Dangers of Respiratory Disease at Construction Sites

by Marcelle P. Villegas - September 24, 2020

“The deadliest things in the world are usually invisible to the naked eye.” This is a statement from a social media advertisement of Pinoy Builder, a website about infrastructure, design and construction industry in the Philippines. Their informative post aims to spread awareness of preventing respiratory illness while working in construction sites, in celebration of National Lung Month last August. Even after August and due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, our mindfulness in protecting our respiratory tract remains essential.

August was declared as National Lung Month by former President Ferdinand Marcos on 24 July 1978 through the Presidential Proclamation No. 1761. This decree was signed by the former president in recognition of the fact that lung disease such as pneumonia and tuberculosis continue to exact a huge toll of precious lives among Filipinos, especially the low-income group.

Those working in construction sites are quite a vulnerable group of labourers with regards to lung disease or infection.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, protecting our lungs is not only a matter of occupational safety but more so now for survival. Having healthy lungs is an essential part of having a quality life and maintaining employment. The Philippine College of Chest Physicians said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has created a truly unprecedented situation which affects us all." They also announced that the 25th of September is World Lung Day. "World Lung Day (WLD), 25 September, is a day for lung health advocacy and action, an opportunity for us all to unite and promote better lung health globally." [1]

The Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) is a premier organization of lung specialists in the Philippines. They organize events and ad campaigns to increase public awareness among lay Filipinos about common pulmonary conditions and with an emphasis on the importance of preventive health care in maintaining healthy lungs.

So what are the common toxic substances in a construction site that are harmful for the lungs? Pinoy Builder website enumerated four, namely: sawdust, asbestos, molds and cement dust. These substances are not only fine particles that are abrasive on the respiratory tract and eventually the lung tissues. They also contain toxic substances that should not be present inside the body in the first place.

Inhaling sawdust or wood dust into the lungs can cause breathing problems and might lead to lung disease such as occupational asthma or even lung cancer.

Asbestos when inhaled can seriously damage the lungs by scarring the lung tissues. (Imagine fine, sharp star-like particles inside the lungs whose tissues are soft and fragile.) The condition is called asbestosis which normally happens after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years.

The symptoms of asbestosis are persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, extreme tiredness, pain in the chest and shoulders, and in advanced cases, having swollen fingertips. The condition also leads to severe fibrosis and puts the patient in a high risk of mesothelioma or cancer of the lung pleura. (The pleura is a vital part of the respiratory tract whose role is to cushion the lungs and reduce the friction between the lungs, rib cage and chest cavity.) It can be a fatal condition where a patient with asbestos-related lung cancer has a life expectancy of 16 months.

Molds are also dangerous for the lungs or respiratory tract because it may trigger asthma attacks and other upper and lower respiratory problems. Even those who are not sensitive to molds may develop allergic reactions to it such as irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs. The mold Aspergillus fumigatus can cause an infection called aspergillosis which is marked by wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain and fever.

Cement is also harsh on the lungs. Prolonged and repeated exposure can lead to a disabling and fatal lung disease called silicosis. Generally, silicosis is a lung disease that develops when a person inhales dust that contains silica. Those are tiny crystals found in sand, rock, mineral ores, cement, etc. Repeated inhalation of silica can lead to scarring of the lung tissues that make it hard to breath.

With all these dangers at the workplace, plus the threat of COVID-19, it is important to prioritize health and occupational safety in your company. Providing the proper protective gear for all employees is a good investment because having healthy workers is an asset and adds to the success factor of your infrastructure project.

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Reference:

[1] Retrieved from Philippine College of Chest Physicians website - https://philchest.org/xp/

Photo credit:

Caption by Pinoy Builder for the August - National Lung Month social media post

Cement dust photo - http://yonsha.jp/


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Industry

Marcelle P. Villegas - January 12, 2021

Dept. of Energy: Moratorium on New Coal Power Plants

By Marcelle P. Villegas A moratorium on the endorsements of greenfield coal power plants was issued by the Department of Energy (DoE). This announcement was made while allowing foreign investors to now have full ownership of geothermal plant projects in the Philippines. DoE’s decision to stop the endorsements of coal power plants is the result of an assessment that showed the importance of focusing on a “more flexible” power supply mix. According to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi while at a virtual conference with world leaders held in Singapore, “This would help build a more sustainable power system that will be resilient in the face of structural changes in demand and will be flexible enough to accommodate the entry of new, cleaner and indigenous technological innovations.” DoE is currently updating their Philippine Energy Plan for the next 20 years. Mr Cusi mentioned that DoE is committed to accelerating the development of the Philippines’ resources while “pushing for the transition from fossil fuel-based technology utilization to cleaner energy sources to ensure more sustainable growth for the country.” [1] According to Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella of DoE, the ban on endorsing new coal-fired power plants will not affect those power plants that have received endorsements in the past. He said, “We need to prepare for the influx of RE (renewable energy) under the recent policies issued by the DoE. Hence, the need for more flexibility.” [1] On note, 3,436 MV of committed coal-fired power projects in Luzon are ongoing as of August 2020. This includes the Meralco Powergen Corporation and GNPower Dinginin Ltd. Co. which is a joing venture of the Ayala and Aboitiz groups. Additionally, a 135 MW coal-run power projects in Visayas and 420 MV in Mindanao have been endorsed by DoE. Overall, there are around 10,000 MV indicative coal-fired power plant projects in the Philippines which may receive government endorsements. Mr Fuentebella said these will need to be sorted out. The ban will continue until the country will require additional baseload power, according to DoE official. [1] In relation to the ban, Center of Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) pointed out that there are still environmental concerns about the existing coal-run power plants in the Philippines. CEED Director Gerard C. Arances said, “That is still concerning and alarming vis-à-vis pollution, climate imperative, and costly electricity in the country.” Another important announcement made by DoE is the upcoming open bidding round of renewable energy service contracts that will now allow foreign companies to own large-scale geothermal projects. This includes exploration, development and utilization. Last 20 October 2020, DoE released a circular providing the guidelines for the third Open and Competitive Selection Process (OCSP3) in the awarding of renewable project contracts. Cusi said, “From an investment perspective, OCSP3 allows for 100% foreign ownership in large-scale geothermal exploration, development and utilization projects.” DoE clarified that big geothermal projects are those with an initial investment cost of about $50 million and are under Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements, signed and approved by the Philippine President. Reference: [1] Ang, Adam J. (27 October 2020). Business World. “DoE bans new coal-run power plants”. Retrieved from - https://www.bworldonline.com/doe-bans-new-coal-run-power-plants/

Construction

Marcelle P. Villegas - December 16, 2020

Test runs at max speed and other development for MRT-3

By Marcelle P. Villegas The newly overhauled MRT-3 train was tested by running it at a maximum speed of 50 kph. Here is a view from the driver’s compartment on MRT-3 during test run last 29 October 2020. (Screenshot from Department of Transportation video) MRT-3 or the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 conducted test runs on its first newly overhauled train. The train was tested to run at a maximum speed of 50 kph. According to Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran, the train is composed of three cars which was overhauled by Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The company is the maintenance provider of MRT-3. The test run was documented in a video blog of DOTr. Libiran said, “As part of the massive rehab and maintenance of Sumitomo from Japan, we can now overhaul train cars that have been long neglected and now, we are repairing them under the Duterte administration.” According to MRT-3 Director for Operations Michael Capati, aside from the three newly overhauled train cars, the MRT-3 also plans to overhaul the remaining 72 cars by July 2021. “In the past years, our trains broke down plenty of times. Now, one of the things Sumitomo is doing is to rehabilitate and do a general overhaul of our trains.” Capati mentioned that the MRT-3 management wants its trains to run at 50 kph by November 2020. [1] He said, “We have already increased our train operating speed to 30 kph to 40 kph in October. Now we are using this train to simulate a 50 kph operating speed, which we are hoping to implement by November.” Capati noted that the improved train speed was made possible by the overhaul of train cars and the rail replacements that were completed last September. He also said that MRT-3 increased the number of its trains running daily to a maximum of 22. “Our maintenance program is doing well and at the same time, this is the effect of our rail replacements.” MRT-3 tested the train operating speed at 40 kph last September. This reduces the average waiting time of passengers from nine minutes to seven minutes. Reference: [1] Dela Cruz, Raymond Carl (29 October 2020). Philippine News Agency. “MRT-3 conducts test runs on overhauled train at 50 kph”. Article and photo credit retrieved from - https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1120153

Construction

Marcelle P. Villegas - December 14, 2020

Right-of-way ordinance for Makati Intra-City Subway project

By Marcelle P. Villegas Last 21 October 2020, Makati City government passed and approved an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of right of way covering the underground portions of nine roads that are affected by Makati City government’s subway project. As per Ordinance No. 2020-204, the roads that will be affected by the project are: Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, South Avenue, J.P. Rizal Avenue, J.P. Rizal Extension, Pablo Ocampo St. Extension (Vito Cruz Extension), Kalayaan Avenue, EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue), C-5 Road (a.k.a. Carlos P. Garcia Avenue), and San Guillermo Avenue. The city ordinance mentions of subsurface right of way need to be acquired for the “staging, construction, operation, maintenance and development of the Makati Subway Project.” The nine roads mentioned above are in the road and bridge inventory of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Therefore, they fall under the jurisdiction of the department. “Considering the importance of acquiring the easement of the right of way of the subject roads for the benefit of the citizens of Makati, the City Government of Makati is constrained to acquire, through voluntary agreement or expropriation proceedings, an easement of right of way of the subject roads.” [1] Section 19 of the Republic Act No. 7160 or Local Government Code of 1991 stated the authorizing of expropriations if needed. The City of Makati has entered into negotiations with and made a “valid and definite offer” to the DPWH for the acquisition of right of way. Philippine Infradev is building a subway that is worth $3.5 billion that shall traverse the central business district of Makati City. There will be 10 stations across the 10-kilometer line. Last September, Philippine Infradev signed a $1.21-billion contract that covers engineering, procurement and construction with China Construction Second Engineering Bureau Co. Ltd. For the subway project. The subway project is expected to accommodate 700,000 passengers daily in order to reduce the traffic congestion in the city. They are targeting the subway’s completion in 2025. [1] About the Makati Subway Project The Makati Intra-city Subway is a planned underground rapid transit line in the City of Makati that spans out to 11 kilometers or 6.8 miles. This is designed to link establishments across Makati’s business district. The project is a partnership between the Makati City Government and a private consortium led by Philippine Infradev Holdings. The subway line’s stations will be connecting the existing Line 3 (Guadalupe Station), the Pasig River Ferry Service, and the approved Line 9 (Metro Manila Subway). It was on 12 December 2018 when the preparatory work was commenced. On the same day, ceremonial drilling took place in front of the Makati City Hall. The Makati City Hall is near the site of one of the proposed stations of the subway. On this day, the signing of the memorandum of understanding also took place. The memorandum was signed by Makati City Government and a consortium consisting of Philippine Infradev and Chinese firms Greenland Holdings Group, Jiangsu Provincial Construction Group Company Ltd., Holdings Ltd. and China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. Soil testing and feasibility studies of the proposed locations for the subway line’s stations were done as part of the preparatory work. By June 2019, 8 out of the 10 proposed stations have been finalized. The two proposed stations along Ayala Avenue are yet to be finalized due to “non-response” from its owners. The proponents said that they may divert the subway towards PNR Buendia Station or the Mile Long property in Legaspi Village instead. For now, the first station will be located at the Makati Central Fire Station. The fire station will be demolished. From there, the line goes towards a Lucia Tan owned property near Circuit Makati and Makati City Hall. The remaining stations will be located near Rockwell Center, Makati Bliss Housing in Guadalupe, Century City, University of Makati, Cembo and the final station will be near Ospital ng Makati. In July 2019, soil testing related with the subway project was completed. Philippine Infradev and the Makati City Government signed a joint venture agreement for the subway project. By October 2019, the plan to move the terminus of the line to the Mile Long property has been finalized. The area is being redeveloped by the national government along Amorsolo Street. The soil test results were favourable and the route diversion meant that the cost of the project might be reduced to as low as $2.5 billion. Moreover, a joint venture with Megaworld Corp. was made to build a common station in Guadalupe for the subway system and for the planned SkyTrain. Based on a disclosure to the stock exchange, the Philippine Infradev’s subsidiary, Makati City Subway Inc. (MCSI) received the term sheet from Megaworld Corp. This joint venture will build access to the Line 3 Guadalupe Station and the Pasig River Ferry. Philippine Infradev has an agreement with China Construction First Group Corp. Ltd. (CCFG) to build a transit-oriented development. Based on this agreement, CCFG is responsible for the construction, materials, manpower, equipment and other requirements to complete the project. The construction is expected to last for 42 months. [2] References: [1] Balinbin, Arjay L (25 October 2020). Business World. “Makati passes right-of-way ordinance for subway project”. Retrieved from - https://www.bworldonline.com/makati-passes-right-of-way-ordinance-for-subway-project/ [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makati_Intra-city_Subway (Photo credit: IRC Properties Inc.)

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Mining

Philippine Resources - August 05, 2022

NICKEL ASIA CORPORATION ANNOUNCES P3.83B NET INCOME FOR H1 2022, UP 41% YoY

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Mining

Philippine Resources - August 04, 2022

Further shallow copper mineralisation identified at MCB

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Mining

Philippine Resources - August 04, 2022

Diokno banks on mining for sustained economic recovery, expansion

Photo credit: PNA - Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the mining industry is a potential source of sustained economic growth as he underscored the benefit of mobilizing investments for mine development. “The mining industry holds the greatest potential to be a key driver in our economic recovery and long-term growth, especially now that world metal prices are high. The Philippines, after all, is one of the world’s most richly endowed countries in terms of mineral resources,” he said Wednesday at the listing of Philex Mining Corporation’s (Philex) common shares in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). Philex is mobilizing investments for the development of its Silangan underground copper-gold mine in Surigao del Norte. In a disclosure to the PSE, the company said it is offering a maximum of 842 million common shares at the rate of one offer share for every 5.8674 shares owned for PHP3.15 each to raise a total of PHP2.652 billion new equity. The stocks rights offering (SRO) period started on July 12, 2022 and ended July 25, 2022. The Silangan project, considered one of the biggest copper-gold mines in the country, is planned to be mined in two phases. The first phase has a mineable ore reserve of 81 million metric tonnes which will be mined for 22 years at a rate of 4 million tonnes per year. The mine is targeted to commence commercial operations in the first quarter of 2025. Diokno said Philex’ SRO listing demonstrates the mining industry’s confidence in the country’s promising economic growth prospects.   He said the offering means more jobs will be created, local economies will be reinvigorated, and additional revenues will be contributed to the government.  The Department of Finance (DOF) estimates that the project will generate around PHP8.5 billion in excise taxes alone for its entire mine life. Diokno said the listing sends a strong signal to the mining industry that the country's capital markets are viable instruments for fast tracking the development of large mining projects.   He said the Marcos administration is committed to continue creating an enabling environment for mining activities to flourish in the country as he looks forward to similar listings in the future. “We recognize that apart from boosting local development, mining is a strong magnet for investments that can propel our economy into a higher growth trajectory,” he added. Diokno said the government expects the mining industry to strictly adhere to responsible and sustainable mining practices.  He said the mining industry should strike a balance between protecting the environment, uplifting local communities, and supporting the government’s socioeconomic agenda. “This is a non-negotiable condition so we can guarantee the sustainability of the industry and the strong economic growth of its host communities,” he said.    Article courtesy of the Philippine News Agency

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