PH gov’t assures safeguards remain despite lifting of travel restrictions on 10 countries

Robie de Guzman   •   September 6, 2021   •   317

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday assured that strict border control measures will remain despite the lifting of travel restrictions on 10 countries.

The Philippine government has lifted its travel restrictions covering India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the travel ban was lifted after the COVID-19 situation in the said areas has improved based on international assessments.

She said the move follows the country’s adoption of the “Yellow” and “Red” classifications, in addition to the “Green List” of countries or territories.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) earlier said that countries under the Yellow list are classified as moderate risk while the Red list includes those that are high risk for COVID-19.

Vergeire said countries previously covered by the Philippines’ travel ban have been placed on the yellow list.

“Pero hindi naman natin kailangang mag-alala dahil may mga safeguards tayo. Hindi man natin i-restrict ang isang bansa, meron naman tayong strict border control kung saan lahat ng dumadating na travelers ay nire-require nating mag-quarantine. Wala po tayong exemption, kahit humanitarian, hindi natin pinapayagan unless merong emergency medical condition,” she said.

The IATF earlier said that inbound travelers from areas under the “Yellow List,” regardless of their vaccination status, shall undergo 14-day quarantine upon arrival. They have to complete the first 10 days in a quarantine facility while the remaining 4 days must be spent under home quarantine in their respective local government units of destination.

They are also required to undergo RT-PCR testing on the 7th day, with their day of arrival serving as Day 1.

PH gov’t intensifying readiness vs terror threat amid Japan warning – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday assured that the military and police forces are intensifying their readiness against any possible threat to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque gave the assurance following the advisory issued by the government of Japan for its residents to avoid crowded areas and religious ins six Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.

“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa impormasyon. Pero lalo lang po nating pinaiigting ang ating kahandaan para po harapin ang posibleng terroristic attack muli,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

The Palace official said state forces have been on heightened alert since the Marawi siege happened in 2017.

Roque, however, urged the public to be vigilant and to immediately report any suspicious individuals and activities in their areas.

“Nakahanda naman po ang ating kapulisan at ang ating Hukbong Sandatahan at hinihiling din atin ang kooperasyon ng ating mga mamamayan. I-report po ninyo sa kapulisan kung mayroon kayong kaduda-dudang mga personalidad o di naman kaya mga kadudang mga bagay-bagay lalo na sa mga pampublikong lugar,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police earlier said they have not monitored any terror threat but are working to validate the information.

Aside from the Philippines, the warning issued by the Japanese government also covers Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia.

Quezon City gov’t looking into possible causes of COVID-19 spread in 2 convents

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

The Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) is currently looking into the possible causes of COVID-19 outbreak in two convents in the city, the local government said Thursday.

In a statement, the city government said massive contact tracing efforts are underway to contain the further transmission of the virus.

A total of 114 individuals, including 64 nuns and 50 staff members, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) in Cubao.

At the Convent of the Holy Spirit, 22 individuals were confirmed to have caught the virus, including 13 nuns and 9 staff members.

The city government said both facilities have been placed under lockdown.

CESU chief Dr. Rolando Cruz said they became aware of the situation after the cases were recorded in the surveillance data reported by a testing laboratory.

“Hindi po tayo ang nag-swab sa kanila. Nagpa-test po sila sa iba at nang lumabas na ang resulta sa laboratory, na-record ito sa surveillance data,” he said in the same statement.

“Now, our team is conducting an investigation and intensive contact tracing to get more details about the matter,” he added.

Cruz said part of the ongoing investigation is to determine if any of the positive individuals had any close contact with anyone outside of their facility.

Initial investigation revealed that a nun at the Convent of Holy Spirit passed away due to COVID-19 in early September. A physical therapist in the facility was reportedly exposed to the patient.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte earlier ordered the CESU to conduct active surveillance of closed settings in the city such as nursing homes and convents after 122 people, including 99 children, in an orphanage tested positive for COVID-19.

Philippines won’t cooperate with ICC probe, Palace maintains

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday maintained that the Philippine government will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines and its decision to authorize an investigation into the killings under the government’s war on drugs is interference into the country’s domestic affairs.

He also stressed that the country has already withdrawn from the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC.

In March 2019, the Philippines effectively withdrew from the Rome Statute after Duterte cancelled the country’s membership of the ICC’s founding treaty.

Under the ICC’s withdrawal mechanism, the court retains jurisdiction over crimes committed during the membership period of a state.

The ICC on Wednesday said that its Pre-Trial Chamber 1 has granted then Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to formally conduct a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war.

Bensouda previously argued that there is a reasonable basis to believe that murder has been committed in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the state policy.

But Panelo said the ICC can only conduct an investigation if the state’s judicial system is no longer functional, which is not the case in the Philippines.

It must also be proven that the state is unwilling to prosecute suspects in order for the ICC to launch a probe.

Panelo said ICC probers will not be allowed to enter the Philippines. He also believes that the investigation was politically motivated.

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