PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

UNESCO's 'EDUCATION FOR ALL' ENDING; PHILIPPINES FAILS TO MEET TARGETS


APRIL 10...Unesco said in this year’s report, is achieving the 80 percent gross enrolment ratio where the Philippines is among the governments that have made “strong progress” and are “moving forward.”   The 15-year Education for All (EFA) global movement is drawing to a close this year, and the verdict is out.
Only a third of the 164 governments that pledged to achieve universal primary education and five other goals by 2015 have done so, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unes­­co) in the report Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challengesreleased this week. By its own admission, the Philippines isn’t among those that have made the mark. In a report it submitted to Unesco in time for the World Education Forumscheduled in Incheon, South Korea next month,the Philippine government acknowledged that the strides it has made in achieving in several EFA goals have “been too slow to make it to target by 2015.”  CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Dismissed PMA cadet Cudia qualifies for UP Law


APRIL 10...Even if Aldrin Jeff Cudia was dismissed from the Philippine Military Academy where he was supposedly slated to graduate second in his class, he would be able to make it to the prestigious University of the Philippine College of Law. STAR file
— Aldrin Jeff Cudia, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet who was dismissed last year for allegedly violating the honor code, has passed the entrance exam of the University of the Philippines College of Law. Entrance exam results posted on the college's website show that the name Cudia, Aldrin Jeff Pastores is in the list of successful applicants. The website said those who passed the entrance test would still be interviewed. Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta confirmed that Cudia passed the exam. She explained that while the PMA dismissed Cudia, the former cadet was able to satisfy all the academic requirements for a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree is needed to enter law school. "Every PMAer has two personalities – as student and as cadet. He won't be commissioned n the military but he met the academic requirements," Acosta told The STAR in a phone interview Friday. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Like magic,’ conjoined twins now separate


APRIL 10...SEPARATE LIVES Separated conjoined twins Jennylyn and Jerrylyn de Guzman are presented to the media during a press conference at the Tzu Chi Foundation in Quezon City. The twins underwent surgery in Taiwan with the help of the foundation. With them are their mother Ludy (right) and Tzu Chi volunteer Conchita Tan. RICHARD A. REYES
“It was like magic,” Ludy de Guzman described the procedure her 16-month-old daughters Jerrylyn and Jennylyn went through to become separate individuals. “I still can’t believe they’re no longer attached to each other,” the 24-year-old mother said. The girls were born on Dec. 8, 2013, sharing the same liver and sternum or breastbone. But with the help of Tzu Chi Foundation, the conjoined twins were successfully separated by a 30-member team of doctors and nurses on March 13 at Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi General Hospital in Hualien, Taiwan. “Now, the children can sit and play and are learning to stand on their own,” De Guzman said. Jerrylyn and Jennylyn were playful and smiled before the cameras when they were presented to journalists at the Tzu Chi Foundation office in Quezon City on Friday.READ MORE...

ALSO Palace: Bill Gates camp withdrew request to meet PNoy


APRIL 11...Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. File photo
 - Why was there no meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and the world's wealthiest man, Bill Gates, who is reportedly in the country? In a press briefing on Friday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte dispelled rumors that the Palace did not grant Gates a chance to pay a courtesy call to Aquino.Valte said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation actually had a request for a courtesy call to the president, but it was withdrawn. "I can tell you that the foundation sent a request for a courtesy call sometime in November 2014 but it was withdrawn. So it's not that hindi siya pinansin or anything," Valte said.  Reports said the Microsoft co-founder arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on April 4 and boarded a private plane headed for Amanpulo in Palawan. READ MORE...

ALSO From Ikot to e-kot: Electric vehicles invade campuses


APRIL 10...Visitors look at vintage and custom cars on display at the 2015 Manila International Auto Show at the World Trade Center in Pasay City yesterday. Inset shows UP alumni former DOE chief Vince Perez and BCDA president Arnel Paciano Casanova trying out the UP e-kot electric tricycle at the BEMAC assembly plant in Cavite.
- Officials of a startup firm manufacturing electric tricycles (e-trikes) are in talks with officials of the University of the Philippines to set up an e-vehicle system inside the campus in Diliman, Quezon City. BEMAC Electric Transportation Philippines Inc. recently unveiled the “UP e-kot e-trike,” a mock-up of the iconic UP Ikot and Toki jeeps which take students around the Diliman campus, during the launch of the firm’s production facility in Carmona, Cavite. Christian Tolentino, BEMAC supervisor for sales and marketing, told The STAR yesterday that the mock-up was created following a meeting with representatives of UP. “Nothing is finalized yet” but the company hopes to augment the iconic Ikot and Toki jeeps of UP with the firm’s e-trikes, Tolentino said. The firm’s 68VM e-trike could “make the Philippines the production hub for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” according to BEMAC vice president Koji Yano. READ MORE...

ALSO: Mounting cases of bubble (milk) tea 'poisoning' alarm Filipinos


APRIL 11...Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in tea shops in Taichung, Taiwan, during the 1980s. In the Philippines, the drink is more known simply as "milk tea." Alcuin Lai/CC BY-SA
— The number of reported cases of so-called poisoning from milk tea has risen alongside the drink's popularity the past years. Two people—a tea house owner and his customer— died reportedly after drinking an odd-tasting milk tea in Sampaloc, Manila on Thursday. Although investigators initially found no clues of foul play prior to the deaths, an employee said a liquid with foul odor could be smelled inside the store before the incident. The customer's boyfriend also fell ill after taking a drink. As the Manila government forced the tea shop to close on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the state-run Philippine General Hospital started testing samples from the drink. A dzMM report said the FDA is expected to release findings from the tests on Monday. The latest incident, reports of which have gone viral and related keywords trended on Twitter, caused alarm among fans of the drink. Some vowed on social media to lessen consumption of milk tea.THIS IS THE FULL REPROT...

ALSO NEWS FROM CHINA: Bubble Tea Under Threat From Toxic Fears in Taiwan


IAPRIL 11...n the late 1990′s, Taiwan made its biggest impact on the world through the production of computers and electronic components, but as competition from South Korean and China’s PC makers intensifies, the island is finding another way to cement its place in the world – one tapioca ball at a time.
Known as bubble or pearl tea, the combination of chewy tapioca balls and milk tea has come a long way since it was first concocted at a small tea shop in central Taiwan 30 years ago. Not only it is the most popular drink on the island, the beverage has taken the world by its palate. Bubble tea shops can be found in Berlin, Istanbul, Paris, London, Sydney, Japan, Singapore and across China. But all this may come to a screeching halt, thanks to a toxic food starch scandal. Since mid-May, Taiwanese health authorities have confiscated more than 312 tons of food starch – a key ingredient in bubble tea – that was found to have been tainted with maleic acid, a cheap food additive that can cause kidney failure when consumed in large doses. The toxic starch has also poisoned Taiwan’s food exports. On Wednesday, Malaysia announced an immediate ban on 11 food items imported from Taiwan. Singapore imposed similar ban over the weekend. This is the second island-wide food scare in two years after the discovery of the pervasive use of plasticizer – a chemical additive to use to make food more pliable – in May 2011. READ MORE...

ALSO: FDA eyes cyanide in milk tea deaths


APRIL 11...Photo by Ivan Angelo de Lara/INQUIRER.net
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is focused on determining whether the milk tea, which left two people dead in Manila, contained cyanide substance.
“Right now our tests are focused on cyanide, given how fast the effect of the substance was to the victims,” said FDA officer in charge Nick Lutero in a phone interview. “Food poisoning per se usually doesn’t have such fast effect on people. If it was just a case of spoiled milk tea or any other food, I doubt if it would be fatal. But in this case, the victims died in a matter of minutes,” he added. The Manila Police District submitted the milk tea specimen to the FDA last Friday, Lutero said, adding that the result of the tests is expected to be released on Sunday or Monday. “Our staff is working overtime over the weekend. Our central laboratory is usually open even on weekends when we have situations such as this,” he said. READ MORE....


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

UNESCO's Education for All ending; PH fails to meet targets


Unesco said in this year’s report, is achieving the 80 percent gross enrolment ratio where the Philippines is among the governments that have made “strong progress” and are “moving forward.”

MANILA, APRIL 13, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Yvonne Chua (Vera Files) | Updated April 10, 2015 - 7:25pm - The 15-year Education for All (EFA) global movement is drawing to a close this year, and the verdict is out.

Only a third of the 164 governments that pledged to achieve universal primary education and five other goals by 2015 have done so, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in the report Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges released this week.

By its own admission, the Philippines isn’t among those that have made the mark.

In a report it submitted to Unesco in time for the World Education Forum scheduled in Incheon, South Korea next month, the Philippine government acknowledged that the strides it has made in achieving in several EFA goals have “been too slow to make it to target by 2015.”

CONTINUE READING...
The Philippine Education for All (EFA) 2015 Review report identified gaps in
:

Grade 1 entrants with some form of early childhood care and development experience: 18    percentage points

Kindergarten net enrolment rate: 23 points

Elementary net enrolment rate: 5 points

High school net enrolment rate: 35 points

Completion rate to finish basic education: 25 points

Eradication of basic illiteracy: 4 points

Eradication of functional illiteracy: 14 points

The Philippine report also expressed concern over boys being at a disadvantage, from getting into school, and staying there, and recording lower literacy and academic achievement rates than girls.

Despite the problems, Unesco still considers the Philippines among the countries still likely to achieve some of the EFA goals in the coming years if it keeps up its efforts.

One such goal, Unesco said in this year’s report, is achieving the 80 percent gross enrolment ratio where the Philippines is among the governments that have made “strong progress” and are “moving forward.”

Gross enrolment ratio is the total enrolment in a given level of education as a percentage of the population that should be enrolled at this level. Net enrolment ratio is the ratio of the enrolment for the age group corresponding to the official school age in the school to the population of the same age group in a given year.

The six EFA goals, adopted in Dakar, Senegal in 2000, are early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children; universal primary education, or access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality for all children; equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programs for youth and adults; a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015; gender equality; and improved quality education.

“There has been tremendous progress across the world since 2000—but we are not there yet,” Unesco director general Irina Bokova said in the foreword of Unesco’s latest report of EFA

“Despite all efforts by governments, civil society and the international community, theworld has not achieved Education for All.”

As a result, she called EFA 2015 a “qualified success.”

Unesco said only half of all countries have achieved universal primary enrolment, with still 58 million children out of school and around 100 million failing to complete primary education.

The poorest children are “four times more likely to be out of school and five times more likely not to complete primary education than the richest,” Bokova said.

The Philippines is among the countries where the Unesco report said inequality in education persists.

Unesco cited inequality in the transition from elementary to high school in the Philippines where only 69 percent of grade school graduates from the poorest families continued into high school, compared with 94 percent of those from the richest households.

The situation has hardly changed since 2003, it said.

Unesco said immunizing children against common and preventable illnesses is important not only to their overall health, but also to their readiness to learn and subsequent schooling.

But it noted the gaps between the richest and poorest households in immunization coverage, and identified the Philippines as among the countries that have seen little improvement in the total percentage of children fully immunized.

And while the Philippine government has recognized that the problem of more boys than girls not getting into school or are leaving school, Unesco said its “genderequality mechanisms and policies focus largely on women and girls.”

Unesco has conducted site visits to the Philippines and other countries to find out if schools are child-friendly. It identified poor school infrastructure and lack of maintenance as major problems. Only one in three schools in the Philippines were declared to be in good physical condition—without broken windows or peeling paint.

The Unesco also found that the official intended instructional time is not the same as actual learning time in some countries. For example, one-third of pupils in the Philippines, as well as Argentina and Paraguay reported problems with teachers’ late arrival, absenteeism and skipping class, it said.

The Philippines also counts among the countries where computer resources are greatly overstretched, especially in primary schools, in the process hindering the use of information and communication technology to improve learning.

Over 100 learners share a single computer at the primary level in the Philippines, the report said, citing data from Unesco’s database.

The Philippines also hasn’t fully decentralized governance of basic education, according to Unesco.

The national government still sets the curriculum content, instructional time and teacher salaries, and allocates resources to schools, although it leaves the choice of teaching methods and support activities for students to schools, it noted.

Programs such as the cash transfer, school feeding, compulsory kindergarten education, the multisector approach to early childhood services and textbook monitoring that have contributed to improving access to and quality of Philippine education were, however, held up as good examples in the Unesco report.

Because of the setbacks, the Unesco report urged all government to complete the EFA agenda by pursuing a “Post-2015” agenda, which sets 2030 as the target date of completion.

The Philippine EFA 2015 Review report said it is addressing “emerging and persistent” issues that threaten the achievement of universal education such as poverty, climate change, devastating disasters, armed conflict and threats to the safety and security of schoolchildren.

It unveiled the Philippine EFA 2015 Acceleration Plan that will pursue strategies to attain education of all in the coming years.

The report also said the government has identified long‐term targets to guide education development beyond 2015.

Alternative learning system will be enhanced, the standards of Early Childhood Care and Development programs raised, the quality of the K-12 basic education program improved, teaching and learning methods enhanced, ICT adopted for education, and education organizations and institutions strengthened, according to the report.

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


PHILSTAR

Dismissed PMA cadet Cudia qualifies for UP Law By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated April 10, 2015 - 9:30pm


Even if Aldrin Jeff Cudia was dismissed from the Philippine Military Academy where he was supposedly slated to graduate second in his class, he would be able to make it to the prestigious University of the Philippine College of Law. STAR file

MANILA, Philippines — Aldrin Jeff Cudia, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet who was dismissed last year for allegedly violating the honor code, has passed the entrance exam of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Entrance exam results posted on the college's website show that the name Cudia, Aldrin Jeff Pastores is in the list of successful applicants.

The website said those who passed the entrance test would still be interviewed.

Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta confirmed that Cudia passed the exam. She explained that while the PMA dismissed Cudia, the former cadet was able to satisfy all the academic requirements for a bachelor's degree.

A bachelor's degree is needed to enter law school.

"Every PMAer has two personalities – as student and as cadet. He won't be commissioned n the military but he met the academic requirements," Acosta told The STAR in a phone interview Friday.

READ MORE...
Acosta said they are hopeful that the PMA will soon release Cudia's diploma and clean transcript of record so he can start a new life.

"There is no legal impediment for the PMA to give his diploma and a clean transcript of record," she said

Acosta admitted that Cudia's plan to enter law school could be jeopardized if the PMA holds the two documents but believes the academy has no reason to do so.

"I think God will bless him (Cudia) so much because of the sufferings and agony he experienced. He will be vindicated," she said.

The STAR reached Cudia's mother Filipina on Friday evening but she said she was not yet aware that her son has passed the entrance exam.

Last year, Malacañang affirmed the PMA's decision to dismiss Cudia, saying there was no substantial basis to reverse the academy's findings.

A PMA honor committee composed of cadets from different classes found Cudia guilty of violating the PMA Honor Code after he entered a class two minutes late and allegedly lying to justify it.

Lying is a grave violation of the time-honored code and merits dismissal. A unanimous vote by the honor committee is needed to dismiss a cadet.

Cudia was not able to join his classmates in PMA "Siklab Diwa" Class of 2014 who marched during the graduation rites on March 16, 2014.


INQUIRER

‘Like magic,’ conjoined twins now separate Rima Granali @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:46 AM | Saturday, April 11th, 2015


SEPARATE LIVES Separated conjoined twins Jennylyn and Jerrylyn de Guzman are presented to the media during a press conference at the Tzu Chi Foundation in Quezon City. The twins underwent surgery in Taiwan with the help of the foundation. With them are their mother Ludy (right) and Tzu Chi volunteer Conchita Tan. RICHARD A. REYES

“It was like magic,” Ludy de Guzman described the procedure her 16-month-old daughters Jerrylyn and Jennylyn went through to become separate individuals.

“I still can’t believe they’re no longer attached to each other,” the 24-year-old mother said.

The girls were born on Dec. 8, 2013, sharing the same liver and sternum or breastbone.

But with the help of Tzu Chi Foundation, the conjoined twins were successfully separated by a 30-member team of doctors and nurses on March 13 at Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi General Hospital in Hualien, Taiwan.

“Now, the children can sit and play and are learning to stand on their own,” De Guzman said.

Jerrylyn and Jennylyn were playful and smiled before the cameras when they were presented to journalists at the Tzu Chi Foundation office in Quezon City on Friday.

READ MORE...
De Guzman said that before the eight-hour surgery, the girls had to be carried all the time that made her give up her job as a fish vendor in Bautista, Pangasinan province.

Her husband, Jayson, a farmer, has an irregular income of P100 to P200, she said, so it was impossible for them to afford the operation.

They also have a 5-year-old daughter.

Third pair

The twins were the third conjoined pair from the Philippines helped by Tzu Chi Foundation.

The first pair was Lea and Rachel Awel, who underwent surgery in 2003, while Rose Carmel and Rose Carmelette Molit, now 6 years old, went through the separation procedure in 2010.

Lea and Rachel, 12, ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in Buddhacare Academy’s fifth grade class this past school year.

The Awel twins’ parents, Andy and Marieta, are both working for the foundation and each is donating P100 from their earnings to the group’s charity program.

“We donate as a form of gratitude for the opportunity given to our daughters to live separate and normal lives,” Marieta said.

Lea said she and her sister might have been bullied by other kids if they remained conjoined.

“Those who are not normal are usually bullied,” said Lea, who wants to be a teacher serving in impoverished communities.

Her twin Rachel wants to be a doctor to help people who cannot afford medical services.

Tzu Chi culture

Their father Andy attributed their selfless ambitions to the Tzu Chi culture they grew up in.

“I have changed a lot since I joined the community. I dropped my vices like drinking and smoking so I could focus on my family,” he said.

Tzu Chi Foundation Philippine’s chief executive officer Alfredo Li said the organization’s goal was to “change lives.”

“Like Andy, the people we helped in the country work hard for their families … These people changed,” Li said. “[The] Filipinos’ sense of gratitude is very strong,” he added.

He said Philippine communities helped by the foundation were always willing to lend a hand or donate when needed. He cited volunteers in Tatalon village, Quezon City, who chipped in to raise P3 million needed for the De Guzman twins’ surgery.


PHILSTAR

Palace: Bill Gates camp withdrew request to meet PNoy By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated April 10, 2015 - 2:56pm


Microsot co-founder Bill Gates. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Why was there no meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and the world's wealthiest man, Bill Gates, who is reportedly in the country?

In a press briefing on Friday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte dispelled rumors that the Palace did not grant Gates a chance to pay a courtesy call to Aquino.

Valte said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation actually had a request for a courtesy call to the president, but it was withdrawn.

"I can tell you that the foundation sent a request for a courtesy call sometime in November 2014 but it was withdrawn. So it's not that hindi siya pinansin or anything," Valte said.

Reports said the Microsoft co-founder arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on April 4 and boarded a private plane headed for Amanpulo in Palawan.

READ MORE...
The billionaire philanthropist also reportedly visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna on Wednesday morning.

Neither Microsoft Philippines nor IRRI officials would confirm Gates' presence in the country, the STAR reported.

The Palace is still trying to verify reports on Gates' visit.

"What we do know is that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the research of IRRI on golden rice, the hybrid that is supposedly infused with beta carotene and other vitamins," Valte said.

She believes that Gates' visit would help local tourism.

"Considering that Mr. Gates and his wife are globally known personalities... then it would certainly be a very good boost to Philippine tourism," Valte said.

"I'm hoping that they enjoyed their stay in the country," she added


PHILSTAR

From Ikot to e-kot: Electric vehicles invade campuses By Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 11, 2015 - 12:00am


Visitors look at vintage and custom cars on display at the 2015 Manila International Auto Show at the World Trade Center in Pasay City yesterday. Inset shows UP alumni former DOE chief Vince Perez and BCDA president Arnel Paciano Casanova trying out the UP e-kot electric tricycle at the BEMAC assembly plant in Cavite.

MANILA, Philippines - Officials of a startup firm manufacturing electric tricycles (e-trikes) are in talks with officials of the University of the Philippines to set up an e-vehicle system inside the campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

BEMAC Electric Transportation Philippines Inc. recently unveiled the “UP e-kot e-trike,” a mock-up of the iconic UP Ikot and Toki jeeps which take students around the Diliman campus, during the launch of the firm’s production facility in Carmona, Cavite.

Christian Tolentino, BEMAC supervisor for sales and marketing, told The STAR yesterday that the mock-up was created following a meeting with representatives of UP.

“Nothing is finalized yet” but the company hopes to augment the iconic Ikot and Toki jeeps of UP with the firm’s e-trikes, Tolentino said.

The firm’s 68VM e-trike could “make the Philippines the production hub for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” according to BEMAC vice president Koji Yano.

READ MORE...
The first EV to be produced in the facility is the 68VM e-trike, which retails for P450,000 and could be charged using any outlet. The firm’s Cavite facility has a capacity of 500 units per month but could be expanded by another 500 units depending on demand.

BEMAC wants to introduce its eco-transport system to educational institutions to contribute in the efforts to address environmental problems.

The possibility of e-vehicles plying UP follows the launch of similar e-transport systems in De La Salle University-Dasmariñas (DLSU-D) in Cavite and Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) in Quezon City.

La Salle’s eJeep

Since 2009, an electronic jeep has been plying the 27-hectare DLSU-D campus.

Retired DLSU-D professor Carmelyn Antig, who at the time headed the Parents Organization of La Salle Cavite, said the project was a parent-led initiative supported by the school administration.

“We decided to fund the purchase of an eJeepney to improve not just our transport system inside the campus but also to help conserve the environment. There is less noise, no pollution to the air. We called it the Ikot La Salle eJeep,” Antig said.

An electronic jeep is also operating at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde in Manila.

Ateneo’s eJeep

In January, Ateneo president Fr. Jett Villarin led the launch of the eJeep service in partnership with Meralco as part of Ateneo’s initiative to provide a sustainable mode of in-campus transportation.

The electric vehicles run at a cost of P4.70 per kilometer, almost half the cost for a regular car to run, and are 100 percent carbon free.

Meralco vice president and head of customer solutions and product development Jose Antonio Valdez said eJeeps are efficient in terms of economics, elongation of travel capability and environmental impact.

“I hope this is something we could replicate in other parts of the country and in the region,” Villarin said.

eJeeps in QC

Recently, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board granted the request for a provisional authority of Global Environmental Transport Services Cooperative to operate an electronic jeepney route from SM North to Katipunan Avenue.

It adopts a cashless payment system and has designated stops where it can load and unload passengers. A system also allows the monitoring of operations, including the locations, of the e-jeepneys.

The “very first proposed route for electronic jeepney services ushers in a new paradigm for public land transport services,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said.

“We hope this is the start of replacing smoke-belching and poorly maintained jeeps with high-tech, efficient, and environmentally friendly e-jeepneys,” he added.


PHILSTAR

Mounting cases of bubble (milk) tea 'poisoning' alarm Filipinos (philstar.com) | Updated April 11, 2015 - 10:50am


Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in tea shops in Taichung, Taiwan, during the 1980s. In the Philippines, the drink is more known simply as "milk tea." Alcuin Lai/CC BY-SA

MANILA, Philippines — The number of reported cases of so-called poisoning from milk tea has risen alongside the drink's popularity the past years.

Two people—a tea house owner and his customer— died reportedly after drinking an odd-tasting milk tea in Sampaloc, Manila on Thursday.

Although investigators initially found no clues of foul play prior to the deaths, an employee said a liquid with foul odor could be smelled inside the store before the incident.

The customer's boyfriend also fell ill after taking a drink.

As the Manila government forced the tea shop to close on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the state-run Philippine General Hospital started testing samples from the drink.

A dzMM report said the FDA is expected to release findings from the tests on Monday.

The latest incident, reports of which have gone viral and related keywords trended on Twitter, caused alarm among fans of the drink. Some vowed on social media to lessen consumption of milk tea.


WSJ, CHINA REALTIME NEWS

Bubble Tea Under Threat From Toxic Fears in Taiwan – Jenny W. Hsu


—European Pressphoto Agency Deflated
: A shop owner shows off a cup of bubble tea in Taipei.

In the late 1990′s, Taiwan made its biggest impact on the world through the production of computers and electronic components, but as competition from South Korean and China’s PC makers intensifies, the island is finding another way to cement its place in the world – one tapioca ball at a time.

Known as bubble or pearl tea, the combination of chewy tapioca balls and milk tea has come a long way since it was first concocted at a small tea shop in central Taiwan 30 years ago. Not only it is the most popular drink on the island, the beverage has taken the world by its palate. Bubble tea shops can be found in Berlin, Istanbul, Paris, London, Sydney, Japan, Singapore and across China.

But all this may come to a screeching halt, thanks to a toxic food starch scandal.

Since mid-May, Taiwanese health authorities have confiscated more than 312 tons of food starch – a key ingredient in bubble tea – that was found to have been tainted with maleic acid, a cheap food additive that can cause kidney failure when consumed in large doses.

The toxic starch has also poisoned Taiwan’s food exports. On Wednesday, Malaysia announced an immediate ban on 11 food items imported from Taiwan. Singapore imposed similar ban over the weekend.

This is the second island-wide food scare in two years after the discovery of the pervasive use of plasticizer – a chemical additive to use to make food more pliable – in May 2011.

READ MORE...
Food starch is a common ingredient in many Taiwanese traditional dishes. Apart from bubble tea, it is also used to make gluttonous dumplings, Hakka rice noodles and sweet taro balls.

“In Taiwan, deep-fried chicken nuggets and icy bubble tea are as popular and common as pepperoni pizza and cold beer in the U.S.,” said Xiao Lin, a beverage hawker at Danshui night market in New Taipei City.

The self-described “food entreprenuer” told China Real Time he can sell as many as 500 cups of bubble tea a day during the peak summer season, but now most customers are opting for cheaper drinks, such as lemonade or plum juice.

Frank Chen, a sophomore at nearby Tamkang University said that, although he is a “bubble tea addict,” he and his friends will stop buying bubble tea until it has been proven safe.

“The government needs to mete out new food safety measures soon or else get ready for a strong protest. We, the food vendors of the night markets, helped put Taiwan’s food on the map and shouldn’t be punished for government’s oversight. Foreign tourists may not always buy souvenirs but they are always happy to try Taiwan’s food,” Mr. Lin said.

According to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, more than 70% of tourists to Taiwan visit night markets.

The Taiwanese government promised after the plasticizer problems in 2011 that it would beef up the island’s food safety standards with an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation. But the amendment remains stuck in the legislative pipeline.

“Have we not learned anything in two years?” asked an editorial in the United Daily, a newspaper typically sympathetic to the ruling Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party.

Taiwan’s Cabinet on Wednesday called a last-minute news conference to address the scandal, but offered little new information. Instead officials repeated calls for harsher punishment of food safety violators to be included as part of the stalled amendment.

“The past law did not impose strict enough regulations on our food manufacturers,” health minister Chiu Wen-ta said, adding that the current system of fines “did not deter some illegal food manufacturers.”

In any case, Taiwan can little afford further damage to the reputation of its food industry, particularly as South Korea, not content with burying its Taiwanese competitors in the tech sector, is also making a huge push to showcase its traditional cuisines as a major attraction for foreign tourists.

Like China Real Time on Facebook and follow us Twitter for the latest updates.

Sign up for CRT’s daily newsletter to get the latest headlines by email.

For the latest news and analysis,

China Real Time Report


INQUIRER

FDA eyes cyanide in milk tea deaths Tina G. Santos @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:37 PM | Saturday, April 11th, 2015


Photo by Ivan Angelo de Lara/INQUIRER.net

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is focused on determining whether the milk tea, which left two people dead in Manila, contained cyanide substance.

“Right now our tests are focused on cyanide, given how fast the effect of the substance was to the victims,” said FDA officer in charge Nick Lutero in a phone interview.

“Food poisoning per se usually doesn’t have such fast effect on people. If it was just a case of spoiled milk tea or any other food, I doubt if it would be fatal. But in this case, the victims died in a matter of minutes,” he added.

The Manila Police District submitted the milk tea specimen to the FDA last Friday, Lutero said, adding that the result of the tests is expected to be released on Sunday or Monday.

“Our staff is working overtime over the weekend. Our central laboratory is usually open even on weekends when we have situations such as this,” he said.

READ MORE...
According to him, the FDA started analyzing the specimen despite the lack of requirements from the MPD.

“When the specimen was brought to us, there was no medical abstract, no narrative of what happened, no information regarding the symptoms experienced by the victims. Those requirements would have made the analysis of the specimen easier. Without those information, we’ll be compelled to test the specimen for all substances, which is more difficult and time-consuming,” Lutero said.

Nevertheless, the FDA decided to conduct the tests, focusing on cyanide tests first.

Public safety

“In the interest of public safety, we decided to proceed with the tests,” the FDA official said. “Should the test yield negative result for cyanide, then we will proceed with other tests for other substances.”

Lutero also allayed concerns of the police that the period within which the specimen was tested from the time it was submitted to the FDA by the MPD already affected the condition or the state of the sample milk tea.

“The specimen was well preserved. Our laboratory has a way of doing that,” he said.

On Thursday, within three minutes of consuming the Hokkaido-flavored milk tea that he himself had prepared, William Abrigo, owner of ErgoCha Milk Tea House on Bustillos Street in Sampaloc, collapsed on the floor of the eatery.

READ: 2 die after drinking milk tea in Manila | Milk tea kills 2 in Manila in 3 minutes; police can’t say what happened

He later died at Ospital ng Sampaloc.

Earlier, before Abrigo collapsed, customer Suzaine Dagohoy and her boyfriend Arnold Aydalla had complained the milk tea that Abrigo had served them was foul-tasting. This prompted the store owner to taste the drink.

Dagohoy died two hours after Abrigo had collapsed, according to the police. Aydalla was later described to be in stable condition. RC


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE