Category Archives: Social responsibility

Environment and Biodiversity Experts Renew Call for Stronger Measures to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade

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.

Badian, Philippines. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

“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.

Tarsier. Bohol, Philippines. Photo by Julian Paolo Dayag on Unsplash

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.

Apo Reef. Photo by Farhan Sharief on Unsplash

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.

Providing Access to SRH Services Through the Safety Pantry

On May 28, 2021, sixteen (16) Safety Pantries have been launched simultaneously, by the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) in different locations, as part of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health.

As the Covid19 pandemic continues to affect the lives of Filipinos, FPOP recognizes that people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights should be unhampered. The organization aims to extend sexual and reproductive health services and commodities, and other necessities through the FPOP Safety Pantry.

On the Safety Pantry tables, vitamins, condoms, lubes, contraceptive pills, alcohol wipes, sanitary napkins, malunggay supplements (capsule), baby dresses, diapers, and pregnancy and hygiene kits are available. People can also take home biscuits, rice, vegetables, canned goods, noodles, and even face shields and masks. Services on family planning, sexual and gender-based violence prevention, HIV testing and counseling, Hepatitis B screening, implant and IUD insertion, cervical cancer screening, and pre-natal check-up are also available. Standard safety protocols against Covid-19 were observed in the Safety Pantry sites located in:

1. Barangay 32, Tondo, Manila

2. Barangay Silangan, Quezon City

3. Barangay Tandang Sora, Quezon City

4. Baguio Public Market

5. T. Alonzo Street in Baguio City

6. Barangay Panamitan, Kawit in Cavite

7. Barangay Sta. Cruz, Naga in Camarines Sur

8. Sorsogon City

9. Arakan in North Cotabato

10.Barangay Dadiangas in General Santos City

11. Barangay Maimpis in Pampanga

12. Barangay Poblacion, Alaminos in Pangasinan

13. Surigao City

14. Davao City

15. Iloilo City

16. Masbate City

Inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry, the items given away came from various donors who support the advocacy the organization pursues. Building on the same idea, FPOP opted to name the initiative Safety Pantry as the word “safety” connotes a message of comfort and is safe and protected against sexually transmitted infection, HIV, unintended pregnancy, and sexual and gender-based violence.

The Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) is a service-oriented organization providing sexual and reproductive health services to all Filipinos. It has 12 active organization chapters with 17 Community Health Care Clinics offering an integrated package of essential services on family planning and reproductive health.

FPOP is one of the oldest and biggest volunteer organizations in the Philippines. It was founded on August 4, 1969, out of a merger of two organizations that pioneered the family planning movement in the Philippines. It is a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Aside from various community activities such as the Safety Pantry, adolescent learning sessions, house-to-house outreach, and reproductive health medical missions, FPOP also provides free online consultation and other SRH services through their hotline called FPOP youRHotline. It can be reached on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourhotline.ph or mobile number: 0998-988-8826, 8 AM to 10 PM daily.

FPOP Safety Pantry Facebook Live Links:

North Cotabato https://www.facebook.com/ranny.labiaga/videos/3908005145934432/

Cavite https://fb.watch/5M7MSUUoQp/

General Santos City https://www.facebook.com/FPOPSOCCSKSARGENChapter/videos/524482665583544/https://www.facebook.com/FPOPSOCCSKSARGENChapter/videos/2243189549195048/

Surigao
https://www.facebook.com/fpopsurigao1969/videos/1146591945812218/

Brgy. Silangan, QC
https://www.facebook.com/famplan.ph/videos/1411139825932214/

Doctor of calamities

I’m reposting this article I wrote in 2004 about a doctor whose main mission in life is to assist people affected by calamities. One unforgettable story he shared was the medical mission in the typhoon-ravaged areas in Quezon Province in 2004.

FROM the 1990 killer earthquake in Baguio, Rizal Day Bombing in Manila to the aftermath of Typhoons “Winnie” and “Yoyong” in Quezon Province, Dr. Romeo Bituin has been there to help the dying and survivors of calamities.

The 47-year-old coordinator of Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital to the Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS) of the Department of Health, Dr. Bituin or simply “Starsky” to colleagues, has always felt the need to be in places where disasters took place.

“Hindi ko alam kung bakit dinadala ako ng Diyos kung saan may disaster,” Bituin initially told People’s Tonight.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

To the man who has been in the medical profession for more than two decades now, no special occasion would delay the call of duty, not even his birthday.

So in the morning of Dec. 4, even before he could plan things for his 47th birthday, Bituin was flying with two male nurses and a utility personnel to the typhoon-ravaged areas of Quezon on board a military chopper to bring medicine and treat evacuees from several affected barangays in Infanta.

“When we left for Quezon, walang nakakaalam na birthday ko. Nagspend ako for the first time ng birthday ko sa disaster area. Ang sabi nga ni Dr. (Carmencita) Banatin, chief of HEMS,’ang swerte mo…ang dami mong natulungan sa birthday mo’,” the teary-eyed anesthesiologist said.

“Sometimes parang naging emotional ka rin doon (Infanta, Quezon)… masuwerte tayong mga taga- Manila hindi natin naranasan ang ganon pero nagrereklamo tayo sa baha lang. Baha lang ‘yon pwede kang lumangoy…sa mud hindi ka makakalangoy…mamamatay talaga ang tao,” he said while trying to control his emotions.

Bituin and his three companions were the first group of medical personnel deployed by the DOH at the height of typhoon “Yoyong” in Quezon.

“From Camp Gen. Nakar inairlift kami papuntang Infanta. It was one of the hardest hit ng typhoon. At least 29 out of 36 barangays in Infanta were affected. Sa Gen. Nakar at Real, may portions of road na pwedeng daanan, may ac cessible road na pwedeng dumaan ang tricycle. Sa Infanta wala, ang putik hanggang tuhod. Paglapag ng chopper, iba na ang amoy ng paligid. Masangsang… malansa… normal na sangsang ng patay. Marami raw na buried sa mud pero hindi nila alam kung saan,” said Bituin as he described the place.

Barefooted evacuees ran agog to the waiting helicopter for safety. But patients needing urgent medical attention were given priority to be airlifted to evacuation sites.

Bituin, being the leader of the four-man team, requested military personnel to secure the gym where they put up the makeshift treatment center and where team from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) handed out relief goods. Barangay officials assisted the group in listing down patients with priority needs.

The medical team from DOH provided antibiotics, anti-venom, anti-tetanus, IV fluids to patients needing them.

For four days, Dr. Bituin’s group attended to children who are severely dehydrated, patients with loose bowel movement caused by acute gastroenteritis due to lack of potable water supply, persons with punctured wound, lacerated wound in the eye and head, trauma, fractures, dog bites and snake bites.

“Ang mga evacuees kung ano ‘yung damit na suot nila nang marescue sila, ‘yun pa rin ‘yung suot-suot nila habang nagpapagamot sila,” Bituin recounted as he shook his head in dismay. “Siguro ang importante sa ngayon kung paano sila mabubuhay, ‘yung hindi sila magkakasakit.”

Bituin’s group also managed to help local hospital personnel run the lone health facility in the area, which is about a kilometer away from the gym near the Poblacion. The groups make do with available hospital equipments left of the flood aftermath. The nurses were able to save only a handful gadget since they primarily move the patients to higher portion of the hospital.

The hospital also served said as their place of rest at night.

“Main mission namin kung paano mapapatakbo uli ang hospital. Ang Infanta lang ang may district hospital. During normal times before the disaster sa Infanta dinadala ang mga pasyente coming from Real and Gen. Nakar. Walang electricity at tubig sa hospital. Walang linen. There was no communication at all in the area,” Bituin recalled.

“Mahirap din ang paglalakad sa municipality proper. Walang means of transportation. Ang mahirap doon may mga equipment ka pang dala at pasyente na kailangang i-evacuate to safer ground,” he said.

Bituin and the nurses settled with their meager food provision and sometimes relief foods given by evacuees themselves.

“For four days wala kaming lunch, we find time to eat late lunch and early dinner at every 5 p.m. Hindi ka makakaramdam ng gutom dahil ang gusto mo makapunta ka agad sa pupuntahan mong lugar. The city mayor was kind enough to assist us during our mission in Infanta,” he said.

Bituin, who granted the interview, before the emergency meeting of HEMS coordinators held at the East Avenue Medical Center last Friday, said that epidemic was indeed looming in the affected areas as he observed the lack of potable water supply and proper excreta disposal for both human and solid waste.

“Nang umalis kami marami na ang nagcocomplain ng acute gastroenteritis, matanda at mga bata,” he said.

The former military doctor said that as of last week two more response teams from the DOH composed of epidemiologists and sanitary engineers arrived in Quezon to help.

“Kumpleto na ang mga tao na nagsusurveillance ng mga sakit doon,” Bituin said.

The medicine graduate at the Perpetual Help College in Binan, Laguna, said that aside from medicine and food supplies, survivors need psychological help from experts.

“Kawawa ang mga tao doon, naglalakad sila ng nakatungo. May psychological impact sa kanila ang mga pangyayari. Kailangan nilang ma-debrief. We already sent people from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) para iaddress ang depression at anxiety ng mga tao. Lalo na kung umuulan ng malakas…’yung mga tao takot na takot kasi baka bumaha daw ulit, ganun na ganon daw ang nangyari bago magkalandslide,” he said.

Bituin, who had disaster management trainings in the United Kingdom and the United States in 2001 and 2002 respectively, said that each person who survived the landslide and flood had harrowing experience to share.

“Nagtulungan sila,” referring to survivors, “‘Yung iba hinigit nila sa baha mula sa bubong ng bahay. Kahit hindi nila kakilala tinutulungan nila. Kaya marami rin sa kanila ang nakasurvive hindi kagaya sa Ormoc. Karamihan kasi ng bahay sa Ormoc noon ay gawa sa light materials. Sa Quezon, karamihan ng bahay ay may second floor kaya nakaakyat ang iba sa bubong ng bahay,” he noted.

The doctor from Fabella Hospital also shared what he learned from emergency management.

“Presence of mind is important. Ang unang isesave mo ay buhay hindi gamit. Dapat alam ng mga tao kung ano ang mga gagawin in times of natural calamities. May areas na dapat kung saan magkikita sa oras ng emergency. Dapat may mga drills, exercises for any kind of event gaya ng Iindo!, baha at landslides. Time is important… kailangan mabilisan,” he said.

For fellow medical workers in the same line of mission, Bituin has this advise: “Ang pinakaimportante huwag silang makalimot magdasal… ‘yung pakikipagkapwa-tao especially during these times. Dapat marunong kang makisama sa tao. Hindi lang para makiemphatize, kailangan may ginagawa ka rin.”

He further said, “Personnally, na-enhance ng experience ko sa Quezon ang kahalagahan ng pakikipagkapwa-tao. For every disaster or incident na napuntahan ko, there is a new experience, new lesson na nakakapagpadagdag sa wisdom mo. Although sometimes, kapag naaalala ko ‘yung mga nakita ko doon, nagiging emotional ako. Hindi ko maiwasan ang maluha para sa mga nasalanta sa Quezon.”

When asked if he would go back to Infanta for another medical assignment, Bituin simply smiled and said, “I’m planning to go back there next week. I’ll show the people there I’m true to my words. Gusto kong makita na masaya na uli sila , hindi na umiiyak, hindi na depressed.” – Miriam V. Torrecampo

December 26, 2004

The same article is also found in my other blog www.penname30.com