Senators oppose resumption of POGO operations to aid gov’t COVID-19 response

Marje Pelayo   •   April 22, 2020   •   366

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators expressed opposition against a proposal to resume operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country allegedly to raise funds to support the national government’s response against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

During a live broadcast aired through Facebook by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque highlighted the contribution of POGO industry as among the government’s sources of funds.

Ang POGO po ay kabahagi siguro ng industriya na nagbibigay ng cash resource sa presidente, sa ating pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng buwis. Ang tatanungin po natin, (ano) ang risk na pino-pose ng operation ng POGO?” Roque said.

[POGO contributes to the cash resources of the President and the government in the form of taxes. If we may ask, what risks do POGO operations pose?]

But according to Senator Joel Villanueva, POGO is a ‘high-risk sector’ as its workforce is mainly comprised of Chinese nationals.

“It has a huge potential of spreading the disease because there are several workers working in an enclosed area and are residing in high rise condominiums,” the Senate Committee Chair on Labor and Employment.

Villanueva also argued that most POGOs in the country don’t pay government taxes which is enough reason not to allow their operation.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Senator Franklin Drilon said he is totally against the proposal.

“The resumption of POGO will not serve the rationale for a partial lifting of the ECQ to enable essential industries to operate. Since when did POGO become an essential industry?” he said.

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan raised the question: why not prioritize employment for Filipinos affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) than paying attention to Chinese businesses such as POGO?

Boost state funds? DOF na nga ang nagsasabi na ni hindi nga nagbabayad ng bilyong-bilyong pisong buwis ang mga ‘yan, [It’s the (Department of Finance) that confirms those (POGOs) do not pay taxes,]” he added.

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, said he might agree to the idea only on a work-from-home setup.

“If not (work from home), It’s non-essential. I would rather allow construction workers and farmers to go back to work,” he said.

Another opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, stressed that China owes the Philippines big time.

The lady senator said the government should press China to pay over P200-B for environmental damages in West Philippines Sea and about P50-B for unpaid taxes from previous POGO operations.

“POGOs are simply not worth it, and it’s way past time to say goodbye to POGOs,” she said.

Hontiveros vowed to study the possible filing of a resolution that would move China to face its arrears. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Belmonte urges hospitals to assure safety of health workers

Maris Federez   •   May 14, 2020

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Mayor Joy Belmonte appealed to all Metro Manila hospitals to exert more effort in protecting healthcare workers.

The local chief executive’s move was prompted by the data that showed high infection rate of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among local residents who work in the city’s more than 50 public and private hospitals.

“We implore hospital owners and administrators to provide safer working conditions, more personal protective equipment (PPE), and free virus testing to their staff and medical professionals,” said Belmonte in a statement released on the city’s official Facebook page.

She also stressed that failure to do such measures would lead to more cases and would bring more harm to the healthcare workers and the whole city.

“They are already overwhelmed and exhausted. We must do our best to protect them as much as they care for our people,” she added.

Based on the Department of Health (DOH) May 11 data, 390 city residents who are healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19.

This figure constitutes 24.7 percent of the city’s total COVID-19 cases, which stands at 1,578 as of the said date.

The same data also showed that many of the city’s recorded cases can be directly traced to health workers’ family and household members.

“Besides putting our own frontliners at risk, leaving them unprotected and untested may cause them to become carriers of the deadly disease to their family and community,” said Dr. Rolando Cruz, Head of QC-Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

He suggested that hospitals should consider providing their staff comfortable temporary housing facilities where the latter can opt to stay after duty.

“A safe and convenient facility where they can rest physically and mentally would be beneficial. Being away from their family for the meantime will keep them from worrying that they’re putting loved ones at risk,” said Cruz. — /mbmf

COVID-19 cases may increase during rainy season — Dr. Leachon

Marje Pelayo   •   May 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — It’s been raining lately and people are asking how would wet weather affect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

According to COVID-19 Special Medical Adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Dr. Anthony Leachon, it would likely increase the number of COVID-19 cases.

Kapag tag-ulan kasi, pini-predict natin— dahil dikit-dikit— it will cause more problems kasi iyong social distancing ay nawawala kapag tagulan, (During rainy season people tend to move closer so we are predicting that social distancing measure will be ignored),” he said.

According to Dr. Leachon, there is no concrete evidence that weather affects coronavirus transmission because infections course through close contact with a carrier of the disease.

He emphasized that individuals evacuated to safety from flooding and the wrath of typhoons must strictly observe physical distancing, aside from proper hand washing and overall hygiene.

Kunwari mag-e-evacuation center ka, dapat may mask at alcohol doon at malalayo kayo (For instance, if you are staying at an evacuation center, you should have a mask and rubbing alcohol with you. You should also keep your distance from one another),” Leachon said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) says that observing COVID-19 protocols is included in their preparations.

NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark Timbal explained that among the measures is separating the sick and well people at evacuation centers.

Health officials will also make sure to monitor evacuation areas during a tropical cyclone.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leachon added that the government is ready to face dengue cases.

I-prepare na ang kabahayan ninyo na walang masyadong papasok na lamok. Magdala kayo ng mga repellent at mga damit na mahahaba para hindi kayo makagat ng lamok (Prepare your house so that no mosquito would breed. Bring repellent and clothes that would protect you from mosquito bites),” he said.

Leachon advises the public to stay at home even during the rainy season especially if they have no important activity outdoors. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

More mobile rooms built at CCP Complex —Sec. Villar

Maris Federez   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Shipping containers purpose-built into mobile rooms have already been deployed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex in Pasay City, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.

According to the agency’s Facebook page, the high cube containers converted into mobile rooms can be used as additional coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) isolation health facilities.

Sec. Mark Villar further said these may also function as alternative living quarters to temporarily house medical doctors and staff on duty at hospitals or at mega quarantine facilities operating at the PICC, the World Trade Center, and the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

“These rooms can provide some relief to hospital workers who are tirelessly serving as frontliners against COVID-19,” the DPWH chief said.

“Ten 20-foot long shipping containers are at the CCP complex undergoing final refurbishing works by the DPWH National Capital Region headed by Director Ador Canlas,” he added.

Based on the department’s design plans, a 20-footer container can be divided into four (4) fully-airconditioned rooms for sleeping with separate toilet and bath, and aluminum window frame for proper ventilation.

The 10 units of shipping containers can accommodate a total of 40 individuals.

“More than providing facilities for sleeping, medical personnel need not travel from hospitals and/or health facilities to their residences putting at risk the health and safety of their respective families due to their regular exposure to COVID-19 patients,” Villar said.

“The location of CCP is very strategic. It is close to quarantine facilities as well as level 2 and level 3 hospitals. This will serve as prototype for accommodation rooms for health care workers as well as PUIs and PUMs,” he concluded.

The department’s health facility project is in collaboration with the Villar Group of Companies. — /mbmf


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