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Saturday, July 22, 2023

SSS ties up with PSA to provide simpler, seamless delivery of services


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The Social Security System (SSS) has taken the lead as the pioneer government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) to forge a partnership with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for the integration of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) with the SSS.

To mark the occasion, SSS and PSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the partnership towards the seamless implementation of PhilSys-enabled services in SSS.


“The adoption of PhilSys will open many opportunities in improving the delivery of our services, including our digital transactions, and in providing all Filipinos better access to social security protection,” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Rolando Ledesma Macasaet said.


Macasaet added he looks forward to the positive impact of the partnership that will benefit SSS members and stakeholders not only in the Philippines but also across the globe.


Under the MOU, SSS and PSA will work jointly and share information and resources to achieve the objectives of PhilSys, particularly the simplification of public transactions and the implementation of a seamless service delivery system. Moreover, the partnership will delve into exploring various applications of PhilSys within the SSS and identify other opportunities for joint projects and programs.


Among the projects that have been identified, which are expected to be implemented within the third quarter of 2023, is the use of PhilSys authentication services and the PhilID/ePhilID for strengthened verification of members transacting online thru the My.SSS Portal and ensuring uniqueness checks for the issuance of a new SSS ATM Pay Card.


PSA Undersecretary, National Statistician and Civil Registrar General Claire Dennis S. Mapa expressed his confidence in the partnership that will broaden the transition to digital, online citizen-centric delivery of services to Filipinos.

The PhilSys, established through Republic Act No. 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act, aims to provide valid proof of identity for all citizens and resident aliens in the Philippines to promote ease of doing business for both the government and private sectors and accelerate the country’s transition into a digital economy, among other benefits.



Amid looming El Niño, UP-led research highlights need for marine science


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From mangroves to coral reefs, research from the University of the Philippines - Diliman College of Science’s Marine Science Institute (UPD-CS MSI) was at the forefront of recent discussions on the future fate of the country’s marine systems and the people who depend on them.

Marine scientists from the UPD-CS presented over 100 papers at the recent PAMS 17, held under the theme, "Saving Our Seas: Restoring Marine Systems for People and Nature." (PHOTO CREDIT: UPD-CS Marine Science Institute)

Over 100 research papers from MSI scientists were presented at the 17th National Symposium on Marine Science, which was held from July 20 to 22 in Batangas City under the theme, "Saving Our Seas: Restoring Marine Systems for People and Nature." It was sponsored by the Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS).

Dubbed simply as PAMS 17, the national symposium follows closely on the heels of the World Meteorological Organization’s warning that global sea surface temperatures hit all-time record highs in June. The extensive scope of the UP researchers’ work underscores the importance of marine science in national security and nation building.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Gil Jacinto, who retired from the MSI in 2020, highlighted the importance of the country’s researchers in his speech, "Philippine Marine Science: Navigating the Ocean Decade towards 2030."

“Symposiums like PAMS give UP MSI an opportunity to share results and best practices to other researchers,” said MSI Deputy Director for Research Dr. Deo Florence Onda. “The discussions allow us to build on what we already know, help others progress in their own work, and learn from feedback on how to improve further.“

“Moreover, PAMS strengthens camaraderie, widens networks, and facilitates future collaborations,” he added.

For more information on the PAMS 17 symposium, including a list of MSI studies presented, please see their online news or visit their website at https://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/

Friday, July 21, 2023

DepEd to feature Larong Pinoy, Para-Games, weightlifting, other exhibition games in Palaro 2023 in Marikina


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Emphasizing the essence of culture and sports, the Department of Education (DepEd) will feature Indigenous Filipino Games, also known as “Laro ng Lahi,” anew as an exhibition sport in the upcoming 2023 Palarong Pambansa in Marikina City.

With the theme “Batang Malakas, Bansang Matatag,” DepEd will conduct Kadang-kadang, Tumbang Preso, and Patintero on July 28 as part of the Palarong Pambansa, which is set for a comeback after its forced cancellation for three years due to the pandemic.

The inclusion of Larong Pinoy in the multi-sport event aims to promote, preserve, and propagate the country's rich cultural heritage and traditions and ensure that the new generation will experience and help revive traditional Pinoy games.

The said indigenous games will also instill teamwork, sportsmanship, camaraderie, friendship, and discipline, among Filipino youth and help improve their physical, emotional, and mental health.




According to a DepEd Memorandum No. 35, s. 2023, all regions must choose ten members from their delegation to participate in the Palaro indigenous games.

Aside from Indigenous Filipino Games, Cheerdance, Weightlifting, and Obstacle Course will also be included for exhibition, while Dancesports and Pencak Silat will be featured as demonstration sports in this year’s Palarong Pambansa.

In addition, separate events for learners-athletes with Intellectual Disability (ID), visually impaired (VI), and orthopedically handicapped/amputee (OH) under Special Education (SPED) classes, such as Para-Athletics, Para-Swimming, Bocce, and Goalball, will also be conducted.

Around 1,573 medals are at stake in Regular Sports, Para-Games, and Demo Sports in this year’s Palaro.

“Laro ng Lahi” was first introduced at the 62nd Palarong Pambansa in 2019, where the Department’s officials and personnel participated in playing Kadang-kadang, Patintero, Hilahang-lubid and Karera ng Sako.

The Perks of Engaging in Cybersports


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Cybersports are widely enjoyed by individuals all over the world. Numerous platforms are available, featuring games of every possible genre and something for everyone.



Cybersports and Its Benefits

Let's get right to the definition of this classification so you don't have to wait. Cybersports, commonly known as e-sports, involve competitive gameplay in computer games. Both multiplayer and single-player games are included in this category. Internet gambling is a significant aspect of the gaming industry. The emphasis on contestants' skill demonstration, cash winnings, and trophies is more important than the specific format, although this perspective may appear foolish to some. Generally, online gaming does not garner recognition for one's accomplishments among those unfamiliar.

Furthermore, enthusiasts of this activity, whether a hobby or a profession, often face derogatory labels from others. The situation may be even more peculiar if the individual prefers gambling and casinos. However, are cybersports so bad and detrimental? Of course, the response is no. Gaming stereotypes do not influence the real situation. You can find more about cybersports betting at https://ggbett1.net/tl-ph.



Skills in Strategy Soar to New Heights

Cybersports games go beyond quick thinking. Winning games and championships requires cyber athletes to improve their strategic skills constantly. Cyber sports allow players to see the bigger picture in matches smaller than traditional board games. Cyber athletes who perceive cybersports as an art form master complex game plans at a faster pace than those who do not.



Cybersports Facilitate Interaction with Individuals and Whole Communities

The presence of Esports debunks the widespread notion that playing video games can lead to antisocial behavior. Engaging in online sports, especially over an extended period, fosters the development of social skills. Players learn the importance of collaboration with fellow participants to achieve favorable results. Cyber athletes acknowledge that their success relies on their collective efforts. The connectivity within the Esports community enables individuals to join teams, turning obstacles into invigorating challenges.



Cybersports Test a Person's Perception of Entertainment

Cybersports encompass more than just gameplay. Similar to traditional sports, cyber athletes also engage in friendly banter during competitions. For individuals who enjoy gaming, cybersports can be a fun hobby that provides leisure time entertainment.



Cybersports Can Be Effective in Increasing One's Self-confidence

The competitive nature of cybersports deeply affects the mindset of the players. Cyber athletes often derive pleasure from winning due to their exceptional skills. Through cybersports, gamers can demonstrate their abilities and achievements, which can translate into real-life success. Learning from both victories and defeats, gamers gain confidence and grow personally.



Cybersports Boost Attention and Visual Acuity

There is no difference between cybersports and other visually demanding activities. Participating in cybersports tournaments enhances hand-eye coordination and requires quick thinking and visual concentration. Players must hone their skills to advance in this field, as lightning-fast reflexes are crucial for success. There may be a slight delay in actions in games like Dota 2 or League of Legends, but players must still react promptly to avoid wasting valuable milliseconds.



Cybersports Boost Attention and Visual Acuity

There is no difference between cybersports and other visually demanding activities. Participating in cybersports tournaments enhances hand-eye coordination and requires quick thinking and visual concentration. Players must hone their skills to advance in this field, as lightning-fast reflexes are crucial for success. There may be a slight delay in actions in games like Dota 2 or League of Legends, but players must still react promptly to avoid wasting valuable milliseconds.



Final Thoughts

Harm is not exclusive to Esports. Every day individuals who engage in video games, especially Esports games, for leisure are called cyber athletes. These gamers enhance their skills to compete and triumph over professional players from around the globe.

Towards a more improved RA 10612: DOST-SEI to prioritize ensuring the scholars’ success in their STEM teaching journey


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Driven by the call to create a solid foundation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and produce more dynamic educators who will uplift the significance of such fields in present society and encourage more Filipino youth to venture in various careers of S&T, the Department of Science and Technology - Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), in collaboration with the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), hosted a Roundtable Discussion on Republic Act 10612 or the “Fast-Tracked S&T Scholarship Act of 2013” – an act expanding the coverage of the Science and Technology scholarship programs and strengthening the teaching of Science and Mathematics in secondary schools.

The roundtable discussion was conducted in efforts to further review and scrutinize the research findings and recommendations of the evaluation study on the Scholarship Act. Its main rationale was to gauge the future directions of the program while looking at the gains, challenges, and implications of the policy’s implementation during the past 13 years, hence the title “Looking back, Moving Forward.”

The discussion sought to delineate the continuous contribution of DOST-SEI’s scholarship programs to the nationwide S&T education and to illuminate the path forward in improving such programs – putting the spotlight on the growing need to overcome barriers in providing support to the scholars, as well as in assuring the scholar-graduates’ success in their journey towards teaching STEM.

The roundtable discussion featured the views and perspectives of the Scholarship Act’s key stakeholders, implementers, and policymakers on the results of the evaluation, discussing the importance of and priorities for advancing the scholarship program.

DOST-SEI Director Dr. Josette Biyo emphasized the country’s growing need for a critical mass of STEM educators who proactively contribute to nation-building by teaching the value of science, technology, and innovation. She, then, recognized the Institute’s achievements in having molded generations of deserving scholars and in having produced more teachers at the frontline of STEM education through the scholarship program.

Similarly, DOST-SEI Chief Science Research Specialist Mr. Peter Gerry Gavina also forwarded how the scholarship has continuously enticed college students in their college sophomore year to pursue a career in science education, helping accelerate the number of STEM educators in the country.

Both, however, acknowledged the many concerns surrounding the scholar-graduates' deployment in educational institutions and return service requirement. Nonetheless, they assured that the Institute is fully aware of such concerns and is always considerate of the scholars’ feedback on the scholarship programs.

“We take time to listen to the sentiments and experiences of our current scholars under the program and we aim to address their concerns at various levels in the implementation of the scholarship,” said Dr. Biyo.





The Department of Education (DepEd) Teacher Education Council Executive Director Mr. Runvi Manguerra and Assistant Chief of the Bureau of the Human Resource and Organizational Development (BHROD) Ms. Ruby Chanda Crisostomo also reflected on issues of delayed deployment and limited employment opportunities, promising to improve coordination among schools and institutions to complement the demand of the schools vis-à-vis the supply of STEM teachers.

Also participating in the roundtable discussion was the Chairperson for the Basic Education and Culture Committee Hon. Roman Romulo who also stressed about the importance of coordination between DepEd and schools to ensure the scholar-graduates’ deployment to their teaching positions. He requested DepEd to provide data and specifics of schools that lack STEM teachers and highlighted the need to appropriately match the supply of RA 10612 scholar-graduates to the current demand of schools all over the country.

Meanwhile, Philippine Normal University Dean of the College of Flexible Learning and ePNU Dr. Celia Ilanan acknowledged concerns on delayed training and forwarded that one way to improve the Scholarship Act is to include pre-service training provisions for scholar-graduates even before they were deployed, establishing a structured and efficient process for its delivery.

Principal author of RA 10612 and former congressperson Angelo Palmones also contributed to the discussion and shared a brief background of the law, as well as his insights in further improving its implementation. He also expressed his intention to review the evaluation more conscientiously before endorsing changes in the law and demanding actions from the House.

Meanwhile, after sharing his experiences and voicing his concerns as a beneficiary of the scholarship program, scholar-graduate Engr. Aaron Sarmiento is hopeful that the meaningful dialogues built during the discussions would help grow the number of scholars that the program supports and the projects and efforts that the Institute puts forward. He is certain that the valuable insights gained from the discussions can be useful in ensuring the success of the scholars in their journey towards teaching STEM, as well as in helping elevate the quality of STEM education in the country.

Mr. Ariel Sebellino of the Philippine Press Institute acted as the moderator of the discussion and forwarded that the media also have a role in promoting the scholarship program. Also present in the RTD were DOST Undersecretary Maridon Sahagun and PSSC Executive Director Dr. Lourdes Portus who welcomed the participants and guests and gave an overview of the RTD’s goal, respectively.

Keeping in mind the views of the beneficiaries and other key stakeholders, the DOST-SEI pledged to continue to work closely together with policymakers and program implementers in continuously revisiting and reviewing the Scholarship Act to further improve the support they provide to their scholars and ensure that they flourish in their career in science education – transforming them into more than just beneficiaries of the scholarship but also agents who play a critical role in accelerating the country’s collective future as a nation.

Upon the discussion’s conclusion, the Institute looks forward to having more relevant and more significant dialogues that aim to better revamp certain aspects of the scholarship program and further improve its implementation. They plan to establish a technical working group for more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the program’s policy.

The roundtable discussion was conducted on July 3, 2023, in two subsequent sessions. The first session highlighted the views and sentiments of the implementers and beneficiaries, while the second one included that of the policymakers.


One Year in BBM Presidency: Electricity Consumers Still Wanting


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One year into the second Marcos presidency, electricity consumers remain wanting for the realization of the president’s promise in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) ang “Pangarap Nyo ay Pangarap ko” for electricity consumers. The first year of Bongbong Marcos’ presidency witnessed the accelerated suffering of electricity consumers not only from high electricity prices but also from intermittent blackouts due to continued neglect and inefficiency of our electricity grid.

Roland Vibal, national coordinator for Kuryente.org, said:

“Although we commend the Marcos administration’s effort to promote renewable energy by fast-tracking its green energy program, there is still much to be done to lower our households’ electricity cost. With the current high cost of living, the continued high price of electricity is an added burden for electricity consumers whose monthly income is way below the government's estimated ideal living wage of P1,500/day for a family of six. Every presidency has promised to ease electricity consumers’ burden yet most failed as it continues to neglect or indecisively address the cause of the problem.”

Vibal said that for Kuryente.org, lower electricity prices can be realized by decisively addressing the four main causes of high electricity rates in the country, namely by:

● Reviewing our current mix of energy sources. The continuing uncertainty of imported fuels as Ukraine – Russia conflict drag should motivate us to end our addiction to imported and costly fuels and focus our attention on cheaper and more reliable sources.

● Reducing the country’s transmission and distribution losses. It is high time that the Energy Regulatory Commission review the national grid code and conducts a technical audit. More so, Congress should evaluate and review the franchise of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines since it has failed to deliver its promise to provide a reliable, efficient and sustainable grid for the country.

● Reviewing the current tax regime for electricity should also be done to unburden our electricity price with high taxation. Our tax on electricity is relatively high, and worse, consumers are also taxed from system losses and subsidies. High electricity taxation is an added burden and should be reviewed and rethought, especially in this period of high uncertainty.

● Discussing and trilaterally resolving policies related to electricity rates and contracts not only between governments and power corporations but with electricity consumers as well to ensure that fairness and reasonableness of all decisions are in line with the interests of government, investors and consumers alike.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

RCBC powers up digital banking with Pulz app


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Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) has announced the launch of its cutting-edge digital banking platform, RCBC Pulz, designed to power up users' financial vitality through its unparalleled features, speed, and efficiency. With state-of-the-art technology and hyper-personalized interactions, RCBC Pulz transcends the boundaries of traditional banking, embodying RCBC's commitment to meeting the ever-changing preferences of its valued customers.

RCBC Pulz pulsates with the users' wants and needs, capturing the essence of the dynamic financial space and propelling RCBC customers towards achieving their financial goals.

Designed with contemporary global experiences in mind, the app offers ultra-digital features, supported by an artificial intelligence-based cross-selling and upselling process that prioritizes customer lifecycle value. Embracing the promise of boundless possibilities, the app is set to transform the landscape of Philippine digital banking, providing boundless access, services, opportunities, and experiences - all fortified by comprehensive protection.




 

RCBC Pulz is an all-in-one banking app that ensures a convenient, effortless banking experience. One of its standout features is its strong focus on security, utilizing advanced technology and multiple security checks for safe financial transactions. RCBC Pulz also allows customers to open an account anytime, anywhere, without a minimum balance requirement. Customers can easily perform various banking tasks, such as depositing or withdrawing money using QR codes or reference numbers, depositing local checks just by taking a photo, and directly transferring funds locally or abroad, with the pioneering digital concierge service.

RCBC Pulz also goes beyond banking by offering lifestyle-enhancing features. Customers can pay bills, convert purchases into installments, load up their telco SIM and gaming wallets, make toll payments effortlessly, buy and sell of up to six foreign currencies in real time such as US Dollars, HongKong Dollars, Euro, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, and Singapore Dollars. The app also has a dedicated section for financial literacy information and on top of it all, Filipinos can now manage or place new investments through the country’s first digital, in-app unit investment trust fund or UITF.

"We are relentless in pioneering and scaling digital solutions to empower more Filipinos. We have developed our most advanced banking app to date. Packed with superior and enhanced features, RCBC’s newest digital banking app is designed to further make banking easier, faster and safer,” said RCBC President and Chief Executive Officer Eugene S. Acevedo.

RCBC Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Inclusion Officer Lito Villanueva calls the launch as a pivotal point in the country’ digital journey as customers will enjoy a wide and secure variety of financial solutions that will only be one tap away.

"We’re proud to share with you RCBC Pulz, the fruition of harnessing a transformational mindset and limitless possibilities Staying true to RCBC’s goal of empowering Filipinos, we unveil a hyper-personalized digital platform. For what remains a probability for others, we have made it into reality, and its potential is truly boundless," Villanueva said.

RCBC hosted the launch event on July 18 at the Marquis Events Place in Bonifacio Global City. Themed #Boundless, the event unveiled RCBC's groundbreaking RCBC Pulz digital banking solution, empowering individuals like never before by providing limitless options as they navigate their personal financial journeys. The event is made possible by the invaluable support of Visa, IDfy, Nextbank, Netcore, Almond Tech, Emudhra, and BlueVoyant, who all share RCBC's commitment to digital innovation and customer-centric solutions. RCBC Pulz digital banking app will be available for download starting August 8, 2023.

One of the highlights of the event was the “One YGC” segment, a manifestation of support by the Yuchengco Group of Companies led by Helen Yuchengco Dee, Chairperson of RCBC and YGC; Eugene S. Acevedo, President and CEO of RCBC; Paolo Y. Abaya, President and CEO of Malayan Insurance; Richard S. Lim, President and CEO of SunLife Grepa; Arniel Ong, President and CEO of RCBC Credit Cards; Dr. Dodjie Maestrecampo, President of Mapua University; Lorenzo V. Tan, Vice Chairman of House of Investments. The strong act of solidarity espouses YGC’s overarching goal – the power of synergy and a unified desire to be boundless in being the country’s agents for digital transformation. The conglomerate-wide digital collaboration was established since 2018 with its signed data sharing agreement.

In 2022, RCBC Digital, the predecessor of RCBC Pulz, posted a 60% growth in revenue, 27% increase in account opening, 32% surge in transaction volume, and a 44% jump in transaction value. RCBC is also one of the most awarded banks for its digital innovations, including a three-peat win as Asiamoney’s Best Bank for Digital. RCBC prides itself to be the only Philippine bank recognized among the three winners in Asia Pacific by the Gartner Eye on Innovation award alongside global giants and innovators in financial services; the first and only Philippine bank to have received YouTube’s Challenger Award; and the Grand Champion for Digital Payments and Financial Inclusion by the Bankers Institute of the Philippines, among more than 80 global and regional accolades during the pandemic period.

With the launch of the new RCBC Pulz, RCBC once again leads the digital banking revolution in the Philippines, cementing its position as the country's undisputed #1 digital challenger bank. It is now the Philippines’ 5th largest privately-owned universal bank from 8th in 2018 that breached the P1-Trillion asset mark by the end of June 2022 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. RCBC remains steadfast in its pursuit of driving innovation, empowering customers, and spearheading transformative change within the banking industry.





Caption:

Photo 1:

From L-R: RCBC Credit Cards President and CEO Arniel B. Ong; RCBC Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Inclusion Officer Lito M. Villanueva; House of Investments Inc. President Lorenzo V. Tan; RCBC Chairperson Helen Yuchengco-Dee; RCBC President and CEO Eugene S. Acevedo; Malayan Insurance President and CEO Paolo Y. Abaya; Sun Life Grepa Financial Inc. President Richard S. Lim.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Role of Pet Relocation Company in Singapore: Ensuring a Smooth Transition for Furry Friends


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For pet owners, the idea of relocating to a new country can be an exciting but daunting experience. There are countless things to consider, including finding suitable housing, adjusting to a new environment, and, most importantly, ensuring the well-being and safety of their beloved furry friends. This is where pet relocation companies play a vital role, particularly in a pet-friendly nation like Singapore.
 

Get all the help you need

Singapore, known for its strict regulations and high standards of animal welfare, imposes various requirements on pet owners who wish to bring their pets into the country or move within its borders. These regulations are in place to safeguard both the health of the pets and the local community. Navigating through these complex regulations can be overwhelming, but pet relocation companies are there to guide pet owners through the process, making the transition as smooth as possible.

One of the primary responsibilities of a pet relocation company is to assist pet owners with the necessary paperwork and documentation. This includes ensuring that pets have the required vaccinations, health certificates, and microchips. In Singapore, pets must also go through a quarantine period to ensure they are free from diseases and parasites. Pet relocation companies have a thorough understanding of these requirements and can help pet owners prepare the required paperwork, ensuring compliance with all regulations. To learn more, please visit https://shilohanimalex.com

Additionally, pet relocation companies have established relationships with airlines, veterinary clinics, and quarantine facilities, allowing them to coordinate the logistics of a pet's journey seamlessly. They can advise pet owners on the best travel options for their furry friends, taking into consideration factors such as the pet's size, breed, and temperament. From booking flights to arranging transportation to and from the airport, these companies handle the entire process, leaving pet owners free to focus on other aspects of their move.
 

Support and guidance all the way

Another essential aspect of a pet relocation company's role is providing guidance and support to pet owners throughout the relocation process. Moving to a new country can be stressful for both pets and their owners. Pet relocation companies understand the emotional toll this can take and are equipped to provide reassurance and advice. They can offer tips on acclimating pets to their new surroundings, recommend pet-friendly services and facilities in the area, and provide resources for pet training and socialization.

Moreover, pet relocation companies often offer additional services to ensure the comfort and well-being of pets during their journey. These services may include providing custom-made travel crates, arranging for specialized pet care during layovers, and even offering pet insurance options. These extra touches help alleviate the anxiety that pet owners may feel about their pets' welfare during the relocation process.

In a country like Singapore, where pets are considered cherished members of the family, the demand for pet relocation services has been steadily increasing. The expertise and assistance provided by pet relocation companies not only ensure compliance with regulations but also give pet owners peace of mind, knowing that their pets are in safe hands. By entrusting their pets to these professionals, pet owners can focus on settling into their new lives, confident that their furry friends will be well taken care of.

DepEd beefs up learning recovery initiatives of PBBM admin


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Heeding the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, the Department of Education (DepEd) has implemented various learning recovery initiatives to improve the quality of education in the country.

Under the stewardship of Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, the Department adopted the National Learning Recovery Plan (NLRP) to immediately address learning losses in basic education due to the pandemic.

As its critical step towards learning recovery, DepEd welcomed around 28 million learners for School Year 2022-2023 as the agency directed the mandatory conduct of full in-person classes. Blended learning or other alternative modes of delivery are only being implemented during natural or man-made calamities to ensure learning continuity.

As part of the NLRP, the Department is also set for the kickoff of the National Learning Camp (NLC), an end-of-school year voluntary program aimed to provide enrichment, consolidation, and intervention sessions for learners, on July 24.

With a two-fold purpose of improving learning outcomes and supporting teachers to teach better, the initiative aims to create a camp-like atmosphere by integrating fun and engaging activities to foster learner interests, socio-emotional skills, personal growth, and character development.

NLC will have phased implementation starting with Grades 7 and 8 with focus on English, Mathematics, and Science. Schools are also encouraged to conduct other EOSY break activities for Grades 1 to 3 and enrichment activities in other grade levels to support learning recovery across grade levels.

In addition, national programs on Reading, Mathematics, Science and Technology are also targeted to be rolled out starting School Year 2023-2024.

The programs will be implemented across the governance levels from Central Office (CO), Regional Offices (RO), School Division Offices (SDO), schools, and community learning centers (CLC) with the coordination of external partners and stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

No Plastics in Nature celebrates five years of milestones


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DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga attended the No Plastics In Nature five-year celebration at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City

WWF-Philippines’ No Plastics in Nature (NPIN) initiative celebrates its fifth year with an event showcasing its milestones in the past half-decade.

The event took place on Tuesday, July 18 at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Social Hall in Quezon City, with attendees from various sectors including local government units, national government agencies, private partners, community partners and the media.

WWF-Philippines has been working closely with DENR as the initiative aligns with the achievement of the government’s commitments in the Global Plastic Treaty, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and supports the DENR’s National Plan of Action on the Prevention, Reduction, and Management of Marine Plastic (NPOA-ML). DENR has always been one of the biggest and strongest partners of WWF in the implementation of various environment and conservation projects in the country.





“As our planet continues to bear the weight of more than 7 billion tons of plastic, we need to come together as an alliance to ensure the ecological and economic and social gains are actually delivered to all sectors, to all ecosystems and to all communities,” says DENR Sec. Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.

“What we're asking here today is to join us, together with WWF and our partners in the country of Norway, in a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort towards building a green solid waste management industry in the Philippines through recycling, upcycling, removal and reuse of plastics throughout our economy.”

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga gives a message, emphasizing the need to act on plastic pollution

WWF-Philippines, through its Next Generation Council, launched the Ayoko ng Plastik campaign in 2018 with the aim to spark conversations about plastics, its impacts, and how to address this environmental issue. The campaign was successful in building a community through its dedicated Facebook page, reaching over 10,000 members within months from its launch. Before this, WWF-Philippines’ Education for Sustainable Development has already been conducting workshops on waste segregation, dating back its work towards improving solid waste management systems in the Philippines to more than two decades.

The NPIN initiative eventually became WWF’s holistic approach towards addressing plastic pollution, with the aim to stop the flow of plastics into nature by 2030. Since then, the initiative launched several projects, empowering communities and social enterprises, pushing for policies and releasing studies on proper waste reduction and management.

“WWF’s NPIN network has grown and is continuously growing. We are now working in 10 LGUs, 3 port management offices, and are renewing our reduction/management partnerships with at least 20 businesses. It is still a long way ahead but I believe that we will get to #ChangetheEnding for the environment with this driven network,” says Czarina Constantino-Panopio, NPIN Program Manager.

Among the milestones of NPIN was its advocacy work on the Extended Producer Responsibility Bill, resulting in its enactment into law in 2022, effectively enforcing a system of accountability for big corporations with regards to their plastic footprint. NPIN lobbied the policy for years while consulting with stakeholders for their inputs.

Philippine Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Senator Cynthia Villar, reiterated the call to curb plastic pollution in the country through a pre-recorded video message. Senator Villar was one of the champions of the EPR Law.

“The plastic waste problem is a global threat and it is escalating at a rate that demands our immediate attention,” says Villar. “Working together, we can ensure a healthier, more sustainable and plastic free world for future generations.”

NPIN also launched the Plastic Smart Cities (PSC) project which garnered the commitment of cities in different landscape archetypes across the country (lowlands, highly urbanized cities, coastal communities and islands) to implement solutions to reduce and divert their plastic waste. So far, PSC has worked with Donsol in Sorsogon, Davao City, the Municipality of San Isidro in Davao Oriental, and the Island Garden City of Samal, and working towards building potential partnerships with Siargao, Palawan and Cagayan De Oro City.

Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Christian Lyster attends the NPIN five-year celebration.

With guidance from WWF Norway, NPIN also piloted plastic waste interventions at three major ports: Port of Batangas, Manila North Harbour Port and Port of Cagayan De Oro, which included improvements in waste segregation, plastic collection and waste diversion by constructing material recovery facilities.

Both projects included crafting baseline studies on the state of waste management systems in ports and action plans, detailing ways to sustain the new systems they implemented.

The Norwegian government has been actively supporting initiatives in addressing plastic pollution not just in the Philippines but even in the regional and global level. Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Christian Lyster highlights Norway’s unwavering support in the advocacy and recognizes the collective hard work from various partners which was essential to the work on addressing plastic pollution in various levels.

“Norway has been working closely with the Philippines and its ASEAN peers for knowledge-based solutions to promote sustainability and to address plastic pollution,” says Ambassador Lyster. “Norway recognizes the importance of international cooperation in solving these issues without borders.”

NPIN’s work highlights the need to properly integrate communities such as waste workers in solutions through engagement and participation. NPIN has also supported initiatives like the Women in Waste Economic Empowerment program which capacitated women waste workers in Metro Manila such as junk shop owners, aggregators and sweepers to become leaders of waste management in their communities by providing management training and mentorship, and grants to jumpstart their businesses. Furthermore, through the PSC project, NPIN aims to develop and craft solutions together with these communities.

These piloted solutions to date have reduced at least 16,000 kg of plastic waste, collected at least 38,000 kg of waste, and diverted at least 150,000 kg of plastic waste from landfills. WWF’s NPIN network has grown and is continuously growing, now working in 10 LGUs, 3 port management offices, and renewing reduction/ management partnerships with at least 20 businesses.

With less than a decade left before the 2030 deadline, NPIN continues to strive for more milestones and projects while building on the gains it achieved in the past few years. WWF-Philippines continues to actively advocate for the government, businesses, policymakers and key stakeholders to support and uphold the Global Plastics Treaty.

“We remain committed to make No Plastics in Nature a reality. This is in line with our mission of building a future when people and nature thrive…I can say that we can be courageous and ambitious about the next steps and bigger goals to go after because we are together, because we are a network,” WWF-Philippines Executive Director Katherine Custodio.



About World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

WWF-Philippines has been successfully implementing various conservation projects to help protect some of the most biologically-significant ecosystems in Asia since its establishment as the 26th national organization of the WWF network in 1997.

Ahead of second SONA, experts call for BBM to prioritize Maritime Zones Law


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On the occasion of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) next Monday, July 24, maritime security experts are calling for the President to prioritize the passage of the Maritime Zones Law.

The Maritime Zones Law will declare the Philippine maritime zones based on standards set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It will also clarify the geographical extent of the Philippine maritime domain and the legal powers that the Philippine government may exercise. The House of Representatives approved House Bill 7819 or the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act in May 2023, while several versions of the Maritime Zones Bill have been filed in the Senate.

The enactment of the Philippine Maritime Zones Act will be one of the most fundamental and important steps to implement the South China Sea Arbitration Award. In 2016, the Arbitral Ruling declared China’s “nine-dash line” and claim to historic rights in the South China Sea as unlawful, as well as certain maritime features and other activities in Philippine waters.

“The current administration has made progress in securing our territorial integrity and protecting our rights. It must be recalled that during Pres. Marcos’ first SONA, he mentioned that we will not give a square inch of territory to any foreign power. The maritime zones law will do just that and more,” said Julio Amador III, founder of Amador Research Services (ARS) and Senior Adviser for the Waypoints Project, during a media roundtable.

“The Maritime Zones Law will not only delineate the country’s maritime zones, but will also serve as a foundational policy that can help improve implementation of current and subsequent maritime laws. We strongly urge the president and congress to pass the maritime zones law within the year,” he continued.

The bill outlines a comprehensive framework in managing, protecting, regulating, and developing ocean resources and maritime spaces, consistent with the UNCLOS. Passing the law helps achieve the Philippine obligation to harmonize domestic law with the UNCLOS.

"The passing of the Maritime Zones Law could be a matter of personal significance to the President, who is the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. It was under Marcos Sr.'s presidency that the Philippines began asserting claims to these extended areas of maritime jurisdiction,” said Prof. Jay Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea and Waypoints Senior Adviser. “The enactment of the Maritime Zones Law would complete his father’s legacy to the country.”

UNCLOS, considered as the constitution of the oceans, promotes and highlights the importance of having rules-based order in maritime governance and allocates maritime zones to coastal and archipelagic states. The Philippines ratified the UNCLOS in 1984 and is a State party to the Convention.


###

The Waypoints Project would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to you for the event "Kasiguruhan sa Karagatan: Strengthening the Implementation of the South China Sea Arbitral Award" on July 27, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The event will take place at the UP Law Center, UP Diliman, Quezon City. To attend, please register through this link: www.bit.ly/waypointsregistration.

P.A. Properties turns over 43 housing communities to HOA's


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In Photos: Exciting milestones achieved as St. Joseph Village 7 Phase 5A and St. Joseph Ridgeview 1 witness successful completed project turnovers to homeowners associations



P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corporation (P.A. Properties) has turned over a total of 43 projects to their respective homeowner's associations in Laguna, Batangas, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Pasay City recently.

Emphasizing the importance of sustainable and organized communities as a crucial and important part of home ownership, the property firm asserts its commitment to create a healthy living environment for both individuals and families as well as safeguarding and enhancing property values and fostering a sense of community among residents and stakeholders.

"We believe and recognize the significant benefits that Homeowners Associations (HOAs) could bring to development projects in the long term, said Lawyer Marianne Lina-Cruz, President and CEO of P.A. Properties.

"HOAs are key to shaping up and establishment of responsible community and neigborhood management," Cruz added.

After project completion and turn over, the HOAs are bound to ensure safety and security within the communities, as well as emergency preparedness in case of any disaster or calamity including the responsibility of overseeing the upkeep and maintenance of shared areas and facilities, such as parks and community centers.

By incorporating HOAs, P.A. Properties aim to foster security and confidence among prospective buyers and clients.

HOAs are likewise bound to ensure diligent management and long-term preservation of the area, thereby enhancing property values in the process.

P.A. Properties manages the formation of the HOAs for its developed projects. It supports the HOAs from formation to project turnover, abiding with regulatory requirements.

The company also provides the elected Board of Directors of each village guidance and consulting services on effective management of their HOAs and their respective communities.




About P.A. Properties

Situated in San Pedro, Laguna, P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corporation (P.A. Properties) is one of the largest developers of low to medium cost housing communities in Southern Luzon incorporated in 1994. Since then, they have built more than 20,000 housing units across major provinces in the Philippines, with plans to further build additional 20 housing communities within the next 5 years. P.A. Properties is committed to help ease the country’s housing backlog while contributing to the growth of the economy through projects that local government units (LGUs) can effectively utilize, such as donations for the construction of hospitals in Cabuyao; the donation of right of way in Pampanga to support their government civic center; and the establishment of SanJo’s markets in major provinces such as Laguna and Bulacan.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

JUJU Lifestyle Opens Shops in Dubai and Vietnam


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JUJU Lifestyle, a local health and wellness company known for its TikTok viral line of effervescent supplements, will be opening offices and outlets in Dubai and Vietnam.

Jungie Gumiran, CEO and Founder of JUJU Lifestyle, sees these developments as significant milestones, saying, "Our expansion into Dubai and Vietnam reflects our commitment to bringing the benefits of our innovative effervescent tablets to busy individuals worldwide."

Customers in Dubai can now easily purchase JUJU Collagen and JUJU GlutaFair, which are available for delivery in the UAE. These products can also be purchased through the official JUJU Lifestyle website at www.jujulifestyle.ae or the dedicated JUJU Collagen and JUJU Gluta Fair Facebook Shops in the UAE. Additionally, the company is in the process of registering with Amazon UAE to further expand accessibility. Payment options include cash on delivery and cash on pick-up.

In Vietnam, JUJU Lifestyle has formed a partnership with Buy2sell, the country's largest B2B platform for imported goods. This partnership is nearing finalization, and it will make JUJU Collagen, JUJU GlutaFair, and JUJU EasySlim available in Vietnam later this year. JUJU products will be sold online and in retail stores of Buy2sell in Ho Chi Minh (Lotte Mart and Vivo City) and Hanoi (Vincom Mega City). JUJU Lifestyle is also considering participating in the Buy2Sell Health and Wellness Conference, which will gather over 500 local buyers from July 27th to 29th.

“These international expansions mark a significant achievement for JUJU Lifestyle, solidifying its position as a global player in the wellness industry. The brand remains dedicated to supporting individuals in maintaining their well-being and embracing a fun and convenient self-care routine,” stated Gumiran.

JUJU Lifestyle effervescent supplements have already gained significant traction on popular e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada. From April 2021 to February 2022, the brand achieved an impressive average monthly sales of 1 million on Shopee and 700,000 on Lazada. Furthermore, JUJU Collagen consistently reached 3 million sales on Shopee and 1.7 million sales on Lazada, leading to the brand receiving the Preferred Seller badge on Shopee and being included in Lazada's Lazmall. The product's highest sales were recorded during double-digit/payday sales, with an impressive 406,000 units sold.

JUJU Lifestyle is excited about the future prospects of its global expansion as it continues to empower individuals to prioritize self-care within their busy lifestyles.





About JUJU Lifestyle

JUJU Lifestyle is a health and wellness company inspired by real life that aims to help people live a more productive and healthy lifestyle through self-care powerhouse brands. Specializing in effervescent supplements, JUJU offers a convenient and effective way to make a self-care habit for people with different ways of living.

Their lineup includes JUJU Collagen for healthier skin, hair, and nails, JUJU Gluta Fair for clearer skin, JUJU Easy Slim for weight management, and Juju Easy Sports for energy and hydration. These products are available in delicious flavors and provide various benefits, such as reducing wrinkles, protecting against free radicals, and aiding in muscle recovery. JUJU Collagen differentiates itself by offering these supplements in convenient effervescent forms.

JUJU is innovating a way to take supplements that would make it easier for people to incorporate a healthy lifestyle and make self-care a habit in a fast-paced world.

DepEd welcomes talented, skilled learners in 2023 NSPC, NFOT joint opening


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After three years, the Department of Education (DepEd) physically welcomed some of the most talented and skillful Filipino learners in the joint opening of the 2023 National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) and National Festival of Talents (NFOT) held today in Cagayan de Oro.

With the theme ‘From Campus Journalism to Real-World Journalism: Shaping Minds from Schools to Societies’ and ‘Reinforcing 21st Century Learning and Fostering Creative Industries through Talents and Skills Exhibition,’ the 2023 NSPC and NFOT aim to provide a platform to strengthen teachers' and learners' creativity, talent, and communication skills.

“Remember that youth can shape a brighter future by raising awareness, staying informed, and working collectively with like-minded individuals locally and globally to take action,” Vice President of the Philippines and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte said in her written message.




Headed by the Curriculum and Teaching strand through the Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD) and Bureau of Learning Delivery (BLD), this year’s NSPC and NFOT highlight the comeback of its face-to-face contests and exhibition.

“Both NSPC and NFOT give chance for our learners to showcase their talents. This also allows us to assess what we are doing to improve the learning outcomes of our students. With the new direction for basic education, we make sure that the conduct of the NSPC and NFOT culminating activities are aligned in keeping with our MATATAG Agenda—to MAke our curriculum relevant for lifelong learning and TAke good care of our learners to promote their welfare regardless of their background and social status, among other things,” Undersecretary for Curriculum and Teaching Gina O. Gonong said.

The 2023 NSPC and NFOT are hosted by DepEd Region X-Northern Mindanao led by Regional Director Arturo B. Bayocot.

“As we pursue our MATATAG Agenda and also celebrate the resounding success of the 2023 NFOT-NSPC, let us remain resilient, triumph over any challenges, and sustain our commitment,” RD Arturo B. Bayocot noted.

DepEd likewise gathered support from the local leaders of Northern Mindanao through Provincial Governor Peter Unabia and Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando “Klarex” Uy.

Various contests and exhibitions will be held from July 17 to 21, 2023 in Cagayan de Oro City, including news writing, TV/radio scriptwriting and broadcasting, and photojournalism contests for NSPC and Sining Tanghalan, story retelling, Filipino Sign Language, Braille Reading, Technolympics, and other contests for NFOT.

ArenaPlus proudly announces partnership with FIBA for the World Basketball Cup 2023


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ArenaPlus, an online sports betting platform in the country, proudly announced its partnership with International Basketball Association (FIBA), supported by TV5 Cignal Ultra, to become the official sportsbook partner for the highly anticipated World Basketball Cup 2023.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 is truly historic, as it marks the first-ever collaboration among three countries - Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. This momentous occasion brings immense excitement not just for ArenaPlus, but also for the passionate Filipino fans who eagerly look forward to creating unforgettable, world-class basketball memories with FIBA.

“I truly believe that basketball is indeed loved by the Filipinos; hence FIBA alongside with ArenaPlus will surely upgrade your sports appreciation and will give you distinct fun and experience while cheering your team.” said Andy Tsui, President of DigiPlus Interactive Corporation.





This partnership is dedicated to ensuring that every Filipino basketball fan enjoys an exceptional and entertaining FIBA World Basketball Cup experience. ArenaPlus firmly believes in providing our kababayan’s with the best and world-class basketball experience they truly deserve. Our goal is to bring heightened excitement and top-quality basketball entertainment to our kababayan’s, fostering connections within communities and spreading joy throughout the nation.

Total Gamezone Xtreme Inc. President Rafael Jasper Vicencio guarantees the best and quality betting experience. “We assure you that we will add more hype and escalate your FIBA experience. Together with our first athlete endorser, who is present here today, Scottie Thompson, you already know that we only provide quality and best betting entertainment service.”

The brand invites all basketball fans and enthusiasts alike in celebrating the pinnacle of basketball excellence at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, taking place in August and September 2023.

“Together, let's make history and forge enduring basketball memories that will be treasured by fans for years to come. ArenaPlus, Astig sa Sports!,” added Vicencio.

This Lake Creates More New Species Than Any Place on Earth


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I’m surrounded by mutant fish inside Lake Malawi in South Africa.

Like Spiderman, Wolverine and Magneto, they’ve developed different abilities: most evolved to graze on algae, which coats the enormous boulders around us. Others snuffle through the sand for worms and other wriggly tidbits. Some play dead and suddenly turn the tables on their hapless prey, while others rip and eat the scales off unsuspecting neighbors.

I glance at my dive guide, Felix Sinosi, while fiddling with my GoPro. I hope the tiny camera captures the swirling melee of color around us: neon blues and brilliant tangerines, glimmering stripes, speckles and spots. The fish patterns were so mesmerizing I almost forgot the warning Felix shared right before we back-rolled into the lake’s blue waters: “A large Nile crocodile was spotted swimming here yesterday.”


Cichlids of Lake Malawi

Meet the mbuna (em-buna), Lake Malawi’s mutant fish. They’re cichlids (sick-lids), members of a large family of freshwater fish whose members range from the striped angelfish of the Amazon Basin to the tasty tilapia we farm and eat in the Philippines.

I’m a Pinoy SCUBA diver and I travelled 10,000 kilometers to see these fish – some of which I’ve kept in my bubbling aquarium at home – in their home surf.

There are 1500 known cichlid species and over 600 of them inhabit just one lake, where fish mutate into new species every few thousand years. Scientists postulate that Lake Malawi’s 600 cichlid species evolved from a handful of fish that entered the lake three million years ago. These ‘ancestor fish’ showed an unusually high level of genetic mutation and when they started colonizing Lake Malawi, their mutant genes spurred an intense period of speciation.


Earth’s Most Biologically-Diverse Lake

A 2018 paper by Malinsky et al. observes how “The formation of every new lake or island represents a fresh opportunity for colonization, proliferation and the diversification of living forms. In some cases, the ecological opportunities presented by underutilized habitats facilitate what scientists call adaptive radiation – rapid and extensive diversification of the descendants of the colonizing lineages.”

The first to observe this was no less than Dr. Charles Darwin, who noticed that in the Galapagos Islands, tiny birds called finches morphed into different species to fill various ecological niches. So too did the tiny cichlids evolve to colonize their giant new lake.

Lake Malawi slices through the South African nations of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. From afar, it looks like the ocean. Over 580 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep, the lake’s so vast that flying from end-to-end is like flying from Manila to Cebu.

In 1984, all of Lake Malawi was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its incredible scientific value as a hotbed for fish evolution. Its fish are generally divided into two types: mbuna are rock-dwelling cichlids, while utaka (ooh-taka) are open water cichlids which either feed on drifting plankton or each other.

Interesting behavior plus vivid coloration have endeared these mutant fish to the world’s aquarists, who have been keeping and breeding them since the late 1950s. Melanochromis auratus, Pseudotropheus elongatus, Maylandia zebra and many others are mainstays of the ornamental fish industry.

“The colors of mbuna are brilliant enough that they can be confused for coral reef fish,” notes Pinoy cichlid hobbyist Angel Ampil, who has been keeping fish for over 50 years. “Mbuna have distinct courtship and breeding behavior, plus they are relatively easy to breed in captivity.”

Malawi’s cichlids are probably the country’s best ambassadors. “The tropical aquarium trade has sent our cichlids all over the world,” explains Dr. Harold Sungani, Deputy Director of the Monkey Bay Fisheries Research Centre. “In addition to generating vital revenue which can be channeled back into conservation and sound fisheries management, our cichlids continuously generate interest for tourists to visit Malawi and see the fish in the wild. Tourism in turn, spurs peripheral trades like woodcarving and handicraft painting. The people of Malawi can see the importance of conserving a lake which brings business to local communities.”

However, not all is well in Lake Malawi, which is beset by the challenges of overpopulation and a changing climate.


Threatened by Climate Change and Overfishing

The population of Malawi, among the world’s poorest nations, is growing steadily. In the 1960s the country hosted less than four million people. Today there are over 20 million, around half of which live below the poverty line.

As a largely agrarian nation, one of Malawi’s lifelines is its lake, which produces up to 60% of the country’s protein in the form of both fresh and dried fish. Visiting several markets from the capital of Lilongwe to the southern tip of the lake in Mangochi, I saw heaps of dried utaka and usipa, open water cichlids and sardines which sell for as little as USD1 (PHP55) per bucket.

Inexpensive and readily available, these small fish constitute one of the country’s prime commodities, with Malawians consuming an average of 8.1 kilogrammes of fish yearly.

But overfishing is threatening the lake’s productivity. Decades of it has greatly reduced the lake’s food fish, with many fishers returning to shore with just one or two bucketfuls – barely enough to cover the cost of fuel.

“Malawi’s rapidly growing population is exerting enormous pressure on our country’s natural resources, particularly small fish like usipa (freshwater sardines) and kambuzi (shallow water cichlids),” adds Dr. Sungani. “Curbing population growth is a good way to ease pressure on Lake Malawi.”

Climate change is another serious challenge. Since the year 2000, parts of Africa have been seeing less and less rainfall, causing massive droughts in nations like Somalia and Ethiopia. Malawi is relatively lucky, but the water level of its largest lake has dropped around three meters since the 1980s.

The introduction of invasive species also looms large. In Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria, the introduction of Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) has proven disastrous. In an attempt to boost fisheries productivity, the predatory fish were introduced to the lake in the 1950s. Growing over two meters, they soon preyed on over 100 other fish species, practically wiping out 60% of the lake’s native cichlids in what may be the largest vertebrate extinction of the 20th century.

“What we need is sensible management to ensure that these special fish sustain both local communities and ecotourism for many years to come,” says Dr. Sungani.

Back in the lake, visibility has gone bonkers. I’m following a family of golden Auratus cichlids when I hear the metallic tink, tink, tink of someone banging on his tank. Is the Nile crocodile back for a buffet? Has a curious hippo left the shallows to check us out? A large, dark shadow appears. I stop dead in the water.

In seconds it morphs – mutates if you will – into the form of Felix, signaling us to move on. Exhaling in relief, I follow him to see what scaly wonders lie over the next patch of rocks, recalling what I read before going to Africa.

“By learning how Malawi’s cichlids adapt and evolve under selective pressure, we can learn how these pressures affect humans in terms of health and disease,” remarked Federica Di Palma, Science Director at The Genome Analysis Centre in the United Kingdom and co-author of a 2014 Harvard and MIT study on adaptive radiation.

With COVID-19 mutating every few months and losses amounting to trillions of dollars and millions of souls, it might just pay dividends for us to keep studying the mutant fish of Lake Malawi.


CAPTIONED IMAGES:


Pinoy explorer Gregg Yan and SCUBA guide Felix Sinosi from Cape Maclear before jumping into Thumbi Island. Beneath the boat are spotted-necked otters (Hydrictis maculicollis), which submerged moments before the image was taken.

Lake Malawi lies in Malawi, a landlocked nation in southeastern Africa. Home to Nile crocodiles, hippos and fish, the lake hosts the world’s highest concentration of fish species in a single lake. Mufasa Eco Lodge is one of the best places to launch your expeditions.

Shallow water dives and shore entries are easily conducted, owing to the lake’s gentle currents. Pinoy explorer Gregg Yan and Malawi dive master Felix Sinosi check their equipment before documenting freshwater habitats in Thumbi Island.


 

Auratus cichlids (Melanochromis auratus) display striking patterns and bold behavior at Masasa Reef. Among the first mbuna or rock-dwelling cichlids to be kept in captivity, these belligerent fish were first exported from Lake Malawi in 1958 and have since been bred across the globe.




An elongate cichlid (Pseudotropheus elongatus) gleams like a striped sapphire in Thumbi Island, Malawi. Lake Malawi is home to over 600 cichlid species (plus thousands of color morphs), with more being discovered yearly. The lake hosts well over 1000 species of fish, more than any other lake on Earth.


 

This zebra mbuna (Maylandia zebra) sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the drab hues of the lake. Cichlids are evolutionary marvels – intelligent and dedicated fish who often rear their young inside their mouths in a parental strategy called mouthbrooding.


 

Brightly colored fish. Hardy and fast-growing mbuna at a display tank in the Philippines. “Malawi’s cichlids are probably our country’s best ambassadors. The tropical aquarium trade has sent our cichlids all over the world,” says Dr. Harold Sungani, Deputy Director of the Monkey Bay Fisheries Research Centre in Malawi.


 

A swirl of color. Malawi Rift Lake cichlids are among the world’s most popular freshwater aquarium fish. They can be kept in dense concentrations with strong filtration. Shown is a Malawi-themed tank in the Philippines. “Hobbyists should avoid cross-breeding cichlid species to keep genetic lines pure,” says Pinoy cichlid hobbyist Angel Ampil. A similar Rift Lake north of Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, hosts about 250 endemic cichlid species.


 

Mbuna or rock fish in their natural habitat, algae-coated rocks called aufwuchs (German for algae and surface growth) in brightly-lit areas of the lake. These fish were aggregating in less than two meters around the shallow portions of Cape Maclear.





Insect tornadoes. Billions-strong swarms of nkungo (en-kunggo) or lake flies (Chaoborus edulis) form tornado-like plumes that stretched hundreds of feet tall. When these flies come ashore, they’re harvested with nets and fried into burger patties.




Usipa or freshwater lake sardines (Engraulicypris sardella) drying at a roadside in Mangochi, Malawi. Washed in scalding water and deep-fried in batter, the fish provide vital protein for Malawi’s growing population. According to World Fish, fish accounts for 60% of the country’s protein, with the average Malawian consuming 8.1 kilogrammes of fish early. 



Aquatic plants feature heavily in the shallow waters of Lake Malawi, something not usually seen in the bare rocky tanks which constitute Malawi-themed aquaria. Malawi’s colorful biotopes can be seen here.




Lake Malawi National Park: World Heritage Site served as an excellent resource for identifying potential dive sites and the many colorful cichlids we saw over the course of a week. It was written by Dr. Kenneth R. McKaye and is available on Amazon.




Captive bred cichlids. Though a few thousand fish are still annually caught for the ornamental fish trade, the great majority of Malawi’s fish have been bred commercially for decades. Shown are three types of yellow mbuna bred and raised in the Philippines.


 

Malawi is known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ due to the genuine friendliness of its people, many of which hail from its great tribes including the Chewa, Nyanja, Lomwe and the Zulu or Nguni. Shown is Pinoy explorer Gregg Yan with three Zulu tribesmen who just conducted a ritual arm scarring ceremony.
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