front page

Academe mobilizes urgently needed supplies for front liners

April 13, 2020

Three of Northern Mindanao’s leading universities are in the thick of the fight versus the COVID-19 pandemic through their campus laboratories. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) in Cagayan de Oro City, Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon, and Mindanao State University (MSU) through College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at its main campus in Marawi City and  the Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, have mobilized their available resources to supply hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies like alcohol and disinfectant.     We start this four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Xavier Ateneo in Cagayan de Oro City.     Xavier Ateneo-Cagayan de Oro     From March 24-April 6, Xavier Ateneo’s Social Development (SOCDEV) office headed by Vice President Roel Ravanera distributed 105 bottles of isopropyl and ethyl alcohol produced by the XU Chemistry Department to various beneficiaries such as the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), J.R. Borja General Hospital, Bukidnon Hospital, Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital, PNP Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro Police Office (COCPO) and the Loyola House, official residence of Jesuits in Northern Mindanao. “Soc Dev (SD) Cluster is coordinating #XUKontraCOVID19, XU’s institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ravanera said. “We have formed various committees and Gail Galarrita handles the Information Consolidation and Sharing Committee.” “The alcohol formulation by the Chemistry department of Xavier University immediately started upon hearing that the NMMC had limited to no supply of alcohol due to the increasing number of referred CoVid-19 patients,” said Analyn C. Asok, Ph.D., chair of Xavier Ateneo’s Chemistry Department. “Knowing that commercial alcohol in the market was nowhere to be found, we thought of ways to help and that’s when our profession as chemists came into use,” she added. Initially, the lab used its analytical grade absolute ethyl and isopropyl alcohol available in the Chemistry and Biology departments. Later, additional absolute ethyl alcohol was bought using the chem department and the university’s fund. XUCCCO, a campus-based cooperative also donated absolute alcohol.   “We also received a number of calls from people willing to donate but sad to note that even the supply of absolute alcohol is now depleted. At present, we are still waiting for the next batch of absolute ethyl alcohol to arrive,” Asok said. “We are also expecting the arrival of absolute ethanol donated by Xavier University Chemistry Alumni Association (XUCAA) and ICP-X/XII/BARMM/CARAGA Chapters within this week.”  “Please note that the alcohol formulation from absolute alcohol is indeed very expensive. But in these times, to save lives is more important,” Asok stressed.  The all-volunteer team of the XU Chem Lab headed by Asok includes Higinio R. Barros Jr, Ann Marian Lou O. Eslopor, Renebelle L. Flores, and Don Vic L. Obaob, who designed the labels for the final product working from home.  The team is also working to produce surface disinfectant with two partners.  Through former Academic VP and  retired Chem Dept faculty Dr. Lina Kwong, Chemisol Inc. through General Manager Jerry Dy donated calcium hypochlorite for use as a surface disinfectant (not to be used as spray).  Mr. Dy needed a chemist to accept the donation so that the correct concentration of the disinfectant could be provided to LGUs and CDO hospitals. The donated disinfectant was earlier transported from Davao by Robert De la Serna.  “The chlorine content of calcium hypochlorite may deteriorate over time, especially when it is exposed to heat. So it’s necessary to determine the actual chlorine concentration to calculate the exact mass for the proper final disinfectant concentration. Since it is in solid form, we don’t need to dissolve it before distributing it to hospitals and LGUs. We will repack it following specific mass and label it accordingly so even non-technical people can easily understand how to use it properly and safely.”  Asok said the analysis for actual chlorine content will be conducted by DOST-X personnel at their lab this week. If the materials need for repacking would already be available after the analysis is completed, the surface disinfectant can already be distributed by Xavier Ateneo’s SocDev headed by Roel Ravanera next week.  The team is also working on another disinfectant project with former Xavier Ateneo Board of Trustees President Elpie Paras.  However, Juliet Q Dalagan, PhD., XU Vice President for Higher Education and also a faculty of XU Chem Dept. said the project with  Paras has not yet officially started  since the Chem Dept is still discussing with Paras how to best move forward. (See related story).

READ MORE
Globe launches eLibrary to provide free downloadable ebooks, interactive videos for K-to-12 students nationwide

April 13, 2020

Globe launches its eLibrary to give K-to-12 students, educators, and parents nationwide free and quick access to hundreds of ebooks and videos provided by the Department of Education (DepEd) and other sources.  This will allow for continuous learning during the enhanced community quarantine which prompted many schools in Luzon and other parts of the country to suspend classes. The Globe eLibrary is a web platform that features age-appropriate and engaging e-books and e-learning videos which can be accessed through mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.       It is, likewise, available on DepEd Commons (commons.deped.gov.ph), DepEd’s pilot program on learning continuity which also contains online quizzes and exercises for K-12 learners and content for Alternative Learning System (ALS).     “We want to give the children an opportunity to continue learning even when they are at home. Through eLibrary, we hope that teachers and their students or parents and their children could make full use of the wide selection of content to create a fun and engaging education experience,” said Yoly Crisanto, Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP for Corporate Communications.     For its part, DepEd welcomed this collaboration with Globe. “The launch of the Globe eLibrary could not be more timely given the situation we are facing now,” said DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua. “As we are building the content of DepEd Commons, this influx of eBooks from Globe will help provide our learners and teachers with more content they can work with.”     With Globe eLibrary, anyone may read all ebooks and watch all videos that they want.   Downloaded ebooks may be opened using any ebook reader that supports ePUB and PDF formats while downloaded videos may be viewed through any .mp4 player.  Copies of these materials may also be sent out to other people.     The books include storybooks for children and young adults as well as textbooks on core subjects such as Math, Science, English, Filipino, Music, Arts, among others.  They were curated from various sources that allow free public use and sharing such as Gutenberg.org and Storyweaver.org.in.  Local titles were provided by DepEd’s Bureau of Learning Resources while more Globe content partners are expected to contribute in the coming months.     On the other hand, the eLearning videos, some of which were developed by teachers themselves, introduce important concepts in English, Math, and Science, incorporating sights and sounds that are familiar to the students.  It originated from Text2Teach, a 10-year program launched by the Ayala Foundation, Globe, DepEd, and various organizations in 2003.  Text2Teach was designed to supply public schools with high-quality video content and teacher training on utilizing mobile technology for learning. Globe eLibrary provides a new home for Text2Teach content as it promotes digital learning among students and teachers nationwide, particularly in schools where access to quality books is limited, and usage of technology for learning is not maximized. To learn more about eLibrary, please visit http://globeelibrary.ph/

READ MORE
Waterpark repurposes machine to produce surface disinfectant

April 13, 2020

Since the Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort was shuttered on March 17 in response to the government’s plea to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the facility, hailed as “Mindanao’s Showcase of Sustainable Tourism” has lain idle except for a skeleton crew cleaning and maintaining its various attractions. However, that wasn’t going to stop UC-1 President and CEO Engr. Elpidio M. Paras from using its facilities to help in the war against the virus. UC-1 is the holding company which owns and manages the family’s various enterprises in the hospitality industry, business process outsourcing (BPO), internet service provision, and cable television.     On March 31st, Paras announced in a Facebook post he had successfully commissioned the Seven Seas Waterpark’s Chlorinsitu IIa machine to produce 815 liters daily of Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl) solution.     “While it was intended to keep our wave pool sanitized for the summer, it is now repurposed to supply a good quantity of chlorine-based disinfectant for use by the community,” Paras announced.     When its daily output of NaOCl is diluted with water, the machine can produce the equivalent of 7,000 Liters of surface disinfectant in a day.     “We are working with the XU Chemistry department to properly mix this into a safe and effective product for use by our front liners, hospitals and community checkpoints,” Paras said.     Already, the disinfectant is being used in a prototype disinfectant misting apparatus which Paras designed for use by their Parasat HD technical service vehicles as extra protection as they go about their daily duties in response to the demands of their cable and internet business.     “Our frontline technical and CSR staff are in constant exposure to possible CoVid-19 infections, so we go to extra lengths to keep them safe in their daily rounds,” Paras noted. A short video of the apparatus can be viewed  here.     In addition to these measures, UC-1 has also implemented a comprehensive package of  measures as recommended by authorities to help curb the spread of the CoVid-19 virus including social distancing, staggered work schedules with a skeletal work force, shorter office hours (8am-4pm), and plastic curtains for their payment centers.     The company has also taken advantage of the Holy Week break to implement  sanitation and disinfection procedures of its various offices and payment centers which have already been provided with alcohol sanitizers and disinfecting foot baths for its customers and employees, and has disallowed the entry of all people not wearing a face mask.     As a further measure to comply with the global edict for social distancing, the company suspended all scheduled deactivations for March and encouraged all its customers to take advantage of the faster processing times for their payments at any Savemore/SM store, 7Eleven stores, or through online banking (BDO, Metrobank, BPI, Landbank), and ECPay Merchant Partner including 7Eleven (Nationwide); GCASH; TrueMoney (Nationwide); ExpressPay (Nationwide); Oro Graphic Inc. Main (Graphics); RD Pawnshop (Nationwide); ALP Tickets and Bills Payment; Triple MG Business Center; Top Online Provider Deals (App) or NATCCO (Coop).

READ MORE
IP rituals invoke protection vs. COVID-19

April 13, 2020

Indigenous Peoples of Northern Mindanao are invoking the protection of their spirit guardians through traditional rituals against the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus. On Sunday, March 22nd, the Higa-onon Catanico-Tablon-Cugman-Ancestral Domain (CATATCU AD) organization conducted their traditional rituals on the tribe’s sacred grounds seeking protection from all tribal folk and other citizens against the COVID-19 coronavirus within their tribal domain.     Datu Masikal Jude C. Jabiniar, who sits as Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the Cugman Barangay Council and Buntola Sayuda (liaison officer) to their tribe,  said their baylans (high spiritual leaders) conducted the Panagpeng at their sacred grounds on the hills of Pegtawagan, Sitio Malasag,  Barangay Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City from 3:00am to 12 noon with the blessings of Barangay Chair Wendolyn L. Escobia.     “This ritual invokes protection against deadly diseases which can cause calamities in our communities,” Jabiniar explained in Bisaya. “Through this ritual our baylans and elders ask Magbabaya (The Creator) through the guardians of the four corners of the world, to stop the spread of this deadly disease COVID-19.”      The ritual was headed by Datu Sumisilang/Roger A. Painato and Bae Florita Sayongan, baylans of the 2nd District of Cagayan de Oro. They were assisted by Datu Lumad/Ireneo L. Jabiniar, Higaonon Chieftain of Barangay Cugman, and other members of the Higaonon Tribal Council.     Interestingly, when the blood of one of the chickens offered as sacrifice during the ritual was shed on a white cloth, it showed what appeared to be a woman sitting with her back to the viewer.     “Our baylan believes it could be the picture of the woman who could have been the first victim of this virus,” Janiniar shared.     Earlier, tribal elders of the Taalandig, Bukidnon and Higaonon tribes conducted their own rituals a tent shelter beside the Kalawaig River at the Kaamulan Capitol Grounds in Malaybalay City last Wednesday, March 18 from 8:30am till noon.     Led by Datu Makapukaw/Adolino Saway and Bae Inatlawan/AdelinaTarino, and several other leaders performed two ritual prayers seeking protection for the people from the threat caused by the COVID19 virus pandemic sweeping the globe.     “According to our tribal elders, the rituals sought mercy from the water spirit and protection against the threat of COVID-19,” said Ma. Easterluna S. Canoy, Executive Director of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, Inc. (KIN) which promotes and advocates the rights of indigenous peoples, especially their welfare and cultural survival through sustainable development, ecological integrity and cultural democracy.     The  Panalawahig  Ritual is directed to the Bulalakaw—the guardian water spirit to seek mercy for human transgressions that has made our waters unclean, and for the waters to help humans wash away impurities like the virus that afflict them.     The  Pamugsa  Ritual is conducted to block catastrophes that would affect mountains, forests and all life forms, especially the communities, or humanity in general.     Aside from the two rites that were performed in public owing to the support of the Provincial Government of Bukidnon, tribal elders and ritual experts are also duty bound to perform important rituals held in their respective communities, or in the sacred grounds of their forest domains or beside river systems.     “These emergency rites are invoked to summon nature spirit guides in the event of foreseen and on-going disasters that affect the tribe and its neighboring areas—even those far away, foreign places,” Canoy noted.     “Spiritual leaders of the tribe have performed rites directed to everyone all over the world, as they believe that despite one’s ethnic differences, we are all bound by one humanity, one Mother Earth,” she added.0

READ MORE
FDA Approves five brand of Rapid Antibody Test Kits for COVID-19

April 7, 2020

In what could be a critical turning point in the country’s battle against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved today, March 30, 2020, the use of five (5) brands of Rapid Test Kits for COVID-19.      “We approve kits that are registered and used in countries with advanced technology and wide experience with COVID 19. We want the people to have access to testing but of course, proper evaluation and safeguards will still be in place,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in press statement posted in the FDA website.     According to the FDA Advisory No. 2020-483, approved where the following (with countries of origin): NANJING VAZYME 2019-nCoV IgG/IgM DETECTION KIT (Singapore); NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (2019-NCOV) IgM/IgG ANTIBODY DETECTION KIT (COLLOIDAL GOLD METHOD) (China); DIAGNOSTIC KIT FOR IgM/IgG ANTIBODY TO CORONAVIRUS (SARS-CoV-2) (COLLOIDAL GOLD (China); 2019-nCoV ANTIBODY TEST (COLLOIDAL GOLD) (China); and SARS-CoV-2 ANTIBODY TEST (LATERAL FLOW METHOD (China).     FDA also approved the SARS Cov2 kit by Gene Xpert  from Abbott Laboratories which can detect the virus within 5 minutes. This test kit is PCR based. To date, FDA has approved 17 PCR based test kits for commercial use. As a safety precaution, the FDA shall require the product inserts or label of the Rapid Test Kits to state the following: “This product is strictly for medical professional use only and not intended for personal use. The administration of the test and interpretation of results should be done by a trained health professional. Confirmatory testing is required.” “The rapid test kits will yield a faster result compared to PCR based kits, but it is important that a trained health professional will evaluate and interpret the results,” Domingo stressed. Earlier last week, affiliate chambers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Mindanao urged President Rodrigo Duterte to ramp up of mass screening of possible COVID-19 cases in the country through the adoption of the Rapid Serologic Test (RST) as a surveillance tool and for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant Emergency Use Authority to approve the applications for registration of verifiable suppliers of RST Kits that already underwent the registration process with their respective FDAs in their country of origin.  “We urgently need to check the health of our communities and this is only possible using mass testing in the field. Having statistics of sick patients in the hospital is just too late,” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, PCCI area vice president for Mindanao. “We need to know actual cases in the field even before they become symptomatic or no longer symptomatic (unknowingly healed) to make targeted decisions before they even get to hospitals,” she added. PCCI is advocating the immediate rollout of the mass screening program using RST starting with all PUIs awaiting access to PCR testing, all PUMs, vulnerable persons within the vicinity of a cluster of Covid-19 outbreak, and among front liners in the hospital and in the field. Persons who test positive from RST mass screening should also be required to undergo priority confirmatory testing by PCR. However, the FDA stresses the need for caution in the deployment of rapid test kits which should only be used by certified medical professionals, and called on local government chief executives, heads of agencies, hospitals and private companies to be cautious in using the approved test kits. Further, the agency asked doctors to help in testing and guide patients in the interpretation of the results. “We have to be very cautious in using these rapid test kits because they measure antibodies and not the viral load itself. The body takes time to develop antibodies and this might give a negative result for patients who have been infected but antibodies have not yet developed antibodies. A positive result due to cross reaction with other bacteria or viruses is also possible, which is why a confirmatory PCR based test is still required,” Domingo noted. Domingo also emphasized the need for the DOH to increase the number of capable laboratories accredited to perform the PCR confirmatory tests. DOH-10 Regional Director Dr. Adriano Suba-an said they plan to convert the TB (tuberculosis) Reference Center at the DOH compound in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City into a coronavirus disease COVID-19 testing laboratory during the Regional Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (RIATF-EID) held March 27 in Cagayan de Oro City. The DOH-10 TB Reference Center has an RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) equipment that can actually be used for the testing subject to compliance with COVID-19 testing standards and other requirements of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). The  Indonesian Society of Respirology  (PDPI) has said diagnostic test kits for tuberculosis could be modified and used for COVID-19 since Cepheid, the US-based molecular diagnostics company producing the Xpert TBM/RIF diagnostic kits, has redesigned its Xpress Flu/RSV cartridges so that they can detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the deadly COVID-19 disease. Dr. Faisal Yunus, a member of the PDPI advisory board, said regular tuberculosis diagnostic machines in Indonesia could now detect COVID-19 if their cartridges were replaced with the new redesigned cartridges, Faisal told The Jakarta Post recently. The technology recently received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is now approved to run COVID-19 tests in the US.  “FDA remains steadfast in its obligation to protect the public. Despite the global crisis we are faced with, FDA continues to safeguard public health by ensuring that health commodities, especially those related to addressing the COVID 19 emergency, are certified following regulatory standards – through streamlined processes,” Domingo noted. “Let us remain vigilant and hopeful as we protect each other’s welfare against those who seem to take advantage of this vulnerable situation. During this rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in the country, the agency continues to serve the people by giving them access to testing without compromising our mandate of ensuring the safety, efficacy and quality of every health product for the public,” he added.

READ MORE
Plan Regional, Act Local-Minda Chambers outline response to COVID-19 crisis

April 6, 2020

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Mindanao has started implementing its key strategy as mandated in the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council Economic Cluster. “In the wake of all the community quarantines and lockdown of LGUs , I have outlined the Business sector Response to COVID -19 through the Key Strategy of Planning Regional (through the Regional Disaster Risk Mitigation and Management Council) and Acting Local through the Local Government Units (LGUs-city, province, municipality, barangay),” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, PCCI Area Vice President for Mindanao.     “Our main objective is to secure our food supply chain and support initiatives to protect our healthcare personnel and front liners through the production of locally made Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs),” Alegrio stressed.     “As the voice of the business in Mindanao, PCCI will endeavor to provide regular updates to the business community on government directives especially on logistics issues. I encourage each local chamber to provide/share news, reports, and best practices particularly on food security. I will also appreciate any inputs or possible solutions from the group,” she added.     As a complementary measure, PCCI is also coordinating with local government units (LGUs) the deployment of rolling stores for each municipality to reinforce the community quarantines and lockdowns now enforced in many localities, by distributing relief packs to individual households, especially the most vulnerable sectors in the informal economy. Bangon Marawi Chamber of Commerce headed by President Elian Macala has partnered with the Lanao del Sur provincial government, the line agencies of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM), and some Meranaw businessmen to launch its Rolling Stores project. According to a MindaNews report filed by Rosslaini Alonto, the rolling stores sell basic necessities such as rice, eggs, vegetables and spices, dried fish, cooking oil, chicken, bread, over-the counter medicines, LPG, purified water, diapers, toiletries although with limits so as to cover as many families in the municipalities who wish to avail of the products. All goods are sold at suggested retail prices. Seven mobile stores were initially dispatched to the towns of Marantao, Taraka and Bacolod Kalawi on Monday, Lumba Bayabao and Binidayan on March 25 and Piagapo on March 26 and were supposed to go to the different towns of Lanao del Sur every day but were unable to proceed due to the Iligan City travel ban. In line with its support initiatives to protect healthcare personnel and front liners, PCCI is also coordinating the local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) with community production lines for PPEs which is now being undertaken by various volunteer organizations in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Davao , Zamboanga, Butuan , Iligan, and Surigao. “We have emailed to our individual chambers designs/templates of face masks,/face shields and protective suits for their reference,” Alegrio noted. As a complement to this, the local chambers are  also networking with colleges and universities whose chemical laboratories are producing alcohol for distribution to front liners in local hospitals and chamber members following the experience of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) whose chemistry laboratories successfully began production of 70% isopropyl and 70% ethanol alcohol which were donated for the use of front liners at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center, the only COVID-19 referral hospital in Region X.  “The Oro Chamber is assisting Xavier Ateneo’s alcohol production through material sourcing of absolute alcohol, the raw material for the isopropyl and ethanol alcohol being processed for the NMMC,” Alegrio said. Not the least, she reminded the chambers accountability to the individual workers of their respective business establishments, the community where they are situated, and securing their workplaces against the virus. “The first responsibility of business is to take care of its workers, then to the Community to where the company is located by providing social amelioration, financial assistance and ensuring it follows the DOH guidelines on sanitation and disinfection of the workplace,” Alegrio emphasized.    There are about 45 PCCI local Chambers of Commerce (LCCIs ) in Mindanao, around 90 percent of whose members belong to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) whose capitalization range from P3M-100M  with large companies making up some  10 percent of chamber members,

READ MORE


Subscribe Now!

Receive email updates from Cagayan Times.