Lunes, Hulyo 9, 2012

Feature: Green, leafy diet, and the healthy Filipino

The folk song “Bahay Kubo” has become a popular Filipino household song because of the distinct picture it paints particularly about Filipino rural life. The song’s upbeat tempo makes it more memorable to the average Filipino listener. But what makes the song truly popular is its rhythmic yet humorous listing of agricultural products commonly seen in the “bahay kubo” -- the pre-globalization representation of the average Filipino home.

“Singkamas, talong, sigarilyas, kamatis, sitaw, bataw, patani. . . .”

The song should be made popular again-- at least this month of July-- as the National Nutrition Council (NNC) is spearheading the country’s celebration of Nutrition Month. Not surprisingly, the agency has chosen the eating of vegetables as the official message of this year’s celebration. The exact theme of the 38th Nutrition Month is: “Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain.”

This year’s celebration has these objectives: to increase vegetable consumption as part of a healthy diet to address micronutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases; and to promote vegetable gardening as a source of additional food and income, and to increase demand for vegetables to help local vegetable farmers.

This year’s focus on vegetables stems from the recent studies by the Food and Nutrition Research Institutes (FNRI) that over the past 30 years, Filipinos have been eating less vegetables. FNRI said that from 145 grams of vegetable consumption in 1978, Filipinos eat only 110 grams (2008 study) on the average, or only about 2 servings of vegetables every day. Infants 6-11 months old had an intake of only 2 grams of vegetables, while 1 year old children had an intake of 8 grams per day on average.

This is alarming considering that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top ten risk factors for global mortality.  WHO recommends eating a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per day which is equivalent to 5 servings, with 3 servings of vegetables per day.

The FNRI also reported that only 67.7% of Filipino households have vegetable gardens or fruit trees. Having a ready supply of vegetables in the household or school backyard could actually help reduce malnutrition and alleviate hunger among the poor families.

What are the benefits of including vegetables in our daily diet?

Fruits and vegetables are considered very healthy, and nutritionists have always advised people to have a high-vegetable diet. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fibers that aid in proper digestion and may help lower calorie intake which help in maintaining healthy weight.

They are also a rich source of micronutrients --  vitamins A, B, C, E and minerals such as selenium, iron, zinc, inositol, biotin,  etc. which promote physical and mental growth. They also contain antioxidants and protectants such as carotenoids, lycopene and phytochemicals which can help strengthen the immune system, improve skin texture, and fight premature ageing.

For young children, vegetables are important sources of vitamin A and iron which are important nutrients that improve children’s immune system, growth and development. 

What makes Filipinos dislike vegetables?

Some Filipinos do not eat vegetables because of different reasons: Some are not just used to eating veggies since childhood, usually because family members do not consume vegetables as well; others find the texture unpalatable for their taste; some just have a limited knowledge of the dishes that could be made from vegetables; and others find vegetables expensive especially in urban areas where greens have to be bought in the countryside.

Having readily available vegetables and fruits is one of the goals of the NNC as this will make Filipinos include greens in their diet. This is also the reason why NNC is promoting the planting of veggies in the backyard and schools.

The Concepcion Elementary School in Marikina City has already started this activity last July 2 when school children planted vegetables in their school yard.  Thousands of school children are also expected to do the same as the Department of Education issued a memorandum encouraging “all schools to celebrate Nutrition Month with the simultaneous planting of vegetables as part of its share to promote consumption of vegetables among children as part of a healthy diet.”

Let us celebrate Nutrition Month this year with a festive gustatory banquet of vegetables and fruits as we fill our body with the necessary nutrients for better growth and development! (RJB/AKG-PIA-NCR)

Huwebes, Hulyo 5, 2012

Feature: DENR’s golden harvest on its silver year

As per Proclamation Number 237, Series of 1988, the Philippines observes the month of June as Philippine Environment Month. Also in June of this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) commemorated its 25th founding anniversary—having been created through Executive Order 192, and signed by former President Corazon Aquino in 1987.

The silver anniversary of the DENR, somehow, marks the golden era-- or perhaps, the coming of age—in the country’s environmental scene.

The various environment programs by the government, with the DENR at the forefront, have paved the way for reforms which radically improved the country’s environmental state.

In fact, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) developed by Yale and Colombia University, the Philippines ranked 42nd out of 132 countries in terms of environmental performance, putting it under the global “strong performer” category. This is eight notches higher as compared to the country’s 2010 ranking of 50th. Garnering  perfect scores (100 points) in the following indicators: protecting forest cover (logging ban), growing forest stock (National Greening Program), CO2 per capita (for increasing carbon sequestration by growing forests), agricultural subsidies for lowland and upland farmers and for reducing outdoor air pollution; the Philippines outranked  the “more developed” countries like Australia, the United States, Singapore, and Israel.

The EPI is in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the European Commission.

The country’s impressive performance could be attributed to the programs implemented by the DENR together with other government agencies. In support of the agency’s goals of strengthening the conservation, protection, and utilization of natural resources in the country, President Benigno Simeon Aquino has approved many programs and projects of the DENR that have brought positive changes to the country. Some of which are the following:

1.  National Greening Program- Launched in February 2011, through Executive Order No. 26, the National Greening Program (NGP) aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares in six years (from 2011-2016). The program is a reforestation project which already has been instrumental in the planting of 90.6 million trees in 128,591 hectares. It has also generated a total of 364,088 jobs from seedling production and 97,000 from plantation establishments.

2.   Log Ban and Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign- As a complement to the NGP, President Aquino also signed Executive Order No. 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests. Likewise, the anti-illegal logging campaign recovered  some 13.3 million board feet of illegally-cut and transported forest products valued at about P330 million. This was able to send a message across illegal loggers that has resulted in lower number of illegal logging cases in the country. These confiscated products were put into good use as the DENR has donated the logs to the Department of Education. These were then converted to chairs, desks, and other school furniture that benefited many public schools. From the donations, a total of 54,021 armchairs in 1,200 classrooms; 6,090 desks; and 1,332 other school furniture have been produced. Some 363 school buildings have been repaired.

3.   “Adopt-An-Estero/River” Program- The program which have enjoined 272 corporations and LGUs in the adoption of 168 waterbodies nationwide.  The task is to rehabilitate esteros, rivers, waterways, and the Manila Bay through a sustained clean-up. The project has led to the recovery of 3,334 tons of garbage (equivalent to 1,717 truckloads), and an obviously cleaner and healthier bodies of water nationwide.

4.   Air Quality in Metro Manila- The intensified anti-smoke belching campaign has improved air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR). This reduced the total suspended particulates (TSP) in Metro Manila by about 29%, thus, lowering air pollution in the region. Also, new monitoring stations have been installed to effectively oversee the air quality in NCR.

5.   Geo-hazard assessment and mapping – This undertaking was able to identify areas that are prone to flooding and landslides. This has been a great help for the public to prevent these areas or prepare in times of natural calamities. A total of 75,000 map sheets have been distributed to all local government up to barangay level. Corresponding trainings and capability-building were also conducted to the local government personnel to interpret the maps. This is particularly helpful in managing risks and threats from natural disasters. The detailed mapping of all cities and municipalities is targeted to be completed by 2016.

Through a sustained implementation of these programs, the Philippines is on its way to becoming a “green” country once again. In line with the government’s social contract with the Filipinos stipulated in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), the DENR has shown the benefits of a synergistic partnership with other government agencies, private enterprises (through PPP or Public-Private Partnership), and non-government organizations in reaping the fruits of its programs.

Being in the forefront of the government’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Cluster, the DENR, under the leadership of Secretary Ramon Paje, is instrumental for the country to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal of ensuring a global environmental sustainability that would lead the country toward national progress.

Disaster council holds nationwide simultaneous quake-fire drill in public schools

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) held the second quarter nationwide simultaneous earthquake-fire frill in public schools on Friday, June 29.

Pasig Central Elementary School in Barangay San Nicolas, Pasig City hosted this quarter’s drill.

The activity commenced with the ceremonial sounding of the alarm which also signaled the start of a strong-magnitude earthquake.

Some 4,000 students, faculty members and non-teaching personnel of the school demonstrated the evacuation procedure recommended by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), particularly highlighting the “duck, cover and hold” position.

During the evacuation, the students made use of an improvised head gear to ensure protection from falling objects and debris.

After the evacuation, the Pasig City DRRMC demonstrated the response phase which includes the suppressing of fire in one of the school buildings anticipated to have been caused by the earthquake.

Other offices that compose the local disaster team also performed their actual tasks such as inspection and providing of security in the area, rescue of those trapped in the scene, providing treatment to the injured and conducting assessment to the structures’ integrity.

The activity’s over-all objectives are to increase disaster-preparedness and awareness of the public, evaluate response and rescue capabilities and improve coordination among the tasked units during an earthquake.

Department of National Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin commended the Pasig Central Elementary School for their participation in the activity as it is one way of imparting knowledge to the students and school personnel alike on the proper earthquake evacuation procedure.

Gazmin admitted the lack of open spaces and fire exits in schools in Metro Manila, but disasters could be handled through education and preparation. He said, “Safety doesn’t happen by accident, but it happens through preparation and practice.”

Department of Education secretary Armin A. Luistro also reminded the students to always be prepared as this will ease away their fear during a disaster such as earthquake.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr. recalled the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan in March last year and the 6.9-magnitude quake in Negros last February. Both claimed thousands of lives and destroyed properties.

Solidum said, “Expect the unexpected. With the disasters that have been experienced in nearby areas, the Philippines might yet experience another earthquake,” he added.

He said that earthquake drills in schools and offices will make the country prepared and safe in times of disasters. “After all, a safe community reflects a progressive nation,” he concluded.

The Pasig Central Elementary School, through Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio, is the 13th host of the earthquake-fire drill in public schools since it was first introduced in 2006.

Nationwide earthquake-fire drill set in Pasig Central Elementary School

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) will be conducting a simultaneous earthquake-fire drill for public schools on Friday, June 29.

This is part of the government’s continuing efforts in enhancing the nation’s capability in disaster prevention, management, and response

In the National Capital Region, Pasig Central Elementary School in Barangay San Nicolas, Pasig City will host the ceremonial drill.

With more than four thousand students and faculty members to participate in the activity, the drill is expected to showcase the students' and school personnel’s preparedness in times of disasters such as earthquakes as they demonstrate the PHIVOLCS-reinforced “Duck, Cover and Hold” position, and quickly evacuate to designated open space.

Simulating a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, the drill will also show the manner and procedure to be used by disaster response groups in times of calamity.

Members of the Pasig City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council such as the Pasig City- Bureau of Fire Protection, PNP- Pasig City Police, Pasig City Health Office, and other local search and rescue groups will demonstrate how the local government will respond to the disaster.

The National Earthquake-Fire Drill is also part of the continuing implementation of the NDRRMC’s Four Point Plan of Action on Disaster Preparedness particularly on public information, education, communication, and preparedness for response.

Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio will open the activity and welcome the guests, while Secretary Voltaire Gazmin of the Department of National Defense will be the event’s guest of honor.

Also expected to grace the activity are Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum, Jr., and Office of Civil Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos.