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LTFRB urges residents: Report erring drivers violating health protocols

October 17, 2020

CAGAYAN de Oro City--Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Regional Director Allan Guro for Northern Mindanao yesterday urged the public to help the agency discipline erring drivers of public transport. In an interview, Guro said he has been receiving reports that some drivers are laxed in implementing the health protocols set forth by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). "Dili man gud tanang higayon naa ang atong law enforcers aron bantayan ang atong mga driver sa pampublikong sakyanan," said Guro adding, "akong gihangyo ang katawhan nga ilang i-report kung aduna sila makita nga nag-violate sa health protocols." Guro said the public can take photo and upload it to the official Facebook page of LTFRB. He said the penalty for not wearing the mandatory face mask and face shield includes P5,000 for the first offense; P10,000 for the seocnd offense; and revocation of franchise for the third offense. "As of today, we already imposed the highest penalty of P10,000 to an erring driver and we will continue to penalize erring drivers to safeguard the riding public against the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19)," Guro explained. Overcharging Guro also urged the riding public to also report to LTFRB any drivers for "overcharging." He said that the regular fare is only P9. He said that the LTFRB has already penalized drivers from Lumbia, Balulang, Bugo, and Macanhan for overcharging. He did not name names.

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WHO: Global TB progress at risk

October 15, 2020

GENEVA--Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were making steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB), with a 9% reduction in incidence seen between 2015 and 2019 and a 14% drop in deaths in the same period. High-level political commitments at global and national levels were delivering results. However, a new report from WHO shows that access to TB services remains a challenge, and that global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments. Approximately 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, some 3 million were not diagnosed with the disease, or were not officially reported to national authorities. The situation is even more acute for people with drug-resistant TB. About 465 000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019 and, of these, less than 40% were able to access treatment. There has also been limited progress in scaling up access to treatment to prevent TB. “Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.  “Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022.” About 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the 5-year target (2018-2022) of 40 million, according to the report. Some 6.3 million people started TB preventive treatment in 2018-2019, about one-fifth of the way towards the 5-year target of 30 million. Funding is a major issue. In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached US$ 6.5 billion, representing only half of the US$ 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the UN Political Declaration on TB. The COVID-19 pandemic and TB Disruptions in services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to further setbacks.  In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the COVID-19 response. Data collection and reporting systems have also been negatively impacted. According to the new report, data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25-30% drops reported in 3 high burden countries – India, Indonesia, the Philippines – between January and June 2020 compared to the same 6-month period in 2019. These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling. However, in line with WHO guidance, countries have taken measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on essential TB services, including by strengthening infection control. A total of 108 countries – including 21 countries with a high TB burden – have expanded the use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support.  To reduce the need for visits to health facilities, many countries are encouraging home-based treatment, all-oral treatments for people with drug-resistant TB, provision of TB preventive treatment, and ensuring people with TB maintain an adequate supply of drugs. “In the face of the pandemic, countries, civil society and other partners have joined forces to ensure that essential services for both TB and COVID-19 are maintained for those in need,” said Dr Tereza Kaseva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “These efforts are vital to strengthen health systems, ensure health for all, and save lives.” A recent progress report from the UN Secretary General outlines 10 priority actions for Member States and other stakeholders to close gaps in TB care, financing and research, as well as advance multisectoral action and accountability, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. (PR)

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Harness the power of AI in educ amid COVID-19 outbreak—South Korean expert

October 15, 2020

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) can optimize learning, especially during the pandemic.   This was highlighted by Dr. Ju-Ho Lee, South Korea’s former Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, in his presentation during the 6th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) webinar titled “Institutional Innovations and Reforms under the New Normal” organized by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) recently.   Lee, the current chairperson and CEO of Education Commission Asia (ECA), said that “harnessing the power of AI in education is critical” especially now that many schools have shifted to online classes due to the coronavirus outbreak.      “Education should incite fundamental change in what we learn and how we teach”, he stressed, adding that “online platforms should be developed through AI tools.”   He said that education must shift “from mass standardization to mass personalization system” to cope with the demands of the challenging times.   “In this direction of change, ‘learning to take tests’ must be changed to ‘learning to learn’; ‘vertical learning’ (i.e., lectures) to ‘horizontal learning’ (i.e., projects and discussions among students); and ‘shallow learning’ to ‘deep learning’ (i.e., memorization should be developed to deep learning) to provide students more higher-order of skills,” Lee explained.   He said that these transformations could be achieved by adopting a ‘high touch high tech’ (HTHT) learning system, espoused by his company, ECA.   According to Lee, HTHT education aims to “nurture cognitive capacity, creativity, and socio-emotional skills and personality in all students through an AI-assisted adaptive learning technology”.   “This element of personalized learning through technology relieves teachers of their burden to provide content-driven knowledge through traditional lecture-style formats; it allows them to guide students through innovative and interactive models such as project-based learning, and simultaneously focus on strengthening the human connection element integral to learning and development,” he explained.   Lee noted that not only can AI identify the level of knowledge of students through AI-powered diagnostic tests, it can also “develop a personalized learning path for each student”.   The former South Korean minister further elaborated that AI can play the important role of a tutor to each student for personalized education, which he claimed as the “optimal way of learning”.   “[Personalized training] was used to be provided only to a selected few through private education [and by hiring] costly private tutors. But due to technological changes, personalized learning can now be provided to everyone,” he pointed out.   Lee mentioned that HTHT education has yielded positive results in some schools abroad like Arizona State University (ASU) in the United States.   For instance, there was an increase in the completion rate for Algebra course in ASU while there was an improvement in test scores for Math and Hindi subjects in India through the help of Mindspark, an adaptive online tutoring program for teachers and students.   Meanwhile, Lee shared three strategies that South Korea has adopted to harness AI's power in its educational system.   One is to open up to the private sector as it is more active in innovation, especially in AI. According to Lee, the government, the academe, and the private sector need to work together and nurture an ecosystem of education and innovation.   Second is to turn the crisis into an opportunity. Lee said that remote learning platforms have changed both students' and teachers' mindset in his country. He noted that these have pushed students to get high scores in examinations, while teachers have shown a high level of satisfaction and high responses in the use of these platforms.   The last one is to adopt fundamental change gradually. Lee said that this is more effective than incrementally implementing reforms.   The APPC is the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September. This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal”. (PR)

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Fund transfer: Moneygram partners with Visa PayMaya

October 15, 2020

MONEYGRAM International, Inc., a global leader in cross-border P2P payments and money transfers, today announced a partnership with PayMaya Philippines to launch a new digital capability that allows customers to send money from the United States to the Philippines through Visa Direct, Visa’s real-time push-payment solution. Consumers in the United States can use the leading MoneyGram mobile app or website to send money that arrives almost instantly to any PayMaya Visa cardholder located in the Philippines. “Our digital business is delivering phenomenal growth driven by strong demand for our customer-centric capabilities as well as our leading global network that enables consumers to quickly and conveniently receive money directly into their bank accounts,” said Kamila Chytil, MoneyGram Chief Operating Officer and leader of the Company's digital business. Chytil said: “Our strong partnership with Visa Direct has been an important part of our strategy to accelerate digital growth over the last few years, and I’m excited about how this latest integration with PayMaya will further improve the customer experience and drive digital growth.” “We are glad to offer yet another convenient way for PayMaya account holders across the country to quickly and conveniently receive funds from their loved ones in the United States through our partnership with MoneyGram and Visa," said Shailesh Baidwan, President of PayMaya. As cashless becomes the default for most, Filipinos can now experience safe and convenient ways to receive funds and transact even while at home through this service using their PayMaya app," said Baidwan. “In the Philippines today, majority of Visa debit and prepaid cards are enabled to receive real-time payments via Visa’s real-time push payment solution, Visa Direct," said Dan Wolbert, Visa Country Manager for the Philippines & Guam. Wolbert said: "We are extremely pleased to work with PayMaya and MoneyGram to enable Visa cardholders in the Philippines the ability to receive funds seamlessly and securely from their family and loved ones in United States." "According to BSP’s data, Overseas Filipino Workers made a total of US$11 billion for US-based remittances in 2019 and money transfers from U.S. contributed close to 40% of total remittances in the Philippines," he added. In this digital age, he said: "we believe it is important to introduce solutions that can benefit our cardholders’ lives, including making cross-border remittances hassle-free and efficient.” This new service is a huge milestone for the remittance industry in the Philippines which is one of the largest markets globally. The approximately two million Filipinos living and working in the United States will now be able to use MoneyGram to send money seamlessly and conveniently via Visa Direct either on MoneyGram’s website or mobile app, to any PayMaya account holder in the Philippines using their 16-digit Visa physical or virtual card number. Once they have received the funds in their PayMaya accounts, they can easily use the funds to shop online or in-store using the same Visa card, or buy load, pay their bills, settle their government dues, and send money to other PayMaya users or Smart Padala centers nationwide, all within the PayMaya app. (PR)

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Civil servants must embrace ‘new mindsets’ in a ‘tech-powered new normal’—Japanese expert

October 14, 2020

IN this tech-powered new normal, the public sector plays a key role both as a regulator of the use of technologies and as a policymaker who decides how to use these tools in the delivery of public services.   Associate Professor Naomi Aoki of the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Public Policy stressed these points during the third of the four-part webinar series of the 6th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) recently.   She explained that the COVID-19 crisis resulted in the extensive use of technologies in public services and programs such as contact tracing, mask purchase regulating system, chatbots, virus testing, online and digital schooling, telemedicine, and telework, to name a few.   Given the pressure on governments to digitalize services during this pandemic, Aoki came up with four mindsets that must be embodied by civil servants.   First is to be receptive to open innovation. According to Aoki, the pandemic requires the quick adoption of innovation in the delivery of public services. She said that the “key to high-performing and agile civil service [is the] willingness to work with certain external actors” or with “people who already have the capability and knowledge to innovate or who can offer ready-to-deploy innovations”.   Aoki mentioned some approaches for open innovation. One is for organizations to announce the types of innovation they are looking for and be willing to finance it. Another is to make data available to the public.   However, she noted some barriers that may come with open innovation such as cultural (i.e., resistance to external innovations) and institutional (i.e., lack of top-management support and buy-in within the agencies).   Second is to be mindful of design thinking and user orientation. Aoki said civil servants should practice user-design thinking by shifting from an ‘agency-focused’ to a ‘client-oriented’ mindset to identify which innovations are most useful to the public.   She also emphasized the importance of involving multiple stakeholders and users in reviewing policies or solutions before releasing them. This, according to Aoki, would enable policymakers to identify “blind spots and recognize any confusion of inconvenience” that users may encounter later on.   Third is to ensure public trust in technologies. “Machines need to be as trustworthy as the humans who deliver public services. It is important for the [citizens] to be able to trust public services, whether or not they are provided by machines or humans. People will not use machines if they do not trust them,” Aoki said.     To make people trust machines, the government may use public communication to introduce to citizens how these machines work and how it would help them.   Lastly, civil servants should care for the digitally disadvantaged. According to Aoki, some experts argued that the pandemic “has aggravated the impacts of digital inequalities socially and economically” putting digitally disadvantaged people at more risk to the virus. She explained that these people have the least access to digital information from health organizations and other important sectors of society. Hence, low digital literacy results in poor health literacy.   To resolve this issue, Aoki urged governments “to increase physical access to connected devices and the internet, and provide support to increase digital literacy” especially to digitally disadvantaged people.   The APPC is the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September.   The DPRM aims to promote awareness and understanding of policy research's importance in formulating evidence-based policies, plans, and programs. This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal” or, in Filipino, “Makabagong Pamamahala para sa Sama-samang Pagbangon sa New Normal”. (PR)

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Rebel slain, army wounded in fresh fighting in Bukidnon

October 14, 2020

MARAMAG, Bukidnon--A soldier was wounded while a leader of the New People's Army (NPA) in a fresh fighting here, the military said yesterday. In a press statement, the mioliatry said that a series of gun battles between the troops of 88th Infantry “Maringal” Battalion and NPA terrorists of Guerilla Front Malayag, SRC2, NCMRC transpired in the uninhabited and hinterland areas of Barangay Nakabuklad of San Fernando and Barangay Minungan of Quezon of this province on October 6-9, 2020. It said the first encounter started on 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon of October 06 2020. The gun battle lasted for about 10 minutes at the vicinity of Mt. Miyangki, Sitio Supon, Barangay Nagkabuklad, San Fernando. The NPA that was encountered by the government forces was composed of 20 members under the leadership of alias MIGS. The terrorists scampered to different directions after the firefight, said the military, adding "bloodstains indicating casualties were discovered by government troops while scouring the abandoned terrorist temporary hideout." A male cadaver with gunshot wounds was also discovered hastily buried not far from the encounter site, the statement said. It said the cadaver was later identified as Loloy Gayuran Dal-anay alias Ladong/Kalipay/Bahubali, the Vice Commanding Officer of Platoon 1, GF Malayag. The cadaver was later turned over to the local government of San Fernando for proper disposition, the report said. Government troops, the report said, also encountered more or less 30 armed men at around 8:55 in the morning on October 9, 2020 in the hinterland area of Barangay Minungan, Quezon, Bukidnon. The encounter lasted for about 15 minutes. While the government troops were on the process of scouring the vicinity of the encounter site, another gun battle transpired at around 12:33 in the afternoon on that same day. The exchange of gunfire lasted for another 20 minutes. It resulted to the wounding of a government troop due to landmine explosion. The wounded was immediately picked-up by helicopter of Philippine Air Force and evacuated to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro for medical attention. He is currently in stable status. The government troops seized an anti-personnel landmine, ammunitions, detonating wires, assorted medicine and personal belongings of the CNTs during this encounter. Ltc Franklin F. Fabic, Commanding Officer of 88IB said: “It is with sadness that another Filipino who was deceived by misleading ideals of the communist terrorist died in one of the encounters. We extend our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family. I encourage the remaining NPA members to surrender now and be with your families while you still have the chance.” “The commitment and sacrifices of the Maringal Troopers in performing their duty of securing communities from the communist terrorists is greatly appreciated," Fabic said. "The information provided by the locals to the government troops led to these engagements. These manifest the strong support of local communities to the efforts of the government in ending the local communist armed conflict in the area,” he said.

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