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DOH: HIV virus infects 16 Filipinos every day

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 10 May 2014



HIV-on-the-riseCases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection continue to rise in the Philippines.

Data from Department of Health (DOH) shows that HIV is now infecting 16 Filipinos every day, up from last year’s average of seven new patients daily.

Latest DOH data showed that 498 new cases were reported in March this year — the highest recorded in a month since the DOH started tracking HIV cases in the country in 1984.

Of this number, 380 involved MSMs (men who have sex with men); 54 were contracted because of drug use (through injecting); 63 were OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who had unprotected sex; and one case of mother-to-child transmission.

Since January this year, 1,432 HIV cases have been recorded, 146 of which developed into full-blown AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and 434 resulted in death.

The DOH also listed the most prevalent areas in the Philippines where new HIV cases were reported: the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Cebu and Davao.

Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said that the DOH is working closely with local governments to help address the problem. He added that the numbers may continue to rise in the coming months since not all persons at risk “are responsible enough” to get themselves tested and that based on their projections, there are still many undetected cases.

“We have continuously informed the public about this, and we are also reminding everyone that they need to be extra careful and conscious about their health,” Tayag said. “We are also appealing to those who are at risk to get themselves tested immediately.”

Those who get infected with the HIV virus remain asymptomatic up to 10 years. They will only have flu-like symptoms which would later disappear.

If an infected person continues to practice a reckless and unhealthy lifestyle, it won’t be long before the virus matures into AIDS and complications would start to manifest. It would be harder for this patient to recover and respond to medications.

The Philippines is currently using the traditional confirmatory test, called the Western blot, to detect if the HIV virus is present in the blood.

If the initial blood test (which is normally done in a hospital or laboratory) turns positive, the result will then be forwarded to the DOH for confirmatory tests. It normally takes 15 to 30 days before the DOH releases its findings and confirmations.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the department is exploring the possibility of making the process faster by making rapid HIV test kits available.

“The only problem we see with this rapid testing is that anyone can have it, just like the pregnancy test kits,” Tayag said. “We won’t be able to properly monitor the numbers. The people who will buy these kits will not be counselled by peer educators before they take tests, just like what the hospitals are doing and HIV/AIDS counselling is essential so you’ll know what to do.”

DOH-Assistant-Secretary-Eric-TayagAlthough in recent months the number of people who voluntarily took the test has increased, there is still a great number of people at risk who are not making the effort to know what their status is.

“Secretary Ona would want to shift from voluntary testing to something that’s compulsory,” Tayag said. “We’re working out the details and how this is possible. We want health providers to screen adults who may have a risk for HIV so that they can be properly counselled on what to do next.”

He continued: “In the Philippines, HIV testing is not done like how they’re doing it in other countries. Only some get themselves tested. The only way it can be done is when it is being offered, especially to people who are at risk.”

PLWHAs (persons living with HIV and AIDS) are currently protected by Republic Act 8504, or the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act. All government agencies, medical institutions and individuals are mandated to keep all information regarding PLWHAs confidential. A person or institution found violating this law faces penalties that include imprisonment from two months to four years, and revocation of their licenses and permits.

There is still no permanent cure for HIV and AIDS, but there are ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) available to help slow down the growth and spread of the virus.

The Philippine government is providing free access to ARVs to PLWHAs. PhilHealth allots P30,000 per year for its PLWHA members to cover diagnostics, medications and other hospital needs.

“Some people may think that it’s [sort of] okay to have HIV since the government is giving free medications and that these medications will prolong their lives,” Tayag observed. “Don’t ever think that because for these medications to work, you have to religiously take them for life… all of these have side effects if you do not adhere to the correct ways of how to take them.”



(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”


DOH eyes to make HIV testing mandatory

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Outrage Magazine | 07 May 2014




As the Department of Health (DOH) issued the latest data on the number of HIV and AIDS cases in the Philippines, DOH Assistant Sec. Eric Tayag said in an interview by ANC that the government agency is working out details for making HIV tests compulsory.

This is because although, in recent months the number of people who have been responsibly taking the test to know their status have increased, there reportedly remains a great number of people at risk who are not making the effort to know their status.

“(DOH Sec. Enrique) Ona would want to shift from voluntary testing to something that’s compulsory. We’re working out the details, how this is possible, and all. We want health providers to screen adults who may have a risk for HIV, so that they can be properly counseled on what to do next,” Tayag said.

As per DOH data, in March 2014, there were 498 new HIV cases recorded, a 35% rise from the same month last year.  Specifically, 381 of the 498 cases were men who have sex with men (MSM), 54 were because of drug use (through injecting), 63 were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who had unprotected sexual relations, and one case was from a mother-to-child transmission. Since January 2014, there were already 1,432 cases that have been recorded; 146 of which developed to full blown AIDS, and 434 resulted in death.

“We have been reminding everyone since last year to be more careful and conscious about their health. It won’t be long until we reach the all-time high of 500 new cases,” Tayag said. “We’re also appealing to those who are at risk to get themselves tested, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

He added that the numbers may continue to rise in the coming months, since not everyone at risk are that “responsible enough” to get themselves tested.  Also, based on their projections, “there are still many who are still undetected.”


Making HIV testing compulsory is actually a violation of the existing law concerning HIV and AIDS in the Philippines.

Section 3: Declaration of Policies of the Republic Act No. 8504 (or “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998″) specifically states that “compulsory HIV testing shall be considered unlawful”.

In a statement, the Network to Stop AIDS (NSAP) lambasted the DOH proposal to enforce mandatory HIV testing, saying that it “demonstrates that among those involved in addressing the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, the health agency is by far the most backward and the most out-of-tune.”

Added NSAP: “The current legal framework allows for various modes of HIV testing, but they have to be voluntary and confidential. This is clearly rights-based, but this is also premised on existing evidence that coercive modes of HIV testing actually result in a decrease in the coverage of testing – those who need to get tested fear discrimination and abuse, so they hide underground once authorities require HIV testing. This fear is not unfounded, as HIV-related stigma and discrimination remain unaddressed in the Philippines. Imposing compulsory testing is operationally problematic (also unnecessarily costly) and it encourages human rights abuses.”

This was seconded by Michael David C. Tan, editor of Outrage Magazine, the only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) publication in the Philippines, which also conducts HIV-related projects.  He stated that forcing people to get tested will not deal with the spread of HIV, and could – in fact – only worsen the situation. “‘Witch hunt’ easily comes to mind,” he said, “particularly since the idea of having compulsory testing will specifically target populations that are deemed at higher risk for HIV infection. By saying ‘compulsory’, we actually only aim at making specific groups of people get tested; as such, we’re abetting in the unnecessary stigmatization of members of these groups.”

Members of the LGBTQ community (particularly men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men), overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and those working in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry should be wary, said Tan, because they are “only some of the people who have been stigmatized to be at higher risk for HIV infection at certain points in time.  Their plights could only worsen with making HIV testing mandatory.”

NSAP also added: “Even DOH possesses evidence that show the complexity of Filipino sexual behavior. In a concentrated epidemic among MSM and transgenders, who do you actually require to get tested? This population does not conveniently fit whatever stereotypical images that Sec. Ona may have about the community. By definition, this sexual behavior includes any man who engaged or engages in sexual acts with other men – the heterosexual partners of transgender people; those who do not consider themselves as gay but engages in sex with other men; even the heterosexual ex-congressman whose life story was featured in a TV show a few years ago where he admitted to engage in transactional sex with a ‘bakla to support his schooling. Would DOH require all of them to get tested? The agency is also in possession of data that shows that a significant portion of men who have sex with men and transgender people have female sexual partners – would they be required to get tested, too?”


Tan believes that the current responses of the government remains lacking, which – in turn – affects the continuing fear of HIV.

“In (HIV) advocacy, we say that no one should die from HIV anymore at this time and age because treatment is available, and the disease can already be managed,” he said.  “But working at the grassroots, among HIV-related issues we’ve come across include the shortage of the antiretroviral (ARV) medicines in the Philippines, employment-related discrimination encountered by people living with HIV (PLHIV), and cases when PLHIV are kicked out of their homes after family members find out their HIV-positive status. You can’t even ensure that PLHIV live just as good a life as non-reactive people, and you expect them not to be fearful?”

Tan added that “if services are bettered, then no forcing needs to be done.  HIV, after all, is not just a health concern, but a complex social issue.  Deal with the connecting issues, too. That’s the only way for people to know for sure that there is nothing to fear.”

The DOH is supposedly also exploring the possibility of making the testing process faster by acquiring rapid HIV test kits.

“The only problem we see with this rapid testing is that anyone can have it, just like the pregnancy test kits in the drug stores, (and) we cannot properly monitor the numbers. The people who will buy these kits will not be counseled by peer educators before they take tests, just like what the hospitals are doing, and HIV/AIDS counseling is essential so you’ll know what to do,” Tayag said.

He added that “in the Philippines, HIV testing is not done like how they’re doing it in other countries, (so) only few people get themselves tested. The only way it can be done is when it is being offered, especially to people who are at risk. But if the person still refuses to take the test after it was offered, it will not be forced to them.”

Tayag said that the DOH is already working with local governments to address high HIV cases in several areas in the Philippines, including in the National Capital Region, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon, Cebu, and Davao, to double their efforts to lessen the continuous growth of the people who get infected.

“The only sure way to protect yourself from getting HIV is abstinence, but who can really abstain for so long? So the next effective way to protect yourself is to use condoms. Sec. Ona wants to push for more efforts when it comes to HIV, and we have to do our part so we can ensure the success of the plans,” Tayag said.


For NSAP, there are alternatives to compulsory testing, including community-led HIV testing. In fact, in the last years, collaboration between community groups and government-run HIV testing facilities has intensified, accounting for the increase in the uptake on HIV testing.

“A recently conducted review by international and local HIV experts of existing HIV interventions being implemented in the Philippines has cited this model as an effective approach in a concentrated epidemic. Incidentally, the same review, which was already accepted by the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) that Sec. Ona himself chairs, has already warned authorities against coercive HIV measures, including mandatory testing,” NSAP stated.  “Yet Sec. Ona seems to be blind to what the situation is, what the evidence says, and what needs to be done. It’s not a question of knowledge or awareness – he has had several interactions and dialogues with community groups where various issues were discussed, from stigma to gaps in testing and other services. But he refuses to listen.”

Outrage Magazine‘s Tan calls for the government to “focus, really focus on your services – what you should be doing to better what are currently being offered,” Tan said. “Because the continuing worsening situation only highlights that the existing efforts are currently wanting.  We need long-term human rights-based solutions to a huge problem that will just continue to worsen right under our noses if we continue having only knee-jerk reactions.”



(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)


Tips from experts on how to achieve financial stability

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 22 January 2014



OTM-Y2 logo



In life, it takes more than just talent and skill to succeed.

As important as physical and emotional health is financial stability.

ABS-CBN News Channel’s, On The Money (airs on ABS-CBN News Channel every day at 3:30pm ) recently gathered a group of financial planners to share their expertise in managing personal finances.

Online definition of personal financial planning is “a process of determining an individual’s financial goals, purposes in life and life’s priorities, and after considering his resources, risk profile and current lifestyle, to detail a balanced and realistic plan to meet those goals.”

Registered financial planner Alvin Tabañag advises to start with the children. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone because teaching children about managing their money properly will also force parents to be also more responsible when it comes to their finances.

“Even if you can afford it as a parent, do not give in to their every demand. If it’s something that they can really live without, then it’s not important, then do not give it right away. You can ask your children to save for it and just wait, instead of just buying on impulse. It’s a life lesson kids should learn,” Tabañag said.

Book author Marvin Germo, who is also a registered financial planner came up with an acronym for his personal finance tip: S.T.O.C.K.S.

Spending on a budgetGermo said that setting a budget before you spend on something can help you control your finances.

Throwback. Don’t be ashamed to recycle the gifts that were given to you, especially if it will not be useful for you.

Opportunities. Take any and all opportunities that will come your way because it’s always a way to increase your cash flow.

Cash is king. Cash gives you the position to invest and even save you in times of emergencies.

Knock off debt. Debt is a big killer. It’s always better to pay off your debt in full before you save, invest or go into anything else.

Start planning. Start out your year, 2014, with a goal. You need to put a name to every peso; is it for your retirement, is it for your investment, is it for you?

Another registered financial planner, Rienzie Biolena, stressed the importance of investing in one’s self.

“It’s the most overlooked, in terms of investments,” Biolena said adding that, “When you invest in yourself, you increase your knowledge, your capability, to earn and expand your resources, and also, you will be able to manage your assets properly.”

Attending seminars and conferences, reading personal finance books, searching the web, and watching personal finance programs are examples of investing in one’s self, Biolena said.

“Nowadays, people are spending like 30-40,000 for a gadget. My question for them is, how much are they spending on themselves to develop themselves?” Biolena asked.

Seasoned financial planner and ANC’s On The Money resident financial advisor, Salve Duplito, stressed the importance of a personal financial plan.

Duplito said making a financial plan is one of the best things you can do for yourself. “It doesn’t have to be all these very highfaluting financial plans. Just make sure all the details are there; your investment goals, your goals for yourselves, what you will do from now until that time when you need to retire, etc.,” she explained.

Duplito also said that having a financial plan helps you track your expenses and keeps you focused. Without a plan, it’s easy to get sidetracked by all the unnecessary things one wants to buy.

“Financial planning involves cash management, investment planning and estate planning. It should start with your goals and steps (created by you) to help you reach your goals,” Duplito said.




(The author is executive producer of “On The Money.” VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”


Success awaits those who dare break barriers

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 19 October 2013


Ben Chan, 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines

Ben Chan, 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines

Overcoming obstacles and turning them into opportunities won for businessman Ben Chan the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines award for 2013.

“The biggest challenge of my business turned out to be the most rewarding,” Chan chaired his experience relating how he rebuilt his business from the ashes of a shop razed by fire and renamed it BENCH/.

“You’ll find that the energy that you create from following your passion will take you through the ups and downs of running a business. And it will eventually be the substance that will drive your brand.” Chan stressed. “You need to be disciplined but be dedicated, and you will find fulfillment and success in your chosen endeavor.”

Chan was named Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines for embodying the entrepreneurial values of leadership, team building, innovation, financial performance and societal transformation.

The Entrepreneur of the Year program was founded and produced by Ernst & Young in 1986 in the United States. SGV Foundation, Inc. established it in 2003 in the Philippines.

This year’s theme is Breaking Barriers, to acknowledge how all the 12 finalists of the program over the last decade overcame the different challenges of entrepreneurship.

“Barriers may be considered deterrents or accelerants, depending on one’s perspective. But with our finalists, we saw how willpower and entrepreneurial zeal can turn obstacles into opportunities,” SGV Foundation, Inc. Chairman & President Cirilo P. Noel said.

“If you love what you’re doing you can overcome everything, you can achieve anything. It doesn’t matter how many struggles you’re going to face along the way; just follow your passion and never be afraid to fall down,” Ben Chan, chairman of the board of Suyen Corporation, said.

Chan, who was named Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2013, always had the passion for design and aesthetics, thus, he believes that creativity and passion for your own business are the only things entrepreneurs should do for them to be successful.

He was also won the Master Entrepreneur Award, a category award given to the entrepreneur who best exemplifies sound management practices in critical areas of the company, including finance, marketing, human resources and sales.

“Creativity is the essence of my business and this motivates me. My inspiration is the success of other retailers. What they can do, we can do, and today’s global retail industry makes that possible,” he said. “I am inspired that a Filipino brand like Bench can hold its own among the best retailers in the world.”

During the mid-80s, Chan explored the world of fashion, he started a line of children’s clothes which was retailed in a local department store, but that didn’t last long. They lost the shop when the department store caught fire.

Rebuilt as BENCH/, the brand became a household name over the years, starting as a men’s T-shirt expanding to include jeans, undergarments, accessories, cosmetics, body care products, and even snacks. BENCH/ is present in China and the Middle East. Chan is exploring more overseas expansion.

2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines finalists

2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines finalists

This year’s Young Entrepreneur Award was given to Juliet D. Herrera, president and general manager of Serenitea Cha Kitchen, Inc. Herrera was chosen as she possesses the potential to be an inspiration and a model of entrepreneurship to the youth. Herrera plans to expand Serenitea, to expand the number of franchises and reach more areas outside Metro Manila.

The Small Business Entrepreneur Award was given to Leonarda O. Capuyan, president of Narda’s Handwoven Arts and Crafts, Inc. and Narda’s Trading Corporation. She demonstrated management excellence in a business with assets of less than 100 million pesos, and was also responsible for the long-term growth of the company. Today, Narda’s woven handicrafts are being marketed locally and internationally; Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

Dr. Milagros O. How, executive vice president of Universal Harvester, Inc. bagged the Woman Entrepreneur Award. How’s excelled in entrepreneurship, leadership and community development, which made her a trailblazer in a male-dominated industry. Universal Harvester, Ic. Claims to have helped 2,312,000 farmers through 932 farmers’ cooperatives, federations and associations in 68 provinces nationwide.

The other finalists were: Santiago G. Araneta, chairman and CEO of LBC Express Inc.; Alexander L. Bangsoy, president and CEO of Goshen Land Capital, Inc.; Maria Lorena Simeon-Florendo, founder and CEO of LiFEDATA Systems, Inc.; Alberto D. Lina, chairman of Airfreight 2100, Inc.; Cesar Mario O. Mamon, president and chairman of the board, Enchanted Kingdom, Inc.; Manuel H. Osmena, group chairman, Manny O. Group; Dr. Victor V. Perez, president of University of Cagayan Valley; and Rajan A. Uttamchandani, chairman and CEO of Esquire Financing, Inc.

Past winners of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines were: Tony Tan Caktiong, president and CEO of Jollibee Foods Corporation, Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2003 & World Entrepreneur of the Year 2004; Socorro Cancio-Ramos, founder of National Bookstore, Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2004; Lance Y. Gokongwei, president and CEO of Cebu Air, Inc., Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2005; Senen C. Bacani, chairman and president of La Frutera, Inc., Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2006; Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, Jr., president and CEO of Alaska Milk Corporation, Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2007; Ambassador Jesus P. Tambunting, chairman and president of Planters Development Bank, Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2009; Tennyson G. Chen, president of Bounty Fresh Food Inc., Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2010; Erramon I. Aboitiz, president and CEO of AboitizPower Corp., Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2011; and Jaime I. Ayala, president and CEO of Hybrid Solutions, Inc., Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2012.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Personal Finance on TV: On The Money

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ANC Presents Myanmar Opens to the World

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Exclusive Interview of Aung San Suu Kyi

March 16, 2012

Host: Korina Sanchez
Executive Producer: Francis Toral
Associate Producer: Patrick King Pascual
Researcher: Biena Magbitang
Graphics: Karl Claveria
Editing: Jetjet Capiz

Surviving 2011: The ANC Yearend Report

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The ANC 2011 Yearend Special is a one-hour special that mixes the biggest political, business and social media developments of the year.

It summarizes the key events and how it affected the lives of Filipinos.

December 30, 2011

Host: Pinky Webb
Executive Producer: Francis Toral
Associate Producer: Patrick King Pascual
Director: Rommel Pedrealba
Writers: Acor Arceo
Rachel Hermosura
Monica Magpantay
Mimi Ong
Jekki Pascual
Segment Producers/Researchers: Biena Magbitang
Mark Patal
Coordinator: Janet Jimenez
Editing/Master Editor: Almin John Capiz
Graphics: Toffee Dimalanta
Original Score: Alfred Ongleo
Edwin Ortega
Sound Engineer: Aenid John Pajo
Cameramen: Nathan Abrio
Aris Cancino

Written by Patrick King Pascual

January 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Surviving 2011: ANC Yearend Report [Promo 2]

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December 30, 2011/ 7pm

ABS-CBN News Channel

Written by Patrick King Pascual

December 28, 2011 at 6:31 am

Surviving 2011: ANC Yearend Report [Promo 1]

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December 30, 2011/ 7pm

ABS-CBN News Channel

Written by Patrick King Pascual

December 28, 2011 at 6:26 am

YouTube Worldview Pres. Noynoy Aquino

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Written by Patrick King Pascual

October 23, 2011 at 6:30 am

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