POSTSCRIPT / September 19, 2010 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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More on ‘tawa-tawa’ as dengue herbal cure

BLEEDING: After I wrote last Tuesday that some dengue patients who find it hard sourcing blood platelets for intravenous intervention resort to drinking a tawa-tawa herbal brew, I was swamped with queries.

First this disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and what I know of blood platelet count rising after the drinking of tawa-tawa brews is anecdotal. The Department of Health itself is cautious in commenting on the advisability of herbal cures.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever is characterized by internal bleeding. A big drop in platelet count, which induces bleeding, could be fatal. The platelets normally produced in bone marrow may not be sufficient to fill the gap.

When tests show that the platelets are critically below the normal 150-400 x 109 per liter of blood, transfusion is sometimes ordered.

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TAWA-TAWA: But transfusion does not always stop the drop in platelet count nor does it always raise the count significantly or permanently.

Sourcing costly platelets, which are different from the more abundant red blood cells, is difficult, especially when there is great demand in a dengue fever outbreak.

Comes in tawa-tawa, which is also called gatas-gatas in some areas in the Visayas. I have seen actual cases of cancer and dengue patients experiencing a significant rise in platelet count after drinking the tawa-tawa brew.

I cannot reproduce pictures of tawa-tawa here, so maybe you can Google-search for images in the Internet to see how the plant looks.

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WASH WELL: Tawa-tawa grows with the weeds in the countryside and on vacant lots and sidewalks in urban areas.

When we were kids, we used tawa-tawa to treat skin wounds. We broke the stem and thick creamy sap came out. We then dabbed this milky (gatas-gatas) sap on the wound.

But those in thickly populated areas should be careful about using tawa-tawa taken from just anywhere. Filth and germs could pass on to the patient. Avoid picking tawa-tawa from busy roads and vacant lots strewn with garbage or where animals defecate.

Like veggies, tawa-tawa should be washed thoroughly in running water and the roots cut off before put to a slow boil. The brew will be the patient’s drinking water, possibly at one glass per one or two hours.

As to the proportion of tawa-tawa to the water, experiment how much should be used to get a beverage that has a pale to slightly dark (but not very dark) color.

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LTO MESS: Upon his return from the United States, President Noynoy Aquino may have his hands full straightening the crooked path that the Land Transportation Office seems to be taking.

Among the things noticed by many licensed drivers and businessmen doing business with the LTO:

* The company printing the licenses for the past three decades has had no valid contract since 2003, when its contract expired. At P150 per card, the licenses numbering more than three million fetch some P500 million a year.

* Interested firms complain that in the bidding for the new printing contract set Sept, 16 and reset to Sept. 24, the terms of reference (ToR) appear tailor-made for a favored contractor.

* The LTO plans to go back from plastic to paper licenses that had long been abandoned by most of the civilized world for being of inferior quality. Why the sudden interest in paper?

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NO CONTRACT: The LTO’s card printer is Amalgamated Motors Inc. (AMPI), which has monopolized the job since the time of the late President Marcos.

Records show that its contract to print driver’s licenses expired way back in 2003. Since then, it has been operating (and being paid P500 million each year) without a valid contract.

The AMPI-made license has been denounced as being substandard. Sometimes the picture and information on the card’s face allegedly fade within a year.

From 2003 to 2010, the LTO/DoTC has paid some P3.5 billion to AMPI, whose owner is reportedly a senior member of a religious sect that went all-out for the Aquino ticket in the May elections.

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SEEMING HASTE: In government procurement, the “matuwid na daan” advocated by President Aquino should be that when a supplier’s contract expires the project is bid out.

After seven years of sitting on it, the Arroyo administration tried last June to bid out the contract for 2011. When potential bidders complained that the ToR favored the current supplier, the LTO suspended the bidding.

But Asst. Secretary Virginia Torres, LTO chief, resurrected the bidding and set it for Sept. 16 with exactly the same ToR. Some bidders complained to Transportation Secretary Ping de Jesus that the present supplier and its partners were being favored.

Torres was reportedly told to put the bidding on hold and review the ToR. However, the bidding was simply reset to Sept. 24.

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BACK TO PAPER: Even as the civilized world has been moving toward a paperless society, the LTO now wants to move in the other direction back to a paper driver’s license.

All states in the United States use plastic cards. The European Union has even issued EU Parliament Directive 2006/126/EC telling all EU members to use plastic licenses to curb the proliferation of fake licenses made of paper.

There are global ISO Standards (7810, 7816-1, and 10373) to ensure driver’s licenses are fake-proof. Only plastic and not paper cards are compliant with these standards.

Some bidders complain that the ToR favor Toppan of Japan, whose Visage CP400 card printer is the only model that can meet the requirements of the bid.

The ToR also requires that the cards be made of security paper manufactured by a company that has experience in high security banknotes and passports in the Philippines.

This requirement limits qualified bidders to only Arjowiggins of France that supplies the paper for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 19, 2010)

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