Philippines to allow entry of more foreigners with valid visas starting Feb. 16 — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   February 5, 2021   •   868

MANILA, Philippines – The list of foreign nationals allowed entry to the Philippines has been expanded, Malacañang announced on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Thursday decided to ease restrictions on foreigners with visas issued as of March 20, 2020 and are still valid and existing at the time of entry.

Also allowed to enter the Philippines are holders of valid and existing Special Resident and Retirees Visa (SRRV) and Section 9 (A) visas as long as they present an entry exemption document to the Bureau of Immigration upon arrival.

Arriving foreign nationals should have pre-booked accommodation for at least six nights in an accredited quarantine hotel/facility and be subject to COVID-19 testing at the quarantine hotel/facility on the sixth day from date of arrival.

Roque also said that entry of foreign nationals will subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry.

The updated policy shall take effect on February 16, he added.

“This expanded list, however, is without prejudice to existing immigration laws, rules and regulations,” the Palace official said.

“The Commissioner of Immigration has the exclusive prerogative to decide on waiver or recall of exclusion orders for all foreign nationals allowed to enter the country under relevant IATF resolutions,” he added.

DepEd urged to rollout ‘limited, very controlled’ pilot testing of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a pilot testing of face-to-face classes in areas with very few or zero COVID-19 cases to see how this will work.

Angara said that while he supports calls for the resumption of limited in-person classes, it would be best to conduct a dry-run in areas where physical distancing and other health protocols can be strictly observed.

“Gusto natin maibalik ang face-to-face classes pero be that as it may nagsalita na din si Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) na bastat walang bakuna ayaw niya mag upisa ng face-to-face classes nationwide,” Angara said in a statement on Sunday.

“Kung sakali, bago tayo mag umpisa ng nationwide rollout ng face-to-face classes, pumili tayo ng isa o dalawang probinsya muna para sa pilot testing,” Angara added.

The pilot areas should also have strong health systems that would be able to handle possible outbreaks in case of “super spreader” events.

“Kailangan ang lugar na yun ay walang masyadong kaso at handa ang kanyang health system kung sakaling magkaroon ng super spreader event,” he said.

Angara said the local government units that will be part of the pilot testing should ensure they have health facilities such as hospitals that are capable of handling a large number of cases–from isolation to treatment.

“Kung i-rollout ng DepEd itong face-to-face classes ay maingat at limitado talaga, under very controlled conditions muna,” Angara said.

Some senators have earlier pushed to reduce the number of schools participating in the dry-run.

Instead of 1,065 as initially proposed by the DepEd, lawmakers want the program be conducted in 500 or lower number of schools with smaller number of students.

The proposal aims to gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angara stressed that any plan to resume face-to-face learning should be done with extreme caution since the risk of contracting COVID-19 still exists in the country.

He believes that the resumption of limited in-person classes would ease off a lot of stress and pressure on both the students and their parents who have been forced to cope with blended learning due to the pandemic.

DepEd urged to form panel of experts on dry run of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to form a panel of experts that will guide the pilot tests of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said the panel of experts should look at the pilot testing program and resumption of in-person classes with a more specialized approach, considering the unique situations of each school.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na dahil nag-cancel ng face-to-face classes, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our learners,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

DepEd earlier said it is eyeing to conduct a dry-run of face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools but some senators proposed to reduce the number of schools to 500 or lower, with a smaller number of students.

Gatchalian said he has expressed support for this proposal to “gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Senate hearing last week, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) cited a global study of 191 countries which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates.

The PPS also said that one year of school closure is equivalent to two years’ loss on learning.

For the PPS, the effects of prolonged school closures on health and development—including learning losses, increased exposure to violence, sexual abuse, and early pregnancies—can be mitigated if the highest standards of safety measures are observed.

“The damage of school closures can be deeper and longer. During pre-COVID, our learners did not do well in international large-scale assessments and our national achievement scores were not doing great. And now, because of the lack of access to face-to-face education, internet, and gadgets, the learners are left on their own,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, citing an internal department survey which showed that more than 50% of students are in favor of attending physical classes.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission in February but it was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

Sinopharm files for EUA in PH — Roque

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday (March 1) confirmed that China’s Sinopharm has already filed for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This was confirmed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque at a press briefing.

“They have already filed with the fda an application for eua for sinopharm vaccine, nai-file na po,” he said during the kick off vaccination event in UP-PGH.

The Sinopharm vaccine has been controversial as it was the brand injected to members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) last year despite lack of proper authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It is also the brand that is preferred by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

However, FDA Director General Dr. Eric Domingo in Laging Handa public briefing on PTV earlier today said he has not seen an application as of Friday.  He is also not sure if the application was filed online.

“As of last Friday po, wala pa naman akong nabalitaan na natanggap kami na EUA application from Sinopharm,” Domingo said.

“Hindi ko alam kung nag-apply sila online over the weekend pero wala pa pong sinasabi sa akin,” he added.

Should the EUA application be received, the FDA will have a long process of reviewing it similar to Sinovac;s CoronaVac vaccine.

Specifically, it will take more than 21 days or more likely from four to six weeks because Sinopharm has not received any EUA from much stringent regulatory authorities such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization.

At present, only three vaccines are FDA-approved for emergency use in the Philippines.

These are COVID-19 vaccines fro, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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