Over 500K OFWs repatriated amid COVID-19 pandemic – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021   •   303

MANILA, Philippines – More than half a million overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were displaced by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic have been repatriated by the government, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Citing a report from Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) head Hans Leo Cacdac, DOLE said 502,581 Filipino repatriates have been safely transported back to their home provinces after undergoing COVID-19 tests and quarantine protocols in various hotels.

The latest batch of repatriates consisted of 1,471 OFWs who were sent home on Saturday, DOLE said.

Meanwhile, a separate report from DOLE’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) showed there are 645,071 OFWs affected by the pandemic.

Of this number, 627,576 were displaced by the public health crisis. Around 49,698 of them requested repatriation while 75,297 opted to stay on site.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III assured that the government continues to provide assistance to displaced and affected Filipino workers.

So far, DOLE’s Abot Kamay sa Pagtulong (AKAP) assistance program has extended P5.043 billion to 497,122 OFWs.

 

AKAP is one-time cash assistance of $200 or P10,000 for each qualified affected/displaced OFW.

Aside from AKAP, DOLE also provides financial aid, food and medical aid to COVID infected OFWs.

To date, it has extended a total of $1.93 million in cash assistance to 9,667 OFW COVID patients. Another $2.6 million in medical and food aid has been extended to 124,945 OFWs, DOLE said.

Philippine GDP declines by 4.2% in first quarter of 2021 – PSA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine economy shrank by more than expected in the first quarter of the year, according to government data released on Tuesday, as prolonged community quarantines due to the pandemic hamper reopening efforts.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell -4.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

This is the fifth consecutive quarter that the country has posted negative GDP growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PSA said the main contributors to the decline were Construction (-24.2 percent), other Services, (-38.0 percent); and Real Estate and Ownership of Dwellings (-13.2 percent).

Among the major economic sectors, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) declined by -1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Likewise, Services and Industry contracted by -4.4 percent and -4.7 percent, respectively during the period, the PSA noted.

“On the demand side, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) declined by -4.8 percent, along with the following items: Gross Capital Formation (GCF), -18.3 percent; Exports, -9.0 percent; and Imports, -8.3 percent,” the agency said.

The net primary income (NPI) from the rest of the world continued to decline by -75.8 percent, bringing the Gross National Income (GNI) to drop by -10.9 percent during the period, it added.

On the other hand, the PSA said that government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) grew by 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Contributors to growth were led by financial and insurance activities (5.2 percent), public administration and defense, compulsory social activities (7.5 percent), and human health and social work activities (11.7 percent).

Other industries that managed to grow during the period were information and communication, 6.3 percent; manufacturing, 0.5 percent; and electricity, steam, water, and waste management, 1.9 percent, the PSA said.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said the aversion to risk for most of 2020 has placed the country in a long period of quarantine, and that this came at a huge cost to the economy and the people.

It, however, observed some improvements as the rate of contraction has slowed, and that the country has time to catch up with on its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent despite the pandemic-induced quarantine restrictions.

Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Palace welcomes WHO’s emergency use listing for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development will strengthen the country’s vaccine portfolio.

“We welcome the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization for Sinopharm. This development would strengthen our diversified vaccine portfolio as we continue to work on improving access to safe and effective vaccines, including Sinopharm,” Roque said.

A WHO emergency listing means that a product’s safety and efficacy has been rigorously evaluated. It will also allow the product to be included in the COVAX facility for faster global roll out.

The COVAX facility led by the WHO is a global program that seeks to provide vaccine supply mainly for poor countries.

The emergency use listing will also allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has so far received more than 7.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

“With the arrival of the bulk of our vaccine orders in the coming months, we are confident that we would be able to speed up our coronavirus vaccination program,” Roque said.

The Department of Health earlier said the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for Sinopharm vaccine is now being processed.

The Food and Drug Administration said the application’s evaluation will not take long as the product is already under the WHO emergency use listing.

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