First batch of Filipinos repatriated from Iraq to arrive in PH Wednesday

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020   •   563

MANILA, Philippines – The first batch of Filipino workers repatriated from Iraq will arrive on Wednesday afternoon, January 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement, 13 Filipinos evacuated from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq will arrive in Manila.

The DFA said the first group from Baghdad, comprised of seven adults and two minors were supposed to arrive on Tuesday but was held by Iraqi immigration officials at the Baghdad International Airport for “baseless allegations of visa fraud.”

The second group is composed of four adults coming from Erbil, north of Baghdad.

The department said the repatriated Filipinos will be landing in Doha, Qatar before flying to Manila. They are scheduled to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 at 4:10 p.m.

“The repatriates arriving today comprise the first batch of Filipinos coming home after the government ordered mandatory repatriation,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said in a statement.

“More Filipinos from affected areas are expected to come home in the coming weeks,” Arriola added.

Alert Level 4, which mandates mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq, was raised on January 8, 2020, due to growing security threats in the Middle East.

The tension grew after top Iranian military commander Qassem Solemanei was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Iran retaliated on January 8 by launching a series of ballistic missile attacks at Iraq’s bases housing US troops. On the same day, around 176 passengers were killed when a Ukrainian plane was mistakenly shot down by Iran while on alert after its missile attacks on US forces in Iraq.

US FDA authorizes first COVID-19 kit for self-testing at home

Robie de Guzman   •   November 18, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it has approved the first novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) diagnostic test for self-testing at home.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the US FDA said it has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, made by Lucira Health, for home use with self-collected nasal swab samples in individuals age 14 and older who are suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider.  

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular (real-time loop mediated amplification reaction) single use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, the US FDA said.

“While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

“This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission,” he added.

The FDA said the test works by swirling the self-collected sample swab in a vial that is then placed in the test unit.

“In 30 minutes or less, the results can be read directly from the test unit’s light-up display that shows whether a person is positive or negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Positive results indicate the presence of SARS-CoV-2,” it added.

Individuals with positive results are advised to self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider.

While those who test negative and experience COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider as negative results do not preclude an individual from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The kit may also be used in point-of-care (POC) settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms for all ages but samples must be collected by a healthcare provider when the test is used at the POC to test individuals younger than 14 years old.

The test is currently authorized for prescription use only, the FDA said.

Philippines extends VFA abrogation for another 6 months

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has extended anew the suspension of the termination of its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.

Locsin said Duterte has decided to extend for another six months the suspension of the defense pact’s termination amid lingering tensions in the South China Sea.

He said the move will enable both sides to “find a more enhanced,  mutually beneficial,  mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement  on how to move forward  in our  mutual defense.”

“The past four years have changed the South China Sea from one of uncertainty about great powers’ intentions to one of predictability and resulting stability with regard to what can and cannot be done, what will and will not be acceptable with regard to the conduct of any protagonist in the South China Sea. Clarity and strength have never posed a risk.  It is confusion and indecision that aggravate risk,” Locsin said in a statement addressed to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

“A great deal of credit for the renewal of stability and security goes to deft diplomacy, unequivocal expressions of policy, sturdy postures of strength combined with unfailing tact, and pragmatic national security advice exhibited by both our governments in the same period,” he added

Duterte first suspended in June 2020 the termination of the military accord “in light of political and other developments” in the United States.

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It 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 ordered the abrogation of the pact last year after the US revoked the visa of a senator and ally.

DFA warns vs ‘travel exemption fee’ scam targeting foreigners

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 11, 2020

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday warned the public against a travel fee scam targeting foreign nationals who wish to enter the Philippines amid imposed travel restrictions.

In an advisory the DFA said they received reports of a “travel exemption fee” that supposedly allows the entry of foreign nationals into the country.

The DFA reiterated that it does not collect such fees “or any kind of fee whatsoever for the purpose of allowing foreign nationals to enter the country.”

“Foreign nationals should be guided by the latest advisory of the Bureau of Immigration as to who are allowed to enter the Philippines during the State of Public Health Emergency,” the advisory reads.

The foreign affairs department also said travel restrictions are still being implemented in the country amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. AAC

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