Philippines, Japan ink 50-B yen standby loan deal for post-disaster efforts

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020   •   311

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan signed an agreement for a 50 billion yen (around P23.3 billion) standby loan which aims to quickly disburse funding support for the government’s response to national calamities or health emergency, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Eigo Azukizawa signed the deal Tuesday on the second phase of the post-disaster standby loan (PDSL).

Under this agreement, the DOF said the disbursement of the standby loan to the Philippines will be triggered by either of the following circumstances: the declaration of a state of calamity; or the declaration of a state of public health emergency.

In the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic or any other public health emergencies, the imposition of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or its equivalent in the National Capital Region (NCR) or in any other highly urbanized area in the country will also trigger the disbursement of the loan, it added.

“The ongoing pandemic underscores the need to further improve our policy and institutional framework for disaster risk reduction and management. It likewise emphasizes the need to build our financial resilience against disasters and similar emergencies,” Dominguez said during the ceremonial signing of the loan deal at the DOF office in Manila.

The loan will be available for quick disbursement in tranches within three years once it is declared effective. It may be extended for an additional three-year period for up to four times.

The financing package under PDSL carries a fixed interest rate of 0.01 percent with a maturity of 40 years, inclusive of a 10-year grace period.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda welcomed the agreement, saying that “as a calamity prone country like the Philippines, Japan fully understands the value of safeguarding lives, infrastructure and livelihood.”

The signing of this loan accord comes after a separate 50-billion yen loan inked by both countries in July for the COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan, which aims to assist the Philippine government’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease and aid Filipinos most affected by the pandemic.

Nationwide road-clearing ops to resume on Nov. 16 – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday directed local government units (LGU) to resume their road-clearing operations after more than seven months of suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the resumption of road clearing operations will officially start on November 16, depending on the quarantine classification of LGUs.

LGUs will have about two months or until January 15, 2021 to comply with the directive, he added.

“We hope that the LGUs, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, will show the same enthusiasm and positive results that they were able to achieve last year as we aim for safer and accessible roads free from illegal and potentially hazardous encroachments,” Año said in a statement.

“Despite the January 15 deadline, we wish to remind the LGUs that road-clearing operation is year-long endeavor, kaya kailangan natin ang kanilang commitment at pakikiisa,” he added.

Under DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-145, Año said that the resumption of road-clearing operations will vary, in different degrees, depending on the quarantine classification of a certain area.

Areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) levels should render full implementation of road clearing operations.

Those under general community quarantine (GCQ) will execute the partial implementation of the program while the road-clearing efforts in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and ECQ will remain suspended.

Early this week, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire National Capital Region and other areas of the country under GCQ for the whole month of November with no region in the country placed under the strictest community quarantine classification.

Under the DILG memorandum, road obstructions such as vehicular terminals except in areas designated by the LGUs; vending sites; house encroachments that obstruct the right-of-way; debris, waste materials, and other junked items, among others must be cleared off roadways.

Structures or obstructions erected for locally stranded individuals must also be removed upon return to their intended destination.

Parked ambulance and public emergency vehicles; checkpoints established by IATF, LGUs, PNP, and AFP; and temporary obstructions caused by the establishment of bike lanes, however, are exempted from removal, the DILG said.

Año said that results of road clearing efforts conducted by the LGU will be subjected to validation from January 18 to 22, 2021.

The DILG chief reiterated that LGUs that will fail to comply with the presidential directive will face administrative charges.

In his State of the Nation Address last year, Duterte ordered the DILG and LGUs to reclaim all public roads being used for private ends.

The road clearing operations were suspended in March in line with efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

DTI to allow mall-wide sales to revive economy amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it will once again allow the conduct of mall-wide sales to draw more shoppers as part of government efforts to revive the country’s economy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said the move aims to encourage more customers to visit malls following the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF) decision to ease quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and allow more people to leave their homes.

“Payagan ulit natin para restimulate ulit ang dami ng tao sa mall dahil nakita natin as we reopen hindi pa ganun kadami yung mga nagpupunta sa mall,” he said.

“Isang panghikayat ulit para sumigla ang ekonomiya ay payagan natin ang paggawa ng mall-wide sale o whether sa isang tindahan,” he added.

The DTI earlier said around 95% of sectors have been allowed to resume operations amid the pandemic, provided that they implement strict observance of health protocols in light of the COVID-19 threat.

Mall operators, for their part, assured they will continue to follow health protocols for commercial establishments to ensure the safety of their customers. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)



DOLE studying employers’ plea to subsidize 13th month pay

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday said it is studying the plea of some “distressed” employers to subsidize the cost of the 13th  month pay of their workers.

DOLE said it would deliberate on the proposal after its meeting with labor groups and business owners on Tuesday.

The labor department added that it will coordinate with the Department of Finance to discuss the employers’ suggestion.

DOLE Undersecretary Benjo Benevidez, however, stressed that employers who may avail of the possible subsidy must pass the requirements and prove that their businesses have indeed took a hit in the last three business quarters.

“Kung ikaw ay nagsasabing distressed employer ka, patunayan mon a distressed employer ka… Isa po sa proseso ay magpunta ka sa DOLE at aaprubahan yung kanilang application,” he said.

DOLE met with employers and labor groups to discuss the possible deferment of the 13th month pay due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Presidential Decree No. 851, companies are required to give workers their 13th month pay and that this should be released before the end of each year, separate from other year-end bonuses.

The department said labor groups are firm on their position to receive their 13th month pay as provided by the law.

The employers are willing to give workers their 13th month pay but the pandemic has affected their capacity to do so, it added.

DOLE said it will announce its decision on the matter in the coming days. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mirasol Abogadil)

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