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Batanes: only measles-free province in Phl -DOH

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Batanes is the only province in the Philippines that is still free from measles, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo cited the province’s geographical location as among the likely reasons why it remains measles-free.

Batanes is northernmost province in the Philippines situated in the Cagayan Valley region.

“Batanes is isolated and there is also less traffic there so it remains free from measles. We hope they can maintain that,” Domingo said.

DOH record from January 1 to March 2, 2019 showed that the cases of measles infection in the country have reached 16,349 with 261 deaths. Around 3,374 cases were reported during the same period in 2017, without deaths.

The most number of measles infection were reported from Calabarzon, Metro Manila and Central Luzon with 3,875; 3,617; 2,330 cases, respectively. These are the three regions where measles outbreak was first declared.

The last provinces to report measles cases are Catanduanes with one case, and Tawi-Tawi with 11 cases, according to DOH data.

Domingo added that as of March 6, the DOH was already able to hit half of its targeted 3,783,985 children aged six to 59 months.

“Our coverage has already reached 45 percent. We are hopeful that we can vaccinate all of the target children soon,” he maintained.

The Health Official added that the DOH and local governments have scaled up vaccination of eligible children to keep measles at bay.

The DOH has also started door-to-door supplemental immunization and intensified routine vaccination at health centers in the hopes of controlling the measles outbreak by April or May.

The agency has repeatedly called on parents and caregivers to get their child vaccinated to protect them from measles and other diseases.

Aside from measles, the country is also grappling with spiking dengue cases which has reached 36,664 with 140 deaths as of February 2019. — Robie de Guzman

Dengue cases hit 36,000; death toll reaches 140

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FDA, PNRI urged to release list of synthetic vinegar brands

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release the list of vinegar brands that are produced, not from natural fermentation and “biogenic” ingredients but from synthetic acetic acid, citing protection of local vinegar-makers and the safety of consumers.

“I believe that there is simply no legal or moral basis for FDA to withhold the release of the ‘sour condiment’ brands which PNRI (Philippine Nuclear Research Institute) found using non-biogenic acetic acid,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said on his social media account Tuesday (May 21).

The Secretary said: “The release of the names will not only be in compliance with the Consumer Protection laws but also the observance of that very basic provision in the Philippine Constitution which bestows upon every Filipino the Right to Know.”

“The list of the “non-biogenic sour condiments” being passed off as vinegar in the market, whether they are safe for human consumption or not, should be released now,” he added.

The Agriculture Secretary noted the Department of Health’s (DOH) statement that synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar is “not totally unsafe.”

Given that statement, Piñol said agencies concerned agreed that the classification standards for commercial vinegar sold in the market to be changed to “biogenic” for those which use acetic acid produced through a natural fermentation process and “non-biogenic” for those which are made out of synthetic compounds.

Piñol stressed that while vinegar is always understood as a sour-tasting liquid made from natural ingredients and process of fermentation, any other product which offers the “sour” taste but did not go through the natural fermentation process should be properly labeled as synthetic acetic acid or “sour non-biogenic” condiment.”

“Thus, it is my position as Secretary of Agriculture that sour condiments made out of synthetic or non-biogenic acetic acid should not be labeled as “vinegar” or “suka,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, consumer group Laban Konsyumer expressed its support to the DA in its call for the release of the list of vinegar brands using “non-biogenic” acetic acid given that the PNRI claims that such ingredients do not cause cancer or harm consumers’ health.

The group’s president Atty. Vic Dimagiba also called on the agencies to take responsibility and address the public for the confusion that the issue has caused.

“Dapat din humingi ng paumanhin sa publiko ang PNRI sa maling ulat na galing sa kanila dahil nagdulot ito ng pagkabahala o anxiety sa mga konsyumers,” Dimagiba said.

(The PNRI should make a public apology because of their erroneous report that caused panic or anxiety to consumers.)

“Sa FDA at DOH, ilathala din ang sinabi nilang mislabeling violation ng mga bramds ng suka at recall and patawan ng multa ayon sa Food Safety Law at Consumer Act,” he concluded.

(The FDA and DOH should also publish what they claim as mislabeling violation of these brands of vinegar, recall and fine them according to the Food Safety Law and Consumer Act.) – Marje Pelayo (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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Healthcare funding gap to get bigger if no sin tax increase —DOF

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Courtesy : Pixabay & Pexels

The Department of Finance (DOF) said there will be a funding gap of P62 billion for the recently passed Universal Health Care (UHC) if Congress will not increase sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

In a press briefing of the DOF and the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday (May 17), DOF Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III said there would be difficulty in implementing the UHC without new sources of revenue.

“If we do not establish new sources of revenue, we will not have enough funds to properly, fully implement Universal Health Care and ensure a better quality of life for all Filipinos,” he said.

He adds that if the increased sin taxes will be approved, the UHC can cover around 120 drugs to Filipinos.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said raising taxes will also reduce consumption leading to better health for Filipinos.

“Sin tax is first and foremost a health measure. When the prices of cigarettes and alcohol are higher, it is harder, especially for the youth to buy these very harmful products. We can only reduce consumption by making these “sin” products less affordable to consumers,” he said.

Both departments also envisioned the Philippines to be one of the healthiest in Asia by 2040. They propose to increase tobacco taxes by P60 per cigarette and P40 per liter of alcohol.

“With 9 days remaining in the 17th Congress, there is still time to collectively take action. We look forward to the support of our counterparts in the legislature, during this crunch time. This is the final round, tapusin na natin ang boksing, (Let’s finish the fight)” Duque added.

Senator Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill 1599 which aims to increase tobacco excise tax to P60 per pack in the first year of implementation, and an additional nine percent each year afterwards.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 2177 raising tobacco taxes to P70 per pack while Senator JV Ejercito filed Senate Bill 1605 increasing tobacco taxes to P90 per pack.

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Yosi Kadiri is back for gov’t campaign to increase sin tax on tobacco

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

The Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Health (DOH) have revived Yosi Kadiri for their campaign to increase sin taxes on tobacco.

Increasing taxes on tobacco will further increase the fund of the expanded Universal Healthcare Law, according to the DOF and DOH.

The Finance and Health department launched a new ad featuring Senator Manny Pacquiao in a fight against the iconic Yosi Kadiri with the campaign’s tagline “Hindi pa tapos ang laban.”

“Pacquaio, who is better known as “Pacman” or the “Pambansang Kamao,” is shown in the new ad as a champion of the Filipino people’s health,” the Department of Finance said in their Facebook statement.

READ: Benefits under the Universal Health Care Act

Their campaign aims to gain more public support as well as call on legislators to pass, the bill increasing “sin” taxes on tobacco products.

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