Marina, PCG to conduct further probe on West PH sea collision

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2019   •   1184

The joint meeting of the Economic Development and Security, Justice, and Peace clusters was held to tackle issues relative to the West Philippine Sea/Reed Bank incident that resulted in the sinking of the fishing boat F/B Gem-Vir 1.

MANILA, Philippines – The Maritime Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been tasked to jointly conduct further investigations into the collision incident involving Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, a Cabinet official said Monday.

Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles said the issue was discussed in a Cabinet cluster meeting on Monday afternoon.

Nograles said that during the meeting of the Economic Development and Security, Justice and Peace clusters, it was agreed that Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol would lead the government response primarily focused on assisting the 22 Filipino crewmen who were rescued from the sinking boat.

“Sec. Piñol has been directed to tap all available government resources – including assistance from DA (Department of Agriculture) and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) – to assist our countrymen, with components of the support package to come from other government agencies,” Nograles said.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who was also Region 4-B Cabinet officer for regional development and security (CORDS) was designated as co-lead.

Last June 9, 22 Filipinos were left at sea after their boat F/B GEM-VIR 1 was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel. They were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

China’s Embassy in Manila earlier said the incident was accidental, claiming that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed at the vicinity when “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”

READ: DA-BFAR says Filipino fishing boat ‘rammed’; China says they were besieged

The Embassy said that the Chinese crewmen decided to sail away after confirming that the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued by other Filipino fishing boats.

Nograles said the Philippine government last week filed a “strongly-worded” diplomatic protest as an initial action to the incident.

Initial inquiries have also been conducted by Cusi, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the PCG to determine the extent of the liabilities involved and in order to ascertain the most effective legal means to obtain justice for our countrymen.

Malacañang earlier said it will wait for the results of the investigation before taking further action.

WHO, UNICEF express concern over polio outbreak in PHL, call for urgent action

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.

READ: Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

“We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur,” WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.

“It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.

The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.

This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.

Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.

But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”

“Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus.”

“It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines… As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.

Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.

The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.

They also echoed the DOH’s call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.

“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”

The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.

The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.

If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.

“In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis,” they said.

The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.

They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.

The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government’s response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.

The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday called on the public to join in the government’s synchronized vaccination program on polio following confirmation of its re-emergence in the country.

Duque said one polio case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur.

A suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis is also awaiting confirmation, he added.

Based on the results of the child’s examination, she is suffering from vaccine-derived polio virus type 2.

The DOH chief also said that poliovirus has been detected in water sewage samples taken from Manila and Davao during a regular environmental surveillance.

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health secretary said the Philippines has been declared polio-free in the last 19 years and its re-emergence in two different locations already suggests an epidemic.

“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio free country,” Duque said.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

The DOH said there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In response, the government will launch a series of synchronized oral polio immunization program for children under the age of five in areas at risk beginning next month.

The health chief urged parents and guardians to protect their children from the disease by fully participating in the program.

“We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination. It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease,” he said. 

DOH said it will also work closely with local government units and concerned agencies in implementing rapid response to the polio outbreak with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The department will also work with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect poliovirus.

“Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” he said.

U.S. shoemakers face losses amid China, U.S. trade tension

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 18, 2019

Shoemakers in the United States are facing losses over the tit-for-tat tariffs amid the trade tension between China and the U.S.

Xero Shoes is an American brand of lightweight minimalist footwear designed for walking, running and athletics. According to Steven Sashen, CEO of the company, their shoes and sandals have thin and flexible soles that are contoured to the shape of the human foot.

“It really reflects the essence of what we’re doing, which is something so lightweight, so minimalist, so barely there that you don’t know that it exists,” said Sashen.

Sashen started the company with his wife Lena Phoenix 10 years ago. Their 80-percent online business has taken off with 84-percent growth in the past four years.

Yet as another round of U.S. tariff took effect from early September, Sashen’s products are now 15 percent more expensive to import from China, where all of his shoes are made.

Lena Phoenix, co-founder of Xero Shoes, says one possible solution is to uproot their supply chain. Yet such move would take time and it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

“We don’t want to leave China. Moving factories is very dangerous for a company of our size,” said Phoenix.

“People just say very casually: well why don’t you move to Vietnam for example? Well, cause Vietnam is full. They’re overcapacity already,” said Sashen.

They’ve also thought about raising shoe prices in response to the tariff.

“While we have a rabid fan base and many people say we’re happy to pay a few dollars more. That’s what people love to say, but when push comes to shove, people are very price-conscious,” said Sashen.

“We’re going to hold prices as long as we can,” said Phoenix.

Sashen and Phoenix are not the only ones facing such dilemma. Xero joined forces with about 200 other footwear companies to write to President Trump last month, urging him to cancel the newly planned additional tariffs on goods imported from China.

The letter points out that the tariffs on footwear products imported from China are already at a high level of 11 percent on average, and will reach 67 percent on some shoes after the new tariffs take effect.

According to the letter, the 15 percent tariff will cost U.S. shoe consumers an additional four billion U.S. dollars every year, which may create further economic uncertainty.

“It’s almost impossible to come up with a coherent strategy because of how in flux all of this is,” said Sashen.

Xero is now trying to come up with a long-range manufacturing plan.

“It forces you to step out of your comfort zone and be innovative and thoughtful about how to go forward long-term,” said Michael Wellman, the vice president of the company’s Asia Pacific Development.

Meanwhile, the shoe-makers are also hoping for near-term relief for the footwear industry, which was relatively highly taxed even before the trade war picked up speed.

“There’s a part of me that’s still in denial, that hopes that it’s going to be resolved next month,” said Phoenix. (REUTERS)

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