Metro Manila residents enjoy change in environment, lifestyle under ECQ

Maris Federez   •   March 25, 2020   •   1500

MANILA, Philippines — Residents in the National Capital Region (NCR) have noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the air in the metropolis.

The smoke being emitted by factories and transport vehicles and the traffic congestion that have become the norm in the lives of Metro Manila residents have lessened since the Luzon region was placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The said measure was instituted to address the threats of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that continues to spread in Metro Manila and several parts of Luzon.

The ECQ has also changed the lifestyle of Metro Manila residents, as some have learned the benefits of walking to their destinations and buying only the essential things for themselves and their families.

The suspension of all types of public transportation has paved the way for the air to clear and for the traffic to decongest.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the air quality or particulate matter 10 has significantly changed.

“Ngayon kung titingnan natin nag a-average tayo from good to fair so napakaganda, nakapakaganda nung air quality natin ngayon,” said DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.

PM10 or the “inhalable particles”, are particles equal to or smaller than 10 microns (PM10) that can reach the throat and the lungs.

A UNTV Drone shot presented a smog-free skyline of Manila and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig as compared to the previous pollution that was once visible in the said places.

The environment department believes that the suspension of public transportation and the reduced number of private vehicles traveling have done the environment a big favor.

“Visually kita natin talagang ang laki mula sa umaga wala yung smog na nakikita natin na akala mo pa ay ma-fog yung buong NCR pero yun pala ay polusyon yun,” Antiporda added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has also observed that crime and accidents have considerably decreased in Metro Manila and in Region 3 after the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in the entire Luzon.

According to PNP spokesperson, PBGen. Bernard Banac, the crime rate in Luzon had gone down by 80 percent.

“In fact bumaba po ng almost eighty percent ang crime rate hindi lamang dito sa kalakhang Maynila maging sa region at iba pang dako ng Luzon,” Banac said.

Banac added that the latest PNP record shows that road accidents since the ECQ was put in place until March 24 totaled to only 81, a considerably low number compared to the average 50 per day on ordinary days. — (with details from Dante Amento) /mbmf

Tolentino seeks tax deduction for WFH employees

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 7, 2020

Senator Francis Tolentino is proposing a tax deduction for work-from-home (WFH) employees, particularly on electricity consumption, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tolentino said he would file a bill with committee chairman Senator Sherwin Gatchalian that aims to “provide a reasonable deduction on the gross income of any taxpayer who has incurred additional electricity consumption while working at home.”

Ito pong ginastos ng ating mga nagtatrabaho sa bahay, pwedeng ikarga bilang deductible expense sa pagbabayad ng buwis dahil po nabawasan ang gastos ng kanilang pinapasukan (The expenses of the WFH employees can be accounted as deductible expense because their companies are saving up on costs),” he said.

READ: Meralco apologizes for ‘bill shock’; to explain bill computation

Meanwhile, the senator also asked Meralco to make its messaging clearer and simpler for consumers after the confusion over its monthly billing during the lockdown period. AAC

MMDA suspends work from July 9-10 after 4 workers contract COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Danilo Lim on Tuesday announced that work at the agency’s headquarters will be suspended from Thursday, July 9 to Friday, July to give way to the complete sanitation and disinfection of all its offices and adjacent premises.

This is after four MMDA personnel tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) when they underwent mass rapid testing and confirmatory swab test.

“Upon the recommendation of the MMDA COVID-19 Committee, we have decided to suspend the operations at all our offices for sanitation and disinfection to protect not only our personnel but also the transacting public against the virus,” Lim said in a statement.

All personnel will be allowed to go home at 2 p.m. on Wednesday as their workplaces will undergo sanitation and disinfection procedures until Sunday, July 12.

Lim said that no employee shall be allowed to enter any office during the sanitation and disinfection period.

The MMDA chief assured that the offices of those who tested positive have already been placed on lockdown and sanitized. Contact tracing has also been conducted and people who had close contact with them were ordered to strictly comply with the 14-day quarantine period and were subjected to swab tests.

“We assure the public that our offices will resume operations as soon as we have completed the sanitation and disinfection of our all offices by Monday,” Lim said.

Others employees who tested positive in the rapid test were made to undergo swab test and quarantine, according to protocol.

The MMDA has its own isolation facility to accommodate employees exposed to persons with COVID-19, tested positive on rapid test, and for those awaiting swab test results.

The 800-square meter isolation facility, located at the MMDA’s parking area, has two sections – one for suspect and probable cases.

Each section of the isolation facility has a 24-bed capacity equipped with shower rooms, comfort rooms and lavatories. The rooms are fully-air conditioned, with WI-FI connection and are regularly cleaned and sanitized. Free meals are also provided.

The MMDA’s Medical Clinic is also closely monitoring and providing guidance and assistance to employees.

Meanwhile, the MMDA said it has put in place protocols for visitors entering the building to prevent spread of COVID-19.

The agency’s guidelines state that all visitors with official business with the agency shall initially stay in the reception area for verification if the visitor will be allowed to go to the concerned office.

Strictly no personal visits are allowed for the meantime given the high risk of COVID-19 transmission at this period.

Moreover, delivery personnel shall not be allowed to go straight to the office or area of the ordering or recipient entity. All deliveries shall be transacted only at the reception lobby.

Likewise, visitors need to fill-up health declaration form with contact details for contact tracing purpose. “This pandemic is a difficult time for all of us and we must do everything we can to protect our personnel and visitors,” Lim said.

US Gov’t to withdraw visas for foreign students whose classes moved online due to COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   July 7, 2020

USA — The United States (US) Government has made some modifications to its temporary exemptions for foreign or non-immigrant students whose classes will be moved online in the upcoming fall semester.

Under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), nonimmigrant students were allowed to take more online courses than normally permitted as temporary exemptions for both spring and summer semesters due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in order to maintain their nonimmigrant status.

The new modifications cover Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online.

They may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools or programs that are fully online.

Likewise, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not permit them to enter the United States.

Thus, students who are currently enrolled in these programs must depart the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status otherwise, they may face immigration consequences.

Schools, meanwhile, are given 10 days to inform the federal government of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes.

The new policy does not permit nonimmigrant students within the United States to take a full course of study through online classes. 

They must reduce course load to stay otherwise, they must leave the country.

Full list of other modifications here.

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