Proposed P10B aid to pandemic-hit firms ‘grossly inadequate,’ Drilon says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 18, 2021   •   661

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Franklin Drilon has questioned the P10-billion rescue package for companies heavily-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “grossly inadequate.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Drilon said the proposed amount is a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the government’s P19.5-billion fund to combat insurgency activities.

During a Senate hearing on the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Act (Guide bill) on Wednesday, the senator stressed that rescuing strategically important companies (SIC) should be given priority since these can help save people’s employment.

He noted that the principal objective of the GUIDE bill is to give necessary access to credit and financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and SICs), affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Drilon questioned the sufficiency of the amount considering that the country suffered a 9.5 percent economic contraction in 2020, equivalent to P1.5 trillion, and an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, equivalent to 4.5 million jobless Filipinos, due to the pandemic.

“Given all of these, I raise questions on the sincerity of the administration in helping these strategically important companies. Will it make a dent?” he asked.

“The P10 billion rescue package is a joke, especially if you look at it in the context of the P19.5 billion this government allocated to the anti-insurgency fund,” he added.

Drilon said there is clearly a need for the government to provide more meaningful interventions to help pandemic-hit companies, save jobs and revive the economy.

He also insisted that the government should put more funds from the national budget instead of utilizing the funds of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Under the measure, DBP and Landbank will be authorized to invest in, or enter into a joint venture agreement to incorporate a special holding company (SHC).

The SHC is intended to assist in the rehabilitation of strategically important companies affected by COVID-19 pandemic which are experiencing temporary solvency issues.

The bill provides for a capital infusion of P7.5 billion to LBP and P2.5 billion to DBP.

Drilon said using the existing funds of the state banks poses risks to their financial positions.

“I hope that the subcommittee can review the proposed structure of the special holding company, review the total financial exposure of the government in incorporating this, and check the finances of the LBP and DBP,” he said.

“We should also place more safeguards in the bill to ensure that the people’s money is protected,” he added.

‘Maskless holiday’ sa Disyembre, target ng pamahalaan — Malakanyang

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Tiwala ang Malakanyang na maaabot ng Pilipinas ang minimithing ‘maskless holiday’ ngayong Disyembre sa gitna ng nagpapatuloy na vaccination program ng pamahalaan kontra COVID-19.

Ayon kay Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, malaki ang kumpiyansa ng pamahalaan na makakamit ang target na ito gaya ng nararanasan na ngayon sa ilang bansa.

“Kaya po yan. kaya nga po we are aiming for population protection… Kasi alam na natin sa mga bansang nakamit na nila ang containment, hindi na sila nagmamaskara at least sa outdoors gaya po ng Israel at ilang lugar sa Amerika,” ani Roque.

Sa datos ng pamahalaan as of June 16, 5.51 milyon na ang nakatanggap ng first dose ng COVID-19 vaccine sa buong bansa.Nasa 2.012 milyon naman ang nakakumpleto na ng doses.

Una nang sinabi ng pamahalaan na target nitong mabakunahan ang nasa 70 milyong mamamayan ngayong taon.

Ayon naman sa biological sciences expert na si Nicanor Austriaco, achievable ang target na ito kung hindi magkakaroon ng problema sa pagdating ng supply ng bakuna sa bansa.

Kailangan ding umabot sa 250,000 doses ang mai-administer sa isang araw sa National Capital Region (NCR) Plus areas mula ngayong buwan ng Hunyo hanggang November 30, 2021 upang maabot ang containment sa greater manila area gayundin ang tinatatarget na herd immunity.

“I follow the number of vaccinations in the NCR Plus 8, we have the capacity as long as we have the supply. I am hopeful that the supplies are arriving based on the schedule that Sec. (Carlito) Galvez has published,” ani Austriaco.

Giit pa nito, dapat mauna ang herd immunity kontra COVID-19 sa NCR plus upang maiwasan ang nangyaring spill over ng coronavirus infections sa iba pang bahagi ng bansa.

Sinabi rin ni Austriaco na hindi ginagamit ang bakuna upang tugunan ang kasalukuyang mabilis na pagtaas ng COVID-19 cases sa ilang bahagi ng bansa kundi upang maiwasan ang future surge na karaniwang nag-uumpisa sa Greater Manila area. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

IATF to meet Thursday to discuss face shield policy – Nograles

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) is set to meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss the government’s response to COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message, IATF co-chairperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said among the topics that will be tackled in the meeting is the use of face shields.

“May IATF kami mamaya. Pag-uusapan namin,” he said.

The policy on face shield wearing made headlines anew after Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other lawmakers shared with the public their conversation with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Wednesday about the limited use of face shield.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque later confirmed the lawmakers’ statements that the president did say that face shields should only be worn in hospitals.

Roque said the president’s decision becomes a policy but there is a possibility that the IATF will appeal if the face shield rule will be loosened.

Nograles assured they will immediately announce if there are any changes in health protocols.

“If there is any announcement sa bagong protocol, ilalabas namin,” he said.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega earlier said that shields may be removed when outdoors.

Under existing protocols, face shields are required to be worn in the following areas:

  • Enclosed public spaces
  • Schools
  • Workplaces
  • Commercial establishments
  • Public transport and terminals
  • Places of worship

Face shields should also be worn in other areas where one-meter physical distancing is not possible and there is a gathering of more than 10 people at the same venue at the same time.

OCTA Research fellow and Biological Sciences Professor Nicanor Austriaco also said that face shields offer a certain degree of protection against COVID-19 especially in areas with high infection rate.

“Especially now in those areas undergoing surge, I recommend in high-risk areas whether there is surge, the 9% may be important. But here in Metro Manila, for example, when you are outside and there is no-one around you, I think it is reasonable to say that lowering the risk by 9% maybe something we’re able to tolerate in order to mitigate some of the burden that we have for the Filipino people,” he said.

The Department of Health earlier rejected proposals to drop the use of face shields, as the country’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage remains low.

Delta COVID-19 variant, 60% na mas nakakahawa kumpara sa Alpha variant ayon sa ilang pag-aaral

Robie de Guzman   •   June 16, 2021

Higit na nakakahawa ang Delta variant ng coronavirus disease (COVID-19) kung ikukumpara sa iba pang natuklasang variant ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Ayon kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, lumabas sa ilang pag-aaral na 60 porsiyentong mas nakakahawa ang Delta variant na unang natuklasan sa India kumpara sa Alpha variant na unang napaulat sa United Kingdom.

“Iyong UK Variant po noong unang lumabas, sinabi nila na ito ay 50-60% more transmissible. So iyong existing po na variant natin ngayon for SARS-COV2 dadagdagan niyo ng 60% more transmissible so talagang mabilis po ang pagkakahawa-hawa,” ani Vergeire.

“Pero noong lumabas ang Indian Variant, it’s 60% more transmissible than the UK variant so it means that the existing variant that we have on top of UK and then there’s Indian Variant sobrang bilis na po ng pagkakahawa-hawa,” dagdag pa niya.

Buwan ng Mayo nang isama sa listahan ng variants of concern ng World Health Organization ang Delta variant.

Ibig sabihin, may mga ebidensyang nagpapakitang mas mabilis ang pagkalat nito, mas nakahahawa at sanhi ito ng mas malala o severe na pagkakasakit ng isang nagpositibo sa COVID-19.

Ayon sa United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ang Delta variant ay nakakabawas din sa epekto ng gamot o bakuna kontra COVID-19.

Batay sa mga pag-aaral sa United Kingdom, ang Delta variant rin ang nakitang dahilan ng mabilis na paglobo ng COVID-19 cases sa nasabing lugar.

Una nang iniulat na ang nasabing uri ng COVID-19 rin ang sanhi ng mabilis na pagtaas ng kaso sa India.

Sa Pilipinas, 13 ang natukoy na kaso ng Delta variant – dalawa sa mga ito ay pawang balikbayan na may travel history sa India.

Wala pang kumpirmasyon ang DOH sa ngayon kung Delta ang umiiral na COVID-19 variant ngayon sa mga lugar sa bansa na may mataas na kaso.

Sa ngayon ay nagpapatupad na ang Pilipinas ng travel restriction sa mga biyahero mula sa India at anim pang mga bansa na may kaso na rin ng nasabing variant.

Paalala naman ng DOH sa publiko na palagiang sumunod sa health protocols upang maiwasan ang hawaan ng COVID-19.

“Lagi natin tatandaan, variants are produced if there is a host, kapag mataas ang kaso mas maraming mag-mutate na virus, mas maraming variants na ipo-produce pero kapag na-maintain natin na mababa ang kaso kakaunti lang ang kapasidad ng virus na mag-mutate pa siya at mag- produce pa ng further variants,” ani Vergeire. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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