LGUs buy over P1.58-B worth of farm and fishery products amid ECQ — DA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2020   •   566

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has reported that local government units have bought more than P1.58 billion worth of farmers’ and fisherfolks’ produce since the enhanced community quarantine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was imposed on Metro Manila and other areas in the country.

In a statement released on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that tons of agri-fishery products, ranging from palay, milled rice, corn, vegetables, fruits, pork, chicken, fish and spices, were purchased by LGUs directly from local farmers and fishers since March 15.

“We are indeed happy to report that since the start of the enforcement of the ECQ, around 245 LGUs heeded our call to patronize the products of our farmers and fishers and make these part of food packs distributed to their constituents. This number is certainly growing as we speak,” Dar said.

“The LGUs are our primary partners in cascading our sectoral interventions on production to consumption, marketing included. We would like to involve them in the entire value chain to make sure that our support mechanisms reach targeted beneficiaries,” he added.

The sales were monitored by the DA’s Regional Feld Offices (RFOs) through their respective Agribusiness Marketing and Assistance Division (AMAD).

The DA earlier called on local government units to buy agri-products and include in the relief packs being distributed to their constituents to help local farmers amid the public health crisis.

To focus and strengthen linkages between food producers and the markets, the department said it has formed four food value chain clusters – Luzon A (CAR and Regions 1 to 3), Luzon B (Regions 4A, 4B, and 5), Visayas (Regions 6 to 8, and Mindanao (Regions 9 to 13).

“Through the clusters, we plan the availability, pre-positioning, and movement of products from the municipal to provincial level, then regional, and finally among clusters,” Dar said.

“The mobility plan looks into the movement of agri-fishery commodities from producers, to traders, processors, and wholesalers/retailers, down to the household consumers,” he added.

The DA said that with the help of LGUs and other agencies, the clusters will identify prime agri-fishery commodities and potential markets, monitor the markets, and coordinate relevant concerns to develop location-specific resiliency plans aimed at attaining higher levels of food sufficiency.

“It is the DA’s job to ensure enough supply of food in the country. Our LGUs can count on us to link them to our food producers, while they help us market farmers’ produce and provide every household adequate and affordable food,” the DA chief said.

“In all, in partnership with the LGUs, the private sector, and farmers’ and fisherfolk’s groups, we ensure farmers of a ready market and steady income, as well as provide consumers with affordable, healthy, and nutritious food. Along the process, we also help stabilize the prices of basic commodities,” he added.

Dar also called on other LGUs to adopt the practice so it can be institutionalized even after the COVID-19 crisis and the country has moved on to the “new normal”.

WHO solidarity trial in PH to begin in December—DOH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 27, 2020

The solidarity trial of the World Health Organization (WHO) for potential vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines and other countries will begin in December.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said 150 to 200 will participate in the trial in 12 sites in the country.

Sa November kasi parang maguumpisa sa isang site and mag-follow na po iyong iba’t ibang clinical trials in the other countries including the Philippines by December of 2020 (The trial will begin in November in one site and it will be followed by other clinical trials in other countries including the Philippines by December of 2020), she said.

The Health Department also announced Interferon will no longer be a part of WHO’s solidarity trial. Vergeire reported the said drug did not reduce the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients.

Iyong gamot hindi na-reach objective (The medicine did not reach its objective),” she said.

The WHO has previously discontinued the use of hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir treatment after seeing no signs of effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, the WHO added two drugs for the therapeutics solidarity trial, which include Acalabrutinib that is used for the chemotherapeutic regimen of patients. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

NAIA One-Stop-Shop denies forcing OFWs to pricey COVID-19 swab test providers

Marje Pelayo   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The management of the One-Stop-Shop at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has denied allegations that it is forcing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to take coronavirus swab testing in private testing centers to earn extra. 

In a statement, the NAIA One-Stop-Shop maintained that it is not collecting any fee from any OFW for the swab test since the procedure is being shouldered by the government.

“Ito ay bilang pagbibigay-linaw sa mga alegasyon na kumakalat ngayon sa mga social media sites na pinipilit umano ang mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) na tangkilikin o gumamit ng pribadong RT-PCR test providers sa NAIA, upang magbayad ng mas mahal,” the statement read.

[This is to clarify against allegations circulating on social media sites that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are being forced to take private RT-PCR test providers in NAIA and pay a higher price.]

“Hindi po ito totoo [This is not true],” it read further.

The Shop management explained that they only allow two private testing laboratories for non-OFWs. First is Detoxicare which is a partner of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and the PH Airport Diagnostic Laboratory that is in partnership with the Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc. (PAGSS).

The said laboratories have been operating in NAIA since July 27 in accordance with an agreement signed with the Task Group on the Management of Returning OFWs.

Under the agreement, the two laboratories may charge P4,000 for an RT-PCR test which results can be released within 48 hours.

But the agreement also states that in the event of emergency cases like death of a family member or emergency medical condition that requires immediate release of results, an OFW may choose to request to speed up the process but with additional fee and a clearance from the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA).

For his part, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Senator Richard Gordon insists that the government should investigate the alleged irregularities in swab testing at NAIA.

He alleged that the private laboratories in NAIA are charging P12,000 to P20,000 for each swab test.

“Nakikita ninyo ang inconvenience na ginagawa nitong raket na ito. Hindi makauwi kaagad. Maghihintay sa hotel, gastos. Tapos meron silang [Now you see the inconvenience causing this scheme. (OFWs) cannot go home yet so they have to stay in hotels, they spend money there. This is a] ladderized type of charging. You’re taking advantage of the misery of other people,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile, the national government is coordinating with other testing laboratories that offer lower prices of swab tests which Malacanang eyes to service swab testing in airports and seaports.

“Kakausapin po namin ngayon ang mga mas mababang sinisingil, [We will coordinate with the (laboratories) charging lower amount,]” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Baka dapat sila ang manguna sa aiport at sa pantalan na mas mababa nga ang pwedeng bayaran ng ating mga kababayan. Mga  P1,750 hanggang P2,000 lang po ang sinisingil ng mga testing labs na ito [They can be the ones to front in airports and seaports and offer lower service fee to our kababayans. These laboratories charge only P1,750 or P2,000 per test],” he added.

These testing laboratories include the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), the Philippine Children’s Hospital, the Lung Center of the Philippines and Perpetual Help Hospital. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Nearly 3,000 Chinese nationals ordered to leave PH for violating visa rules – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 2,736 Chinese nationals have been ordered to leave the country for violating the conditions of their visa, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Tuesday.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that from January to October, Chinese nationals who were granted visas upon arrival (VUA) but failed to leave on their departure date were given orders to leave.

Under the VUA system, visa grantees are not allowed to extend their stay beyond 30 days.

“More than half of those who were ordered to leave were blacklisted from the country,” Morente said in a statement.

“While some were unable to leave due to circumstance, following the cancellation of many flights due to the pandemic, those who stayed without sufficient basis were included in our blacklist,” he added.

The VUA program, a joint project of the tourism and justice departments, was launched in 2017 to attract Chinese tourists and tour groups to travel and stay in the Philippines without the need to apply for visas at Philippine consulates in their places of origin.

Travelers may apply for a VUA through tour operators accredited by the Department of Tourism.

“VUA arrivals account for only around 5% of total Chinese arrivals in the country,” Morente said.

“Most of those who arrived already secured their entry visas from our foreign posts abroad,” he added.

The implementation of the VUA was suspended in January due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

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