Travails of the community press

COVID-19-Chronicles-05-2048x1280

In these critical times of pandemic when vetted information and content are necessary
for survival, journalists as frontliners have become both instruments and messengers of
facts and truths. They brave the odds amidst scare of the contagion, proliferation of
disinformation, and despite being demonized by some segments of the society for their
stories perceived to be critical by those in power and position.

But what happens when they are constrained to write and file stories due to restricted
mobility brought about by the lockdown and government-required accreditation so they
can go about their usual routine?  More importantly, what happens when their already-
struggling news outfits have ceased printing or publication?

That is exactly what is happening now with most of community newspapers in the
Philippines which are members of the 56-year old print media organization, the
Philippine Press Institute, whose reporters go to communities to cover the pandemic,
and now experiencing the brunt of the loss of livelihood.

At least eleven publications (3 from Mindanao, 7 from Luzon, and 1 from the Visayas)
have ceased printing temporarily and shifted since then to digital format. These are:
Mindanao Times, Mindanao Gold Star Daily, Mindanao Observer, Baguio Chronicle,
Mabuhay, Pahayagang Balikas, The Northern Forum, Palawan News, Sun.Star Baguio,
Ilocos Times, and Negros Daily Bulletin.  Two multi-awarded community papers, Baguio
Midland Courier and Visayan Daily Star have resumed publishing printed editions but
with reduced circulation and number of pages.

“Under ECQ, there are no street sales and few ads.  We’re struggling to keep afloat and
pay salaries,” said Carla Gomes, an editor of Bacolod-based Visayan Daily Star.  But
her paper had not stopped publishing online during most of quarantine time.  She added
that this enabled the readers to continue to get the news daily even while under
quarantine.  “We also continued to bring the news to our readers as events happen on
our Facebook page.”

In the case of Samar Weekly Express, senior reporter and editor Ricky Bautista said his
paper encountered delays in the delivery of hard copies “but we’re able to activate our
digital medium whose followers and online readers increased by seventy percent”.

In Northern Mindanao, particularly in Cagayan de Oro City, by far, only two twin-papers,
Mindanao Daily News and BusinessWeek Mindanao have unimpeded operations both
in print and online.  Iloilo-based and widely-circulated Panay News takes pride in being
the last standing community newspaper in Region VI in both print and online.
Herbie Gomez, editor-in-chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily in CDO reported to PPI
through its informal survey first week of May that the paper will resume printing any time
soon.

With scarce or meager resources to get by, they persisted to hound for news to serve
the publics who hunger for journalistic pieces.  But journalists, whose newspapers are
off newsstands, would never have their stories see print and are left with no choice but
to seek for opportunities to peddle their stories.  Most of the community papers were in
transition during lockdown.  “There were no ads, no newsstands, no delivery,” said
Frank Cimatu from Baguio Chronicle.

For seasoned investigative journalist and PPI training director Tess Bacalla, it is difficult
to imagine the impact of local papers folding up on the communities since the national
media cannot be relied upon to pick up the slack.  “I hope online editors are continuing
though,” she said.

Recognizing these enormous problems on economic survival and changing newsroom
dynamics brought about by the spread of the Wuhan virus --- and in keeping up with its
mandate of "Building Better Communities Through Civic Journalism", the Philippine
Press Institute, also known as the national association of newspapers since 1964, has
embarked on a pivotal and landmark project, mainly to: have more narratives coming
from the ground in the absence of some community newspapers, give print journalists
the legitimate platform for release of their outputs, and thereby provide compensation
for their articles to help them survive in these difficult times.

Titled COVID-19 CHRONICLES, the  www.ppinewscommons.net  was initially introduced
in December 2019 and came into full operation first quarter of 2020 for the sole purpose
of collecting community stories from its members in the regions under one common
website.  It took a different turn in March this year when stories about the Wuhan virus
inundated all media platforms. For March alone, it has posted more than two hundred
stories from journalists all over the archipelago.  “We have reviewed the stories and
some of these authors will get remunerations for as long as they pass the standards
and criteria set forth via the civic journalism framework of the PPI,” said Rolando
Estabillo, PPI chairman and president.

Web administrator Kier Labrador said more stories are still being uploaded in the
website for the months of April, May, June and up to December of this year.
“It is a work in progress and we cannot thank our partners Nickel Asia Corporation and
Hans Seidel Foundation enough for taking on the challenge with us for the sake of
journalism and altruism on the side,” said Ariel Sebellino, PPI executive director and
head of training operations and special projects.  He further added that the PPI cannot
pay for all stories written but will award most with modest fees which passed the criteria
on a monthly basis.

The multi-faceted projects will take many forms; it can organize webinars, forums,
awards, and exhibits, as the organization deems to stay relevant and addresses the so-
called new normal.

On June 12, 2020, it conducted for the first time a webinar on “When Reporting Duty
Calls” which gathered via Google Meet some of the best community journalists in the

country as speakers and panelists.  It was the opening salvo that would set the tone for
future activities of the overarching project, that gave the opportunity for media
practitioners in the regions to share problems and concerns affecting their papers and
immediate communities.

Seasoned reporter Julius Mariveles from Digital News Exchange (DNX) in Bacolod City,
a new player in local media,  highlighted the problem over access to information in view
of the mobility restrictions and lack of transparency in government offices. “Perhaps we
also have to consider that government offices are on skeleton-force set up and they
may not have enough people to cope with work demands. But then, that should not be
an excuse,” he said.

One of the good things Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon us is, as Mr. Estabillo said
in his opening remarks, “we were forced to embrace technology and learn how to use
the digital tools to be able to keep doing our job”.

Another creative approach in turning challenges to opportunities is what Mindanao
Times editor-in-chief  Amalia Cabusao termed as co-branding, or working with schools
to offer a program such as a newspaper in education, or using the newspaper as part of
the curriculum. She said, this would not only help increase subscription but also make
the students aware of what’s happening around them and to help the students develop
a sense and culture of media and information literacy.

For Tita Valderama, former head of the The Manila Times School of Journalism and
now editor at Vera Filles, the problem with disinformation exists and has grown bigger.
“While we are expected to churn out accurate information, the problem gets worse when
official sources present inconsistent or incoherent data, information, or policies.”
Media organizations, like PPI, which depend on grants and donations, also struggle to
keep the organization alive and kicking during this pandemic.  In the absence of
physical gatherings, it has found ways to gather media practitioners to continue
discussing and sharing various issues affecting media industry, like it always did in its
past regular workshops and conferences, as if nothing changed, but only the technology
required a whole new skill and approach to delivering the message and service.
After all, no matter what, journalism is about saving and changing lives, one story at a
time.

(Ariel C. Sebellino is the executive director of and trustee at the Philippine Press Institute.  He also heads training operations and special projects.)

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COVID-19 Chronicles:  Sharing Stories, Caring for Communities

COVID-19-Chronicles-05-2048x1280

In these critical times of pandemic when vetted information and content are necessary
for survival, journalists as frontliners have become both instruments and messengers of
facts and truths. They brave the odds amidst scare of the contagion, proliferation of
disinformation, and despite being demonized by some segments of the society for their
stories perceived to be critical by those in power and position.

But what happens when they are constrained to write and file stories due to restricted
mobility brought about by the lockdown and government-required accreditation so they
can go about their usual routine?  More importantly, what happens when their already-
struggling news outfits have ceased printing or publication?

That is exactly what is happening now with most of community newspapers in the
Philippines which are members of the 56-year old print media organization, the
Philippine Press Institute, whose reporters go to communities to cover the pandemic,
and now experiencing the brunt of the loss of livelihood.

At least eleven publications (3 from Mindanao, 7 from Luzon, and 1 from the Visayas)
have ceased printing temporarily and shifted since then to digital format. These are:
Mindanao Times, Mindanao Gold Star Daily, Mindanao Observer, Baguio Chronicle,
Mabuhay, Pahayagang Balikas, The Northern Forum, Palawan News, Sun.Star Baguio,
Ilocos Times, and Negros Daily Bulletin.  Two multi-awarded community papers, Baguio
Midland Courier and Visayan Daily Star have resumed publishing printed editions but
with reduced circulation and number of pages.

“Under ECQ, there are no street sales and few ads.  We’re struggling to keep afloat and
pay salaries,” said Carla Gomes, an editor of Bacolod-based Visayan Daily Star.  But
her paper had not stopped publishing online during most of quarantine time.  She added
that this enabled the readers to continue to get the news daily even while under
quarantine.  “We also continued to bring the news to our readers as events happen on
our Facebook page.”

In the case of Samar Weekly Express, senior reporter and editor Ricky Bautista said his
paper encountered delays in the delivery of hard copies “but we’re able to activate our
digital medium whose followers and online readers increased by seventy percent”.

In Northern Mindanao, particularly in Cagayan de Oro City, by far, only two twin-papers,
Mindanao Daily News and BusinessWeek Mindanao have unimpeded operations both
in print and online.  Iloilo-based and widely-circulated Panay News takes pride in being
the last standing community newspaper in Region VI in both print and online.
Herbie Gomez, editor-in-chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily in CDO reported to PPI
through its informal survey first week of May that the paper will resume printing any time
soon.

With scarce or meager resources to get by, they persisted to hound for news to serve
the publics who hunger for journalistic pieces.  But journalists, whose newspapers are
off newsstands, would never have their stories see print and are left with no choice but
to seek for opportunities to peddle their stories.  Most of the community papers were in
transition during lockdown.  “There were no ads, no newsstands, no delivery,” said
Frank Cimatu from Baguio Chronicle.

For seasoned investigative journalist and PPI training director Tess Bacalla, it is difficult
to imagine the impact of local papers folding up on the communities since the national
media cannot be relied upon to pick up the slack.  “I hope online editors are continuing
though,” she said.

Recognizing these enormous problems on economic survival and changing newsroom
dynamics brought about by the spread of the Wuhan virus --- and in keeping up with its
mandate of "Building Better Communities Through Civic Journalism", the Philippine
Press Institute, also known as the national association of newspapers since 1964, has
embarked on a pivotal and landmark project, mainly to: have more narratives coming
from the ground in the absence of some community newspapers, give print journalists
the legitimate platform for release of their outputs, and thereby provide compensation
for their articles to help them survive in these difficult times.

Titled COVID-19 CHRONICLES, the  www.ppinewscommons.net  was initially introduced
in December 2019 and came into full operation first quarter of 2020 for the sole purpose
of collecting community stories from its members in the regions under one common
website.  It took a different turn in March this year when stories about the Wuhan virus
inundated all media platforms. For March alone, it has posted more than two hundred
stories from journalists all over the archipelago.  “We have reviewed the stories and
some of these authors will get remunerations for as long as they pass the standards
and criteria set forth via the civic journalism framework of the PPI,” said Rolando
Estabillo, PPI chairman and president.

Web administrator Kier Labrador said more stories are still being uploaded in the
website for the months of April, May, June and up to December of this year.
“It is a work in progress and we cannot thank our partners Nickel Asia Corporation and
Hans Seidel Foundation enough for taking on the challenge with us for the sake of
journalism and altruism on the side,” said Ariel Sebellino, PPI executive director and
head of training operations and special projects.  He further added that the PPI cannot
pay for all stories written but will award most with modest fees which passed the criteria
on a monthly basis.

The multi-faceted projects will take many forms; it can organize webinars, forums,
awards, and exhibits, as the organization deems to stay relevant and addresses the so-
called new normal.

On June 12, 2020, it conducted for the first time a webinar on “When Reporting Duty
Calls” which gathered via Google Meet some of the best community journalists in the

country as speakers and panelists.  It was the opening salvo that would set the tone for
future activities of the overarching project, that gave the opportunity for media
practitioners in the regions to share problems and concerns affecting their papers and
immediate communities.

Seasoned reporter Julius Mariveles from Digital News Exchange (DNX) in Bacolod City,
a new player in local media,  highlighted the problem over access to information in view
of the mobility restrictions and lack of transparency in government offices. “Perhaps we
also have to consider that government offices are on skeleton-force set up and they
may not have enough people to cope with work demands. But then, that should not be
an excuse,” he said.

One of the good things Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon us is, as Mr. Estabillo said
in his opening remarks, “we were forced to embrace technology and learn how to use
the digital tools to be able to keep doing our job”.

Another creative approach in turning challenges to opportunities is what Mindanao
Times editor-in-chief  Amalia Cabusao termed as co-branding, or working with schools
to offer a program such as a newspaper in education, or using the newspaper as part of
the curriculum. She said, this would not only help increase subscription but also make
the students aware of what’s happening around them and to help the students develop
a sense and culture of media and information literacy.

For Tita Valderama, former head of the The Manila Times School of Journalism and
now editor at Vera Filles, the problem with disinformation exists and has grown bigger.
“While we are expected to churn out accurate information, the problem gets worse when
official sources present inconsistent or incoherent data, information, or policies.”
Media organizations, like PPI, which depend on grants and donations, also struggle to
keep the organization alive and kicking during this pandemic.  In the absence of
physical gatherings, it has found ways to gather media practitioners to continue
discussing and sharing various issues affecting media industry, like it always did in its
past regular workshops and conferences, as if nothing changed, but only the technology
required a whole new skill and approach to delivering the message and service.
After all, no matter what, journalism is about saving and changing lives, one story at a
time.

(Ariel C. Sebellino is the executive director of and trustee at the Philippine Press Institute.  He also heads training operations and special projects.)

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PCOO should rescind media accreditation

pcoo-sec.-andanar

PRESS STATEMENT
March 17, 2020

PCOO should rescind media accreditation

The concerned faculty members of the Department of Journalism of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) and other journalists and journalism educators strongly recommend that the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) rescind its decision to require accreditation of journalists and media workers who need to go to quarantine areas.

In a March 16 memorandum, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that “[m]edia personnel shall be allowed to travel within the quarantine area, provided that, within seventy-two (72) hours from the effectivity of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, media personnel intending to travel within the quarantine area shall secure an identification card from the [PCOO].”

Requiring a PCOO ID in 72 hours is unnecessary. A valid press ID should be enough to establish the identity of a journalist and media worker even during the enhanced community quarantine.

The PCOO should not give the impression that it wants to control the media and compromise independent coverage. The PCOO should know that requiring an additional media ID could be perceived by the public as a means to gag the press.

If it wants to make itself useful, perhaps the PCOO could help ensure that the police and military refrain from harassing and intimidating the press. As the PCOO may be aware, certain journalists and news media organizations are being subjected to red-baiting and there are cases of work-related arrests and killings under the Duterte administration.

While it is possible to just ignore PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar’s suggestion that news media organizations just hook up their coverage with PTV 4, he should also be reminded that such remarks could be misinterpreted at a time when there are news media organizations and other concerned individuals and groups denouncing government attacks against media. In the same way that there are those who claim that laws are being weaponized against the press, a PCOO  ID could also be misused and abused to deprive media of access to information.

The PCOO should therefore rescind its decision to require accreditation at this time when the people depend highly on the media to get some degree of certainty from an otherwise uncertain situation.

Given their role in shaping public opinion, journalists and media workers should have editorial independence so that they can be expected to adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards. If government wants to suggest something from media owners, it is to provide their frontliners the necessary safety equipment and logistics to ensure effective coverage. In unfortunate cases that they show symptoms, affected journalists and media workers should be given proper medical care by their employers and the government. Indeed, the safety of journalists should be everyone’s priority.

We commend journalists and media workers for continuing their work in providing timely and relevant information on the pandemic. Instead of imposing unnecessary requirements, we expect government to provide an atmosphere conducive to press freedom.

Signatories:

Concerned faculty members of the Department of Journalism, UP Diliman
Lucia Tangi, Diosa Labiste, Khrysta Imperial Rara, Jimmy Domingo and Danilo Arao

Concerned journalism faculty members of University of Santo Tomas
Felipe Salvosa II and Lito Zulueta

Manny Mogato, editor at large, News5 Digital

Rommel Lopez, journalism faculty member, Malayan Colleges Mindanao

Philippine Press Institute (PPI)

Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP)

Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD)

For verification: 
Asst. Prof. Lucia P. Tangi
Chair, Department of Journalism
College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman

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NICKEL ASIA’s EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM AMONG FIRST RESPONDERS IN MAKILALA

PHOTO: Rolie Jamil is a member of Nickel Asia’s Emergency Response Team (NAC-ERT) that was among the first responders in North Cotabato. The team – composed of 58 volunteer-employees of NAC -  was deployed to evacuate families affected by a landslide caused by the earthquake in Barangay Bato.

PHOTO:Rolie Jamil is a member of Nickel Asia’s Emergency Response Team (NAC-ERT) that was among the first responders in North Cotabato. The team – composed of 58 volunteer-employees of NAC -  was deployed to evacuate families affected by a landslide caused by the earthquake in Barangay Bato.

The Provincial Government of Cotabato has acknowledged those who were first to respond to Makilala, a town in North Cotabato that was the hardest hit by the recent series of earthquakes that devastated some parts of the Province. And the Emergency Response Team (ERT) from Nickel Asia Corporation’s (NAC) operating company was one of them.

The miners were among the first responders when Cotabato called for help.  Taganito Mining Corp.’s (TMC), a subsidiary of NAC, was one of those who first sent its ERT, arriving in the area a day after the intensity 6.5 quake shook Makilala and adjacent towns.

Following suit and bringing more food and water, were two other subsidiaries of NAC – Cagdianao Mining Corp. (CMC) that travelled all the way from Dinagat Islands, and Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC) from Surigao del Norte.

The expertise of NAC’s ERTs were quickly put to use when they were assigned to barangay Bato where a landslide a day earlier recorded at least 6 casualties. The team transported to safety some 127 residents together with their remaining possessions including pigs and pet dogs.

The NAC teams performed first-aid and distributed food packages and drinking water, mosquito nets, and hundreds of meters of blue canvass sheets.

The ERTs regularly and extensively train to be able to respond quickly and efficiently during disasters such as earthquakes and strong typhoons.

Makilala is located in the south east of Cotabato Province, next to Davao City. The town has 38 barangays.

According to Ailyn Tocmo, a government employee from Barangay Kisante who was assigned to the registration center in Makilala, “all barangays were badly affected with some people continuing to stay outdoors, afraid that more aftershock would hit”.

 

Teresa Palban, a Kagawad from Barangay Biangan, said all the houses are deemed “unsafe” until cleared and declared otherwise and the residents await the local government to guide them as to when it is safe to go back to their homes.

The NAC ERTs provided supplies and words of comfort to Biangan’s143 families.

Palban thanked the NAC team for the food packs and emphasized that the mosquito nets and the blue canvass sheets are very much appreciated since many of them still sleep outdoors.

A man who introduced himself only as Loloy thanked the NAC ERTs specifically for the drinking water. He was from Barangay Bato and his home was buried by the landslide.

I think it will be many more months before we can go back to rebuild our home, the future is uncertain,” he said.

Supplies pour in from NAC. TMC got the support of its contractors and mining services providers – FITZ-SouthernPhil Development and Marketing Corp.; HPK Construction; Nickelbase, Inc.; Tango Romeo General Construction; and Taganito Mining Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative and together pooled 3,000 food packs and 2,086 gallons of drinking water.

CMC brought 500 food packs and 200 meters of blue sheet canvass plus 500 of 10-liter bottles of drinking water.

HMC followed up with 250 food packs, 250 bottles of 6.6-liter drinking water and 300 meters of blue canvass sheets cut in size to be used for roofs and sleeping mats.

Dominga Bangot, a resident of Makilala said they know that the local government is ready to help them but they appreciate the flock of private organizations coming from all over the country.

We appreciate the food and water they bring but the people who come here make us feel better and somehow less afraid,” Bangot said.

Engineer Rennan Cuadrillero of TMC, the overall head of the NAC ERTs deployed in Cotabato, attests to how warmly the response teams were welcomed and appreciated.

“We get generous expressions of ‘thank yous’ and the people are cooperative, they are easy to organize when it comes to distribution of goods, our job here is challenging but motivating,” Cuadrillero shared.

NAC ERTs are known first-responders. Trained to be constantly prepared, they are ready within short notice when communities call for help. ERT members are volunteer-employees from NAC’s mining companies composed of mining engineers and geologists, medical practitioners and first-aiders, heavy equipment operators and carpenters, foresters and environment technologists, and social workers, headed and organized by the company’s Safety Department.

###

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Food for thought

food_for_thought

Around the world, at least one in three children is either stunted or overweight, and one in two suffers from hidden hunger. This was the main finding of The State of the World's Children 2019 report, released by Unicef on Wednesday.

The data mirror realities in the Philippines: One in three children under five years old are too short for their age. Seven percent of children are too thin for their height. A tenth of adolescents are overweight.

“More are surviving, but far too few are thriving,” Unicef said.

Growing urban populations and changing lifestyles have contributed to the increased availability of processed food and a preference for inexpensive, accessible food items that do not take a lot of time and effort to prepare.

Indeed, malnourished children have marked disadvantages at the outset – weak immunity to diseases, poor academic performance, and eventually limited opportunities for advancement and economic mobility.

Specific attention must be given to the continued prevalence of stunting among children 0-five years old, according to Azucena Dayanghirang, executive director of the National Nutrition Council.

“If we look further at the data, we will see that stunting rates among one-year olds is 36 percent, which is twice as much as the 15.5-percent stunting rate among infants 6-11 months old. Stunting rates remain at the 30 percent level or more among children 3 and 4 years old. Clearly, we have to prevent that increase,” she said.

The council is thus staring a campaign to promote greater focus on the first 1,000 days of life – from pregnancy to the first two years – using a mix of approaches like the encouragement of breastfeeding and the proper feeding of the young, with emphasis on eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish and meat.

Pregnancy to the first two years of life make up the “window of golden opportunity” during which key health, nutrition, early education and related services should be delivered, and delivered well. Food, after all, is not the only input that ensures a healthy, well-rounded individual. Other factors contribute to the development of the individual: A safe and secure home environment, education, emotional support from parents and family members.

Food, however, is the most basic of them all. Parents and caregivers, who actually decide what gets bought in the market and what gets served on the table, must realize the awesome responsibility they carry in ensuring the long-term nourishment of their child.

Healthy children will grow into healthy, productive adults. They will propel the country forward instead of failing to realize their potential and draining the system. This is what it means to thrive. It is so much more than getting by, or staying afloat.

No one will argue that children need to be fed and fed well. There is no dearth of ideas on the “how.” The only thing uncertain is whether families and societies are willing to take that extra difficult, if inconvenient, step for better results. (Printed with permission: Manila Standard editorial, 17 October 2019)

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UNICEF: Many children and adolescents in the Philippines are not growing up healthily

PHL-2019-Noorani-02668457

More children and young people are eating unhealthy food

MANILA, 16 OCTOBER 2019 – Filipino children are increasingly suffering from poor diets, inadequate nutrition and food systems that are failing them, UNICEF warned in a global report today.

The State of the World’s Children: Children, Food and Nutrition revealed that one in three Filipino children under five years old are stunted, which means they are too short for their age, while roughly 7 per cent of children are too thin for their height. Moreover, a tenth of Filipino adolescents are now overweight. Increased vulnerability to disease due to poor health-seeking behaviour, incomplete immunization, poor hygiene and care practices, and inadequate diet – both in quantity and quality – causes undernutrition in early childhood.

“The undernutrition facts in the Philippines are disturbing – one in three 12-23-month-old children suffer from anaemia while one in three children are irreversibly stunted by the age of 2. On the other hand, 1 in 10 adolescents are obese from wrong eating habits,” said Oyun Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative. “The triple burden of undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight poses serious threats to child health, therefore, UNICEF is supporting the Philippine Government in implementing the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition (PPAN). Under the leadership of the Government, working together with private sector, civil society and all stakeholders, we must address the causes of unhealthy eating in all its forms.”

“The National Nutrition Council (NNC) is exhausting all efforts to address malnutrition especially among children through the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022, which serves as the country's framework for nutrition improvement.” Said Dr. Dayanghirang, Executive Director, National Nutrition Council, “One of the strategic thrusts of the PPAN 2017-2022 is the focus on the first 1000 days of life, which refers to the period of pregnancy up to the first two years of the child. This is a window of golden opportunity wherein key health, nutrition, early education and related services should be delivered to ensure optimum physical and mental development of a child. Poor nutrition during this period can have irreversible effects on the physical and mental development of a child that eventually affects a child’s performance in school as well as productivity and ability to earn as an adult, consequently affecting the quality of life of a person.

“If we look further at the data, we will see that stunting rates among one-year olds is 36.6%, which is twice as much as the 15.5% stunting rate among infants 6-11 months old. And stunting rates remain at the 30% level or more among children 3 and 4 years old. Clearly, we have to prevent that increase. We at the NNC are urging key stakeholders at the national, regional and local government units to carry out the PPAN 2017-2022 and give particular attention to the first 1000 days of life to give our Filipino children a brighter future,” added Dr. Dayanghirang.

Despite the critical importance of the 1,000 days of life from conception up to two years, infants are not eating well. As a result, they are surviving but not thriving. Only a third of babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months. Around 44 per cent of children aged 6-23 months are not fed fruit and vegetables, and 59 per cent are not fed eggs, dairy products, fish or meat. They are not getting their required nutritional intake by consuming from at least five of the seven food groups.

Similarly, the report found that adolescents are eating unhealthily the food that do not meet their nutritional needs. Adolescent obesity among Filipinos has almost tripled in the last 15 years as processed foods high in salt, fats and sugar are becoming more accessible and affordable.

Across the globe, 42 per cent of school-going adolescents drink carbonated soft drinks at least once a day and 46 per cent eat fast food at least once a week. From 2000 to 2016, the proportion of overweight children between 5 and 19 years of age doubled from 1 in 10 to almost 1 in 5.

The triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger or the lack of essential nutrients, and overweight – threatens the survival, growth and development of children, young people, economies and nations, the report cautioned.

The Philippine Government recognizes that malnutrition remains a significant public health concern in the country. Stunting is now seen as one of the major impediments to human development and is recognised as a well-established marker of poor child development.

In response, the Government has developed strategies and targets through the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022. The country also passed RA 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, or the First 1,000 Days Law, which aims to end stunting and all forms of malnutrition through sound investments and comprehensive strategies.

###

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Governance, Democracy, Media: Building Better Communities

66037781_2279053142179610_5427409155293970432_n

As the country gears for a possible shift to a federal form of government, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. underscored the important role that media has to play in ensuring that Filipinos make an informed choice on the issue.

Pimentel, a member of the consultative committee tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to propose changes to the 1987 Constitution, acknowledged that many Filipinos still do not understand the concept of federalism.

“This is why we need the media to play its role of educating our people. We need a free media to ensure that the dissemination of information is not controlled,” he said in his keynote speech during the 23rd National Press Forum of the Philippine Press Institute at Hotel Jen in Manila.

Former Commission on Elections chairman and 1986 Constitutional Convention member Christian Monsod agreed: “Media has a big role to play, especially in education campaign and in providing the people with real news, not fake news.”

Monsod said a free and vibrant press is crucial in ensuring that developments in the political scene translate into tangible benefits for all Filipinos.

“The biggest divide in our country is not culture or identity or territory but the divide between the rich and the poor...How can we best fulfill the promise of a new social order that serves the interests of the poor, who are supposed to be the center of our development?”

Monsod was cautious, though, of the proposed federal form of government, adding that in this part of the world, unitary systems such as Japan, South Korea, China and Indonesia) have proven to be successful models.

“Federalism is a risky, intricate political experiment that is vulnerable to unintended consequences,” he said.

Pimentel, however, maintained that a federal system under a presidential form of government was meant to “advance the welfare of the people, speed up their development. and hopefully dissipate the causes of rebellion in this country.”

In the same vein, but more on the political and economic aspects, Noel de Luna, founder and chairman of Kusog Bicolandia, an agenda-based regional political party that is aimed to focus more on local or domestic interests,  "resolved to serve the common interest of fellow Bicolanos by endeavoring, first of all, to be both self-reliant and dynamic."

"Can we be an autonomous state? Can we be part of a progressive unified group of islands called the Philippine archipelago under a Federalist state?", he addressed the PPI members during the fellowship dinner.

Erwin Caliba, chief of the Legal, Legislative and Linkages of the Policy Advisory Office of the Commission of Human Rights, said the quest for autonomy is also a “mechanism to address exclusion and enhance the participation of minorities.”

Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, former Justice assistant secretary and a lecturer on issues concerning Indigenous Peoples, said all stakeholders, including the media, should move to empower minorities whose voices are drowned out in the mainstream national discourse.

Although I am not really convinced that federalism is the cure, for our indigenous peoples in the country, it may work,” she said.

Gotz Heinicke, resident representative of PPI partner Hanns Seidel Foundation, underscored how the lack of free speech and assembly is “the greatest menace to freedom” today.

“Public discussion is a political duty...such openness results in better governance and better communities,” he said.

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The Call for Federalism is Not Yet Dead

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By Noel De Luna

Chairman, Kusog Bicolandia

While it first came in dramatic fashion, with then newly-installed President Rodrigo Duterte pushing for the shift to the federal system of government to help spur long-stunted development in the provinces, the idea soon fizzled out.  It is only now that we seem to be talking about Federalism once again.

With the President’s consultative body on charter change opting for a shift from the present unitary-presidential system of government to federal system, the effort seems to have not succeeded in selling the idea to the ordinary folks.  Many of these ordinary folks, especially those in the countryside, have not heard of it, much more understand it.

What is ironic is that many would have wanted it, embrace it if only we discuss about it or explain its merits to them in their own language.

Even before the proposal to shift to the Federalist form of government became fashionable, many Bicolanos had already been mulling the idea of Bicol Autonomy.

Bicol Autonomy in its all intentions, form and substance is a step away to the proposed Federal System of Government that involves all regions in the country. It is an idea that has the structure fit for federalism.

Under the proposed Autonomous Bicol Movement, a Regional Government shall be adopted, among others, for the democratic sharing of wealth, power and opportunities among the inhabitants of the Region regardless of ethnic origin, creed, sex, language, political conviction, and economic or social status.

It shall also ensure the right of the people to participate and be equitably represented at appropriate levels of social, economic, political decision-making and in the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of local, regional, and national priorities, plans, and programs.

Moreover, the Regional Government that it shall establish shall safeguard equal opportunities to all qualified citizens of the Region to run for public office; thereby prohibiting any form of political dynasty as mandated by the Constitution and in accordance with the yet to be drafted Bicol Autonomous Charter.

In the same vein, but more on the political and economic aspects, we founded last year Kusog Bikolandia, an agenda-based regional political party that is aimed to focus more on local or domestic interests. As its Chairman of the Board, we resolved to serve the common interest of fellow Bicolanos by endeavoring, first of all, to be both self-reliant and dynamic.

Can we be an autonomous state? Can we be part of a progressive unified group of islands called the Philippine archipelago under a Federalist state?

Let me answer that question by first introducing to you the Bicol Region, my region, its natural wealth and its people.

 

Bicol Region

The Bicol Region, otherwise known as Bicolandia, comprises the southern part of Luzon. Due to its strategic location, it serves as the gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao, as well as gateway to travellers and investors from the South to the rest of Luzon that includes Metro Manila.

Bicol’s total land area is 5.9% of the total land area of the country. Around 69.3% of the total land area is alienable and disposable while the remaining 30.7% is public forest areas.

Its population as of 2015 Census is 5.79 Million scattered throughout its 6 provinces, 7 cities, 107 municipalities, and 3,471 barangays.

It is home to known political leaders and has produced iconic personalities in various fields of human endeavor, including the arts and the entertainment sector. It has produced the first Filipino bishop, Monsignor Jorge Barlin. Its more popular heroes, political giants and statesmen, then as now, include Wenceslao Vinzons, Joe Maria Panganiban, Sens. Dominador Aytona, Joker Arroyo, Raul Roco, the Albertos of Catanduanes and Espinosas of Masbate, Jesse Robredo, as well as the Fuentebellas, Villafuertes, Andayas, Imperials, Bicharas, Escuderos, and the Salcedas. No less than our Vice President Leni Robredo is from Naga City, my hometown.

The Superstar Nora Aunor is from Bicol. As well as Boots Anson Roa, Amalia Fuentes, Aga Muhlach, Gary Valenciano, Dindo Fernando,  Mary Walter, Celia Rodriguez, Miss Universe Catriona Gray, and the late Eddie Garcia, to name a few.

Since the ancient times, Bicolanos have already been mining copper and smelting iron in Masbate that were fashioned into crude weapons, tools, utensils, farm implements and ornaments.  But the mineral wealth has been barely tapped, except those in Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Masbate. We have a geothermal reservoir of boiling water that has been harnessed into massive plants that spin giant turbines to generate electric power.

Our natural icon, Mayon Volcano has its fossil fuels supplied by abundant rainwater that keep running hot through subterranean rocks. It dominates the landscape with its perfect cone that has drawn and continues to draw thousands of tourists anytime of the year. The volcano has made the land fertile, with abaca and other fruit trees and crops indigenous to the region growing on its feet and in forests.

Bicol is also home to 13 major fishing grounds that supply fish markets as far as Metro Manila. It is one of highest producers of palay, abaca, corn and coconut. It has voluminous mineral reserves including gold, copper, silver, iron, phosphate rock, perlite, red clay, marble, guano and bentonite. Energy sources include geothermal like the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito geothermal plants that supply the Luzon Power Grid.

The list of resources is almost endless. It has hydropower plants in Buhi, Camarines Sur, and in Guinlajon, Sorsogon; wind resources in Baleno, Masbate; Donsol and Matnog, Sorsogon; higher terrains in Virac, Catanduanes and some parts of Burias Island; potential ocean thermal energy in Camarines and Catanduanes provinces; coal reserves in Batan, Albay, Cantanduanes and Masbate; and downstream oil facilities/depot in Pasacao, Camarines Sur, and Masbate, Masbate, with a total storage capacity of 87.9 million barrels.

As our fellow journalist and writer Carmen N. Pedrosa while in Bicol only a few years ago has observed: Bicolandia’s aspiration for autonomy is distinctly economic. “They hope to answer the question if Bicol is so rich with natural resources, why is it so poor?”

 

Bicol Autonomy

Many believe that with greater autonomy, the Bicol Region as a federal state will definitely be something much better than today.

Accordingly, the creation of autonomous regions nationwide would serve as the transition for the federal set-up from the prevailing unitary system of government.

At this time, we need to discuss more with our people what autonomy and federal system of government are all about. We shall explain its advantages, as well as open for discussion and debate its disadvantages, perceived or otherwise, so that as early as now we may tell them that there are ways to hurdle such flaws and disadvantages. These debates and wider information dissemination campaign may be conducted in small town hall meetings, barangay consultations, through radio programs, fora, classrooms, the social media, and even in the homes. And as I said, they must be explained in layman’s tongue, in the language that ordinary people understand so that they can embrace the noble idea with their whole heart.

Our campaign for Bicol autonomy shall be focused on the economic aspect and how solutions can be arrived at to ease poverty in the region and bring progress and improved standard of living to everyone.

Such massive campaign shall likewise require strong political will as we seek to eventually shift to federalism.

The next time some of us may cry that the call for Federalism is now dead, I might as well invite you to see its relevance to Bicol as an emerging economy that under a new system of government will become less dependent from Imperial Manila.

Presently, we need to see the early completion of our international airport and the expansion and modernization of two existing domestic airport, such as Daet and Naga. We also need to rehabilitate the long dormant South Luzon end of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the improvement of our seaports in various provinces. These, I believe, will be hastened under a Federal System of Government where we shall earn enough revenues from trading and commerce because of our rich natural resources, say for example from our geothermal resource, abundant agricultural and maritime products, and the manufacturing and processing of these natural minerals and resources.

And may I say that while some Bicolanos as of now avoid using the term federalism, they are not actually averse to following the federalist principle. Such federalist principle, as we now see, is closely inspired by our favorable sentiment toward greater regional autonomy for Bicol.

Salamat po.

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PPI hails Civic Journalism Community Press awardees

Awards Group Photo

As the print industry continues to face challenges brought about by disruptive technology and innovation and a changing consumer landscape, the Philippine Press Institute shone the spotlight on the best of the best among the community newspapers across the country.

Cebu Daily News bagged three of five major awards for the daily newspaper category for the 2018 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards, namely the Best Edited Community Newspaper, Best Editorial Page, and Best in Photojournalism.

Edge Davao, on the other hand, garnered the Best in Business and Economic Reporting and Best in Environment Reporting awards for the daily newspaper category.

Baguio-based weekly newspapers Herald Express and Baguio Chronicle were awarded the Best Edited Newspaper and Best in Environment Reporting, respectively, for the weekly newspaper category.

Other winners were The Bohol Chronicle for the Best Editorial Page; Cagayan de Oro’s Business Week Mindanao for Best in Business and Economic Reporting; and Dumaguete’s Metro Post for Best in Photojournalism.

“The industry is being buffeted by dizzying winds of change. Today – as in the past – any technology that accelerates information has the power to disrupt; so it is with the internet and social media...We must adapt to the technology sooner or later if we are to survive. We have to be realistic that this world has changed and adapt to the reality on the ground,” newly-elected PPI chairman and Manila Standard publisher Rolando Estabillo said.

Despite the challenges, Estabillo said newspapers, especially community papers, have the responsibility, more now than ever, to continue reporting on issues that have direct impact on Filipinos.

Speaking on behalf of the winners, Dexter See of Baguio’s Herald Express acknowledged as much: “It takes hard work, and involves pure sacrifice and passion for the job. That’s why we are here.”

The board of judges for the press awards was composed of Joyce Babe Pañares, PPI trustee and news editor of Manila Standard as chairperson; Nickel Asia Corporation vice president for corporate communication Jose Bayani Baylon; Science and Development Network Asia Pacific Coordinator Joel Adriano; University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication dean Arminda Santiago; and Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines member Angelo de Silva.

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PPI Elects New Board of Trustees

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Manila Standard publisher Rolando Estabillo was elected as the new chairman and president of the Philippine Press Institute.

Estabillo took the helm from former Ang Pilipino Star Ngayon editor-in-chief Al Pedroche, who described the PPI as the "most untainted media organization" in its 55 years of existence.

Estabillo, who was elected unanimously by representatives of print publications from Mindanao, Visayas, Luzon, and Metro Manila, thanked the members for their trust and confidence in his leadership.

Former Corporate Secretary Amelia Cabusao (Mindanao Times) was elected Vice President, while Joenald Rayos (Pahayagang Balikas) was reelected Treasurer and Dexter See (Herald Express) was elected as Corporate Secretary.

Reelected as Regional Trustees were Rayos and See for Luzon; former PPI Vice President Alex Rey Pal (The Dumaguete Metropost), and Dalmacio Grafil (Leyte Samar Daily Express) for Visayas; Cabusao and Adrian Michael Amatong (The Mindanao Observer) for Mindanao.

Pedroche, during the annual membership meeting of the national organization of newspapers at Hotel Jen in Pasay Thursday, commended the secretariat of PPI, led by Executive Director Ariel Sebellino.

He likewise thanked PPI's partners, especially Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), for continuously supporting responsible journalism, especially the community press.

In his reported presented to PPI members, Sebellino said the organization has consistently pushed for its advocacy to fight disinformation through its scholastic outreach program. It likewise organized three workshops on federalism with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

PPI will host a National Press Forum today (Friday) with the theme " Governance, Democracy, Media: Building Better Communities.” Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. will serve as keynote speaker.

Guest speakers include Erwin Caliba, the Chief of Legal, Legislative and Linkages of the Policy Advisory Office of the Commission on Human Rights to talk about autonomy as a mechanism that addresses the exclusion of cultural communities and Christian Monsod to discuss the Puno Federalism.

HSF Resident Representative Gotz Heinicke will also deliver a message.

Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, a lecturer on Indigenous Peoples issues will deliver her reaction while Romel Bagares will synthesize the session.

PPI will cap its 23rd National Press Forum with the 2018 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.

Vying for these awards are dailies Edge Davao, Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Davao, Sun.Star. Cebu, Sun.Star Pampanga, Sun.Star Baguio; and weeklies The Mindanao Cross, BusinessWeek Mindanao, The Bohol Chronicle, Metro Post, Herald Express, Baguio Chronicle and Northern Forum.

The board of judges is chaired by Manila Standard News Editor Joyce Panares, AIJC President Ramon R. Tuazon, and NAC Vice President for Communications JB Baylon.

 

Photos by Kurt Zubieta and Rogine De Mata Rogelio

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