Deployment of safety marshalls in ‘staycation’ hotels proposed

Marje Pelayo   •   January 8, 2021   •   357

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Nancy Binay is pushing for deployment of safety marshalls in ‘staycation’ hotels as well as in government quarantine facilities to ensure that standard health protocols are properly observed and implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Binay’s call comes after reports that some establishments lack the resolve to impose government health standards such as the case with the hotel in Makati City where the Christine Dacera case occurred.

The lady senator said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) may tap the services of barangay officials for the matter.

She added that these barangay officials should be trained first on what to do and be properly oriented for the job.

In case of violations, it is also a must that the owners of the staycation facility be held responsible.

Duterte orders gov’t agencies to identify savings from 2020 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   May 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has directed all government agencies to identify savings from their respective allocations under the 2020 national budget that may be used to fund additional coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic expenses.

Administrative Order No. 41 signed by Duterte on May 12 defines savings as:

  • Those which have not been obligated as a result of the completion, final discontinuance, or abandonment of programs, activities, or projects (PAP) for which the appropriation is authorized
  • Those corresponding to PAPs which have not been obligated as a result of the implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies and thus enabled an agency to meet and deliver the required or planned targets, programs, and services at a lesser cost

 The AO stated that a report on such identified portions or balances of released appropriations, duly certified by the head of the agency and the budget and finance officers concerned, shall be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) within 15 days from the effectivity of the order.

On the basis of the certified reports submitted by the agencies, the DBM shall promptly determine and recommend to the president amounts that can be declared as savings under the 2020 national budget with due consideration to the extension of availability of appropriations thereof until December 31, 2021; and actual deficiencies in any existing item of appropriation under the same general appropriations act that need to be augmented, including, if necessary, items of appropriation for the provision of emergency subsidies to low-income households and disadvantaged or displaced workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection call for intensified government-wide response and recovery measures, including various forms of socioeconomic relief and assistance to those affected by. The imposition of stricter levels of community quarantine,” the AO read.

The DBM was also directed to issue supplemental guidelines for the effective implementation of the order.

Gatchalian backs MECQ extension due to new COVID-19 variant in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday suggested the extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status in the Metro Manila and nearby provinces following the detection a new coronavirus variant in the Philippines.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Gatchalian said the MECQ should be extended until the end of May or until authorities are sure that the new variant has been contained.

Gatchalian admitted that he was initially pushing for the easing of community quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus, noting that the economy is “correlated with the quarantine levels that we put in place.”

“For example, if it’s stricter quarantine levels definitely our economy will contract. If we loosen it up, our economy will expand so it’s directly correlated,” he said.

“[M]y initial thought is to go back to GCQ (general community quarantine) because the more we loosen it up, the more we will grow and the more jobs will create,” he added.

However, Gatchalian said he changed his mind when he heard that the coronavirus variant first reported in India has been detected in the Philippines.

“Going back to our experience last February and in March, these variants can be the cause of increased phase of infection in our communities and I recommend to extend the MECQ until the end of the month, until we contain this double variant,” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday confirmed that the country has recorded two cases of B.1.617 variant from India. The cases were two male overseas Filipino workers who arrived in the country in April from two Middle Eastern countries.

The DOH said the two patients have already been tagged as recovered and released from quarantine after testing negative of the virus. There were also no listed close contacts as they were immediately placed under quarantine after their arrival.

The senator also observed that the modified version of the MECQ implemented by the government has been effective in containing the surge of COVID-19 cases.

He said that under this MECQ version, the government prohibited dine-ins and mass gatherings, which have been identified as “catalyst for infections.”

“That’s why in this new version of ECQ, we allowed almost everything except for gatherings, eating and get togethers and we can see the immediate effect, our reproduction rate went down, the number of cases went down, the attack rate, another matrix that we used went down, but more importantly, the occupancy of our hospitals also went down,” he said.

“[I]n other words, the dining in and gatherings are known as catalysts for infections and we need to keep this sharp for now because of these new variants,” he added.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – collectively tagged as NCR Plus – are under MECQ until May 14.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the new community quarantine restrictions may be announced on Friday after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases have submitted its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

Over 514K persons in PH now fully vaccinated vs COVID-19 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 514,655 individuals in the country have received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the Philippines has so far administered a total of 2,539,693 doses in 1,047 active vaccination sites as of May 11.

Of this number, 2,025,038 people have received their first dose, including health workers (1,195,381), senior citizens (466,899), and persons with comorbidities (353,842). Around 8,916 individuals who are frontline personnel in the essential sectors have also been inoculated with their first jab.

Cabotaje reported that among the more than 500,000 fully immunized individuals, 355,242 were healthcare workers, 25,070 were senior citizens, and 134,343 were persons with co-morbidities

She also noted that 23 percent of the 1.5 million health workers listed in the vaccination priority have yet to be immunized.

“Many of these are from the other regions kasi nag-prioritize tayo sa NCR (National Capital Region),” Cabotaje said during a Laging Handa briefing.

Cabotaje also reported that as of May 4, the seven-day average of vaccinated individuals per day reached 36,491.

She said the government is targeting to increase the average vaccinees per day this May to more than 70,000, and up to 100,000 in the second quarter to expedite the vaccination rollout.

The health official, however, noted that this would still depend on the country’s vaccine supply.

“Marami na tayong vaccines, so kailangan para ma-meet yung ating target jabs per day, we need to expand the existing number of vaccination sites,” she said.

“Currently, we 1,000 na nagre-report, if they have 100 per day, makaka-100,000 tayo. But it depends on the number of vaccines that they have so they will really look by area, ano ba ang population nila, ano ba yung kailangan nilang ibakuna na number and we will be able to get to the numbers that we have targeted,” she added.

The national government earlier said that it is looking to vaccinate around 70 million Filipinos this year.

It also plans to start the vaccination of the general population by August or September when the bulk of vaccines procured by the government are expected to arrive.

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