved the Kalayan-C-5 elevated U-turn. Binay was earlier espousing the construction of a flyover in this intersection, following cues from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

But MMDA asserted that an elevated U-turn is better.

Rather than a U-turn at the center of the road, the elevated U-turn will have an ear that branches out on the right side of the road and climbs up toward the opposite direction in order to traverse the normal lane.

“We showed Mayor Binay through a simulation model in a computer software that considering volume count and speed at a certain time, this is how it would be in a U-turn as we lay out the plan in accordance with the exact perspective,” he said.

With such time and patience MMDA people gave to convince him, Binay finally agreed.

The elevated road, costing only P300 million, saves government P200 million since the flyover costs P500 million.

It is faster to construct and will be ready this month (July).

A usual complaint on MMDA’s road projects are the lack of notice on construction or demolition works.

“It’s important that the mayors and the congressmen know it. We know that they want to be informed. Sometimes they’re saying they don’t know about it. But our projects are major thoroughfares.

There’s no reason not to give notice,” he said. There are some oppositions to MMDA projects that are resolved through a technology or better equipment.

It presently has a temporary restraining order on the construction of additional lanes in the tree-lined Katipunan Road as residents in the vicinity complain that the removal of trees would wipe off greeneries.

But MMDA looks forward to a successful construction since it is certain that the trees can be transferred inside the Ateneo and Merriam campuses.

This is through the use of a balling equipment, a huge truck with mechanical space that digs on the side and uproots the soil and roots of big trees.

MMDA also maintains tree doctors—foresters and agriculturists– that decide on whether trees can be moved somewhere else and survive. They recommend what to do with trees to enhance greening.

It also keeps landscape architects who are putting finishing touches on public places that are both for aesthetics and environment-friendliness.

When MMDA finishes the seven major roads this year or by 2009, people should be happy it will not run out of goals to achieve.

But first things first—the first seven major roads have to be finished first before the next.

” It’s got to be that way. The idea is to first show everyone that we’re completing projects for the appreciation of everybody. It’s not a shotgun thing,” said MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando.

It has lined up the next seven major roads which may possibly later include a C-5 expansion that will extend from the present Katipunan Ave. which will be connected to the Luzon Ave. and eventually to the North Luzon Expressway.

On top of the sets of seven roads, four bridges are proposed to be constructed across the Pasig River which will save commuters travel time by maybe half the previous travel time.

Two bridges will be constructed in the Pasig-Taguig area before Guadalupe while the two others will be on the Mandaluyong-Sta. Ana-Manila side.

MMDA officials believe its infrastructure works are encouraging the private sector to put up buildings that in turn spur economic activity like the information technology center being built by Ayala Corp. in Philcoa.

” I’ve been hearing people say that they’re totally surprised MMDA is able to do what they think is not possible. Our agency has established a reputation for doing them,” said Nacianceno. There may be complaints against MMDA abuses, but Fernando assured that these are being brought to legal proceedings.

“Complaints are handled by an adjudication board . There are specified penalties for violations. We have a process for this”, he said.

He claimed the scrutiny of qualified estimators is also ensuring graft-free construction of the roads even as infrastructure projects are generally perceived to be a big source of corruption.

As it fixes all its troubles, Fernando is optimistic more people will understand MMDA as it establishes a track record on credible public service.

“These criticisms are brought about by our passion to do our work. As chairman, I want to insist on what is proper so we can be effective. That way, I’m perceived as authoritarian. If we will forego all violations, the system will be destroyed.

” In time, people will begin to understand. You have to first show them your performance. Sometimes they say ‘It’s your bad nature. You’re a dictator or a Hitler.’ But you have to show them that it’s not for your personal interest, but it’s for them.”

 

Making Micro-lending a Success: Tips from Jovencio Guanzon

September 17, 2009
• It takes both sides to make this work. For the lender, the rules should be clear; the product should meet the needs of the borrowers. The borrowers should understand their obligations. The loan should be cross-guaranteed (between the five to 10 groups). They can only borrow for as long as they help one another (pay their obligations).
• Age doesn’t matter much. But those who are older, aged 35 to 55, are more likely to succeed in borrowing. The younger ones prefer to find their chance abroad, but the older ones do not have anything-else to turn to but to livelihood just where they are.
• Success is with borrowers who are poor but enterprising. Not everybody can do that; some, even with the credit, get into more trouble. But the ones who make it have a strong desire to succeed and a strong determination to help their families and only lack the opportunity.

• Repayment by borrowers is only one objective. The rest is the vision to educate poor people and consolidate resources for the poor who could make up a greater whole of richer persons.

• Leadership is very critical. We try not to lose the vision. While a micro-financing agency is trying hard to be profitable, IT shouldn’t be tempted to make it big at once and immediately lend to the rich and leave what he started. It’s so easy to lose direction. Focus is essential.

 

 

 

Small is Big in Financing the Truly Indigent

September 17, 2009
Small is Big in Financing the Truly Indigent

Little things mean a lot. Too much for the cliché, but nowhere is this saying more true than in financing the livelihood of the truly helpless. Financing individuals from whom it is impossible for lenders to require any type of collateral may be the most menial of all financing businesses. But to the Philippine Microenterprise Development Foundation (PMDF), it is a pride.

“There are a lot of successes and a lot of failures also. What’s important is we’re really fulfilling our vision of lending to the poor,” said PMDF Executive Director Jovencio Guanzon.

PMDF lends as low as low as P3,000 to individuals, collateral-free, and without the many bureaucratic forms other lenders require.

Luz Sanuco, 53, of Letre, Malabon, first borrowed P4,000 in 2002. This was payable over 90 days and had to be returned at the time at P4,800.

“I used to work in a garment factory which closed down. My husband was a driver, but he met an accident and lost his job. PMDF went to us and conducted a meeting, and then we’re able to borrow,” she said.

She just started with banana cue and palamig. But because of that start-up fund, Luz’s banana cue goods turned into a grocery that is now worth P500,000.

And her latest loan? It was a lot bigger at P50,000. This had to be paid off at P2,730 weekly for six months or a total of P65,520 Since then, her total loan has already amounted to P168,000.

Looking back, without that loan, could Luz have been able to send her children to school?

“I”ve been able to send my children to school. My youngest finished at the University of the East, a private school,” she said proudly.

MDF borrowers improve their lives significantly. Those lacking in electricity, water, and walls in their houses are able to enjoy them for the first time. Even better, they develop better outlook in life.

Another Malabon borrower, Leonila dela Cruz, took her first debt from at PMDF in July 2007. It was even smaller than Luz’s at P3,000. It totalled to P3,360 after the 12-week paying period.

Her second loan was P8,000. And her third was P15,000 which was returned at P758 weekly over 23 weeks or a total of P17,434 or at an interest of around three percent per month.

So, from just selling palabok and juices, included now in her menu are take-home goods like siomai.

Dela Cruz, 50 and a high school graduate, finds the PMDF loan very convenient to pay compared to what she was previously obtaining from loan sharks or five-six lenders.

“It’s not hard to pay it unlike in five-six because I pay for it weekly. This way, I can roll the money over many times in a week unlike if I have to pay it daily to Bumbay lenders,” she said.

A program considered a plus factor by borrowers in the PMDF lending scheme is its offer to restore 50% of a group savings that come from a P20 per week collection from the borrowers. This will be returned to the group after five years. Moreover, the savings is also loanable to the group members in case of emergency.

Robert Andrada, PMDF program manager, said PMDF has created a niche in microfinancing as it lends even to the non-bankable.

The program is “ladderized” where a new member can first borrow a small amount until he proves credit-worthy for bigger loans.

Patterned after the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh that lends only to women, an important qualification is for PMDF borrowers, also only women, to form groups of five to 10. Members should help each other pay off one another’s loan, or else the group stands to lose the credit privilege.

Definitely, the members go through a training first where they are taught about borrowing policies.

The interest rate at PMDF is admittedly higher than commercial banking rates. This is as cost of delivering the service is very expensive as there are many trainors and processors that have to take account of the credit. And yet, at around one percent weekly interest, it has been one of the most convenient credit source for borrowers.

Interestingly, even if the debt amount is small, debtors pay their dues to banks through a weekly collection system as those with Banco de Oro and of United Coconut Planters Bank.

“It’s part of their having to be exposed to the banking system,” said Andrada.

Since its start in 1998, PMDF has so far lent to 15,000 clients and has released around P400 million in loan amount. The non-profit foundation has been increasing its surplus which it is using to finance its operations. As the surplus continues to grow, it plans to cut interest rates on the credit.

But the not-so-quantifiable value is the upliftment out of poverty of many women it lent to and their families.

“We’ve measured the income of our borrowers. Those who have borrowed their first three loans experience an increase in their income by 90%. They begin to have savings. Some who weren’t having a full day’s meal start to eat three times a day,” Guanzon said.

 

Equitable Wealth Sharing through Software Technology

September 17, 2009

Equitable Wealth Sharing through Software Technology

The high price of proprietary software has led software developers worldwide to find a means to make costs cheaper and make information technology more accessible to the resource-scarce—even to small and medium enterprises.
One of the most recognized advocates globally in what is called the open source software is a Filipino—Winston Damarillo, an acknowledged serial entrepreneur, chairman of Exist Global and Philippine Software Industry Association director for marketing. He has for the last eight years pioneered this advocacy in the Philippines.
Early on, Damarillo foresaw that open source can be that niche that can create better success opportunities for emerging technology businesses. He had a gut feel on this as he was experienced and was on top of his class in buying into software ventures when he was at Intel Capital.

The vastness of open source is quantified by the growing amount of users of open source, making conclusions the whole industry should migrate to open source.

Apache Web server is now used by 48% of all websites in the world. Mozilla Firefox is an open source web browser which is fast catching up on the heels of Windows Internet Explorer. The Google Web Server is a modified version of Apache which runs Google’s Search engine.

It was in 2001 that Damarillo founded Gluecode through which open source software was developed based on Apache Software Foundation, a decentralized developer community that produces and distributes software under the free Apache License terms. This allows use of the source code for the development of both free (open source) and proprietary software. He also established Exist in the Philippines at almost the same time as Gluecode in the US.

After a few years, Gluecode, aimed to link several software and “glue” them to come up with highly modular platform for using Java applications, got bought in 2005 by IBM. IBM which integrated it into its Websphere application server bought the idea of Gluecode’s business model which involves the concept of a technological layer built upon an open source Apache software.

” Open source is the best written 80%-complete software. For enterprises to use open source software, somebody has to write the 20%. Now imagine if you have 20 flavors for that 20%. The customer has choices,” he said.

The versatility of open source is aggrandized by its cost reduction.

“Because we’re only writing 20%, 80% is shared cost, and that will always result in cheaper software than IBM or Microsoft. It’s simple economics but works really well.”

Bruce Perens defined open source as a broad general-type of software license where source code can be used by the general public without copyright infringement.

However, while open source may connote free software, Damarillo believes another model, a business-friendly one used by Apache Foundation and Eclipse, may be sustainable compared to the totally free access to software as embodied in a GNU Public License. This involves the sale of programs written on top of open source code.

” Open source software is about collaboration, and people who join the collaboration should find an economic engine based on their unique value-add to it,” he said.

An advantage of open source software development is people can stay any place in the world and still participate.

“The best minds should stay in the Philippines, building products from the Philippines as opposed to leaving the country. I did it myself. I went to the States and I was remitting a lot of money. But while there was a short-term benefit, my leaving has not really helped develop the software economy in the Philippines.”

 

 

 

Contributing to National Pride through Culture and Arts

September 17, 2009

Contributing to National Pride through Culture and Arts

Two plain questions were asked by Growth Revolution to “Fernando Sena, a painter and art educator and to Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Jose L. Atienza Jr.”. These are on how culture and arts contribute to unifying a nation and in what instance did they believe this to be true. Fernando Sena: Our country is on the grave of so many problems. To my mind, culture and arts are a passport to unification. Our government leaders spend too much on politics which may be why we are always divided. If our leaders will put money on arts and culture by erecting art centers and museums and sponsoring art and dance shows, these will create a beautiful image of our culture and enrich our history. There was at the time of (former President Ferdinand) Marcos a popular discontent about the government. But because of the art program called “Superkulayeros” which was launched by Ms. Imee Marcos, students spent a productive time in painting walls in Marikina, Tondo, Cultural Center and other places in Metro Manila. The students had the chance to expose their artistic talents. Of course their parents, my students’ parents in particular, were happy seeing their children create something they never expected their children could do. In these times, we learn to set aside politics. Lito Atienza: It’s very important and even critical to develop culture and arts it because it’s the soul of a nation. It can inspire and motivate and is an effective instrument for unity. I have been a culture-oriented person. I’ve been a singer, a dancer, a painter. I’ve been aware of the values of music. In Manila, when I was a mayor, we organized special events, concerts, stage plays, dances, and ballet shows. I brought in shows, even international shows, to expose and educate our poor communities on the performances of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra and Manila Chorale. We opened opportunities for specially-gifted children of Manila to train in singing and dancing. I put up the Manila Dance Center , a world-class dance studio. We have 200 dance scholars who receive free training on ballet, jazz, folk dance. These scholars are reaping rewards (and get chances of performing in international shows.)

Computerized Tribal Language Translation

September 17, 2009
Computerized Tribal Language Translation
By Ruby May Reyes & Jennifer Tria

Educating tribal groups in remote areas has been a perennial problem of government, but a mathematician and translator may have the secret to unlocking this puzzle.

Aileen Gonzales, a translator affiliated with the SIL (originally Summer Institute of Linguistics) International and Translators Association of the Philippines (TAP), believes language is the key to getting tribal people to adapt to change.

She has started translating literacy materials from Filipino (or Tagalog) into a tribal language of the Botolan Ayta called “Sambal.”

“For their education to be effective, basic literacy skills, and in my opinion, even elementary functional literacy skills must be learned in the vernacular – the language they think in. These skills will readily transfer when they acquire new languages which is imperative in Philippine society,” said Gonzales.

The government may stand pat that there is no need to translate education materials into tribal languages since it is promoting the use of Filipino and English.

Besides, there are 110 families of tribes in the country and more than 150 spoken languages, and translating literature into these languages from Tagalog or English would take tremendous effort and fund.

But that shorter path may be the reason why educating tribes has been a failure, Gonzales, MA in Mathematics graduate at the University of Washington, and the University of Illinois Math doctorate student, surmises.

” Illiteracy rate is high even in bilingual tribes (who speak Tagalog and their language). Many don’t read or write. With young natives attending formal school, attrition rate is high even in grade school. Language is a major factor. In the Philippines where the mediums of instruction in formal schools are Tagalog and English, they are bound to be unsuccessful, adding other factors,” she said.

Language and education experts have stressed the role of native or first language in effective learning.

” Numerous studies around the world indicate that when students learn to read and write in their mother tongue, … they progress more quickly both in literacy skills and in second language acquisition,” according to a report of Rose C. Dumatog, certified elementary school teacher and Diane E. Dekker, literacy specialist.

SIL, which has been translating the Bible in different languages, has developed a way of translating very related languages through a computational linguistics tool called Computer-Assisted Related Languages Adaptation (CARLA). SIL has also developed, among many softwares that it allows others to use for free, a freeware called Toolbox through which an index of a literature can be prepared fast.

The traditional means of translating may take many years. It has taken a translators’ group (SIL missionaries Houck and Minot) 31 years to translate to Sambal the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (before the advent of computers).

But CARLA can translate related languages quicker. Once a dictionary is available, the draft translation can be made in a snap. Obviously though, translating, specially the Bible, takes more arduous work than that. Some missionaries devise the alphabet and study the sounds (because the language is oral and has never been analyzed). Translators go through tedious, advanced linguistics training to do translations.

Still, translation with CARLA is many times faster with a data base of equivalents of root words, prefixes, and suffixes between two very related languages.

To make the translation fool-proof, Gonzales has read her translation works to the Aytas themselves to correct any errors. CARLA, in a way, has been proving to be substantially accurate in the translation.

” They’re not overwhelmed at all when they hear it,” she said.

Reading a translation to natives who would more accurately correct the work is a necessity.

” CARLA is a tool that invites much participation of native speakers. This is good. The more locals participate, the greater the chances are that the translated Bible will be welcomed by the people,” she said.

The Aytas in Baytan, Botolan, Zambales who left their abode in Mt. Pinatubo during the 1991 volcanic eruption are back there in Baytan with an estimated 95 families.

Translation work can be a source of livelihood for them.

“If we can teach them translate to their tribal language, even the agencies can pay them. Their names will be there which gives the tribal people a sense of contribution. But what’s also hard is convincing the government to pay them,” she said.

This is what Gonzales envisions—that translation works can be accelerated as tribal people can help in translating into their own language educational materials on practical things helpful to their daily lives.

Subjects should be varied and as interesting. These can be on health, household maintenance, farming, fishing, forestry, environment, and even maybe entertainment.

“My passion is to translate materials for their education so that they can assimilate quickly and successfully into mainstream society,” she said.

Agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS), Department of Agriculture, Technology Livelihood Resource Center, National Housing Authority, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) can come in and contribute to improving tribes’ lives.

 

It is odd that certain DOH materials on malaria are in English or Filipino, but those afflicted with it are in the mountains who cannot understand the materials at all, Gonzales laments.

As protecting poultry (which may be in the hands of mountain residents) and human health has become one of government’s priorities, Gonzales herself has translated from Tagalog to Sambal through CARLA a bird flu manual. She first had to translate the material from English to Tagalog.

Tribal people have long been deprived of knowing their rights even if they keep an abundance of wealth over an ancestral domain. That is because of illiteracy.

And this is where CHR and NCIP can come in—in educating them on their rights.

The real need is for the tribal groups not only to be able to read and write but to understand what they’re reading and writing. That is called functional literacy– for some do know how to read but cannot do this with comprehension.

The functionally illiterate often resort back to illiteracy.

If tribes have to advance to genuine literacy, varied useful and interesting readings have to be translated into their own language.

” We want to produce a lot because if it’s only a few, how do you expect them to be interested in moving out of illiteracy? But if I build a library of multiple topics, all topics under the sun, how could you revert back to illiteracy?” she said.

What is good about CARLA is it can translate existing literacy materials possibly into all of Philippines ’ estimated 150 spoken languages, Gonzales believes.

” I have a vision for the entire country, she said.

“There are enough similarities between Philippine languages to do this sort of thing that I did between Tagalog and Sambal, even with differences in word order. However, this system works only for reading materials that do not use or have very little figures of speech,” she said.

It can be very useful in straightforward materials on livelihood, human rights, health and disease prevention, environment protection, and other academic subjects.

This opportunity opens up other benefits for the Philippines since this literacy goal involves tribal people who hold the key to the protection of natural resources that only they have easy access to.

Now that government has put mining a top priority for creating jobs and livelihood opportunities, the literacy of tribal groups becomes more pertinent.

This way, they can both protect themselves from exploitation of outsiders and their environment from degradation while also taking advantage of income opportunities for rural development such as from mining.

Literacy among tribes may also be a key to increased ability of companies engaged in mining, forestry, or natural resource extraction to communicate with indigenous people from whom they have to obtain free, prior informed consent (FPIC) as mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in order to begin operation.

If translation on all tribal languages has to be done, this should involve support in the acquisition of computers (at least Pentium III with 128 MB) and publishing of dictionaries (from Filipino or English to the tribal languages).

To achieve this national tribal literacy, Gonzales thinks of primarily translating DECS materials under its Accreditation and Equivalency Program (AEP) which has 537 modules (costing P35,000). DECS-AEP allows non-high school graduates to be accredited by DECS as high school graduates once they pass the test. It includes tests on English, Math, and Science.

But the higher level subjects are in English. This means there are required workers to first translate these materials into Tagalog which is more related to most tribal languages.

CARLA may not at all work in other languages due to certain complications, but it has already been used in related languages in Indonesia and South America . What a wonder that it can be used to translate Tagalog into most Philippine languages.

Gonzales said the perception that tribal groups don’t want education or progress is not true.

“It’s a myth that they don’t want to learn. The Aytas want to learn computers. They want to learn English. They’re even willing to pay for the use of computers. And I hope they will be equipped on computers, in English so that they’ll be competitive,” she said.

Now that Gonzales is taking a break to research on literacy modules and study a core of an Alliance Graduate School linguistics course in British Columbia, Canada (as a TAP deployment requirement), her translation skill is already being passed on to an Ayta– Aida Badar.

That is making this program sustainable.

“The Badars have opened their farm to students for hands-on learning and have partnered with LAKAS, a non-government organization in Bihawo, part of Bunga,” she said.

Aida and her husband Ike moved to a four-hectare land where they aim to teach their tribesmen literacy materials that are now being translated to their language.

“Our people learn faster and understand better with Sambal. We hope that with more of us becoming more educated, more tribal people will not just work and get paid on a per day basis but will have more permanent livelihood,” said Badar.

TESDA is there now to train them on livelihood programs like beauty and care and dressmaking.

They have even put learning into practice as they are now imparting to other Aytas information on Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT). The technology is already being used in their hilly land.

Information on SALT, a way of preserving sloping lands through terracing (such as those found in Ifugao) while making them productive for farming, is one of the subjects of translation for the tribe.

We’ve always been planting but using the old technology. We’re planting cassava and corn. But now we have also tried a new technology (on SALT) that’s helping preserve our mountain, she said.

 

 

Agriculture: Japan Farming Model

September 17, 2009

Japan Farming Model

 

It may not be totally ideal to think of Japan as a model for the Philippines to follow. After all, Japan had never gone through the extreme drudgeries of having been colonized by Westerners as the Philippines did.

Its status as an industrialized country, earlier than any other newly industrialized Asian economy, may be perceived as one that can only call for awe rather than for inspiration or as an example.

But as a nearby Asian country, Japan may somehow stir an insight in its approach to agriculture which has its own success patterns.

First, Japan’s agriculture has harnessed support from its entire population. It was bolstered by a strategic positioning of agriculture’s multi-functions. Its main function may be food production. But it is much more than this.

Its agriculture has significance in many aspects in land, environmental balance, and culture.

These functions have a huge value based on a substitutive cost method.

Agriculture’s function of flood prevention has a value of Y3.5 trillion through water storage of paddy and upland fields, stopping flooding during heavy rainfall. Its recreational amenities are valued at Y2.4 trillion as urban dwellers take the rural life for leisure.

Preventing landslides (through cultivation of farm lands) has a value of Y478.2 billion. Soil erosion prevention in place of cost for constructing dams for erosion prevention is equivalent to Y331.8 billion.

Other functions are waste recycling which turns waste into organic fertilizers, Y12.3 billion; summer heat moderation (temperature-lowering from vegetation replacing air-conditioning), Y8.7 billion; and fostering water resources (recycled irrigation water and groundwater recharged through paddy and upland fields to replace water supply dams).

A host of other functions carry important values: Culture dissemination, water decontamination, global environment and biological diversity conservation, comfortable environment creation, health promotion, social exchange, marine and traditional fish culture preservation, disaster relief, and landscape creation.

Interestingly, this multi-functionality of agriculture has enabled Japan to negotiate with the World Trade Organization its famous 1,000% tariff on rice. That is ironically despite its claim of 100% rice sufficiency (as Japanese are turning to a more Western protein-based diet).

The Japanese government asserted that in trade negotiations, even non-trade issues should be given their fair weight.

However, it is now bringing that tariff protection down, but not for nothing.

Amid its industrial leadership, Japan also aims to be a global agricultural leader as it may already be one in certain niche farm markets.

It is liberalizing agriculture so that it can export its own food products while at the same time popularizing globally the fashionable culture of Japanese cuisine.

It targets by 2013 to hit a Y1 trillion ($10 billion) export of agricultural, forestry and fishery products. Its sticky, aromatic rice– known popularly as Japonica used in sushis— must be one of the top farm export products.

The Philippines, which has easily given in to farm trade liberalization, flounders in a 2.4 million metric ton rice import in 2008 which is world’s largest. Another of Japan’s agricultural success factor is heavy investment in research and development (R&D).

Japan’s farm sector is 100% mechanized from land preparation to post-harvest.

After starting with its first man-driven rice transplanting machine in 1966, it is starting to commercialize a global positioning system-capable rice transplanting machine that will not need a farmhand to run it.

This way, rice production can be sustained even if there has been a noted decrease in farm labor as youngsters choose the urban life. Its farmers’ age is now dominated by those aged 65 and up.

Mechanization is just one aspect of its technological innovation in farming. Japan has a critical mass of scientists in many R&D aspects under the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), Japan’s largest R&D organization on agriculture, food, and rural communities.

It has 300 people at the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) planning, coordination, and administration office; 290 people at the NARC Kyushu Okinawa Region; 270, NARC Western Region; 300, NARC-Tohoku; and 290, NARC-Hokkaido.

NARO’s National Institute of Animal Health has 260 personnel; National Institute for Rural Engineering, 120; National Food Research Institute, 130; Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement (for mechanization promotion, basic research, and private sector research promotion), about 100; and National Farmers Academy, 20.

Its National Institute of Fruit Tree Science has 190 people; National Institute of Crop Science, 60; National Institute of Floricultural Science, 40; National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science, 180; and National Institute of livestock and Grassland Science, 330.

An important success factor of Japanese agriculture’s success may be also be attributable to a cooperative system that has looked into the welfare of its farmers.

The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), which coordinates farm cooperative system nationally, was created under a law passed in 1954.

One of JA’s important activities is residential development and management.

This aids farmers by accepting consignment of farmland if the farmer wants to convert his farm into a housing for rent area which has become a trend as farm economy weakened and as farmers began to age.

Other activities are the comprehensive life and home centers (lifestyle-related consultation and culture courses); public relations (to promote increase in domestic farm consumption, mainly rice); welfare for the elderly which provides home health visits to farmers and trains farmers’ home-helpers; and the organic agriculture and consumer relations which is involved in direct sales of farm products and the production of organic agriculture.


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