Olympics must go ahead next year as symbol of overcoming COVID-19, Tokyo governor says

UNTV News   •   July 13, 2020   •   2633

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, often floated as a future Japanese premier, said on Monday (July 13) the Olympics must go ahead next year as a symbol of world unity in overcoming the novel coronavirus, even as her city grapples with stubborn spikes in cases.

The 2020 Olympics were scheduled to start this month but were postponed because of the coronavirus. Koike has pledged to win public support for the Games, although a media survey showed a majority think they should be cancelled or postponed again.

“I want to host them as a symbol of the world coming together to overcome this tough situation and of strengthened bonds among humankind,” Koike told Reuters in an online interview. She declined to specify a deadline for deciding if the Games could go ahead.

Tokyo’s jump in COVID-19 cases comes as Abe’s government prepares to launch a campaign to promote domestic tourism, but that has raised concern about spreading the virus outside the capital. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Hideto Sakai, Akiko Okamoto)

Duterte orders gov’t agencies to identify savings from 2020 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   May 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has directed all government agencies to identify savings from their respective allocations under the 2020 national budget that may be used to fund additional coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic expenses.

Administrative Order No. 41 signed by Duterte on May 12 defines savings as:

  • Those which have not been obligated as a result of the completion, final discontinuance, or abandonment of programs, activities, or projects (PAP) for which the appropriation is authorized
  • Those corresponding to PAPs which have not been obligated as a result of the implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies and thus enabled an agency to meet and deliver the required or planned targets, programs, and services at a lesser cost

 The AO stated that a report on such identified portions or balances of released appropriations, duly certified by the head of the agency and the budget and finance officers concerned, shall be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) within 15 days from the effectivity of the order.

On the basis of the certified reports submitted by the agencies, the DBM shall promptly determine and recommend to the president amounts that can be declared as savings under the 2020 national budget with due consideration to the extension of availability of appropriations thereof until December 31, 2021; and actual deficiencies in any existing item of appropriation under the same general appropriations act that need to be augmented, including, if necessary, items of appropriation for the provision of emergency subsidies to low-income households and disadvantaged or displaced workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection call for intensified government-wide response and recovery measures, including various forms of socioeconomic relief and assistance to those affected by. The imposition of stricter levels of community quarantine,” the AO read.

The DBM was also directed to issue supplemental guidelines for the effective implementation of the order.

DOE, Japanese firm ink deal to update PH oil contingency plan

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) on Tuesday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for a study that would update the 2002 Philippine National Oil Contingency Plan, as well as provide recommendations on the creation and operation of a Strategic Petroleum (SPR) Program.

The MOA was virtually signed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and JOGMEC CEO Tetsuhiro Hosono.

“Today’s signing speaks volumes on Japan’s commitment to help the Philippines succeed in attaining its energy security goals. I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Japanese government and its private sector for helping us attain our long-term goals,” Cusi said in a statement.

The DOE said the agreement is an offshoot of the DOE’s collaboration with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and JOGMEC to update the 2002 METI study, “Master Plan for the Development of Stockpiling for the Philippines.”

Under the MOA, JOGMEC will conduct a study within eight months of its signing, and the parties shall have a one-year consultative period after the submission of the final report.

The main areas of the study are:

  • The international petroleum products’ supply and demand situation in the past five years and the expected growth for the next 20 years;
  • The international strategic petroleum reserve program situation in the past five years to address supply disruptions;
  • The existing international oil supply security agreements both in ASEAN and other regions of the world and how the Philippines could participate;
  • The Philippine petroleum products’ supply and demand situation in the past five years and expected growth for the next 20 years;
  • Philippine Government-owned and privately-owned crude oil and finished petroleum products’ storage facilities in the past five years and the expected growth for the next 20 years;
  • Existing Philippine policies and implementation to address petroleum products’ supply for normal demand, as well as demand for contingency/emergency response due to any international or domestic supply disruption;
  • An analysis of the gaps in the existing Philippine Government-owned and private-owned petroleum products’ storage facilities to address the existing and the expected growth in demand, as well as the contingency/emergency response during any international and domestic supply disruption;
  • An analysis of the gaps in the existing Philippine policies on contingency/emergency response to any international and domestic supply disruption;
  • An analysis of the role of the DOE, the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and other relevant government agencies to address the Philippine national petroleum products’ contingency/emergency supply strategies and measures;
  • Provide recommendations on the creation and operation of the Philippine PSRP;
  • Submit to DOE the recommended updated 2002 Philippine National Oil Contingency Plan incorporating all the above data, information, analysis, SPRP recommendations and the overall recommendations on how to address the Philippine national petroleum products supply security and contingency/ emergency response to any international or domestic supply disruption.

Two months after the completion of the study, JOGMEC will submit to the DOE its final output, an updated 2002 Philippine National Oil Contingency Plan, and all its corresponding relevant data and information, the department said.

They will likewise provide relevant recommendations on the creation and operation of the Philippine Strategic Petroleum Reserve Program, it added.

Gatchalian backs MECQ extension due to new COVID-19 variant in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday suggested the extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status in the Metro Manila and nearby provinces following the detection a new coronavirus variant in the Philippines.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Gatchalian said the MECQ should be extended until the end of May or until authorities are sure that the new variant has been contained.

Gatchalian admitted that he was initially pushing for the easing of community quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus, noting that the economy is “correlated with the quarantine levels that we put in place.”

“For example, if it’s stricter quarantine levels definitely our economy will contract. If we loosen it up, our economy will expand so it’s directly correlated,” he said.

“[M]y initial thought is to go back to GCQ (general community quarantine) because the more we loosen it up, the more we will grow and the more jobs will create,” he added.

However, Gatchalian said he changed his mind when he heard that the coronavirus variant first reported in India has been detected in the Philippines.

“Going back to our experience last February and in March, these variants can be the cause of increased phase of infection in our communities and I recommend to extend the MECQ until the end of the month, until we contain this double variant,” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday confirmed that the country has recorded two cases of B.1.617 variant from India. The cases were two male overseas Filipino workers who arrived in the country in April from two Middle Eastern countries.

The DOH said the two patients have already been tagged as recovered and released from quarantine after testing negative of the virus. There were also no listed close contacts as they were immediately placed under quarantine after their arrival.

The senator also observed that the modified version of the MECQ implemented by the government has been effective in containing the surge of COVID-19 cases.

He said that under this MECQ version, the government prohibited dine-ins and mass gatherings, which have been identified as “catalyst for infections.”

“That’s why in this new version of ECQ, we allowed almost everything except for gatherings, eating and get togethers and we can see the immediate effect, our reproduction rate went down, the number of cases went down, the attack rate, another matrix that we used went down, but more importantly, the occupancy of our hospitals also went down,” he said.

“[I]n other words, the dining in and gatherings are known as catalysts for infections and we need to keep this sharp for now because of these new variants,” he added.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – collectively tagged as NCR Plus – are under MECQ until May 14.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the new community quarantine restrictions may be announced on Friday after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases have submitted its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

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