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Bohol’s virtual ‘Pista sa Mayo’

May 23, 2020

Religious processions, live brass bands, street dancing, fireworks, neighborhood feasts: these are the sights and sounds of May, fiesta month in the Philippines. That was before COVID-19.  The pandemic may mute the pageantry, but not the Filipino spirit of celebration. Boholanos show how during their “Pista sa Mayo.”  Instead of fireworks and an elaborate procession, only a few cars and motorcycles travel along the procession route. Some houses light candles by the roadside, while others open their windows to watch the procession from their homes.  “This is fiesta in the COVID era,” says Boholano journalist Rey Chiu. “The fiesta used to be lavish…but not this time,” with mass gatherings prohibited to curb the spread of the virus.  With improved connectivity on the island, Boholanos have been using their mobile phones to document festivities and post about them on social media. Parishes have also been using this platform to engage with parishioners and make announcements, like the procession route.    “We would not have known how to disseminate information without access to the internet,” shares Chiu, quoting a lay minister who has missed church services in the last two months. Churches have been closed, but private Masses, or Missa sine populo (Mass without people), are said daily.  In a joint pastoral letter, Tagbilaran Bishop Alberto Uy and Talibon Bishop Patrick Daniel Parcon urged priests to broadcast church activities, so that the faithful can still participate from their homes. Parishioners can attend Mass via radio, television, or online broadcasts on Facebook.  The procession was not only a religious ceremony but also a community activity, an occasion for neighbors to talk to one another. “This time, we just use our mobile phones to take photos or to livestream the procession on social media,” Chiu adds. Similarly, family reunions are now held via group chats or online parties.    “Boholanos are adapting to a bold, new future with digital communication platforms,” he says.  Since the imposition of quarantine restrictions, Boholanos have been using digital technologies to cope with life under lockdown.  Local governments in the province, for example, have been using Smart Infocast to keep their constituents updated on the their COVID-19 prevention and contact tracing efforts, as well as announcements from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council, National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Health.  Smart Infocast, the web-based service powered by PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is a text message broadcast solution that can send out several short message service (SMS) alerts to a specific group of people as defined by designated users. Inter-agency task force groups and local government units (LGUs) use it to reach officials and employees, the police, health workers, and residents. Registered subscribers can send reports or feedback to the system administrator. 

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PayMaya launches ‘Negosyo’ app for MSMEs

May 22, 2020

#Now entrepreneurs can easily accept QR, online payments  With many businesses turning online as a response to the current public health situation, digital financial services PayMaya today unveiled its latest mobile payment innovation – the all-new PayMaya Negosyo app, which allows merchants to easily and quickly accept QR and online payments in just one to 2 days.   Through the new PayMaya Negosyo app available for Android devices, micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can easily accept QR and other forms of digital payments using their smartphones and even if they don’t have an e-Commerce website:  Accept payments from PayMaya users via PayMaya QR which can be shared in their social media pages and chat apps;  Receive payments from upgraded PayMaya users through the Send Money function of the app;  Process bank transfer payments from any InstaPay-participating bank and e-wallet in the Philippines.   Interested merchants need only to sign up through the app using their mobile number, upload one valid government ID as well as a video selfie for liveliness check, and wait 24 to 48 hours for their application to be reviewed and approved so they can start accepting digital payments right away.   “As more consumers begin to prefer shopping online and paying using contactless methods, PayMaya Negosyo will give our MSMEs the easiest and fastest way to accept digital payments from across a variety of sources–all they need now is their smartphone and a valid ID,” said Shailesh Baidwan, President of PayMaya.   Fastest way to accept contactless payments   Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, physical distancing and online purchases will become part of the new norm for everyone in the next several months–and merchants can easily adapt to this new situation by going cashless for their payments.   Through the PayMaya Negosyo app, merchants now have the fastest way to accept contactless payments from customers, whether they are PayMaya users or account holders of other banks and e-wallet providers.   Once the payments are received in the merchant’s PayMaya Negosyo wallet, they can then transfer these amounts to their respective bank accounts also via InstaPay. Compared with PayMaya consumer accounts that just have a P100,000 account limit for upgraded users, ‘Negosyo’ app users have a monthly limit of up to P250,000.   To start easily accepting online payments today, simply download the PayMaya Negosyo app (http://pymy.co/PayMayaNegosyo) from the Google Play store today! To know more about PayMaya Negosyo, visit https://www.paymaya.com/negosyo-merchant.   PayMaya is the only end-to-end digital payments ecosystem enabler in the Philippines with platforms and services that cuts across consumers, merchants, and government. Aside from providing the payments acceptance for the largest e-Commerce, food, retail and gas merchants in the Philippines, PayMaya is enabling national and social services agencies as well as local government units with digital payments and disbursement services.    Through its PayMaya app and wallet, it is providing millions of Filipinos with the fastest way to own a financial account with over 40,000 Add Money touchpoints nationwide, more than double the total number of traditional bank branches in the Philippines combined.    Its Smart Padala by PayMaya network of over 30,000 partner agents nationwide serves as last mile digital financial hubs in communities, providing the unbanked and underserved with access to services. 

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XU seeks donors to start up UNILAB RT-PCR Test Lab at Maria Reyna-XU Hospital

May 22, 2020

Xavier University (XU) is working with Maria Reyna Xavier University Hospital (MRXUH) to set up a Reverse Transcription — Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) Laboratory at MRXUH to test for COVID-19. RT-PCR is the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. RT-PCR testing is the preferred mode of testing for detection of COVID-19 cases. Tests are an essential part of our struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic. With the bio-containment modular lab to be established in Cagayan de Oro, more of the much-needed COVID-19 testing can be done in the City.   The laboratory will be modular, transforming shipping container vans into a multi-room laboratory suite which will meet the international guidance for biosafety level 2 (BSL2) and be certifiable by the Department of Health for clinical testing of human specimens. The laboratory will require a 6-person shift of BSL2-trained Medical Technicians who have also gone through training in PCR-based Testing. The total throughput of each 8-hour shift will be from 100-150 tests yielding an estimate of 300-450 tests at full capacity of 3 shifts. United Laboratories (UNILAB), a pharmaceutical company in the Philippines manufacturing healthcare products and medicines , owns the containerized lab and is shouldering the capital expenditures.  UNILAB is lending the containerized RT-PCR lab to MRXUH for free for 6 months to help address the COVID-19 situation in CDO and Northern Mindanao.  UNILAB will also fund the appropriate training for Biosafety, Biosecurity and RT-PCR testing in coordination with National Institutes of Health and National Training Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity. UNILAB will likewise facilitate the 5-stage accreditation of the laboratory by the Health Facility Standards and Regulation Bureau.  It will also donate an initial inventory of consumables for 2,000 COVID-19 tests which will be prioritized for the subgroups listed in DOH Department Memo 2020-0180 on Interim Guidelines for Expanded Testing for COVID-19, i.e., patients or healthcare workers with symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact, or considered vulnerable.   UNILAB is expected to deliver the containerized lab turn-key to Cagayan de Oro sometime this May. For its part, Xavier Ateneo will support the volunteer initiatives of its faculty from the School of Medicine to sustain the modular lab’s operations. XU will assist MRXUH in setting up the lab and in advising on guidelines and procedures. XU is requesting donors to raise the start-up operating capital needed by MRXUH to set up the lab and cover the operating expenses for the first few months. The financial assistance will support the operations of this testing laboratory  to contain the coronavirus pandemic. This UNILAB-MRXUH Testing Laboratory will help meet the urgent need for COVID-19 testing in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao. Financial donations can be coursed through #XUKontraCOVID19.

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DOTr reiterates PUV transport protocols under MECQ, GCQ

May 22, 2020

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is strictly urging the public to follow the imposed health and safety guidelines for public transportation to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in public utility vehicles in accordance to the classification of high-risk and low-risk provinces and cities in the country,  “Areas under MECQ are still considered high-risk,” says USec Artemio U. Tuazon, DOTr’s official representative to the IATF. “Our message is to prioritize safety by urging people to stay at home. There is a need for discipline and to follow through safety precautionary measures such as mandatory quarantine, observing social distancing, wearing of face masks/shields, and observing proper sanitation and hygiene.”  Last May 16, cities of Metro Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Angeles City transitioned into modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 31, while the rest of the country is under general community quarantine (GCQ).  For the DOTr and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the health and safety of the public still remains their top priority, thus, the continued limitations for movement and transportation among cities under MECQ.  In a press briefing on May 12 . Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the “modified” ECQ allowed resumption of select industries and businesses to open but only up to a maximum of 50 percent of their workforce, while more businesses in cities under GCQ were allowed to operate at full capacity.  However, according to guidelines presented by the IATF, public transportation such as trains, buses, taxis, jeepneys, as well as transport network vehicle services (TNVS) including Grab in areas under MECQ remain suspended due to public health safety risks.  The DOTr stressed that the transport protocols released by the department should still be strictly observed as some forms of private transportation will be allowed in areas under MECQ like company shuttles, but only at half of their capacity. Personal vehicles (two persons per row), bicycles (one person only), motorcycles (one person only) and E-Scooter (one person only) are also allowed.  Under GCQ, all modes of public transport will be allowed, but on a reduced capacity to observe physical distancing and under guidance of strict safety protocols provided by the DOTr.  Tuazon also explained that allowing industries to operate again, despite no public transport by the IATF, was pre-conditional.  “The guidelines of the IATF has made it clear that companies and business owners that do not have the capacity to provide transportation services to their employees should not resume operations as this will place their employees at risk,” Tuazon said.  “Meanwhile, in areas under GCQ where more businesses are allowed to re-open, the DOTr is strongly urging the public to observe the issued public transport guidelines. We do not want our public transport to become transmission vectors of the disease,” Tuazon stressed.  Furthermore, as clarified by Roque, classifications under MECQ include limited movement within the areas for obtaining essential services and work, selected operations are only allowed up to 50% of workforce, limited transportation services for essential goods and services, and suspension of physical classes.  Meanwhile, areas under GCQ will have limited movements but the government and almost all industries will be allowed to operate up to 75 percent except amusement and those with mass gatherings, limited transport services with social distancing, and flexible learning will be allowed but without face-to-face learning. (DOTr)

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Phoenix SUPER LPG offers faster online ordering

May 21, 2020

Running out of LPG? Phoenix SUPER LPG lets you have your tanks delivered faster through its revamped online ordering system.     While the ongoing pandemic and community quarantine have limited everybody’s freedom to go and roam outside their homes, cooking at home has never been this important.     Every day, people have been showing off their home-cooked meals on social media, and while food businesses have been reopening one-by-one and adjusting their operations to enable food delivery, many quarantined Filipinos have discovered how fun, convenient, and economical it is to cook their own food while staying safe at home. Indeed, this is the new normal where home cooking gets back its former glory.     Thankfully, Phoenix SUPER LPG has made cooking at home easier and more convenient with its new and improved online order form. Accessible on the brand’s official Facebook page (facebook.com/PhoenixSuperLPG) through the “SHOP NOW” tab and website (www.phoenixfuels.ph/lpg/) through the “ORDER NOW” button, this new order-and-delivery system lets customers find the nearest Phoenix SUPER Hub in their area for faster delivery of Phoenix SUPER LPG products. The online form also gives the customers the updated product price upon ordering, and indicates the product’s availability. Through these features, confirmation of orders and fulfillment of transactions are made simpler, direct, and faster.     “Now that most of us are stuck at home, and dining inside restaurants are strictly prohibited, we recognize how important it is to have a reliable partner in cooking at home. Phoenix SUPER LPG has been advocating for the discovery of the joys in cooking for the past year, and we are taking this opportunity to show how we can help make everyone’s cooking experience safe, sigurado, and simple,” Phoenix LPG Philippines, Inc. President Henry Albert Fadullon said. “Throughout this quarantine period, we have been working hard to make our products and services become more visible and accessible both online and otherwise. This strategy includes the revamped online order form that we are launching today for our customers. Now, anyone can get their Phoenix SUPER LPG delivered to their homes faster and easier.”     Last year, along with the introduction of its brand ambassador Sarah Geronimo, Phoenix SUPER LPG launched its ‘Sarap Pala Magluto’ campaign that highlights the brands SAFE, SIGURADO, and SIMPLE cooking experience through its German-made SRG regulator. It features an inlet safety valve that stops LPG flow in case of leakage and an on-and-off switch for a tight and secure connecting system. It also has a reserve indicator that determines the content of the tank—so there’s no guessing about when customers need a replacement, and a snap-on mechanism that enables ease of use.     Aside from the online order and delivery form, Phoenix SUPER LPG can also be availed of by calling #SUPER (#78737) for Globe and Smart users. The brand has also been implementing strict health and safety protocols inside the Phoenix SUPER Hubs and during the delivery process by practicing non-contact delivery and regular sanitation of its personnel and equipment.

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Xavier Ateneo’s GRiD-DSS Project Lauded as Model for Local Governance of COVID-19 Pandemicv

May 21, 2020

While many Xavier Ateneo (XU) units were busy producing alcohol sanitizers and face shields, distributing relief goods for stranded students and vulnerable communities, and offering some of its buildings as quarantine facilities, a small group of faculty members silently worked together to help government better understand the health risks against the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. In mid-March, a volunteer-team led by Dr Gina Itchon (Professor of Public Health in XU’s Dr Jose P Rizal School of Medicine) and Engr Dexter Lo (Professor of Disaster Risk and Resilience in XU’s College of Engineering, and Director of Institutional Societal Engagement) started working with Dr Ian Gonzales (Head of Infectious Diseases Unit of the Department of Health – Region 10) on a project called Geospatial Risk Database (GRiD) of COVID-19 in Northern Mindanao. The objective is to establish a Decision Support System (DSS) for DOH10 to effectively manage, prepare, and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in the region. By end of March, the GRiD-DSS Project presented to DOH-10 the projected growth scenarios of Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) in Region 10. The PUIs was used as a proxy parameter in the analysis due to lack of COVID19 testing and confirmed cases in the region at that time. This was presented to the Incident Command System Group of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), the official COVID-19 referral center in the region. The project was also showcased during the National Resilience Council’s (NRC) COVID-19 Knowledge Series Special Session: "Voices from the Frontlines: Bayanihan in Action" last April 28, 2020. Among the speakers were Hon Carlito Galvez Jr. (Chief Implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID19), Dr Manuel Dayrit (Former DOH Secretary), and Hon Oscar Moreno (Mayor of Cagayan de Oro City). Xavier Ateneo was given the honor to deliver a Statement of Support from the Academe sector. Engr Lo emphasized some features of the GRiD-DSS Project that make it effective for local government units (LGUs): “We (XU) remain in the background, serving as a decision-support for local government to come up with evidenced-based policies and strategies. We provide Engr Dexter Lo presents the GRiD-DSS Project to NMMC charts that speak a story of what’s happening, what’s going to happen, and what we should do now. We draw maps to guide what, where, and when our next critical move should be.” He also added that: “It is when we are able to pin down or trace the problem at the household level that our innovations also become empowering to people on the ground. Therefore, a geospatial approach is perhaps the most effective way to do this.” On May 5, 2020, the LGU – Cagayan de Oro (CdeO) released an Executive Order (E.O. 068- 2020) creating a Technical Working Group for the City’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Planning, which included Xavier Ateneo particularly because of its GRiD-DSS Project. A week later, on May 13, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development – Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (USAID-SURGE) Project in coordination with the CdeO Trade and Investment Promotions Center (TIPC) hosted an online COVID-19 forum among regional and local stakeholders and business leaders. XU’s GRiD-DSS Project was once again presented, with more recent outputs featuring a webbased mapping dashboard of the City Health Office’s (CHO) massive active surveillance operations. USAID’s Ryan Patrick Evangelista, who presented the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Planning Template, repeatedly lauded XU’s GRiD-DSS Project as an essential element of risk assessment prior to coming up with planning strategies. Two days later, on May 15, 2020, the NRC once again hosted an online Orientation and Consultation Session on geospatial risk database – decision support system for COVID-19, featuring XU’s GRiD-DSS Project. Present were the local chief executives and department heads (particularly City Planning and Development Office and City Health Office) of Zamboanga, Iloilo, Ormoc, and Cagayan de Oro Cities. Also present were Admiral Alexander Pama (former Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) and Hon Austere Panadero (Undersecretary for Local Government of the Department of the Interior and Local Government). Other academic partners of the NRC were also present: Ateneo de Zamboanga Universiy, Ateneo de Naga University, University of the Philippines Visayas, and Visayas State University. The GRiD-DSS Project was warmly appreciated by the participants. Mayor Ma. Isabelle “Beng” Climaco-Salazar (Zamboanga) and Mayor Richard Gomez’s (Ormoc) planning officers are interested in having a similar online dashboard system as decision support for their operations. NRC is currently planning to host a webinar training series on online geospatial dashboard as decision support system for LGUs and academic institutions, with XU’s Engr Engr Dexter Lo presents the GRiD-DSS Project to the City LGU’s Health Cluster Jefferson Vallente Jr (mapping component leader of GRiD-DSS Project, and faculty member of the Civil Engineering Department) as main resource person. In the midst of pandemics and disasters, Xavier Ateneo continues to rise above the challenges, using its facilities and human resources to address where there is a greater need. During the deadly Sendong flood in 2011, it was the same small volunteerteam of Engr Lo (then Director of the XU Engineering Resource Center) that immediately produced flood maps along the Cagayan de Oro and Iponan Rivers, which were featured by news agencies including the Al Jazeera. Engr Lo also worked with Dr Itchon (Director of XU’s Sustainable Sanitation Center) on trends of admitted medical cases during Sendong, which became an impetus of a more strategic health emergency system during disasters. Other team members of the GRiD-DSS Project are: Dr Ester Raagas, Dr Astrid Sinco, Mr Jameson Lim, and Ms Ma Victoria Trinidad (Risk Analysis and Communication component), Engr Augustini Paduganan, Ms Kate Ching, Mr Ildefonso Deloria, and Paolo Rosales (Geospatial Mapping component), Ms Amor Cajilla and Ms Meiyoshi Masgon (Database Management component), and Ms. Therese Rhea Rose Baliwag (Documentation).

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