Semirara sinks in the abyss; Dengue test kits developed

The fortunes of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. are fast changing, like the hot desert climates that can rapidly drop to freezing level in the nighttime. 

Semirara’s share price sank to a year low of P95.50 last week from a 12-month high of P143, after Environment Secretary Gina Lopez threatened to shut down the coal mine for polluting the environment. Semirara, from a purely coal mining concern when it was formerly known as Semirara Coal Corp. to a power company, has definitely seen better days when its shares were first offered to the public in 1983 for P1,000 apiece.

It has undergone ownership restructuring after finding itself caught in the Philippine debt crisis in the 1980’s. And after stabilizing its financial condition with its expansion into the lucrative power generation business, Semirara has become one of the stock market darlings in the last two years.

Lopez’s assumption of office, however, ended Semirara’s stock market streak. The mining and power company is again on a familiar defensive pose. It is buying back shares from the market in a bid to stop the drop in stock prices after the government’s threat to close down the coal mine.

Semirara’s board approved a 60-day share buyback program involving 20 million shares starting Aug. 18 based on the prevailing market price. The stock rebounded to P108.10 Tuesday, following the announcement of a share repurchase program, and retreated to P103.70 Wednesday.

The Environment Department in a show cause letter on Aug. 12 asked Semirara to explain and comply within seven days why its environmental compliance certificate should not be canceled. Environment, which conducted an inter-agency fact finding and field visit on May 23 to 27, claimed that the company did not comply with one of the conditions provided in the ECC relative to the Molave coal mine expansion project in Barangay Semirara, Caluya, Antique province.

The letter noted that there was no proper stockpiling and disposal of the materials scooped out from the settling ponds, stable areas to avoid pollution of any water body and drainage systems to keep them in safe and non-polluting conditions.

Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno also cited complaints against Semirara, including massive clearing affecting the island ecosystem, degradation of water quality and siltation of the marine environment.

“The problem with Semirara is the open pit mine is now below sea level. How would DMCI [Holdings Inc.] rehabilitate the area?” Jasareno asked.

Philab’s diagnostic tools

Dengue test kits will be made available soon in the Philippine market, or in drug stores nationwide. 

Philab Industries, a pioneer in the healthcare business in the Philippines, is expanding to healthcare science and technology to bring in the most advanced diagnostic tools to the country.

Philab chief executive officer Hector “Tom” Navasero has vowed to revolutionize the healthcare system in the Philippines by providing simple and sophisticated solutions to the Filipinos. The company, with over 50 years of experience,  remains one of the most reliable and profitable corporations in its industry. 

Philab, as of the end of the first quarter of 2016, has received an initial P3.19 billion in new contracts from the Department of Education, the Department of Health and the National Institutes of Health UP Manila until 2018.

Its self-test kits, however, may prove to be a game changer in the Philippine diagnosis system. Self-test kits are plastic trips about two inches long and one to two millimeters thick containing chemicals that react to different disease indicators.

Philab is introducing the Dengue test kit—a two-inch plastic strip that contains Dengue-specific antibodies placed on a conjugate pad in the test region of the strip while the NS-1 protein is suspended on a membrane. NS-1 protein is present in the blood stream of individuals infected with dengue.

An individual only has to extract blood from his/her fingers using the lancet provided in the kit, drop two to three drops of blood on the test region and wait 15 to 20 minutes. The result bands are somehow identical to pregnancy test kits sold in the drugstores. Two bands will show for positive and one for negative. The test is invalid if there are no bands visible.

The test kits will cost around P200 to P300, with the result at hand in 20 minutes. Going to the hospital to have a blood test would cost an average of P400, with the results coming out after two hours or the following day.

The DoH Epidemiology Bureau recorded 59,585 dengue cases from January to July 2, up 31 percent from 45,338 cases during the same period last year. The bureau registered 263 deaths from159 in the same period last year.

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Topics: Ray Eñano , Semirara Mining and Power Corp. , Philab Industries , Dengue test kits
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