PH, US defense chiefs tackle West Philippine Sea situation, regional security issues

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021   •   871

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Sunday (April 11) discussed the situation in the West Philippine Sea and some measures to deepen the defense cooperation of two countries amid recent tensions in the contested waters.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the defense chiefs of the two nations held a telephone conference to talk about the situation in the West Philippine Sea and recent developments in regional security.

DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said that the Philippines is “keeping all options open” but said they are closely coordinating with the United States government on the matter.

Andolong also said that both parties are “committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively.”

The United States and the Philippines signed the mutual defense treaty in 1951.

In a separate statement, Austin said he spoke with his counterpart to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance between the US and the Philippines.

“I had a productive call with SND @del_lorenzana to discuss challenges in the South China Sea and the need for unity in ensuring security and stability in the region. #FreeandopenIndoPacific,” he said.

The DND said both defense chiefs “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was canceled last year.”

Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations and “hopes that it would be continued.”

“Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” the DND said.

Also during the phone conversation, Lorenzana sought Austin’s assistance to speed up the delivery of Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine doses that were procured by the Philippine government.

“To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND said.

PH gov’t working on COVID vaccination guidelines for kids aged 5-11 – DOH exec

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The national government is finalizing guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years old, an official from the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said consultations about the vaccination of the younger population are ongoing and the Health Technology Assessment Council is set to come up with recommendations.

“Nakipagtalastasan na rin tayo sa ating mga experts. Actually may inilabas na position paper iyong ating Philippine Pediatric Society at saka iyong Philippine Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines endorsing the 5 to 11,” she said in a public briefing.

“Titingnan lang natin iyong operational guidelines […] pina-finalize po natin baka ang gagawin po natin ay specific site lang for the 5 to 11,” she added.

The COVID-19 vaccination for kids aged 5 to 11 is expected to start in February.

The government is also looking to inoculate children aged 4 and below against coronavirus infection.

Cabotaje said health experts are currently discussing the possible rollout of the vaccine for the said age group.

“Titingnan natin baka by second quarter, mga April or May kung mayroon na pong bakuna na puwede sa zero to 4 at mayroon ng pag-aaral na at may recommendation na, importante kasi iyong Health Technology Assessment Council tapos iyong go signal ng ating mga policy at saka experts. Para umpisahan na rin iyong zero to 4 years old,” she said.

The national government is currently vaccinating minors aged 12 to 17, with nearly 7 million fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since October last year.

PH’s first 2 Omicron deaths were unvaccinated elderlies with co-morbidities – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has reported two fatalities linked to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

The DOH said the two death cases were “aged more than 60 years, unvaccinated, and had pre-existing medical conditions.”

“Both were detected during the latest whole genome sequencing,” the agency said in a message to reporters.

The two patients were from Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

These are the first reported fatalities among those infected with Omicron in the country, it added.

The DOH stressed that while the Omicron variant mostly presents with asymptomatic and mild disease, data showed that the elderly, those with comorbidities, and unvaccinated are still most at risk for fatalities.

The health department also reported that 492 more Omicron cases have been detected in the Philippines based on the latest whole genome sequencing involving 714 samples.

The newly reported Omicron cases are composed of 332 local cases and 160 returning overseas Filipinos.

The indicated addresses of the said cases were from the following areas:

  • National Capital Region with 227 cases
  • CALABARZON with 76 cases
  • Central Luzon with 11 cases
  • Central Visayas with 5 cases
  • Cagayan Valley with 2 cases
  • Western Visayas, with 2 cases
  • Davao Region with 2 cases
  • Soccsksargen with 2 cases
  • Cordillera Administrative Region with 2 cases
  • Ilocos Region with 1 case
  • MIMAROPA with 1 case
  • Bangsamoro region with 1 case

The DOH said that based on the case line list, three cases are still active, 467 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are 20 cases whose outcomes are still being verified.

This brings the total number of confirmed Omicron variant cases in the country to 535.

PHL logs 22,958 new COVID-19 infections

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Wednesday recorded 22,958 additional COVID-19 infections, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In its latest data, the DOH said 21,691 of the new cases occurred within the recent 14 days, from January 6 to January 19.

The top regions that reported high cases in the last two weeks are the National Capital Region, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon.

The latest tally pushed the country’s number of active infections to 270,728. Of these cases, 8,335 are asymptomatic, 257,632 are mild, 2,970 are moderate, 1,487 are severe, and 304 are in critical condition.

The positivity rate was at 43.5 percent, based on samples of 62,531 individuals on January 17.

Six laboratories failed to submit their data on time. These facilities contribute on average 1.5 percent of samples tested and 1.9 percent of positive cases.

Recoveries increased by 36,611, resulting in 2,969,853 total recuperations.

COVID-related deaths rose to 53,044 with 82 new fatalities.

The utilization rate of intensive care unit beds nationwide was at 49 percent, and 53 percent in Metro Manila; isolation beds in the capital region at 48 percent, and 51 percent across the country.

In Metro Manila, 29 percent of ventilators are in use, and 23 percent nationwide.

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