Release of gov’t subsidy for small business workers nearing completion — DOF

Robie de Guzman   •   June 15, 2020   •   252

MANILA, Philippines – Government payouts to workers of small businesses heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic are nearing completion, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

Finance Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Antonio Joselito Lambino II said that both tranches of the two-month Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) are now at more than 97 percent completion.

“As of June 11, around a month after the application deadline, payouts for both tranches of the program are at a combined 97.4-percent completion rate,” Lambino said in a statement issued on Sunday.

“For the first tranche, 3.05 million, or 98.8 percent of the 3.09 million qualified beneficiaries, have their SBWS ready for withdrawal from their bank or PayMaya accounts or for pick up from MLhuillier Kwarta Padala outlets,” he added.

Lambino said that around 40,000 remaining employees are still awaiting confirmation or requiring correction of their bank account numbers or cellphone numbers, for those who chose to receive their subsidy through PayMaya or Lhuillier.

For the second tranche, 2.96 million, or 97.4 percent of beneficiaries, have their SBWS ready for withdrawal or pickup, he added.

“This means that more than P44 billion-worth of subsidies for two months have been credited directly to the SBWS program’s intended beneficiaries in less than two months,” Lambino said.

“What has allowed the government to quickly distribute the aid relatively smoothly was the use of automated processing and digital technologies in running the program,” he added.

Lambino explained that, by design, the SBWS program is largely automated and digital, with manual processing kept to a minimum.

He said the government took advantage of available technologies, cloud computing, and the electronic databases of Social Security System (SSS) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to quickly distribute the subsidy for millions of workers.

“The implementing agencies have been able to accurately target intended beneficiaries and quickly distribute the subsidy to millions of employees with zero face-to-face contact between the beneficiaries and government,” he said.

Each qualified worker is entitled to receive P5,000 to 8,000 monthly for two months under this SBWS program, which is jointly implemented by the DOF, BIR and SSS.

The SBWS supports qualified employees of small businesses who did not get paid for at least two months due to the work stoppages resulting from the community quarantine and other containment measures imposed by the national and local governments since mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

SBWS subsidies are either credited directly to the beneficiaries’ chosen banks or PayMaya e-wallet accounts or sent through cash remittance via MLhuillier Kwarta Padala.

The SBWS interagency task force is chaired by the DOF, represented by Lambino, and with SSS President-CEO Aurora Ignacio and BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa as members.

RITM to further scale down operations after staff test positive for COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) announced it would further scale down its operations as several of their staff tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

On Wednesday (July 15), the Department of Health (DOH) said contact tracing is currently being conducted.

“So they had to do contact tracing and some of these employees na kasama natin gumagawa sa lab ay na-quarantine sila, (that we work with at the lab are already under quarantine),” said DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The DOH also said that the RITM currently has backlogs due to the amount of specimen being submitted to the laboratory. Vergeire assured that the DOH is coordinating with other laboratories to examine the specimen.

“We are now coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross para iyong backlog na iba ay mapakiusap natin sa kanila. Kapag nag-scale down, hindi ibig sabihin na totally wala gagawin, (so that the backlogs can be given to others. Scaling down does not mean operations have stopped)” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH to include PUV drivers in expanded COVID-19 testing

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) will include additional groups in its expanded testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Aside from the elderly, frontliners, and the immunocompromised, the expanded testing will also cover the PUV drivers, operators, and employees of manufacturing companies.

The DOH said there will be four subgroups for the expanded testing. Subgroup G includes residents in areas with active COVID-19 transmission. Subgroup H will be frontliners in tourist zones while Subgroup I are for employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers.

Subgroup J covers economy workers including PUV drivers, conductors, pilots, waiters, restaurant managers, cashiers, bank tellers, teachers, and security guards.

The Health Department aims to release the updated testing guidelines by next week. DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said the additional groups show the increasing testing capacity of the country.

“Alam natin na gusto na natin unti-unting buksan ang ating ekonomiya (We all know that we want to slowly open our economy) and this is part of how we will be opening our economy,” she said.

Vergeire, meanwhile, advised individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 positive patients to undergo isolation while waiting for their own test result.

“Even if the results are not out, they have to comply with the quarantine procedure of having to be isolated for 14 days,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Number of int’l travelers in PH down by 95% since start of quarantine – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   July 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The number of international passengers who entered and exited the country since the start of the community quarantine dropped by at least 95% compared to figures recorded in the same period last year, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Wednesday.

In a statement, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said passenger arrival volume from March 16 to June 30 decreased by more than 96% while departure declined by 95% due to suspension of international flights and imposition of travel restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do not foresee these statistics to rise in the near future while the entire world is still fighting to defeat this coronavirus,” Morente said.

In the same statement, Immigration Deputy Spokesperson and BI National Operations Center (BINOC) acting chief Melvin Mabulac disclosed that only 189,000 passengers arrived from March 16 to June 30, which is a far cry from the more than 5.16 million passengers who arrived in the same period in 2019.

He also said that only 238,000 passengers left the country during the period compared to the 5.18 million who departed in that time last year.

Mabulac said the bulk of passengers arrived and departed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) because all other international ports were closed during the lockdown.

He said it was only in June that the government allowed international flights to resume at the Clark and Mactan airports.

“Also included in these figures are the more than 16,000 seafarers who disembarked after being quarantined aboard their vessels anchored at the Manila Bay,” Mabulac said.

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