[PHOTO - Health Secretary Enrique Ona]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 19, 2012 (INQUIRER) DOH By Jocelyn R. Uy - Iraq has been requesting for some 2,000 Filipino doctors and nurses for the past two years, but questions on security in the war-torn Middle Eastern country have persisted, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said on Monday.

In a press briefing, Ona said he was expecting the Iraqi ambassador to Manila, Dr. Wadee Al-Batti, to meet with him and seek permission to hire some “1,000 to 2,000 doctors, specialists and health workers from the Philippines.”

“They want as many nurses as we can give them… [but] we also want to be sure of (their) safety,” he added.

While the Department of Health was not totally turning down the request, Ona said the DOH would have to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs, which has been enforcing a deployment ban in some parts of Iraq.

Early this year, the government lifted an eight-year ban on Filipino workers in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

The DOH has also received similar requests for Filipino health workers from Holland, Africa and Barbados, Ona said.

Dr. Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, said that “India has also reiterated its need for 200,000 Filipino nurses…but (our nurses) don’t want to go to India.”

Brown rice is best, groups hope to convince Filipinos By: Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Move aside white rice, brown rice is about to take your place on the dining table.

At least that is what international development and humanitarian organization Oxfam and the Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, or Dakila, hope would result from their campaign promoting the consumption of brown rice.

Brown rice is considered to be not only a healthier alternative to white rice because of its higher fiber content but it is expected to boost the country’s rice self-sufficiency, increase farmers’ incomes and protect the environment since less grain is wasted.

The Metro Manila leg of the Brown Rice Campaign was launched Saturday to coincide with the reopening of the Mercato Centrale weekend market at Bonifacio Global City and in celebration of National Rice Awareness Month.

“We should eat brown rice because it is a healthy choice due to the fact the nutrients are not processed away. Second, it is an easy thing to do to help our country become rice self-sufficient. We can increase the volume of rice produced simply because the milling process for brown rice has less wastage. Third, it is one way of helping our small farmers who are going organic. We should support them,” said Snehal Soneji, Oxfam country director for the Philippines, at the launch.

The Brown Rice Campaign is part of GROW, Oxfam’s drive for better ways to grow, share and live together. It seeks to spread solutions for a more helpful future in which everyone would have enough to eat.

According to Oxfam and Dakila, brown–or unpolished–rice is healthier because its higher fiber content helps prevent gastrointestinal diseases.

It is also a good source of lysine which boosts children’s growth and energy, and thiamine which benefits breast-feeding mothers. Brown rice is also good for people with high blood sugar or diabetes due to its lower sugar content.

Unlike white rice, whole grain brown rice is milled only once to remove the husk or hull, thus keeping the bran and germ layers which are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and natural oils.

White rice, on the other hand, goes through a second or third milling to remove the bran and germ, and turn the grain white, thus making it merely a source of carbohydrates.

As Filipinos consume an average of 112 kilos of rice a year, it is vital that the rice contain a significant portion of their daily nutrient requirements. Rice is, after all, the most important component of the Filipino diet.

“With the increasing number of people hitting the poverty line and going hungry every day, we Filipinos can do something simple to address this [like] consuming brown rice, which has a lot of health benefits and can help prevent cancer and diabetes,” said Dakila vice president Noel Cabangon in an interview.

“If brown rice becomes our staple, then we can save tons of rice because of the milling process. Farmers can produce more rice, thus enabling the country to be rice self-sufficient,” he said.

Brown rice, however, has suffered from negative perceptions.

According to Oxfam program coordinator Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino, Filipinos are so used to white rice that they believe brown rice is of inferior quality. Its texture also takes some getting used to.

“The campaign aims to popularize brown rice to the point where restaurants would offer it as an alternative to white rice in the same way that brown sugar has gained mainstream support,” Constantino said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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