First ‘green lane’ for seafarers in Asia now open in the Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   July 3, 2020   •   1133

MANILA, Philippines — The country has opened the first “green lane” for seafarers in Asia to allow the free movement of seafarers and personnel across borders.

The Philippine Green Lane Joint Circular, which took effect upon signing on Thursday (July 2), was created by the Philippine government to ensure that seafarers are accorded speedy and safe travel, subject to health protocols mandated by the Philippine government.

It intends to provide safe and swift disembarkation and crew change during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for both Filipino and foreign seafarers whether inbound, outbound or transiting.

The Joint Circular will also facilitate the creation of controlled travel corridors to open the Philippines for people-to-people and economic exchange and stimulate the country’s economy amidst its ongoing bout against the pandemic.

The signing ceremony was held at the Department of Foreign Affairs office led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin together with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and representatives from the Department of Health Bureau of Quarantine among other officials.

Travel ban to lapse January 15, extension possible —Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Travelers from a total of 32 countries with reported cases of the new variants of coronavirus are still not allowed to enter the country.

However, the travel ban is only until Friday (January 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday that with the Philippines reporting its first patient infected with the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom, the travel ban will likely be extended and may include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the list.

“Ang aking payo po doon sa mga nagpaplanong magbiyahe na covered ng travel restrictions, yung mga dayuhan, wag ninyo na pong ituloy dahil yung naunang travel restrictions na inimpose ng president ay subject po to extension upon the approval of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) at number one in the agenda po yan,” said Roque.

Roque added that the IATF will meet within the day to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, the national government assures that the country has enough quarantine facilities for returning Filipinos coming from countries covered by the travel ban.

President Rodrigo Duterte hopes the new variant will not cause severe danger to the Filipinos.

“May bagong monster na naman. And I pray to God really na sana na hindi ito more dangerous, more toxic than the original covid,” he said.

Treatment czar Usec. Leopoldo Vega, meanwhile, said it is still best to conduct contact tracing and sampling to curb the spread of the new variant and designate a separate isolation facility for such cases.

“Kung magiging dominant po ang gagawin po namin talagang magbubukod kami ng ward for (new) COVID variant patients,” he said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PH, India seeking ways to boost ties in infra development, digital tech — DOF

Robie de Guzman   •   January 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines The Philippines and India are exploring ways of enhancing their economic ties, particularly in the areas of financial and digital technologies and infrastructure development, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement, the department said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and India Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran met recently to discuss both countries’ interests in strengthening their cooperation in the fields of banking and finance.

The DOF said that during his virtual courtesy call, Kumaran offered India’s expertise in setting up the country’s broadband network as well as the national identification system.

Dominguez welcomed the ambassador’s offer of assistance and invited Indian companies to participate in the upcoming rollout of a shared cyber-defense plan for Philippine state-run banks and their subsidiaries, the department added.

The finance chief likewise expressed his appreciation for India’s interest in helping the government implement its digital transformation programs that aim to expand financial inclusion among Filipinos, upgrade the delivery of frontline government services, and further curb corruption among government officials.

Kumaran said Indian companies are interested in taking part in the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program but are “in need of more information on the various opportunities available to them under the President’s centerpiece infrastructure modernization plan.”

“To assist prospective investors on this concern, Secretary Dominguez and Ambassador Kumaran agreed to help organize a webinar or online workshop where the Philippines can showcase the various opportunities open to India’s companies on infrastructure development, as well as other possible areas of cooperation between Filipino and Indian firms,” the DOF said.

It was also mentioned during the meeting that an Indian company – GMR Infrastructure Limited – is already taking part in the “Build, Build, Build” program and has performed “impressively” in operating the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and expanding the Clark International Airport (CIA).

The Philippines and India rekindled their bilateral ties with the official visits of President Duterte to India in 2017 and 2018, which were followed by a state visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to the Philippines in October 2019, the DOF said.

India and the Philippines established their diplomatic relations on November 16, 1949.

China’s Sinovac, Sinopharm to apply for emergency use authorization in PH

Marje Pelayo   •   January 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese firms Sinovac Biotech, Ltd. and Sinopharm Group Company, Ltd. are submitting their respective applications for emergency use authorization (EUA) for the use of their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines this week. 

According to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana, negotiations between these companies and the Philippine government are ongoing for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines into the country.

“Apparently, their plan right now, according to them, is they hope to file for the next few days sometime this week. They will file their EUA application with the FDA in the Philippines,” confirmed Sto, Romana.

“Our embassy is in touch with these two companies of course and we try to facilitate their contact with IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] and if there’s any information that’s needed,” he said.

China, meanwhile, is targeting vaccination of millions of its population before February 12 after Sinopharm received provisional approval for the general use of its vaccine across the country. 

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