“Solon bats lower interconnection charges” – Castelo

In a bid to roll down interconnection charges pegged by all telecommunication companies to 85 million mobile phone users, Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo of Quezon City today filed House Bill No. 4939.

The QC solon bats for lower interconnection charges in the context that prevailing calling or texting rates within and across networks are one of the highest in the Asia Pacific Region.  In his proposal, Castelo wants the prevailing P4 per minute of voice call be reduced to as low as P1, the text message reduced by half, and landline charge from P2 to P1.   This way, the millions of subscribers and patrons of various telecom companies or networks will derive more value for their money.

‘With consumers saving P3 for voice calls and when text messages or landline charges are reduced by half as much, I think that subscribers and patrons will experience unrestricted access and in a substantial way, empower them with unlimited calls, texts and even internet.  It shall be a welcome development in mobile communication and information in the country”, Castelo pointed out.

“The lives of tens of millions of the Filipino people have long been affected by some kind of predatory pricing in the telecommunication industry due to the almost monopolistic practices by leading telecom giants to the detriment of new emerging and minor players.  Note here that not only the 85 million consumers will benefit but equally so with new telecom players”, Castelo pointed out.

“Millions of Filipino callers or subscribers will finally enjoy cheap and affordable call and text rates, intra or inter networks, since these reduced rates effectively removed access barriers between one network to another.  Besides, can we recall a time when we, as subscribers, can demand refund for charging rates that should have been found as overpriced precisely because telecom networks are not being regulated?”, the lawmaker asked.

“In the bill’s main text, the schedule for reduced interconnection rates shall take three (3) years to implement and this staggered scheme is meant to allow the telecommunication companies affected to absorb whatever resulting impact it may have on their billing systems, business models, or revenue concerns.  In other words, the government is not really flexing regulatory muscle to push them into a position of disadvantage”, Castelo reasoned out.

“On the other hand, we have a patronizing 85 million subscribers who should also have every right to get their monies’ worth given otherwise very inhibitive or limited bundles of benefits from these leading telecom giants like Globe or Smart or whatever especially under a climate of constricted competition”, the QC solon said.

“We should remember that for so long a time, the interconnection charges pegged by the telecom networks themselves independent of any NTC interference as would regulate pricing have gone a long sway beneficial to their business than to social benefits that should accrue to the consumers.  This time, we want some kind of corporate social responsibility translates into giving back to consumers more ‘bundles of joy’ at fairly more affordable and reasonable rates for voice calls, text messages, and mobile to landline connections”, Castelo added.

Additionally, Castelo clarified that the prescribed reduced rates are being institutionalized to allow NTC to fully implement its proposal to these major telecom players and new and emerging ones.

“Let us look at this congressional action as actually just leveling the playing field”, Castelo finally quipped. 30


Seedling mass production facility put up in Quezon to aid in Phils’ becoming world’s biggest makapuno producer


A seedling mass production facility for the specialty food makapuno was put up in Tiaong, Quezon to aid in making the Philippines become world’s biggest makapuno producer.


This facility integrates research, laboratory, and mass propagation of seedlings in one center at the Quezon Agricultural Experimental Station (QAES).


The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) has funded the upgrading of the Embryo Culture Facility (ECF) that is already housed within QAES.  It aims to supply Makapuno seedlings to Calabarzon—Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.


The project, for which P4.9 million has been released, will last up to December 2015.  


“Our aim is to lower the cost of planting materials so our farmers will be encouraged to plant it.  Makapuno is one product where (DA) Secretary (Proceso) Alcala sees an opportunity for us to be the biggest producer in the world,” said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.


The target is to lower cost by around 50 percent from P600 per seedling supplied by a lone private producer in Calabarzon.


Erlene Concibido-Manohar, Project Development Officer of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), who also leads the project, said a huge market awaits the country’s makapuno production.


“There is a gap of 3.99 million kilos of makapuno meat per year to address the demand of food processors internationally.  In the Philippines itself, Nestle, Magnolia, and Selecta need 4.061 million kilos of makapuno meat for their ice cream production,” according to Manohar.


The Philippines already exports makapuno to Japan and the United States as a finished product, usually as a dessert in bottled form. 


However, without embryo culture and related technologies and best practices in seedlings mass production, it may just fall behind Thailand which is already planting makapuno massively.


Makapuno is just an abnormality of the coconut that comes out only by up to 20 percent chance in a normal coconut tree. This means that out of 20 nuts in a harvest, only a maximum of four nuts may turn out to be a makapuno, a kind of coconut meat that has tender and tasty flesh. Because of this defect, makapuno nuts do not germinate.


To ensure increased production of makapuno purebreds, PCA has developed the use of isolated embryo from the nut of a makapuno-bearing palm, to produce seedlings.


Embryo culture technology, where the embryo is excised out of a mature makapuno nut and grown under ideal tissue culture conditions in this laboratory, will raise chances of producing increased number of makapuno seedlings.


Makapuno nuts are not commonly found in all trees, but their presence is more prevalent in Laguna and Quezon.  Embryo culture can produce trees that yield 75 to 100 percent makapuno nuts or 17 to 20 nuts out of a harvest of 20 nuts.


The global ice cream industry needs an estimated 1.5 billion nuts to flavor 0.5 percent of 831 million gallons of ice cream, 52 million gallons of sherbet, and 82 million gallons of yogurt.


The ECF upgrading in Tiaong is expected to finally bring to reality the hope to raise Philippines’ makapuno production.


“This is a program that should have all the elements that can make our hope to raise makapuno production come true.  It has a component for research, a growing of the embryos for seedling production, and we also put up a farmers’ training center in the area,” said Eleazar.


The establishment of the ECF will also explore the uses of galactomannan, a kind of gum that can be extracted from the whitish makapuno liquid endosperm.  Galactomannan from the liquid endosperm is just thrown away as waste, as is the case of coconut water. The technology of its extraction is being perfected.  The diverse uses of galactomannan as extender or thickener, gelling agent, emulsifier, and food stabilizer are also being explored.


Galactomannan can also be made into a biodegradable film for use in wrapping candies, as in the edible wrapper in White Rabbit, and in fresh lumpia cover.  It has other pharmaceutical and health care applications as biofilm for natural gauze for wound dressings, in moisturizers and hand and body lotion base.


For industrial or research applications, galactomannan may also be an inexpensive substitute to the costly agarose gels routinely used in DNA fingerprinting and molecular diagnostics, which was diligently explored by Dr. Maria Judith Rodriguez, a PCA researcher at the Albay Research Center.


As of 2006, it was estimated that there was a need to grow 121,483  embryo cultured makapuno seedlings to meet the demand for makapuno.        


The ECF in QAES will be the first of such facility for Calabarzon.  The other ECFs are in Davao, Zamboanga, Albay Research Center, Sta. Barbara in Pangasinan, and Indang, Cavite.


PCA plans to grow 500 embryos that can be a source of makapuno seedlings per cycle or over 11 months.  However, success rate of this embryo growing has not yet been established so far and may go down to as low as 50 to 20 percent.


Makapuno is a widely demanded product used as a delicacy and as a special flavoring for cakes, ice cream, and confectioneries. Erlene Concibido-Manohar, PCA

PhilMech taps into renewable energy


The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is looking to employ renewable energy sources to power various agriculture postharvest and mechanization equipment, which would help reduce the dependence of farmers on fossil fuel sources.

PhilMech Executive Director Ricardo L. Cachuela said that among the renewable energy sources that the agency is studying and testing are solar, wind and biomass.

“Tapping renewable energy sources would also allow farmers and fisher folk in areas not served with electricity or with limited fuel supply to power some agricultural machineries and equipment,” Cachuela said.

In solar energy, PhilMech has designed a solar furnace made from curved steel that would be used for drying applications. Traditional solar furnaces use curved mirrors but these are expensive and not locally available compared to curved steel. PhilMech made sure that the solar furnace it is testing would be made from locally-available materials for easy fabrication.

“Using locally available materials would make it easier to manufacture the solar furnace once it is ready for commercialization,” Cachuela said.


Another renewable energy PhilMech is exploring is wind, with the agency set to test prototype units in farming areas where there are farmer-cooperators willing and capable to test the technology.


Based on data gathered and evaluated by PhilMech, the most qualified prospective cooperators are located in the provinces Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Laguna, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Tarlac and Lanao del Sur. PhilMech has started conducting the pilot tests in Aurora, Negros Occidental and Laguna this year.



“Windmill technology is very applicable in areas where there are no electricity lines, and where fuel supply is constrained because of the far distance of gasoline stations,” Cachuela said.


In biomass, PhilMech has approved for commercialization a grains drier that uses rice hull as fuel to generate heat. Traditional grains driers use dkerosene to generate heat.


“More research will be done by PhilMech to see how biomass like rice hull could be put to good use,” Cachuela said. Veron Hernandez, PhilMech

Paje orders filing of criminal charges vs. persons responsible for dumping toxic wastes in Cavite


Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today ordered the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to file appropriate charges against those responsible for the dumping of toxic wastes in Dasmarinas, Cavite, in violation of Republic Act 6969, otherwise known as Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.


At the same time, Paje also directed the immediate evaluation of water samples from the Langkaan River to determine whether or not it has been contaminated by the toxic materials.


This, even as Regional Director Allan Leuterio of EMB-Region 4A said that a technical conference is set today (July 19) at 2 p.m. in his office.


“We will spare no one in this case.  The government is definitely serious in enforcing environmental laws especially at this time when the country is facing several environmental hazards resulting from climate change,” Paje said.


Initial investigation conducted by EMB-Region 4A showed that the toxic wastes were dumped in Barangays Langkaan I and II in Dasmarinas, both of which are adjacent to a tributary of the Langkaan River.


“I have also directed the EMB to collect water samples from Langkaan River to determine if there has been any contamination of the river system,” Paje said.


The team further reported that a dug-pit, measuring 1 meter in width, 2 meters in length and 1.5 meters in depth, was found in the area, which the investigators said might be intended for the dumping of the drums containing the toxic chemicals.


Paje also said that samples of the wastes have been collected, subject for toxicity characteristic and leaching procedure (TCLP) by JEFCOR Laboratory located at the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE), also in Dasmarinas.  The result of the analysis will be available in 10 days, according to Leuterio.


Based on the report, Paje identified the truck driver as a certain Ramon Olaguer while the owner of the private lot where the drums were dumped is a certain Fidel Huelgas.   


Olaguer said during the investigation that the toxic materials came from SOLCHEM, an accredited treatment facility in Las Pinas City.


Meanwhile, Leuterio said that he has already issued a special transport permit to Cleanway Technology Corporation in Silang, Cavite, which volunteered to transport and take temporary custody of the said toxic wastes. PAO, DENR

DOST and Novartis hold 4th Local BioCamp

(2nd from left) is Director Ma. Christina F. Liwanag, Corporate Affairs and Market Access of Novartis while (in center) Senator Edgardo Angara grace the occassion during its awarding in 2011 Local Biotechnology Leadership Camp at AIM Makati.

Novartis Philippines in cooperation with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) hosted the 2011 Local Biotechnology Leadership Camp (BioCamp) last July 11, 2011 at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City.

The BioCamp is an innovative and pioneering project of Novartis that helps develop future leaders in research and biotechnology in the country. Deserving postgraduate students are provided with the opportunity to interact and learn from industry leaders, expand their global network, and explore career opportunities.

At the end of the Local BioCamp, one student will be selected to participate in the International BioCamp in Basel, Switzeland which will be held in August 2011.

 “BioCamp is a great venue for our young colleagues here to meet the experts, learn the business aspect of biotechnology, work on cases, and get into the global network of biotechnology enthusiasts and experts.” said Dr. Francis Domingo, Chief Scientific Officer of the Novartis Healthcare Philippines, Inc.

In DOST Secretary Mario Montejo’s message (delivered by PCHRD Executive Director Jaime C. Montoya), he emphasized the need to introduce a mindset of innovation in the Philippines, “I challenge everyone to innovate. We must view globalization as a huge opportunity to showcase the Filipino creativity and ingenuity.”

National Scientist Dr. Ernesto Domingo spoke about research career in the academe, a field where he made significant contributions for fifty years. Dr. Domingo is currently a University Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma shared her experiences as a researcher and how she grew in her career in science. Dr. Saloma is now the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of the Philippines Diliman.

Ms. Maoi Arroyo discussed the basics of commercializing biotech in emerging markets.  She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hybridigm Consulting, Inc.

Other distinguished guests who graced the Local BioCamp included Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Director Carmen Peralta of IP Philippines, Dr. Rey Garcia of the UP Technology Transfer and Business Development Office and Ms. Cristina De Guzman, Chemical Field Top Examiner, Bureau of Patents, IP Philippines. Rachel Ann Doreen D. Nadal, PCHRD, DOST/ Cathy Cruz, PSciJourn Mega Manila

P-Noy Nagtalaga ng Bagong Mamumuno sa PhilRice

Itinalaga ni Pangulong Benigno Aquino III si Dr. Eufemio Rasco, isang plant breeder at academician, bilang bagong Executive Director ng Philippine Rice Research Institute o PhiRice noong July 4, kapalit ni Atty. Ronilo Beronio.

Samantala, pinangunahan naman ng Kalihim ng Agrikultura na si Proceso Alcala ang seremonya ng panunumpa ni Rasco bilang bagong ED ng PhilRice  noong July 13 sa kanyang opisina.

Sa isinagawang turnover ceremony noong July 18, nabanggit ni Rasco ang ilang bilin ni Kalihim Alcala sa kanya at ito ay ang kasiguruhan ng suporta ng PhilRice sa adhikain ng administrasyong Aquino na makamit ang kasapatan ng suplay ng bigas sa taong 2013. Kabilang dito ang pagkakaroon ng mataas na kalidad ng binhi at ang pagdebelop at pag-alinsunod ng mga teknolohiya para sa mga lupang katihan o upland rice farming.

Si Rasco ay nakatanggap na rin ng maraming gawad mula sa mga prestihiyosong organisasyon tulad ng National Academy of Science and Technology o NAST at Philippine Jaycees dahil na rin sa mga kontribusyon niya sa larangan ng plant breeding at agricultural education.

Nagtrabaho na rin siya sa mga kilalang institusyon tulad ng University of the Philippines Mindanao bilang propesor at dean, International Potato Center bilang coordinating scientist, Institute of Plant Breeding bilang direktor, at East-West Seed Company bilang founding director at miyembro ng board. Sa mga institusyong ito isinagawa ni Rasco ang mga komprehensibong pag-aaral at panunuri sa mga gulayan, patatas at kamote, mga di napakikinabangang pananim, dalisdis na pagtatanim, at pagpapanatili ng modernong agrikultura. Maliban dito, nakapaglathala na rin siya ng kanyang mga inaral sa mga libro sa ibang bansa, gayundin nakagawa rin siya ng general education course sa plant biotechnology kung saan ito ang pinakauna sa Pilipinas.

Maliban sa mga nabanggit, si Rasco ay nagtapos ng Agrikultura sa University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna bilang magna cum laude at doctorate degree naman sa plant breeding sa Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Si Rasco ang ika-apat na Executive Director ng PhilRice. Yen Solsoloy, PhilRice


The Quezon City Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department (EPWMD) will hold a grand launching of Quezon City Clean Air Initiatives on Friday (July 22) at the Sky Dome of SM City North, Edsa.

Themed as “Strengthening Air Quality Management in Quezon City thru partnerships, capacity building, legislative measures and enforcement strategy,” the launch is in support of the Clean Air Act of 1999.

QC Mayor Herbert Bautista will open the program with an inspirational message, followed by messages from DENR Sec. Ramon Paje, Councilors Gian Carlo Sotto III, Dorothy Delarmente and Peter Crisologo. Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte will give the closing remarks.

Mayor Bautista strongly supports and advocates the use of eco-friendly technology and system to protect and save the environment and lessen the impact of climate change.

Bautista believes that working together to save the environment will help in the effort of reducing greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

EPWMD Head Frederika Rentoy said included in the program is the city’s 12 point clean air agenda towards air quality management, institutional partnership, closer coordination and cooperation with other national government agencies, the academe, transport sector, non-government organizations and Filipino innovators.

Rentoy said that the programs under the 12 point agenda include the review and amendment of City Ordinance no. S-1906, S-2008 or the anti-smoke belching ordinance; conducting a massive information campaign geared towards public education on health effects, policy standards, enforcement and government verified measures related to clean air; and conducting a competency and capacity building program for the transport sector;

Conducting outdoor and indoor air quality monitoring and assessment with the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Labor and Employment; strengthening anti-smoking enforcement with clearer identification of non-smoking areas; pursuing further landfills and market waste processing for methane capture program and greenhouse gas mitigation;

Regulating the issuance of local permits/clearances of private emission testing centers (PETCs) by the city thru the EPWMD in the light of the rampant proliferation of non-appearance emission test compliance certificates; integrating anti-smog advocacy and programs to the green building ordinance; and implementing infrastructure development/improvement for walkways, footbridges, bike lanes and for disabled.

Once all mechanisms are fully operational, the City can claim that it is the first local government unit (LGU) in the country that has comprehensibly institutionalized mechanisms for cooperation among different sectors towards air quality management. Divine/ Maureen Quiñones, PAISO