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With frogs, there's no need for Dengvaxia.

Humans never learn. All of nature by God's design is medicine. But we chose to kill many, like the frogs.

For that the Philippines is faced with a nightmare from a vaccine called Dengvaxia-which was falsely trumpeted as a silver bullet against dengue.

And the dengue threat-which is increasing every year-hangs like Damocles's sword over each Filipino's head. Now everyone is afraid of Dengvaxia and the death it brings.

For instance, Dignay (not his real name) and 12 other children are dead. All took the questionable vaccine. The fate of thousands more children hangs in the balance. But who needs Dengvaxia when we have frogs?

Vanishing frogs

Unfortunately, frogs-the best defense against mosquitoes-are struggling to stay alive in this world.

Dengue is a tropical disease caused by a virus of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. These mosquitoes were traditionally controlled by frogs.

As rains hover, and the temperature goes up, dengue rears its ugly head.

The carrier of the deadly virus, Aedes aegypti, is multiplying by the millions, while scientists and local communities, racing against time, wanted to turn back to frogs for help after the man-made medicine is failing.

Saving the frogs an uphill climb

'Many communities now realize they have to be a part of nature, and not apart from it, in order to exist today, given all the occurring diseases and ailments,' Dr. Grace Taguba Bengwayan, Benguet State University (BSU) professor, told this writer while observing the large crowd that participated in the International Save the Frogs Day.

'But it will be a long fight to bring back the once-plentiful frog population,' she lamented.

Her statement stems from another scientist's discovery that not only frogs, but all the amphibian population in the Philippines are on the verge of being wiped out.

The Philippines's amphibian specialist, Dr. Letecia Afuang, said the Philippine amphibian population have drastically gone down in the past 20 years.

Afuang, a professor at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) and in charge of the assessment of conservation status of Philippine amphibians, said that there is a lack of awareness among Filipinos of the Philippine amphibians and their relevance, leading to the destruction of the creatures.

She noted with approval the efforts being launched by BSU and the communities around it in saving the frogs, but equally warned that there is grave danger of an outbreak of diseases in other places in the Philippines where many amphibians and reptiles are becoming extinct.

This is because the population of disease-transmitting insects and vectors is increasing and spreading, while their traditional predators are dwindling in number.

'As a result, mosquitoes, including the malaria-transmitting Anopheles and the deadly dengue-causing Aedes aegypti, are multiplying in great number, further endangering the health of thousands of not only Filipinos but [other] Asians,' Afuang said.

Community activity

Bengwayan and Afuang believe that bringing back the frogs, which used to abound in the land, is possible with the communities' help.

Dr. Luciana Villanueva, former BSU vice president for research and extension, pointed out to this writer: 'We have no other recourse but to turn back to nature for help. The frogs are our most effective allies in the fight against the fearsome Aedes aegypti mosquito.'

'We are rallying communities not to kill the frogs by not using insecticides for the fourth successive year and positive results are showing,' she added.

Villanueva noted that the BSU team encourages locals to make ponds for frogs to naturally set in. They are also distributing pairs of male and female frogs to farmers and hobbyists.

Villanueva led scientists, community leaders, citizens and students to celebrate and strengthen the annual International Save the Frogs Day, which coincided with Earth Day in April.

BSU has set up a very large frog pond to increase frog population. 'The population of frogs in the Philippines has decreased because of pesticides that destroyed large tracts of frog habitat,' she said.

'It must be brought back by urging communities to care for the remaining frogs, maintain a clean environment and [encourage] the passage and implementation of strict frog-conservation laws,' Villanueva expressed hope, as many students exhibited several ways in saving the frogs through posters, essays, poems, slogans, video and graphic illustrations.

Global warming increases mosquitoes and kills amphibians

The Environmental nongovernment organization Cordillera Ecological Center (CEC) based in Benguet, on the other hand, said through a statement released on Earth Day last year that the issue of Aedes aegypti mosquito population increasing is due to global warming and the death of its natural enemies.

CEC said: 'Dengue epidemic in the Philippines occur annually in the later half of the year following the onset of rainfall and the increasing temperature. It becomes more pronounced on El Nino periods.'

'It is then important to have a moving average temperature index yearly so that it becomes a signal or early-warning device to the public that dengue will not only be a possibility but will be widespread in nature,' CEC explained.

'Unfortunately, the rapid rise of Aedes aegypti's population is being aggravated by the disappearance of many mosquito predators like frogs, lizards, spiders, salamanders and other beneficial small wildlife,' CEC said.

CEC won the World Bank Environmental Award in 2008 for being able to determine the onset and spread of dengue-carrying mosquitoes by studying temperature increases.

'The rise of temperature favors disease-carrying insects, while equally threatening beneficial small wildlife like amphibians and reptiles that prey on insect pests. For instance, four frog [species] are now extinct in the country. Global warming and chemicals have destroyed their habitats,' CEC emphasized.

The Declining Amphibian Population Task Force of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) supports CEC's disclosure, saying that ionizing radiation of ultraviolet B resulting from ozone-layer depletion has something to do with the decline of amphibian population worldwide.

This situation is overly evident in the Philippines. The IUCN named the Philippines as one of the world's top 20 biodiversity hot spots because of numerous extinct and vanishing living species.

And if the frogs aren't saved, they may just end up in the long list of IUCN's Red Handbook of extinct animals.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 15, 2018
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