Duterte recalls order to terminate VFA with US – Lorenzana

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2021   •   308

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the retraction of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the announcement after Duterte met with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Malacañang on Thursday.

“The President decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said during a press briefing with Austin.

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.

The pact also includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year ordered the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the pact, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

Austin, for his part, welcomed Duterte’s decision to “fully restore the VFA.”

“A strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. A fully restored VFA will help up achieve that goals together,” Austin said.

In a separate statement, Malacañang said the Philippines and the United States made a renewed commitment to strengthen their partnership in various areas of mutual interest.

The Palace said Duterte and Austin had “an open and frank discussion” on the status and future direction of Philippines-US engagement during a 75-minute courtesy call of the US defense secretary on the President.

“They agreed that the alliance can be further strengthened through enhanced communication and greater cooperation, particularly in the areas of pandemic response, combating transnational crimes, including the war on illegal drugs, maritime domain awareness, the rule of law, and trade and investments,” the statement read.

US Defense chief Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

His visit coincides with the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations of the US and the Philippines and the 70th Anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty this year.

PH posts 18,659 new COVID-19 infections

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Friday logged 18,659 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 2,453,328 since the pandemic began.

In its latest bulletin, the Department of Health said the new single-day tally brought the number of active cases to 175,324.

Of these cases, 88.1 percent are mild, 2.84 percent are moderate, 6.9 percent are asymptomatic, 1.5 percent are severe, and 0.7 percent are in critical condition.

The DOH said only one accredited testing laboratory failed to submit data on time.

Meanwhile, total recoveries rose to 2,240,599 after 9,088 more patients recuperated from the viral respiratory disease.

The death toll remained at 37,405 as no new fatalities were reported.

The DOH also reported a positivity rate of 24.2 percent out of the 76,624 tests conducted on Sept. 22.

Palace welcomes Duterte’s latest satisfaction rating

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Friday welcomed the result of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing President Rodrigo Dutertet’s net satisfaction rating of 62 percent.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s latest rating remains way ahead of his predecessors during the same period.

“We consider this high satisfaction rating unprecedented as comparable data from previous presidents indicate this is the highest net satisfaction rating of the beginning of a Chief Executive’s final year in office,” he said.

Roque noted that the late former President Benigno Aquino III scored 30 percent satisfaction rating a year before he finished his term in June 2015, while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had -31 percent a year before she stepped down in June 2009.

He also said that President Fidel Ramos got 49 percent while President Corazon Aquino’s rating only reached 24 percent in April 1991.

“Rest assured that President Duterte will continue to exercise decisive and compassionate leadership until the remainder of his term to serve and protect the interest and welfare of all Filipinos,” Roque said.

According to the SWS, Duterte’s satisfaction rating was the highest in November 2020 with 79 percent but dipped to 65 percent in May 2021 and then to 62 percent in June 2021 amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Positive COVID-19 antigen test results now included in case count – IATF

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The number of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 through rapid antigen tests will now be included in the Philippines’ case count, Malacañang said Friday.

In a televised briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) reached the decision during their meeting on Thursday in an aim to improve the reporting of COVID-19 cases.

“’Yan po ang ating objective para mas maging mabuti yung picture natin kung ilan ang total cases natin,” Roque said.

He, however, clarified that these tests will be subjected to confirmatory tests.

The use of antigen test is mostly effective for people who already manifested symptoms within the first five days of their onset as the viral load of the patient is at the highest during this time.

In line with this, the IATF directed the Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development to monitor and facilitate registration of facilities using rapid antigen kits.

They must also ensure that antigen line tests are collected and consolidated from health facilities, localities, as well as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

“Kaugnay nito, ang Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development ay inatasang mag-facilitate ng registration ng facilities na gumagamit ng rapid antigen kits,” he said.

“Augmentation of disease surveillance surveillance staff and encoders are considered to ensure that line lists are generated and submitted on a daily basis,” he added.

As of Sept. 23, the Philippines has 165,780 active COVID-19 cases based on DOH data.

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