DOT, SB Corp. ink loan deal for pandemic-hit tourism MSMEs

Robie de Guzman   •   October 16, 2020   •   579

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) announced it has signed a loan deal with the Department of Trade and Industry’s Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) which aims to extend assistance to small tourism-oriented firms that were badly-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news release on Thursday, the DOT said the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) is to finalize the CARES for Tourism Rehabilitation and Vitalization of Enterprises and Livelihood (TRAVEL) program that will extend loan assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) from the tourism industry.

“We thank Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez for making CARES for TRAVEL program a priority. We look forward to working with the SB Corp in providing our tourism enterprises with what they need – access to working capital loans,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

“The DOT believes that this program will accelerate the country’s tourism recovery from the harsh impacts of the pandemic. By working together, we can hopefully bring tourism, an industry that contributed 12.7% to the country’s 2019 GDP, back to its glory days,” she added.

Through the CARES for TRAVEL program, tourism MSMEs will have access to zero interest, no-collateral loans with a loan term period of up to four years, including a corresponding grace period of up to one year, the department said.

The borrower MSMEs will only need to pay a one-time service fee, which is set at a maximum of eight percent for a 4 year loan, it added.

SB Corp. will evaluate and process all loan applications of DOT-accredited MSMEs and local government-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises to ensure their eligibility and will determine the loanable amount and terms in accordance with the CARES for TRAVEL program guidelines.

The DOT, for its part, will regularly endorse to SB Corp a list of DOT-accredited tourism enterprises and LGU-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises that may be entitled to avail of business loans under the CARES for TRAVEL Program, subject to further evaluation by SB Corp.

Meanwhile, the SB Corp will regularly submit loan implementation reports to the DOT subject to compliance with Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

“Aside from rescaling, rebooting, and making some sort of whole industry pivot, we also recognize the need for tourism MSMEs to have access to financial assistance or funds just to tide them over the present pandemic crisis,” Romulo-Puyat said.

The agreement between the DOT and SB Corp. seeks to disburse P6 billion worth of loans to tourism MSMEs, using the budget allocated to the program under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2).

Palace identifies 10 areas among COVID-19 vaccination priority

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Ten areas experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases will now be among the priority in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine supply, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that aside from the NCR Plus 8, priority areas for the vaccine deployment will now include the following:

 

  • Bacolod City
  • Iloilo City
  • Cagayan De Oro City
  • Baguio CIty
  • Zamboanga City
  • Dumaguete City
  • Tuguegarao City
  • General Santos City
  • Naga City
  • Legaspi City

 

The distribution priority was previously limited to the NCR Plus 8 areas or the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Pampanga, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.

“Kasama sa mga lugar na bibigyan ng prayoridad sa pagbabakuna liban sa NCR Plus ay ang Plus 10 na tinatawag. So mayroon po tayong NCR Plus 8, plus 10,” Roque said at a Palace briefing.

He said these areas were included in the distribution priority list due to surges in coronavirus infections, the density of the environment and their highly-urbanized status, and their contribution to the economy.

“Ang naging basehan ay mataas nilang kaso o surging cases, ang kanilang pagiging highly urbanized, at dense environment, at ang kanilang kontribusyon sa regional o national economy,” he said.

Roque did not specify how many COVID-19 shots would be allotted to the new priority areas.

The national government earlier said that more than 30 percent of the country’s available vaccine supplies have been allocated to the NCR Plus areas. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Israeli experts visit PH COVID-19 vaccination, storage sites

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A team of health experts from Israel on Wednesday visited some vaccination sites and cold chain storage facilities in Metro Manila as part of the efforts to assess and help the Philippine government improve its strategies in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team of Israeli experts inspected a vaccination hub set up at the Solaire Theater in Parañaque City for the private sector, as well as some cold storage facilities being used in the government’s vaccination program.

They were accompanied by Inter-Agency Task Force and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., testing czar Vince Dizon and other government officials.

Roque said the team of experts from Israel is in the country to share their strategies and methods in fighting the pandemic, as well as addressing vaccine hesitancy.

“We need to learn from Israel kasi Israel successfully achieved containment [of the coronavirus] and we want to learn from what they did to achieve containment,” he said.

Galvez earlier said that the Israeli delegation’s visit aims to help the government develop more improved strategies on data management, deployment methods, and transition to new normal.

The NTF and Israeli experts initially met at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday to discuss vaccination and jab logistics management.

Galvez said that so far, the team has shared key strategies to effectively contain virus transmission and reduce active cases within communities.

Roque said a press conference dedicated for the Israeli visitors will be held on Thursday where they can share their observations and recommendations on the Philippines’ vaccination drive.

The Philippine government would adopt some Israeli strategies to further improve the country’s vaccine deployment and data management, he added.

“Ang talagang gusto nilang makita is how we actually implementing the vaccination which is ongoing right now… Alam nyo naman sa Israel wala na ngayong mask in public places dahil mayroon na silang containment, mayroon na silang population protection that’s why they are here as our guest and as our resource person because we want to achieve that state,” Roque said.

The delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Health has been in the Philippines for four days now. They arrived last Sunday and will stay until Friday, June 25. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Janice Ingente)

NCR now low risk for COVID-19; 4 regions at high risk — DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Capital Region (NCR) is now categorized as a low-risk area for COVID-19 amid a decreasing number of infections, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

In an online press briefing, DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman said Metro Manila has been exhibiting a declining virus growth rate in the past two weeks.

“Para po sa NCR, siya po ay na-classify na po ngayon natin at low risk dahil nagpakita siya ng pagbaba ng kaso by 23% in the last 2 weeks,” De Guzman said.

She said that from June 16 to 22, the NCR averaged 685 new cases daily, which is lower than its average of 825 cases from June 9 to 15.

The region’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) was logged at 5.7 cases per 100,000, hospital occupancy rate at 36.29 percent, and intensive care unit utilization rate at 45.83 percent.

Among the NCR Plus 8 areas, Laguna has yet to show a decline in cases, De Guzman said, as she noted that Calabarzon province is still exhibiting a plateau of COVID-19 cases.

The NCR was once the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

“Kung dati nakikita natin na ang NCR ang number 1, in the last few days, it’s region CALABARZON as well as the inclusion of regions and areas from Visayas and Mindanao,” De Guzman said.

In Luzon, De Guzman said, almost all areas have exhibited declining cases except for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“For Luzon naman po, lahat ng mga lugar ay nagpapakita ng pagbaba ng kaso liban po sa CAR… parang halos flat po ang kaniyang linya,” she said.

While the NCR is now low-risk for COVID-19, four other regions have been flagged as high-risks after showing an increase in cases and bed occupancy rates.

These are Caraga, Regions 6, 11, and 12.

The average daily attack rate (ADAR) of coronavirus in Caraga is at 9.95 cases per 100,000, Region 6 at 8.83, Region 11 at 8.16, and Region 12 at 7.01.

De Guzman said that all four regions logged positive two-week case growth rates while Region 11’s ICU utilization rate was at high or critical risk.

Other areas where ICU occupancy rates have also reached the critical risk classification were Regions 2, 6, 10, and 12.

Nationwide, the trend of COVID-19 cases is showing signs of decline but De Guzman said there is still a need to reduce the number of daily cases as the current figure is still far from the pre-surge levels.

“Although we are happy that these numbers are going down, it is still far from our pre-spike levels of less than 2,000 cases per day nationally,” she said.

She urged the public to help reduce infections by following health protocols such as the proper wearing of face masks and observing physical distancing.

The implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, Reintegrate (PDITR) response at the community level should also be intensified, as well as the contact tracing and vaccination efforts. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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