From rice fields to trash fields: Indonesian farmers find profit in pollution

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019   •   876

Once home to rice farmers and their luscious green paddy fields, this Indonesian village is now a dump for truckloads of rubbish.

As Indonesia looks to tackle the country’s growing mountain of trash, the residents of East Java’s 200-hectare Bangun village have found a way to reel in profit from the problem — by opening their gates to garbage trucks and choosing to turn their fertile fields into rubbish sorting plots.

The health and environmental repercussions for Bangun village might be huge, said non-government organization, Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (ECOTON), which has been observing the issue in the area for the last five years.

Now, more than 60 percent of the village residents have opted to enter the rubbish sorting business, and for the time being, that looks unlikely to drop.

“If I’m farming, I need to wait three months to get results, but if I’m sorting rubbish, we can make money in a day, two days or even a week,” said one farmer, Siti Maimanah.

On average, a worker in Bangun can earn between $7-14 per week picking through the sea of paper and plastic, and that can rise to $35 if the piles are particularly high – a tempting proposition when the farming alternative would leave them waiting with nothing for weeks on weeks, said Maimanah.

Ecoton said it has obtained evidence that the garbage in the area is imported from at least 54 countries around the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia, under the pretense it is ‘paper waste’. Reuters found plastic packaging amongst the piles, including from Canada and the United States.

That’s adding on top of the huge amount of garbage the world’s fourth-most populous country with 260 million people generates on its own.

Earlier this year, the city of Surabaya sent back more than 200 tonnes of trash to Australia and U.S. as part of efforts to push back ‘foreign trash’ amid a spike in imports from Western countries after China banned imports.

“Our country has been labeled a dirty country and now America is adding their rubbish on top. Sending this garbage is clearly a violation of the law,” said Ecoton’s protest coordinator, Prigi Arisandi, during a recent protest in front of the U.S. consulate in Indonesia’s second-biggest city, Surabaya.

The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has been struggling to cope with the waste, with much of it going into landfill and often eventually seeping out to pollute rivers and oceans. According to a 2015 study published in the Science journal, Indonesia was the world’s second-biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the oceans.

The mountain of trash in Bangun village is also not going to vanish overnight despite the government’s efforts and plan to set up waste-to-energy plants across the country.

And for now, Indonesians like Maimanah say their day-to-day survival is far more important than the environment. (REUTERS)

(Production: Prasto Wardoyo, Heru Asprihanto, Angie Teo, Natasha Howitt)

Filipinos in Singapore cope with work adjustments amid coronavirus crisis

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020

SINGAPORE – Employers in the city-state are making arrangements with their workers to reduce the risk of community transmission of the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Filipino domestic helper Analyn Baculinao said her employer has asked her to just stay at home even on her rest day so as not to contract the disease.

Household workers in Singapore are known for rest-day gatherings especially during Sundays.

Umpisa po noong naglabas ng advisory ang Ministry of Manpower tungkol sa domestic helper naging aware din po ang amo ko, kinausap niya ako na kung pwede huwag muna akong lumabas (Since the Ministry of Manpower issued an advisory regarding domestic helpers, my employer became aware of the situation and asked me if I could just stay at home),” Analyn told UNTV News.

“Huwag muna ako mag take ng day off kasi daw pag nag day off ako mag te-take ako ng bus, mag-e-mrt. Kaya super aware ang amo ko kaya sabi niya hanggang hindi okay hindi ka muna lalabas (She appealed that I should not take a day off for now because if I do, I would ride a bus, the MRT. My employer is aware (of the risk) that’s why she has asked me to stay indoors while the situation is not okay),” she added.

Jorge Araza, meanwhile, has no other choice but to extend his working hours as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Currently, he has to work 14 hours straight in a day because most of his Chinese office mates are under quarantine after coming from a vacation in mainland China.

“Lahat ng worker na galing sa China, quarantine ng 14 days bago sila pumasok sa site. Tapos ang mga staff naman, ang meeting namin sa mga consultant, online na ginaganap para maiwasan ang virus (All workers who returned from China are under 14-days quarantine that’s before they’ll be allowed to come to the site for work. Then, staff meetings with consultants are now being done online to prevent the spread of the virus),” Jorge, a mechanical and electrical supervisor, explained.

“Ang epekto sa amin, kulang po kami ng manpower kaya karamihan nag-e-extend po ang staff na nagta-trabaho. Tapos may pasok na po kami ng Sabado due to lack of manpower (The effect on us is lack of manpower so most of us in the office extend for additional hours. We are also required now to come to the office on Saturdays due to lack of manpower),” he added.

As of Wednesday (February 19), the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number infected to 84.

This makes Singapore the third country with the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection after China and Japan.

Of the 84, a total of 50 are still in hospital while the other 34 already recovered and discharged.

Most of those in the hospitals are already in stable condition with only four remain critical.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lauded Singapore’s efforts in handling cases of COVID-19.

“We are very impressed with the efforts they are making to find every case, follow up with contacts and stop transmission,” said World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Singapore is leaving no stone unturned, testing every case of influenza-like illness and pneumonia, and so far they have not found evidence of community transmission,” he added.

Singapore’s campaign against the spread of coronavirus came strong as its leaders, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, lead the efforts themselves.

On February 8, Prime Minister Lee posted a video on his Facebook in three languages encouraging Singaporeans to stay united and resolute, assuring them that the country is much prepared now than it was 17 years ago during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Among the measures the Singapore government has taken into place is the intensified contact tracing and monitoring; the implementation of the new ‘Stay-Home Notice’ for 14 days for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China (outside of Hubei). MNP (with inputs from Annie Mancilla)

Lifesaver tips: What to do if someone is having a stroke

Robie de Guzman   •   February 14, 2020

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide.

In its report, the WHO said that of the 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, stroke and Ischaemic heart disease accounted for a combined 15.2 million deaths.

A stroke occurs when there’s bleeding in your brain or when blood flow to the brain is blocked or limited.

Its risk factors include having high blood pressure, had a previous stroke, smoking, diabetes and heart disease. A person’s risk of stroke also increases with age.

A stroke is a true emergency that needs quick action.

When a person is having a stroke, every second counts and quick intervention may increase a person’s chance of survival and reduce the risk of long-term disability.

Strokes, depending on its severity, can carry a number of sudden, telltale signs, including:

  • Drooping on one side of the face
  • Difficulty in lifting of one or both arms to its full weight
  • Slurred or difficulty with talking and understanding speech
  • Loss of vision
  • Difficulty in walking, dizziness
  • Loss of balance or consciousness

The WHO said that having sudden severe headache with no known cause is another potential sign that one might be having a stroke.

According to UNTV’s Lifesaver program, a bystander should use F.A.S.T to help remember warning signs in the event of possible stroke:

  • Face. Does the face droop on one side when the person tries to smile?
  • Arms. Can the person lift his/her one arm to its full weight?
  • Speech. Is the person having a slurred speech or difficulty with talking and understanding speech?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, immediately call a local emergency number.

What should you do while waiting for the emergency medical service to arrive?

  • Remain calm. Talk to the person and reassure him or her that help is on the way.
  • If the person is conscious, gently place them into a comfortable position but do not try to move them any further.
  • Do not give them any food or liquids.
  • Note the person’s symptoms and look for any changes in condition. Also try to remember the time when symptoms started. It is important to give the emergency medical responder as much information as possible about the person’s situation.
  • If he or she falls unconscious, monitor their airway and breathing by lifting the person’s chin and tilt their head slightly backward. Look to see if their chest is moving or listen for breathing sounds.
  • If there are no signs of breathing, start performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

During a medical emergency situation, always remember to stay focused and take action quickly.

Watch these episodes of Lifesaver below for more information on the early signs of stroke:

Face mask prices skyrocket in Indonesia as fears over coronavirus mount

UNTV News   •   February 13, 2020

Prices of face masks spiked nearly 10 times in Indonesia triggered by fears over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as a consumer group head urged the authorities to step in to regulate the growing price.

A seller Bambang Darmadi in Jakarta’s Pramuka market that sells medical equipment told Reuters a box of 50-piece mask is now being sold for around 20 dollars, compared to approximately two dollars before the outbreak. He said the prices increase daily by nearly a dollar.

Over 1,300 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday (February 13) and more than 60,000 people have been infected.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has so far not recorded any cases.

But locals have been hoarding masks on worries that prices will increase should there be an outbreak in the country of 260 million people.

Locals said they could not find new masks in many places and had to wear their old ones over and over.

The price-gouging selling is not due to scarcity but due to hoarding practice in the ‘middle level’ like distributors for the return of higher profit, head of Indonesian Consumer Foundation said.

“Someone has distorted the market. We ask the government to regulate ceiling price for health equipment like masks,” said Tulus Abadi, adding that there is no regulation on price setting.

Authorities around the world sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against the fast-spreading coronavirus. Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines had arrested nearly a dozen of people for selling overpriced masks, according to local reports. (Reuters)

(Production: Yuddy Cahya Budiman, Heru Asprihanto, Wahyuwidi Cinthya, Angie Teo)

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