Delayed cash assistance to fallen, sickened medical frontliners dismayed Senators

Marje Pelayo   •   June 3, 2020   •   663

MANILA, Philippines – Medical frontliners who will get infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in line of duty starting February 1, 2020, are entitled to receive a compensation of P100,000.

Meanwhile, relatives of those who will die of the disease will receive P1-million, according to Section 4 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act. 

But until now, none of the infected healthcare workers not even the relatives of those who succumbed to COVID-19 have received any amount from the government which dismayed several Senators. 

According to Senator Sonny Angara, the Department of Health (DOH) failed to come up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Law that is why they were not able to distribute the said financial aid to the supposed beneficiaries.

The Senator insisted that the DOH should not use the absence of an IRR as an excuse for not complying with the law. 

“It is really criminal. This neglect to pass and to delay these types of benefits,” Angara said. 

“These people, we keep praising them as our heroes but yet, it’s just mere lip service if we don’t give them anything material,” he added.

Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, stressed that providing aid to frontliners sickened or killed in the line of duty especially at this pandemic is something unquestionable. 

“You don’t need Implementing Rules and Regulations here. The law is very clear. Why should we distinguish? They have already died,” Gordon said. 

“A little investigation will tell us that you can pay them because they died because they were in the frontlines! That’s a no-brainer,” he added. 

Gordon noted that the COVID-19 death toll among healthcare workers has already reached 32 while two others are now severely or critically ill. 

Senator Kiko Pangilinan also expressed his dismay and called the matter ‘unacceptable and unforgivable.’

“They have already died. They have already suffered, and we continue to allow them to suffer more because of this failure and inaction on the part of the Department of Health,” he said.

Because of this, Senate President Vicente Sotto III demanded the DOH to explain such delays in the compensation of fallen and sickened healthcare workers.

“It is definitely unacceptable. The answer is acceptable. They have to do it and they have to do it today,” Sotto said.

The DOH, however, is yet to respond to the matter. —MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

25 BPO employees tested positive for COVID-19 after holding two parties

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 4, 2020

Twenty-five Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) employees in Subic tested positive for COVID-19 after holding two parties in November.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Health and Safety Department Dr. Solomon Jacalne, out of the 65 employees of a BPO company that attended the two parties, 25 of them are currently under quarantine.

“Contact tracing indicated that the employees who tested positive of Covid-19 either attended the parties or were exposed to co-workers who went to the said social gatherings,” he said.

Jacalne said the employees attended a beach party in Olonggapo City and a pool party in Zambales. He also said several of the workers did not accurately declare their health condition which might also have contributed to the surge of COVID-19 cases.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the surge in cases would have been avoided if the employees followed the minimum health protocols.

“This was the lesson some employees of a business process outsourcing company here recently learned the hard way after attending parties that might have served as super-spreading events,” she added.

Eisma said the agency will conduct an investigation on the incident and will implement additional safety measures in work areas of the concerned company. AAC (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

FDA reiterates COVID-19 vaccination non-mandatory

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reiterated that vaccination will not be mandatory once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in the country.

FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the national government will prioritize the poor in the immunization campaign. The government aims to vaccinate 60 million to 70 million Filipinos in order to reach herd immunity against the virus.

Domingo also reminded the public that minimum health standards should still be practiced even after the availability of a vaccine. He also said that the agency, along with the Department of Health (DOH), is already planning the process for the COVID-19 immunization program. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Local airlines to increase number of flights this holiday season

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Local airlines are preparing to add more flights as more passengers are expected to travel this holiday season just as quarantine restrictions ease.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the easing of quarantine restrictions can help the airline industry recover from the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The good news is the Balikbayan Program. This is the easing of travel requirements for balikbayans to entice them to return to the Philippines,” she said.

Villaluna said they are also coordinating with local government units to make sure the minimum health standards are still being implemented.

Local airlines have already partnered with private laboratories for more affordable and faster swab testing of passengers. For PAL and Air Asia, the RT-PCR testing in their accredited diagnostic lab costs P4,000.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific launched a “test before boarding” policy which requires passengers to undergo an antigen testing before boarding. The testing in Cebu Pacific is free from December 3 to December 14 but it is only exclusive to passengers en route to General Santos City.

“This is an initiative where we are closely working with the LGU in coming up with this process wherein passengers are required to take an antigen test no more than five hours before their departure time and then the results will come out in 30 minutes,” according to Candice Iyog, vice president for Marketing and Customer Experience of Cebu Pacific.

Local airlines advise passengers to refer to their respective websites for the essential requirements before boarding their flights. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

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