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." 
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.
 Retrieved from Philippine College of Chest Physicians website - https://philchest.org/xp/
Caption by Pinoy Builder for the August - National Lung Month social media post
Cement dust photo - http://yonsha.jp/
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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.”  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.”  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.  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:  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/
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.  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:  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
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.”  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.  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.  References:  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/  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makati_Intra-city_Subway (Photo credit: IRC Properties Inc.)
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Philippine Resources - August 05, 2022
NICKEL ASIA CORPORATION ANNOUNCES P3.83B NET INCOME FOR H1 2022, UP 41% YoY
Photo Credit: Arrow Creatives Nickel Asia Corporation, the Philippines’ largest producer of lateritic nickel ore, reported a 41-percent increase in attributable net income for the first semester this year. Based on unaudited financial and operating results for the six-month period ended June 30, 2022, attributable net income increased to P3.83 billion from P2.73 billion while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 19 percent to P6.33 billion from P5.32 billion the year prior. Despite lower ore volume sold during the period, revenues increased by 7 percent to P11.78 billion from P11.01 billion last year, owed largely to higher nickel ore prices and favorable exchange rates. NAC’s four operating mines sold a combined 6.95 million wet metric tons (WMT) of nickel ore during the first half of the year, down 16 percent from 8.30 million WMT in the same period last year. The drop in sales volume was almost in direct proportion to unrealized workable days caused by inclement weather that adversely affected the Company’s mining operations during the period. The weighted average nickel ore sales price over the first half of year 2022 rose by 18 percent to $30.03 per WMT against $25.54 per WMT in the same period last year. The Company also realized P52.56 per US dollar from these nickel ore sales, a 9-percent increase from P48.25 last year. Breaking down the ore sales, the Company exported 3.12 million WMT of saprolite and limonite ore at the average price of $42.05 per WMT during the six-month period compared to 4.55 million WMT at $37.62 per WMT in the same period last year. Likewise, the Company delivered 3.83 million WMT of limonite ore to the Coral Bay and Taganito high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) plants, the prices of which are linked to the London Metal Exchange (LME) and realized an average price of $12.52 per pound of payable nickel. This compares to 3.74 million WMT at $7.92 per pound of payable nickel in 2021. Expressed in US dollar per WMT, the average price for the deliveries to the HPAL plants were $20.23 and $10.85 in the first half of 2022 and 2021, respectively. “The first half of 2022 was not without its challenges especially for our mining operations, brought about by weather conditions at our mine sites, particularly in Surigao, and continuing lockdowns in China, our major market,” said Martin Antonio G. Zamora, President and CEO. "However, the higher LME nickel price and stronger US dollar tempered the impact on our revenues.” Owing to the higher LME nickel price during the period, NAC also recognized gains from its equity share in investments in the two HPAL plants in the combined amount of P1.09 billion against P244.1 million year-on-year. The stronger US dollar further enabled NAC to log a 353-percent hike in net foreign exchange gains from its foreign currency-denominated net financial assets to P863.5 million from P190.6 million the year prior. Total operating cash costs decreased by 2 percent year-on-year to P5.19 billion from P5.32 billion last year. On a per-WMT sold basis, total operating cash costs increased to P747 per WMT compared to P641 per WMT in 2021. For the Company’s renewable energy business, its subsidiary, Emerging Power, Inc. (EPI) energized in June 2022 another 38-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Subic, Zambales, bringing total capacity on this site to 100MW. For 2022, the Subic plant has been operating at an 18- 19% plant efficiency factor with 90% of generation contracted under power sales agreements. EPI has realized an average tariff of P4.65 per kilowatt hour. EPI has another 100MW service contract for the Subic site and will commence construction of a 68-MW farm in August. Completion is expected by the third quarter of next year. EPI was also chosen by Shell Overseas Investments B.V. to be its exclusive local partner in a solar, onshore wind, and battery storage joint venture that aims to contribute up to 3GW into the Philippines’ renewable capacity. NAC is evaluating a range of financing alternatives including accessing global debt capital markets to raise EPI’s share of the equity required for an initial 1GW target by 2028, among other uses. The Company’s strong financial position will allow it to be opportunistic in evaluating funding options that meet the primary objective of maintaining a flexible low-cost capital structure. “We remain confident that our mining and renewable energy businesses provide a solid foundation on which to realize the OneNAC Vision’s twin objectives, which is to become the premier ESG investment in the country and to be counted among the Top 25 PSE-listed companies in terms of market capitalization by 2025,” said Zamora. Article courtesy of the Philippine Stock Exchange
Philippine Resources - August 04, 2022
Further shallow copper mineralisation identified at MCB
Figure 3. Cross section of drill hole MCB-039 relative to the interpreted geology and significant assay results. We (Celsius Resources) are pleased to announce we have received further shallow and high-grade copper assay results from the ongoing drilling program at our flagship MCB copper-gold project, held under our Philippine subsidiary Makilala Mining Company, Inc. (“MMCI”). The results continue to identify new positions of shallow mineralisation which are in line with other recent drilling results from holes MCB-036, MCB-037 and MCB-038 (see CLA announcements dated 13 December 2021, 23 May 2022 and 4 July 2022 respectively) confirming the presence of an extensive shallow higher-grade position. The results from MCB-039 were designed to further expand the size of the shallow higher-grade copper zones which are considered to have an important positive impact on early mining options at MCB. The current drill hole in progress (MCB-040) is similarly designed to further expand the higher-grade copper mineralisation leading to potential improvements to the economics of the already positive Scoping Study at MCB as reported by Celsius on 1 December 2021. “The results from MCB are continuing to grow the size of the shallow higher-grade copper zones,” said Country Operations Director, Peter Hume. “We are getting much better definition now on the various high-grade zones, which are important for the optimisation of the MCB mine plan. We can see many good high-grade intersections coming together to expand on the earlier understanding of these high-grade zones. Where we get multiple high-grade zones staked on top of each other, we can achieve outstanding results, as recently announced from hole MCB-038 which intersected 611.4m @ 1.39% copper and 0.75g/t gold from 32.5m.” RESULTS FROM MCB-039 Drill hole MCB-039 was drilled to further confirm the interpretation that further shallow high-grade positions exist as a relatively flat body extending into the surrounding host rocks (see Figures 2 and 3). This drill hole was more specifically targeted to fill a gap in the drilling information where there was previously defined lower grade copper mineralisation. The results from MCB-039 have confirmed the further extensions to the higher-grade copper mineralisation as part of a series of relatively flat lying, high-grade zones which are extending away from vertically orientated feeder structures which are all closely related to an intrusive Tonalite rock (Figure 3). Figure 2. Location of MCB-039 drill hole relative to recent and historical diamond drilling at MCB. A large broader envelope of copper mineralisation at a lower cut-off grade at approximately 0.2% copper also continues to be better defined, highlighting the very large scale of the copper-gold mineralisation at the MCB deposit. Table 1: Significant intersections from drill holes MCB-039. Article courtesy of Celsius Resources. Full press release can be found HERE
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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