With the increasing cases of Covid-19 and the threat of the Omicron variant from spreading, the Department of Health strongly reminds the public to remain cautious against Covid-19 even when they are fully vaccinated. While symptoms may be mild for the fully vaccinated, the disease could be severe for the unvaccinated, especially for senior citizens and those who have other underlying medical conditions.
For now, the government is also ensuring that the country has enough beds and facilities to respond to both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 cases. But crucial to this is also having FEWER PEOPLE WHO WILL NEED THOSE HOSPITAL BEDS, and we, as individuals, have control over choosing safe activities.
The simple choices or actions we make – properly wearing face masks, frequent hand washing, avoiding crowded places, immediately isolating when presenting symptoms of COVID-19, ensuring proper ventilation in indoor settings, choosing to get vaccinated, and boosted – have a collective impact on the country’s case trends. These are just some of the many things we can do that will keep us and our loved ones safe from COVID-19. Let us always choose what is safe and healthy.
On World Animal Day, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reiterated its call for the approval of two Senate bills that seek to strengthen Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.
DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Datu Tungko M. Saikol said it is high time to amend the gaps in the law two decades after its implementation.
“We commend the House of Representatives for passing House Bill 9833 revising the Wildlife Act of 2001 on third and final reading and call on our good Senators to pass Senate Bills No. 2078 and 2079 to strengthen our fight against wildlife crimes. Almost 20 years after the Wildlife Act took effect, the threat of extinction of wildlife species in the Philippines is still not far behind, wreaking havoc to our biodiversity that supports our livelihood and economy,” Saikol said on Monday, October 4.
“Illegal wildlife trade, which is the second biggest threat to species survival globally, increases the risks of zoonotic diseases, or the transfer of diseases from animal to humans, leading to outbreaks,” Saikol said. “With the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative to pass a strengthened wildlife conservation and protection law without delay,” he also asserted.
The law, once amended, will effectively deter wildlife trafficking not only in the country but also in other global destination points. “As a result, it will prevent if not eliminate the incidence, at least in the Philippines, of another infectious disease such as Covid-19, which originated in animals and caused unprecedented loss of human lives worldwide,” he also said.
SB 2078 and SB 2079 were filed by Senator Cynthia Villar and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, respectively. Both bills seek the imposition of stronger and more specific penalties. They also seek to strengthen enforcement capacity and the removal of legal loopholes exploited by illegal wildlife traders.
From 2010 to 2020, more than 67,500 wildlife specimens worth at least P248M were confiscated from 523 suspected law violators. At least 153 criminal complaints have been filed in court, with 29 cases resolved and 47 criminals convicted.
The Philippines is one of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries that host two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity. Unfortunately, the country has become an important source, transit, and destination point for illegal wildlife trade, now the fourth largest illegal trade worldwide behind illegal drugs, arms, and human trafficking.
The value of illegal wildlife trade in the country is estimated at P50 billion yearly or $1 billion, including the market value of wildlife and its resources, their ecological role and value, damage to habitats, and loss in potential ecotourism revenues.
Aggressive marketing of vapes, e-cigs to youth and children alarms law group
Dr. Winston Tiwaquen, most commonly known as Dr. Kilimanguru with over 3.2 million followers on social media application TikTok, said in a radio interview on Saturday night that vapes and e-cigarettes are not healthier alternatives to regular cigarettes.
“Marami kasi ang nagsasabi na ang vape, ito ang savior, ito yung will save you from the negative effects of smoking kasi nga daw mas safe. Pero kasi, there have been studies nga of vape-associated lung injuries (There are those who claim that vape is a savior and will save you from the negative effects of smoking because it is safer. But there have been reports of vape-associated lung injuries),” said the physician.
Tiwaquen rose to fame in the online medical community as Dr. Kilimanguru by debunking health and medical myths online and by urging his followers to seek scientific medical advice, instead of relying on hearsay.
“May mga chemicals [sa] vape that are not safe (There are chemicals in vapes that are not safe),” Tiwaquen said. “Sa FDA (Food and Drug Authority), ang mga e-cigarettes ay hindi approved bilang isang method para mag-quit sa smoking. Meron namang approved medications actually para tulungan ang isang individual na mag-quit ng smoking (FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a method for smoking cessation. There are approved medications to help an individual quit smoking),” the doctor advised.
“Sa four years na pagva-vape mo, pwedeng wala kang nararamdaman. You’ll never know 20 years from now or 30 years from now (In your four years of vaping, even if you do not feel anything, you’ll never know 20 years from now or 30 years from now),” the doctor warned. “The idea is not to shift. The idea really is quitting, stopping completely inhaling anything foreign to the body,” Tiwaquen urged.
“Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, nakikita nating mas umiigting ang advertising [ng mga vape at e-cigarette companies] online (Advertising of vape and e-cigarette companies online has intensified due to the pandemic),” said Atty. Anna Bueno, policy associate of the said law group.
ImagineLaw expressed alarm over the use of social media influencers to get young people to use vape and e-cigarettes. “[May] preliminary data tayo na paggamit [ng vape and e-cigarette companies] ng mga social media influencers to promote these products…Napaka-engaging ng [social media] content na ‘yun lalo na sa mga kabataan so it makes it very irresistible at mukha siyang pa-cool pero harmful naman (We have preliminary data that vape and e-cigarette companies are using social media influencers to promote their products through engaging content that are irresistible to young people. They seem cool, but they are harmful),” Bueno reported.
“Nakikita natin napakaraming flavors [ng vape at e-cigarettes]: chocolate, mango, watermelon, strawberry… na matamis at lasang kendi. Sino ba ang madalas o mahilig sa kendi at sa matatamis, ‘di ba ang mga kabataan din natin? So that’s one very clear proof that this is targeted to children, ‘yung advertising ng mga vapes at e-cigarettes (We’ve seen a lot of vape and e-cigarette flavors: chocolate, mango, watermelon, strawberry that are sweet and resemble candy that are attractive to children. That’s one clear proof that vape and e-cigarette advertising are targeted to children),” she explained.
Bueno also added that existing methods in age verification online–such as the use of mere “yes” or “no” questions–are unreliable and do not definitely indicate that only persons aged 21 years old and above may access and purchase these products, thus justifying a comprehensive ban on advertising online. In social media, age verification may not even be required and may be impossible to enforce properly.
“Dahil sa kawalan ng magandang legal framework para i-regulate yung pag-benta ng vapes at e-cigarettes online, napakadali ng access [ng mga kabataan] ngayon at yun ang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin ng ating mga mambabatas (We currently lack sufficient legal framework to regulate the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes online, that’s why children have easy access to them. This should be addressed by our lawmakers),” she urged.
Pending bills in Congress, such as House Bill 9007 and Senate Bill 2239, roll back existing protections against harms brought by vapes and e-cigarettes. At present, the use and purchase of these products are restricted to persons aged 21 years old and above, but the bills set this back to 18 years old, which may increase youth initiation to these products. Among others, the bills also remove the ban on flavorings set by Republic Act No. 11467 that further increases excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes.