UPLB-SESAM holds the National Inception Workshop for The 1HEALTH Project on African Swine Fever, Avian Influenza, and Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance

The School for Environmental Science and Management, University of the Philippines Los Baños  (UPLB-SESAM), together with the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), held the National Inception Workshop for the “Country Research Update and Policy Support to the Philippines’ National Surveillance and Control Programs for African Swine Fever, Avian Influenza, and Antimicrobial Resistance: A One Health Systems Approach to Food Animal Security, Public Health Resiliency and Environmental Sustainability” (1HEALTH) project last April 14, 2023 in Seda Vertis North, Quezon City.  The 1HEALTH project is jointly funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Centre (ACIAR) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC-CRDI) through the UPLB Foundation, Inc. (UPLBFI) with Dr. Yusuf A. Sucolof UPLB-SESAM as project lead along with SESAM Faculty and Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS) as project staff.

The workshop was attended by officials and representatives from the key bureaus and divisions under the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as well as the private sector working with and advising the Philippine livestock and poultry industry. The inception workshop provided an avenue for collaboration and discourse among stakeholders through exchanges of information on the current situations on ASF, AI and AMR; policy and intervention gaps; operational and research capacities; and needs for enhanced surveillance and control programs for ASF, AI, and AMR diseases. These three major diseases are economically important, high priority and notifiable diseases that constitute the Philippines’ “Big Three A’s” in the animal industry as it continues to cause and threaten wide scale socio-economic losses and damages in pig farms and poultry production. The knowledge gained from this workshop will strengthen network, collaboration and communication capacity and generate insights and recommendations for a comprehensive and a more integrated action plan for the project research implementation.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, Dean of UPLB-SESAM emphasized the importance of co-creation and collaboration among government agencies, research institutions, and the private sector to operationalize the One Health framework. Dean Ancog said, “We hope to work actively with you to make sure that we have a clear understanding to operationalize the One Health framework in the Philippines”. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Nathaniel Bantayan, UPLB Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension (OVCRE), highlighted in his welcome     message the UPLB research agenda, AGORA: Accelerating Growth through One Research and Extension in Action. Dr. Bantayan added, “As a national university, UPLB is a home and a centerpiece of knowledge creation. Looking forward to this One Health Framework, I am sure that with SESAM in the lead, we are in good hands.”

After the opening program, Dr. Sucol, introduced the AIRPOH Philippine project and presented the workshop overview. Dr. Sucol also provided a brief background on the One Health framework and its significance in strengthening the local control programs for ASF, AI, and AMR. 

Dr. Janice Garcia, Dr. Joanna Marie David, and Dr. Alicia Layson from DA-BAI presented the current statusupdates, and prevention and control programs for ASF, AI, and AMR, respectively. On the other hand, Dr. Rizza Araceli Salinas from the DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) discussed the policies relating to wildlife, the Bureau’s involvement in disease surveillance, and the results of their surveillance. Lastly, Ms. Johanna Mallari-Abella, a representative from the DOH Pharmaceutical Division, presented the country’s AMR situation in the context of human/public health followed by the Philippine National Action Plan for AMR. 

For the second part of the workshop, Dr. Sucol facilitated the round table and plenary open discussions with the assistance of the project staff from SESAM.  

Representatives who attended the workshop were from the: DA-BAI  Veterinary Laboratory Division,  Animal Health and Welfare Division, Animal Feeds, and Veterinary Drugs Biologics Control Division, National Veterinary Quarantine Services Division, and Special Projects Unit; DA National Meat Inspection Service and Office of the Assistant Secretary on Regulations; DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, and Environmental Management Bureau; DOH  Pharmaceutical Division; and the Philippine College of Swine Practitioners. They actively participated in the workshop and shared and discussed their current plans, policies, and programs and shared their experiences and insights on ASF, AI, and AMR in the country. 

Workshop presenters also identified the gaps, needs, and challenges through the One Health system approach for the development of action plans, policy arrangements and institutional engagements to better encourage and further strengthen the collaboration, coordination, communication, and capacity building among and between the government agencies, the private sector, and the academe for One Health. To conclude the inception workshop, Dr. Rainelda Dela Peña, Chief of DA-BAI Veterinary Laboratory Division, delivered her closing remarks on behalf of Dr. Paul C. Limson, Director of DA-BAI. 

The 1HEALTH Project’ stands for ‘The One Human-Environment-Animal Linkage for Total Health (1HEALTH) Project’. It is one of the only four successful project proposals handpicked by the ACIAR/IDRC-CRDI under the ACIAR-IDRC Program on One Health (AIRPOH) for Southeast Asia (Livestock Systems) 2023-2025 after a rigorous and competitive selection process. It is also one of the two projects that has been approved for funding and contracting in the Philippines for three years.

(Ryan Dave Calventas, Christine Mae Santos, Idel Angelie Malate, Paulliene Leanne Masungsong, Anthea Faltado, Cyril Eliz Gregorio, Rosemarie Laila Areglado, Jessa Aquino, and Yusuf Sucol #The1HEALTHProject).

Mindoro oil spill discussed in the latest SESAM ExChanges highlighting some ways forward

The School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB) through its Continuing Education and Training Division (CETD) the conducted 9th SESAM Environmental Challenges and Solutions Seminar Series (SESAM ExChanges) last April 25, 2023 via Zoom and Facebook Live.

With the theme Mangroves and Oil Spill: Who foots the Bill after a Disaster?, invited speakers were from different government agencies who spearheaded the immediate response after the sinking of MV Princess Empress last February 28, 2023 off the coastal waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Based on news reports, the ship was carrying 900,00 liters of industrial oil from Limay, Bataan, enroute to Iloilo when it sunk.

In his welcome message, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, Dean of SESAM, highlighted the urgency of discussing and responding to oil spill in the coast of Oriental Mindoro and how it must be based on science. “Specifically, we are also trying to relate the oil spill incident with how the mangroves are particularly affected given the importance of these bioresources”, Dr. Ancog said.

In his lecture entitled “Science and Technology for Coastal Disasters Response: Oil Spill Modelling in the Philippines, Dr. Cesar L. Villanoy, a Professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman Marine Science Institute and an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology, said that in 50 years, oil spill incidence has been decreasing. “There has been a significant improvement by the way accidents or oil spills are prevented”, Dr. Villanoy said. He added that the MS Princess Empress oil spill is already considered a large spill since it is carrying more than 800 tons of industrial oil.  

Dr. Villanoy, who has research interest on ocean modelling and applications in ocean productivity, habitat connectivity and pollution, explained that the rate of spreading of the spill will depend on the type of oil, sea current, wind and turbulent mixing. “During the time when the northeast monsoon was still blowing, the model was forecasting the trajectories of the oil from northeast Mindoro towards the southern Mindoro, to Caluya and Semirara Islands, to Cuyo and eventually Taytay in Palawan. But when the northeast monsoon weakened towards the third week of March, everything shifted back to the north… the oil reached the coast of Calapan, even the Verde Islands, Tingloy. In a sense, the model still made a reasonable forecast,” Dr. Villanoy stressed. He added that the available global modeling tools are not perfect, and the models used in the Mindoro oil spill were based on global model data and may not represent currents and winds in the small islands and passages in the Philippines.

In addition, the second speaker Coast Guard Lt. Gerson B. Gamas, Legal Officer of the Marine Environmental Protection Command (MEPCOM) of the Philippine Coast Guard, elaborated more on environmental enforcement related to oil spill in the Philippines. He also emphasized that the MEPCOM focuses on the threats of  marine environment pollution coming from oil tankers/vessels, oil exploration, refineries/depots, power plants, shipyards and coastal manufacturing plants. He also introduced to the audience the National Operations Center for Oil Pollution (NOCOP) that is tasked to implement the provisions of PD 600 (Marine Pollution Decree).

Further, CG Lt. Gamas also highlighted that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has coordinated with other agencies in filing administrative and civil liabilities of the owner of MV Princess Empress, in which the Department of Justice (DoJ) is now handling. “Fortunately, the owner of the MV Princess Empress has an insurance to avail so it can pay the damages brought about by the oil spill. However, with the insurance money now currently dwindling, the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (OPCF) will now initiate the process of the claims of the other affected victims” Atty. Gamas added.

On behalf of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Atty. Jonas R. Leones, Director Al O. Orolfo of the DENR Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) shared a presentation covering the environmental policy and governance of mangroves in the Philippines with specific emphasis on accountability mechanisms during oil spill disasters. Citing EO 192 Series of 1987 (DENR Reorganization Act), Dir. Orolfo explained that mangroves and swamplands in public areas are placed under DENR jurisdiction. “The governance of mangroves are based on the definition of the land uses or purposes in the country. For instance, in the case of national parks, mangroves in these protected areas are governed by PAMB or the Protected Areas Management Board,” Dir. Orolfo said. However, he added that mangroves with area less than 500 has, the enforcement of community-based laws are under the local government.

Dir. Orolfo also explained that based on records, oil spills caused mortality of mangroves, seagrasses, among others. He emphasized that a mangrove habitat takes longest time to recover (10 years or more) as compared to the planktons, sand beaches, exposed rocky shores, sheltered rocky shores, and saltmarsh which may only take weeks to around five years to recover. 

In the closing and synthesis component of the event, Dr. Alma Lorelei D. Abejero, University Researcher I at SESAM, enumerated some major takeaways and ways forward so oil spill can be mitigated namely, 1) the need to map out the oil spill hot spots, 2) proper checking of the vessel to avoid negligence and minimize the risk of oil spill, and 3) increase the capacity of relevant government agencies to effectively respond to oil spill  disasters, among others. This 9th SESAM ExChanges was graced by more than 160 participants both from Zoom and Facebook Live.