Philippines, ADB sign $200-M loan deal to augment gov’t cash aid to poor families

Robie de Guzman   •   April 30, 2020   •   1267

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Thursday said the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed a $200-million loan agreement to augment the funding for the government’s cash assistance program to poor and vulnerable households greatly affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and ADB Country Director for the Philippines Kelly Bird signed the loan deal on Tuesday, April 28, the DOF said.

This is the second additional financing provided by the ADB under the Social Protection Support Project (SPSP), which supports the Government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“We thank the ADB for its swift and continuing support for the Duterte administration’s efforts to blunt the impact of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak on our people and the economy,” Dominguez said in a statement.

“This SPSP loan will help the government achieve the No. 1 priority set by President Duterte in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is to save lives and extend a lifeline to millions of poor and low-income Filipinos who lost their incomes and livelihoods following the pandemic-driven work stoppage,” he added.

The SPSP aims to provide cash grants to beneficiary-families under the 4Ps covered by the emergency subsidies under Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.

This budget-support loan will help bridge the immediate financing requirements of the government’s response to this coronavirus crisis through the distribution via cash cards of cash grants to beneficiaries of the 4Ps.

For his part, ADB Vice President Ahmed Saeed commended the Philippine government for rolling out the emergency subsidy program aimed at helping poor and vulnerable Filipinos get through this health and economic crisis, as the pandemic curve is flattened.

“This $200 million loan to assist the government in financing COVID-19 cash grants to poor households under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will help achieve this purpose,” he said.

The loan for the project, which carries a maturity period of 29 years inclusive of an 8-year grace period, is expected to be disbursed by June this year.

Last April 24, the ADB and the Philippines signed a loan agreement that would let the Duterte administration access up to $1.5 billion in budgetary support from the Manila-headquartered lender to augment funds for its stepped-up efforts to contain the global health crisis.

This loan for the COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) program is the largest budget support ever extended to the Philippines by the ADB, according to President Masatsugu Asakawa.

The CARES program loan is under the ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility Pandemic Response Option, which is a quick-disbursing budget-support facility to aid countries like the Philippines in mitigating the severe economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and bankrolling measures to prevent the further spread of this highly contagious virus.

President Asakawa said ADB’s financing for the CARES program loan “is part of a well-sequenced support package that will provide financial and technical advice to help the [Philippines] meet the challenges posed by a crisis that is wreaking havoc both globally and nationally.”

The ADB president has commended the Philippine government for “its strong leadership and decisive actions to halt the spread of COVID-19 and quickly implementing financial assistance packages to families and small businesses to address the economic downturn.”

The ADB was among the first multilateral development institutions to provide assistance to the Philippines’ COVID response efforts with its delivery of a $3-million grant for the government’s purchase of medical supplies for its frontline health workers.

Pagkahawa ng COVID-19, hindi dapat sadyain para magkaroon ng immunity – eksperto

Robie de Guzman   •   January 22, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Nagpaalala ang isang health expert sa publiko, lalo na ang mga bakunado kontra COVID-19, na huwag maging kampante dahil maaari pa rin silang dapuan ng sakit.

Paliwanag ni Dr. Nina Gloriani, ang head ng vaccine expert panel, dapat pa ring mag-ingat ang mga bakunado na at huwag hayaang ma-expose ang sarili sa mga taong infected ng COVID-19.

Aniya, napatunayan na sa maraming pag-aaral na nakakapagbigay ng proteksyon ang available na bakuna kontra COVID-19 pero hindi ito 100 porsiyento dahil may mga instansiya na nagkakaroon ng breakthrough infection.

“Pero iyong nabakunahan at nahawa ay tinatawag na breakthough, iyon talaga ang tinatawag na breakthrough,” ani Gloriani.

Paliwanag ng eksperto, mayroong nade-develop na natural immunity o karagdagang proteksyon ang isang fully vaccinated na nagkaka-COVID pa rin dahil natural na tumaas ang immunity ng isang indibidwal na nagkakasakit.

Pero babala nito, hindi dapat sadyain ng sinoman na i-expose ang sarili sa mga pasyenteng may COVID-19 para lang magkaroon ng natural immunity sa virus.

“Base sa pag-aaral, totoo na ang natural immunity plus vaccine immunity, iyong tinatawag nating hybrid immunity ay mas mataas ang level ng mga neutralizing antibody,” ani Gloriani.

“Pero I don’t think the doctors will say, yes magpa-expose kayo para magkaroon kayo ng natural immunity, hindi po ganoon,” dagdag pa niya.

Hindi pa rin aniya nawawala ang posibilidad na maaari pa ring maging malala ang breakthough infection sa isang fully vaccination depende sa sitwasyon.

“Mabuti kung ang breakthrough infection ninyo ay mild, hanggang moderate siguro pero mild, magkakaroon kayo ng boosting ng immunity. Pero kung maging severe iyon, hindi iyon maganda. so hindi natin titignan na ang pagpapa-infect nalang tayo. hindi po ganoong ang tama,” ani Gloriani.

Dagdag pa nito, nakadepende pa rin sa general health status ng isang tao kung gaano kalala ang magiging epekto ng virus sa kanilang katawan lalo’t lumabas sa mga pag-aaral na nagkakaroon ng long COVID-19 ang ilan sa mga naka-recover mula sa sakit.

“Sa kaso ng covid-19 ay ibang iba po itong sakit na ito. Kunyari, mahawa ka sa flu o sa colds, commmon colds, gagaling ka kaagad. Pero itong covid-19 hindi po sigurado kung anong magiging natural course ng ating infection,” ani Gloriani.

Muli namang iginiit ng mga eksperto na kahit pa fully vaccinated na ang ating mga kababayan ay mahalaga  pa rin ang palagiang pagsunod sa health standards upang makaiwas sa COVID-19.

Umapela rin ito sa ating mga kababayan na huwag nang mamili ng brand ng COVID-19 vaccines dahil lahat naman ng mga ito ay makakapagbibigay pa rin ng kinakailangan nating proteksyon laban sa virus. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aileen Cerrudo)

 

Dahan-dahang phase out ng COVID-19 quarantine protocols, isinusulong

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Isinusulong ng isang opisyal ng pamahalaan ang graduwal na pag-aalis ng quarantine protocols sa bansa sa oras na bumaba na ang mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, partikular na ang pagkalat ng Omicron variant.

Ayon kay Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, layon nitong mapabilis ang pagbangon ng ekonomiya at matulungan ang mga negosyanteng makabawi sa pagkalugi lalo na ngayong limitado na naman ang galaw ng publiko at mahigpit mula ang restrictions.

“As we see Omicron start to subside then maybe we can move towards a gradual phase-out of our quarantine in the country,” ani Concepcion.

Naniniwala ang opisyal na malaking dagok para sa ekonomiya ng bansa ang ipaiiiral na restrictions gaya ng mandatory quarantine period dahil apektado rin nito ang lokal na turismo.

Karamihan aniya sa mga negosyong malaki ang lugi ay ang airline companies, hotel at restaurants na dalawang taon na ring limitado ang operasyon dahil sa pandemya.

Ang iba namang maliliit na negosyo ay tuluyan nang nagsara.

Ang mga pasahero namang pumapasok sa bansa gaya ng returning Filipinos ay apektado rin ng mandatory quarantine protocols.

Kaya ang mungkahi ni Concepcion, sa halip na facility-based quarantine na kasalukuyang requirement ng pamahalaan ay gawin na lamang itong home quarantine.

“We are not suggesting to remove quarantine immediately. What I’m proposing to IATF members is that a gradual move towards the removal of quarantine in the Philippines and moving towards home quarantine, rather than facility based quarantine. In my own view is that it does not actually help us from preventing Delta of Omicron from entering the country,” ang pahayag ng opisyal.

Ang panukala ay batay aniya sa ginagawa sa ibang bansa gaya ng Thailand, Switzerland, at Estados Unidos na hindi na nagpapatupad ng mandatory quarantine lalo na sa mga fully vaccinated individuals.

“We should think about it, I believe that eventually as you have seen in the news Thailand, Switzerland started to open up… And some of them are removing their quarantine,” ani Concepcion.

“Seeing how people are coping with COVID-19 in America specifically in Dubai area, I’ve noticed that basically everybody is wearing mask, they are  definitely conscious about you know the need to prevent themselves from getting sick but they live a normal life, there’s a lot of movement and people have accepted that,” dagdag pa nito.

Para kay Concepcion, hindi na kakayanin ng bansa kung patuloy pang hihigpitan ang galaw ng publiko kaya’t kailangang pag-aralan ng mga kinauukulan ang pagluluwag sa restrictions para makabawi ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas.

“We will really try to engage with the IATF on starting to study this whole gradual move towards the removal of quarantine,” pahayag ng opisyal.

“We can’t continue to lock ourselves out, we can’t continue to restrict movement we definitely have to open up the economy,” dagdag pa niya.

Samantala, ayon naman kay acting Presidential Spokesperson at Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, kailangang pag-aralan ng mabuti ang pag-phase out ng quarantine protocols dahil hindi naman lahat ng polisiya sa ibang bansa ay aplikable rin sa Pilipinas.

Kailangan rin aniyang may rekomendasyon ng health experts at siyentipikong batayan ang pagpapatupad ng protocols.

“Lahat naman ng mga suggestions naman po ay pinagaaralan natin sa IATF, then of course tinitignan din natin yung ginagawang practices ng other countries, we benchmark also with the practices ng other countries,” ani Nograles.

“But we are also mindful that it’s not a one size fits-all for all countries, kailangang mong tingnan ang konteksto ng bawat bansa… Siyempre base rin po sa suggestions recommendations sa mga health experts natin so lahat is based on science and data,” dagdag pa niya. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Janice Ingente)

 

COVID-19 cases sa NCR, bumababa na pero hawaan sa mga probinsiya, tumataas – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Bumababa na ang kaso ng COVID-19 cases sa National Capital Region (NCR), batay sa obserbasyon ng Department of Health (DOH).

Ayon kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, kapansin-pansin ang bumabagal na ngayong hawaan ng COVID-19 sa NCR kahit may umiiral na transmission o hawaan ng Omicron variant, kumpara sa nakalipas na linggo.

“Base naman sa obserbasyon na ito, atin namang sinasabi na, oo bumabagal po ang pagtaas ng mga kaso, mayroon po tayong nakikita na parang nagpa-plateau dito sa National Capital Region,” ani Vergeire.

“But we do not look only sa number of cases kapag tayo ay nag-aanalisa ng ating sitwasyon. Tinitignan pa po natin ang ibang mga metrics na gingamit gaya ng positivity rate,” dagdag pa niya.

Ayon sa DOH, nakatulong ang mataas na vaccination coverage sa NCR kaya naman kahit tumaas ang kaso ay hindi ganoon kadami ang na-ospital at nakaranas ng severe infection.

Ngunit sa labas ng NCR, napansin rin ng DOH na tumataas naman ang kaso ng COVID-19 sa mga lalawigan, dahilan upang ilagay sa COVID-19 Alert Level 4 ang ilang lugar.

Kabilang sa mga lugar na nasa ilalim ng Alert Level 4 hanggang Enero 31 ay ang Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province, at Northern Samar.

Sa ilalim ng Alert Level 4, hanggang 10% indoor capacity lang ang papayagan sa operasyon ng mga establisiymento para sa fully vaccinated individual habang 30% naman ang outdoor capacity.

Bawal namang mag-operate ang amusement parks, casinos, mga sinehan, pati na ang pagsasagawa ng contact sports at face-to-face classes.

“Bagamat mataas na po talaga ang kanilang mga kaso ang kanilang healthcare utilization ay pumalo na po more than 70%. Now there are areas in the country na pumalo na rin po sa more than 70% ang kanilang healthcare utilization pero hindi po natin inescalate so bakit po? Dahil tinitihgnan din po natin kung magkano po ba or how much they have allocated for their ICUs and wards,” ang paliwanag ni Vergeire.

“Nakikita po natin na medyo nahihirapan na po ang mga lugar na ito that’s why the decision to escalate them compared to other areas,” dagdag pa niya.

Ganito rin ang obserbasyon ng OCTA Research group sa sitwasyon ng COVID-19 sa bansa.

Ayon kay OCTA Research fellow Guido David, inaasahang sa pagpasok ng Pebrero ay mas mababa pa ang maitatalang kaso ng COVID-19 kada araw sa NCR,

“Even by the end of the month we are projecting just a little over 2000 cases per day in the NCR it peaked at around 18,000,” ani David.

“By Valentine’s Day, it could be at less than 1,000 cases and by the end of February it could be at around less than 500 cases. Again these are very rough projections we hope that it could guide our friends in the business sector and in the government,” dagdag pa niya.

Sa obserbasyon ng OCTA, ang pagbaba ng kaso sa NCR ay gaya ng pattern na naobserbahan sa South Africa pagkatapos ng mabilis na pagkalat ng Omicron variant.

Pero babala ng grupo, hindi dapat maging kampante ang publiko dahil tumataas pa rin ang kaso ng COVID-19 sa ibang lugar gaya sa Central Luzon, CALABARZON at sa Cebu City.

Dapat rin umanong panatilihin muna ang alert level sa NCR dahil mahigit pa sa 1 ang reproduction number ng rehiyon at hindi pa rin naman napuputol ang hawaan ng Omicron at Delta variant.

“Downgrading to alert level at this time might not be advisable until the NCR reaches the moderate risk just to sustain the rapid decrease that we’re seeing so that we could see those good numbers later in the moths of February,” ani David.

“Last year we almost reach a baseline of about less than 100 cases per day in the NCR,” dagdag pa niya.

Samantala, muli namang nagpaalala ang mga otoridad sa publiko na sumunod sa health protocols at magpabakuna o booster upang magkaroon ng proteksyon laban sa COVID-19.

 

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