Economic, infra clusters to hold pre-2020 SONA forum this week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020   •   521

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government’s economic development and infrastructure Cabinet clusters are set to present the administration’s plans for recovery and resilience in the face of the coronavirus-induced headwinds this year at the first pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum to be held this week.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said that the forum titled, “Regaining Momentum, Accelerating Recovery in a Post COVID-19 World,” will be held virtually on July 8.

Hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the forum will be streamed live on the Facebook pages of the Radio Television Malacañang, and other government agencies.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said this year’s pre-SONA forum will be different as the audience will be “purely virtual,” due to limitations on mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do hope that our citizens will be able to tune in as the country’s top decision makers discuss our path to a quick and strong recovery from this crisis,” he said.

In the forum, the DOF said that top economic and infrastructure officials are also expected to report on the state of the Philippine economy, as well as the government’s ongoing efforts to leverage on its strong fundamentals in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will present performance updates and priority plans, respectively, on the economic and infrastructure fronts.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will speak on the Philippine Economic Recovery Program.

“The audience can expect Secretary Dominguez to delve deeper into the challenges we’re facing right now, the accomplishments in the previous year that we can build on, and the legislative proposals that the economic team submitted for Congress to consider,” Lambino said.

Meanwhile, updates on the monetary, external, and financial sectors will be discussed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Pre-SONA forums are held annually to discuss in greater detail the achievements of the government in the previous year and the priorities of the Cabinet cluster heads in the run-up to the President’s SONA on July 27.

Duterte tells telcos to report LGUs delaying permit processing

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said telecommunications companies should report local government units that are obstructing the building of additional cell towers by delaying the processing of permits.

Duterte made the statement in a televised address after Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu told the president about their permitting woes in order to build more cell sites and improve their services.

“We are suffering ho from many, many years of this, before your administation, many administrations, 25 to 29 permit umaabot ng walong buwan tapos marami pa ho kaming miscellaneous fees ho. Iba-ibang klaseng tower fee. Mayroon kaming special use permit,” Cu said.

Cu met with Duterte after the latter threatened during his State of the Nation Address to shut down or expropriate telcos if no improvements are made in their services before December.

“Kasi sabi ko, ‘pag hindi mo pa na-improve ‘yan, I will hang you in one of your towers. Sabi niya, “Mayor, you cannot do that because there is no tower. The local governments are all f—–g it up,” Duterte told Cu in jest.

After hearing Cu’s concerns, the chief executive urged telcos to issue a formal complaint against local government units that are stalling the processing of permits for additional communication towers.

He also told telcos to report LGUs to proper authorities.

“Isumbong niyo na lang ng diresto at ang order ko sa Cabinet ngayon is to really take the, ‘kung pinakamabigat, the most drastic measure that you can find, para magkaintindihan. This is my last mile,” he said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, in the same briefing, said that local government units have been ordered to shorten the process and reduce the time spent in producing permits to 16 to 20 days.

“Dati po kailangan pa ng Home-Owners Association Resolution, kailangan pa ng Sangguniang Bayan Resolution, wala na po ‘yon. 16 days to 20 days po ang target para y’ong lahat ng permit ay tatakbo,” he said.

The government has been pushing for the ease of doing business to streamline the process in government agencies.

Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc. earlier said they are currently working on expansion plans to improve the communication services in the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

DOF assures enough funds for free COVID-19 vaccine for 20M Filipinos

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) assured that the Philippine government has enough funds to purchase millions of doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine once it becomes available.

In a briefing in Malacañang aired on Friday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said they have prepared a financing plan to procure COVID-19 vaccines with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC).

The PITC, an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) engaged in trading and bulk importation of essential goods for the government, has been tasked to manage the financing efforts for the vaccines.

Researchers and scientists across the world are racing to develop vaccines against the viral respiratory disease as cases continue to spike.

Dominguez said a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved by December this year.

He said the vaccines will be purchased through the PITC and turned over to the DOH.

“Once that happens, the Department of Health now will put in their budget to pay these 400 million dollars or roughly P20 billion,” the finance chief said.

“We can pay them over 2 or 3 years, so babayaran lang nila with the financing companies which is LandBank and DPB, so kayang-kaya ng DPB at ng LandBank na i-finance itong purchase ng COVID vaccine,” he added.

This way, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said, the government won’t have to sell properties to finance the purchase of vaccines.

“Kaya po ipinapadaan sa PITC, Philippine International Trade Corporation, dahil para po sila po ang in effect directly na manghihiram mula sa DPB and LandBank,” he said.

“’Yung sinasabi ni Sec. Domiguez, ang may pondo na magpapahiram dito po sa isang government corporation who will execute the importation or the buying ng mga vaccines na ito, para po ang PITC ang magsu-supply sa DOH,” he added.

The vaccines will be administered to the poorest 20 million Filipinos for free.

If each of the 20 million poor Filipinos will need two shots, Dominguez said an estimated P20 billion fund would be needed.

The DTI, however, clarified that this figure is only initial and will be increased based on DOH’s recommendation.

Private companies wanting to secure financing to procure COVID-19 vaccines may do so through the PITC, Secretary Lopez said.

“Maaaring intial po yun dun sa poorest of the poor na communities. Of course, beyond that ang private sector naman po pwede ring makabili padaanin din dito sa PITC para makakuha ng tayo ng volume purchasing o volume discount,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

Duterte declares July 31 a regular holiday for Eid’l Adha

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has declared July 31, Friday a regular holiday in observance of Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice of the Muslim community.

Malacañang said Duterte made the declaration through Proclamation No. 985.

The date was chosen based on the recommendation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

The president also reminded the public that the observance of the event shall be subject to existing community quarantine and social distancing measures. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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