Duterte OKs grant of one-time P20K aid to employees’ compensation pensioners

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2021   •   500

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the grant of one-time financial aid of P20,000 to qualified pensioners under the employees’ compensation (EC) program.

Under Administrative Order (AO) No. 39, which was signed on Monday, Duterte authorized the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) to grant the cash aid to EC pensioners for permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, and survivorship, in the private and public sectors, “subject to the availability of funds and pertinent laws, rules and regulations.”

Duterte directed the ECC, Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to set aside and release appropriate funding to cover the financial assistance from the Social Insurance Fund under the EC Program.

The ECC, in coordination with the SSS and GSIS, will issue the implementing rules and regulations necessary for the effective implementation of the order.

In signing the AO, Duterte recognized that the “adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, supplementary health necessities for the battle against the virus, and restrictions imposed on our mobility and social interaction, have increased the financial and health burdens experienced by the EC pensioners.

The one-time cash aid will be granted to around 31,000 pensioners of the SSS and GSIS.

Duterte said AO 39 will take effect following its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

Duterte may take second dose from Sinovac if Sinopharm fails to secure EUA – vaccine expert

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may still get his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine using a different brand should Sinopharm fail to secure approval from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a member of the Philippine vaccine expert panel said Thursday.

Infectious disease expert and vaccine expert panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante said Duterte may be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine as this brand is similar to Sinopharm.

Duterte was vaccinated on Monday using Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which has yet to be granted an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

“As long as hindi pa yan [aprubado para sa] emergency use authorization, dapat hindi ibabakuna,” Solante said.

“Iyong second dose pwede niyang (Duterte) ipahabol ang Sinopharm but Sinopharm has to produce the data and submit it to VEP and FDA,” he added.

“Kung halimbawa hindi na pwede ang Sinopharm, meron naman isang bakuna na magkahawig sa Sinopharm, na nabigyan na rin ng approval natin – yung Sinovac… It is possible because they have the same platform,” he further stated.

COVID-19 vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm are both whole virus vaccines that use weakened or deactivated form of the pathogen that causes COVID-19 to trigger protective immunity to it. Inactivated pathogens cannot infect cells and replicate but can trigger an immune response.

Solante said these vaccines can be stored in a standard refrigerator and are administered in two doses.

The FDA earlier said that Sinopharm’s application for EUA remains pending as firms that have filed for its emergency use in the Philippines have yet to submit requirements.

“We also stand by our policy na as long as hindi pa iyan EUA, dapat hindi ibabakuna, that is one. Pangalawa, yung Sinopharm, walang sinu-submit na mga documents sa VEP para ma-assess namin. Kung meron lang sana noon, bago nagpabakuna yung presidente, pwede naman namin i-review tapos we can also give our recommendation to the FDA,” Solante said.

Duterte earlier defended his decision to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to undergo further evaluation and secure EUA from the FDA.

He apologized for using a vaccine that has not been vetted by Philippine authorities then said that he had asked China to withdraw the Sinopharm doses it donated to the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s second Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine dose will not be returned to China so he can complete his immunization process. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Carpio accepts Duterte’s challenge to debate on West Philippine Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to go on a debate over the West Philippine Sea issue.

“I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience,” Carpio said in a statement.

In a pre-taped briefing on Wednesday night, Duterte said he only has two or three questions for Carpio when they face in a debate on the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he would ask Carpio on who ordered the Philippine Navy to retreat from area during the 2012 standoff, what did the administration of then President Benigno Aquino do about it and did they enforce the ruling when they filed and won the case.

Duterte has been reiterating that former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was involved in the decision to withdraw the Philippine ships from the West Philippine Sea.

He also said that Del Rosario and Carpio should be investigated for their role in China’s occupation of some areas in the contested waters, adding that he would “resign immediately” if he was proven to be lying about this matter.

Carpio, however, denied involvement in the issue.

“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor. I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff,” he said.

“I was serving in the Supreme Court at that time and all I new about the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships was what I read in the newspapers,” he added.

“I call as my witnesses former President Benigno Aquino III and the Defense Secretary, Foreign Affairs Secretary and the chiefs of the Philippine Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard at that time,” he further stated.

Duterte defends decision to take Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine jab

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday defended his decision to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine made by Chinese firm Sinopharm that has yet to undergo further evaluation and secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a taped speech on Wednesday night, Duterte stressed that his vaccination was legal as it was covered by the compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the FDA in February.

“Ako mismo ang nagpaturok. It is the decision of my doctor. Anyway, it’s my life,” he said.

“Just before this meeting started, I had a talk with the ambassador. Sabi ko sa kanya, ang mga experts nagsabi na wala pang ano ito, hindi dumaan ng examination sa atin. Ang ibinigay ay compassionate use,” he added.

“Ibig sabihin, magamit mo, compassionate. Kaya lang, maybe it’s not acceptable to them but it’s legal actually. When the government allowed it for compassionate use, that in itself is an authority for people to be injected. Pero kakaunti lang naturukan nito,” he further stated.

The FDA earlier said that the dose given to Duterte on Monday night was part of the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm donated by the Chinese government. These are covered by the FDA’s CSP for the legal administration of the 10,000 doses of Sinopharm in the country.

“We are sorry that we committed the things that you are criticizing us for. We accept responsibility,” he said, apparently addressing those who criticized his choice of vaccine.

Duterte said he has already asked China’s ambassador to the Philippines to withdraw all Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine doses from the country.

“Here’s the deal, sinabi ko kay Ambassador… sabi ko tanggalin mo na lang. You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines. All 1,000 of them. Huwag ka na magdala ng Sinopharm dito para wala ng gulo. Sabi ko, ibigay mo na lang sa akin Sinovac,” he said.

The 76-year old president earlier expressed preference for Sinopharm vaccine.

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