Report on PH looming as SEA’s COVID-19 epicenter ‘speculative’, Testing Czar says

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2020   •   281

MANILA, Philippines – Declaring the Philippines as the next possible epicenter of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Southeast Asia is speculative, the government’s testing czar Vince Dizon said Thursday.

Dizon issued the statement in response to a report from Singapore-based The Straits Times which claimed that the Philippines could soon become the new virus epicenter in Southeast Asian region due to the continued increase in COVID-19 infections.

The Philippines on Thursday reported 3,561 additional infections, bringing the total number of cases to 119,460. Of the total number, 50,473 are active cases.

Dizon pointed out that the increase in the country’s coronavirus infections is only “normal” due to improved testing capacity and increased contact among the public following the relaxation of community quarantine measures to reopen the slumping economy.

“Speculative ‘yun pero ang masasabi ko, dumami na ang testing natin. Tayo na ang pinakamataas sa Southeast Asia sa testing per day. Nasa halos 1.7 million na ang nate-test natin sa buong bansa. Mahigit 1 million diyan ay nasa NCR (National Capital Region) lamang at tuluy-tuloy nating gagawin ito,” he said during a press briefing.

“Habang tayo ay nagtetest, talagang marami tayong makikitang positibo. Pero mas importante ‘yun kasi kung hindi natin sila mahahanap at hindi natin sila mai-isolate e lalong kakalat at lalong dadami ang magkakasakit,” he added.

The government has re-imposed stricter community quarantine measures over Metro Manila and nearby areas until August 18 in the hopes of arresting the rising cases of COVID-19.

The move follows the call of the medical community for a timeout to recuperate from the exhausting battle against the pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Senate approves Bayanihan 2 bill on final reading

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill which seeks to extend the powers granted to the Duterte administration to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Twenty-two senators voted to pass the measure while Senator Francis Pangilinan was the lone dissenter.

The upper chamber passed the bill a day after President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to legislators to expedite its passage during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Under the Bayanihan 2 bill, the allocation of a P140-billion standby fund is proposed to help sectors and industries heavily-hit by the pandemic. It also seeks to provide funds for the procurement of additional COVID-19 testing equipment as well as the implementation of assistance programs for displaced workers, low-income households and other sectors. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Gov’t considers Cebu City as the new COVID-19 epicenter

Marje Pelayo   •   June 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cebu City have reached more than 3,500, the highest among all highly urbanized areas in the country. 

For this reason, the National Task Force against COVID-19 now considers it the new epicenter of the infectious respiratory disease. 

Specifically, Cebu City recorded the highest number of active cases and critical and severe COVID-19 patients. 

The national government has admitted that the situation in Cebu City is alarming. 

“Ang pinakamain focal point po natin is Cebu City, considering the parameters and thresholds. The new cases are increasing, even surpassing the whole NCR,” noted Task Force Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez. 

The cases of death ay mataas din po. Ang tinatawag na recoveries, malakas rin po pero ang kanilang level 3 hospitals are very limited, ” he added.

Galvez cited the city’s leniency in implementing protocols under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) during the early months of the outbreak.

For now, authorities have no other choice but to extend and enforce strict quarantine measures to improve the situation through the collaborative efforts of the military, the police and the local government units. 

Currently, a total of 19 barangays in Cebu City are under hard lockdown.

Nakikita naming kailangan pa ng stringent restrictions kasi na-find out namin, nung nag-ECQ sila hindi ito properly implemented, ” Galvez said. 

“That’s why it prompted the deployment of more forces to Cebu City,” Galvez said. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

193 companies declare permanent closure due to COVID-19 crisis – DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines –  Exactly 69,022 employees from more than 2,000 establishments across the country have gone jobless amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

This, according to the record of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as of Tuesday (June 9).

Specifically, 193 of these establishments have declared permanent closure while 1,875 others have reduced their workforce.

DOLE is waiting for the filing of formal notice of closure from the said establishments for the final process.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III noted that it is the obligation of employers to give the separation or retrenchment pay for every affected employee.

Statutory right iyan ng employee kapag tinanggal mo siya. Kung walang legal basis, magsasara ka lang then they have to pay for separation pay [This is a statutory right of the employee when he is dismissed from work. If there is no legal basis for the closure then they have to pay for separation pay],” Bello said.

The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), however, expressed concern about how these establishments can give their employees’ separation pay when they, too, are severely affected by the implementation of community quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Noong araw mahirap magsara ng kumpanya dahil ang daming babayaran. Pero ngayon ready-made reason sa kanila yung lockdown na nalugi sila. Hindi mo mapipilit na magbayad ng separation pay dahil Walang ibabayad [In the past, it’s not easy to close a company because of a number of obligations to settle. But now, the lockdowns had become a ready-made reason for them because of income loss. You cannot force them to give separation pay because they have nothing to give],” explained ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

Meanwhile, DOLE has recorded around 1.9 million workers affected by the temporary closure of companies, while more than 960,000 are back in their jobs under flexible work arrangements.

The Labor Department is now planning to subsidize 25% to 50% of the payroll cost of employers with the condition that they would not resort to retrenchment. –MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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