NEDA wants intensified detection, testing amid ECQ extension in NCR+

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021   •   242

MANILA, Philippines – The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has pushed for a more intensified implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy to maximize the effectiveness of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) extension in reducing COVID-19 cases in the NCR Plus.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the PDITR strategy worked between August 2020 and February 2021 when the country was able to reduce cases to below 2,000 per day which allowed for the gradual opening of the country’s economy.

However, the implementation of the PDITR strategy needs to be further intensified due to the presence of the new coronavirus variants.

“The latest data shows that we are at a critical juncture. Our collective actions today will spell the difference between containment and the further spread of the virus. ECQ alone does not reduce the spike in the COVID-19 cases,” Chua said in a statement.

“The solution is to further enhance our implementation of the PDITR strategy with clear targets to achieve. This will help reduce the spike in COVID-19 cases given the new variants,” he added.

While the ECQ extension is seen to help stem the spike in coronavirus infections, NEDA acknowledges that it will also have a negative impact on the people in areas covered by the stricter lockdown.

NEDA estimates that the two-week ECQ would result in some 252,000 more individuals without jobs and 102,000 more poor individuals.

On top of these, the more stringent quarantine in the NCR Plus translates to a daily household income loss of 2.1 billion pesos or almost 30 billion pesos for the two-week period.

“All in all, the two-week ECQ may shave off 0.8 percentage points from the country’s full-year economic growth in 2021,” the agency said.

Chua also underscored that the unhampered transition to the digital economy and the new normal, both for government agencies and businesses, should be further promoted in order to limit physical interactions, as well as enable continued operations and delivery of goods and services.

On the part of the government, the NEDA official said the following key interventions will be pursued: first, increase and improve the health systems capacity; second, improve the communication strategy; third, accelerate vaccine deployment for the vulnerable sectors; and lastly, ensure that all sectors are equipped with the skills to transition to the new normal.

“It is crucial for all of us to take advantage of this period to increase the effectiveness of the ECQ by further enhancing the implementation of the PDITR strategy,” he said.

“Containing the virus starts from one’s self. By washing hands frequently, wearing masks even at home, staying at home during ECQ, and practicing social distancing when outside to buy essential goods, we can all help contain the virus,” he added.

Duterte defends EO 128; insists order is just temporary

Maris Federez   •   April 20, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday gave his assurance that the executive order that he signed lowering the tariff on imported pork is just a temporary measure.

In his pre-recorded Talk to the Nation aired on Monday night, the President responded to the move of the Senate to recall Executive Order 128.

The president said that while he understands the senators’ move, his finance managers believe that their decision will help the businessmen who can import pork to bring down the price of pork and pork products.

“I can understand from where the senators come from, and there is also the domestic supply they intend to protect. And they are vehement about it. I think that they think that they are right,” the president said.

Duterte, however, said that as soon as the price of pork goes down, they can always recall the said order.

“Problem is yung mga managers ko, mga finance, I’d like to mention Secretary Dar, NEDA, and maybe Sonny Dominguez, are really in favor. Para sa kanila, the managers ng departamento ko believe that it would, in the end, tutal kung medyo malakas na yung domestic market and there is a movement, madali lang naman eh, we can always withdraw the EO that I signed,” he said.

“It’s just a temporary measure really to bring down the prices, but the senators see it in a different light,” he said.

The president insists that his order will contribute greatly to the benefit of the people.

“I’m sure that itong mga senador they have already their stand. I know that they’re insisting to it, while we — yung mga managers ng department ko — kami yung nag-iimplement, kami yung nagpapagalaw. We implement certain measures that could redound, we believe, to the benefit of the people,” the president further said.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said that while the setting up of price ceiling from February to April has helped in bringing down the country’s inflation rate from 4.7 to 4.5, the tendency of some traders was to bring up the prices of the locally produced.

Dar added that the president’s EO was to address the insufficient supply of pork in the market.

“The range of 388,000 metric tons po ang kakulangan at ang demand po natin this year based sa 15 kilos per capita consumption ay nasa 1.6 million metric tons po ang demand. Kung titingnan natin ang supply ay nasa 1.2 million metric tons. So talagang may pagkukulang po tayo ng supply dito sa taon na ito. Gawa naman nagshrink, bumaba po yung ang local food production ng 25%,” he said.

He further said that the EO was not designed to bring down the hog industry.

“We are not killing the local hog industry. Ang inaangkat lang po natin, mahal ng pangulo ay yung kakulangan lang natin itong taon. So yung mga measures na pinapatupad po natin, through your approval, ay mapababa natin ang inflation kasi bababa talaga ang presyo sa merkado dito sa mga imported pork. So yung EO 128 was a result of painstaking process. And that’s why the lowering of tariff will really lower down the pork prices in the market,” he said.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua also stressed that the EO will help in lowering the country’s inflation rate to 3.8%.

NEDA forecasts that with the implementation of the EO, the price of pork will drop from more than P300 per kilo to P215 to P220 per kilo.

“We are in a COVID crisis right now. We cannot afford that the people will have both an income problem and a price problem,” Chua stressed.

With the explanations of DA and NEDA, the president hopes that the public will understand the economic managers in arriving at certain levels of decision to make it more responsive to the demand of the economic situation of the Philippines.

IATF approves use of automatic contact tracing via smart messaging system

Maris Federez   •   April 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Saturday (April 10) approved the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority to use automatic contact tracing through smart messaging system.

A statement issued by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Sunday said this is to further strengthen and improve the use of StaySafe.ph System – the official social distancing, COVID-19 health-condition reporting, and contact tracing system of the government.

“To ensure interoperability and integration of all contact tracing applications integration in the StaySafe.ph System, there will be an initial beta-testing, together with the proposed messaging, of the Smart Messaging System in Pasig City due on May 1, 2021, and beta-testing in the consortium of Antipolo and cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Valenzuela due on May 1, 2021, with access to COVID-19 Document Repository System (CDRS),” the statement said.

The IATF has also adopted the recommendation on the immediate completion of the transfer of ownership of the CDRS, and its immediate integration with the StaySafe.PH System and other local contact tracing systems and applications, to the Department of Health (DOH), Roque said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been directed to be the overall lead in the implementation of the project, while the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), is directed to lead its national interoperability.

The DOH, on the other hand, is in charge of ensuring the integration of the StaySafe.ph System with the CDRS.

The DILG shall be convening with the DICT and the DOH to formulate the necessary action plan with specific timelines and targets for the said project.

IATF to decide on ECQ extension in NCR Plus this week – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   March 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response will decide this week on whether or not to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) re-imposed over Metro Manila and four nearby provinces, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) will meet on Saturday, April 3, to discuss this proposal.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it is recommending a one-week extension of the ECQ being implemented in the National Capital Region, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna, tagged as NCR Plus bubble, to see a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases and its effect to the country’s healthcare utilization rate.

Roque said the enforcement of the one-week ECQ period is necessary to ensure that hospitals will have a breathing space amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.

But the issue on whether hospitals can still cope if the ECQ is extended needs to be addressed, he added.

He also said that extending the duration of the strictest lockdown level will be implemented as an “absolute last resort.”

“Inaasahan po natin na ang isang linggong ECQ at isang linggo ng NCR Plus bubble, kasama ang mas, hugas, iwas, at pagbabahay-bahay ng paghahanap ng may sintomas at pinaigting na testing at isolation, umaasa po tayo na sana po, hindi na kinakailangan mag-[extend] ng ECQ,” he said during the regular Palace briefing.

Metro Manila and four nearby provinces are under ECQ until April 4.

During this period, only essential trips are allowed and non-essential workers are prohibited from leaving their homes.

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