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To fly or not to fly amid Covid

July 11, 2020

OVER the past several years, movies about a virus that wiped-out the world’s population or turned everyone into zombies, or both, depicted airlines and air travelers as the ideal carriers. Today, as the world grapples with a real-live pandemic, concerns over whether fiction is fact have arisen, which begs the question: is it safe to fly? In reality, airlines like Cebu Pacific are part of a much broader aviation industry where there are many other layers of safety in place. And the entire aviation industry is not letting their guard down—beefing-up the already stringent safety measures to alleviate concerns of passengers regarding air travel. HEPA filters keep cabin air fresh and clean Some people think that the airplane cabin is just like any other enclosed airconditioned space, like a restaurant or an office. However, even if passengers are seated next to each other, the chances of transmission of contaminants like coronavirus from breathing in cabin air is reduced. This is because the air flows or circulates inside the cabin vertically, with “used air” pushed out of the cabin, and fresh air comes in from outside, passing through a filtration process all the time. Cebu Pacific jets are equipped with hospital-grade High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These effectively circulate clean air every three (3) minutes, and eliminate microscopic particles such as bacteria, viruses and fungi with 99.99% efficiency. Multiple biosafety measures are in place Cebu Pacific has also adapted a layered approach to biosafety measures to help curb the spread of the virus onboard. The moment a passenger enters the airport, checks-in, goes to the pre-departure area, up until boarding of the aircraft, the airline constantly reminds its passengers to follow floor markers placed as a guide for them to observe social distancing, while always having their face masks on. And unlike any other indoor space or modes of transportation, research conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that the condition in the air cabin makes transmission of virus difficult, as airflow exchange rates and directions are less conducive to droplet spread. Seat backs also act as a solid barrier that directs the flow of cabin air in one direction, straight to the filters. Aircraft is cleaned and disinfected extensively   All our aircraft also undergo extensive disinfection, which are performed by Bureau of Quarantine-certified personnel. They use Airbus-approved disinfectant, proven to be effective against viruses, including the coronavirus. Lavatories are also cleaned by the crew members every 30 minutes while in flight. Keep in mind precautions before traveling EveryJuan has an active role in protecting themselves and fellow travelers from the virus. Before scheduled flights, passengers must ensure they are well enough to travel. Prepare face masks and bring an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (100mL maximum) to disinfect hands and belongings anytime. And it is imperative that everyone washes their hands properly at all times and avoids touching their mouth, eyes and nose. Rest assured, Cebu Pacific remains committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of staff and passengers are prioritized. For more information on the airline’s safety procedures and flight updates, visit www.cebupacificair.com.

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BAN toxics lauds PH government for ratifying Mercury Treaty

July 11, 2020

QUEZON City--Environmental justice watchdog BAN Toxics lauded the Philippine government for ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury, with the government depositing the instrument of ratification on July 8, 2020.  The Philippines is the 123rd country to join the treaty. The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from man-made emissions of mercury and mercury compounds. The Convention provides a comprehensive policy to address mercury emissions to soil, water and the atmosphere, phase out mercury use in products and processes, and the regulation of the informality of the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector (ASGM). It also addresses the storage and disposal of the chemical. “We laud the Duterte administration in taking the first step in the fight against mercury,” exclaims Reynaldo San Juan, Executive Director of BAN Toxics. “Mercury is a global problem, and by joining the community of nations in addressing the mercury scourge, the Philippines improves its chances in fighting off this deadly toxin.” The Philippines is among the 128 countries which signed the Minamata Convention in 2013. The mercury treaty entered into force in August 2017. Mercury is a toxic chemical with negative effects on both human health and the environment and is listed by the World Health Organization as one of their top chemicals of major health concern. Exposure to mercury may cause harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and may also be fatal.[1]  Primary sources of human exposure to mercury are from dental amalgams, mercury-laden hospital devices, and gold mining activities. BAN Toxics has pushed the Philippine government to take action to curb mercury use in the country since 2007. The group praised the government for taking concrete steps to eliminate mercury use in the country.[2]  In May 2020, Secretary Francisco Duque III of the Department of Health (DOH) signed Administrative Order No. 2020-0020, effectively phasing out mercury use in dental restorative procedures. “Our fight against mercury does not end here. The only way we can ensure the safety of the Filipinos, especially the future generations, against mercury is by adapting the Minamata Convention into our local laws and implementing it,” stated San Juan. “We look forward to the quick action of Pres. Duterte against mercury, now that the Philippines is a party to the Minamata Convention.”

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No regular face-to-face classes in August: CHED

July 11, 2020

THERE will be no regular in-person classes in the opening of the semester this coming August, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Prospero de Vera III clarified on Saturday. "CHED wants to make it very clear that higher education institutions (HEIs) will open the semester in August using flexible learning mode. There are no regular face-to-face classes in August," he said. The statement came following a Rappler story, which quoted him as saying: “We are ready to open [classes] this August. No ifs, no buts. Learning must continue. We learn as one, we are ready.” De Vera said the report failed to provide the full context behind his remarks, adding that netizens proceeded on bashing and accusing CHED and the government for being "insensitive" and "uncaring" for the health and safety of students. "Without stating the proper context, the Rappler article made the readers who did not watch the CHED HiEd Press Conference believe that CHED is pushing for the opening of 'regular' classes by August despite the Covid-19 pandemic," he said. "The context behind the said quote is that the Commission recognizes the bayanihan spirit of the HEIs to help other HEIs, especially those in far-flung areas to prepare them for flexible learning when classes resume in August," he noted. Based on its proposed guidelines on the implementation of flexible learning, the agency defines such arrangement as the "design and delivery of programs, courses, and learning interventions that address learners’ unique needs in terms of place, pace, process, and products of learning." It noted that this also involves the use of digital and non-digital technology and could cover both in-person learning and out-of-classroom learning modes. (PNA)

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Former rebels undergo sustainable livelihood grant

July 11, 2020

BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte--The troops of 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion (23IB) facilitated the conduct of a Pre-Orientation on Livelihood Settlement Grant (SLG) for (Former Rebels) held at the Headquarters, 23IB, Jamboree Site, Purok 6, Brgy Alubihid, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte on July 8, 2020. The orientation on Sustainable Livelihood Program Modalities and Processes is intended for the provision of livelihood to the FR beneficiaries under Executive Order 70 (EO 70). The orientation was conducted by Mr. Ian N. Lupango, Project Development Officer II of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The SLG, also dubbed as the “Kabuhayan Para sa Kapayapaan!” was implemented in connection with the EO 70 that institutionalized the Whole-of-Nation Approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The Order also directed the adoption of a national peace framework issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. SLG is a financial assistance directly provided to each eligible FR to support the establishment or continuity of their livelihood or economic activities in their communities. The said pre-orientation activity will be followed by the crafting of a final project proposal for the sustainable livelihood program of the FRs.   Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Julius Cesar C Paulo, 23IB Acting Commanding Officer, stated that the government and the Army, especially the 23IB will always adhere to its promises of helping the FRs TO have a productive and progressive living with their families. He also emphasized the need to capacitate the FRs for them to be able to face the various economic challenges as they begin their renewed lives with their families. Paulo pointed out that it is not enough to accept the FRs after their surrender and send them home but it is also important to equip them with knowledge and skills that will serve as their tools to improve their economic lives. “Through the implementation of EO 70 and the E-CLIP, we assure that the FRs' lives will be improved through the implementation of the socio-economic program or the financial assistance provided by the government for them to have a sustainable livelihood that they can use to supply the daily needs of their families. For the remaining members of the CTGs, I urge you to go back to the folds of the law and avail all the programs of our government for you, “Paulo said. (PR)

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(Oped) Lessons from Philippine: Save the Best for Children Under the Uncertainties of COVID-19

July 11, 2020

THE deadly widespread COVID-19 has presented the world unprecedented challenges. It is not only a global public health emergency that has claimed thousands of hundreds of people’s lives, but also causes immediate and long-term economic impacts which have devastating effects on billions of households. Philippine becomes the second hardest-hit country by COVID-19 in Southeast Asia. As of early July, there are 51,754 confirmed cases and 1,314 fatalities reported . The number of confirmed cases has been increasing rapidly since June.   The most marginalized across the country– the 33 million children who make up around one-third population of Philippine[i] – are likely to be hit the hardest. Too many children have been denied healthcare, been torn out of school, or left in abusive homes without access to protection.   But in crisis there is also opportunity. The pandemic is a chance for regional governments to build back better, safer and greener. In July, Save the Children set out a post-pandemic agenda for the Asia Pacific region as well as Philippine – a road map for how we can use the disruption of Covid-19 to create fairer and more inclusive societies. We believe that the virus must lead to a fundamentally different world – a new social contract between governments and people, drawing on lessons from the pandemic’s impact on all of our lives.   With the COVID-19 fatality rate of 3.37%, Philippine has the second-highest fatality rate in Southeast Asia[ii]. The rapid spread and relative high death ratio of COVID-19 have shown the inefficiency of the healthcare system as well as insufficient public health management capacity of Philippine. Broadly speaking, countries with well-functioning hospitals and stockpiles of crucial supplies including Personal Protective Equipment have done better in protecting their populations from the pandemic. Philippine’s low healthcare expenditure mainly explains the low efficiency. The healthcare expenditure of Philippine as part of the GDP has been around 4.4% for several years, much lower than the world’s average level of 9.89%[iii]. Philippine also has faced a shortage of vital medical supplies. “The average number of ventilators in small hospitals around the Philippines is very small compared to what is really needed.” According to media report[iv]. While countries with better-resourced healthcare systems such as Thailand and Vietnam have done much better. For example, Thailand could provide 10,000 ventilators for a population of 70 million. The pandemic is a wake-up call for governments to target at least five percent of their GDP spending on healthcare moving forward.   The education sector has also been disrupted on an unprecedented scale, with 28,451,212 students affected in Philippine due to the nation-wide school closures[v]. To stem the spread of coronavirus, in early March, all educational institutions were enforced to close schools and classes have been shifted online[vi]. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently says he will not allow students to go back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available, even as some other countries resume in-person classes[vii]. However, virtual classrooms are inaccessible to those without internet connections. The pandemic has exposed the sharp digital divide in Philippine, where most children living in rural and remote areas and have no access to the internet. Philippine’s network readiness index scores only 47.7, ranking 71 worldwide, compared with Singapore’s 82.13[viii], which shows the most of Filipino children are not technically prepared for long-term online learning.     Internet access is becoming more than just a daily necessity but is also crucial to fulfilling a number of children’s human rights – including access to education and information. With online education likely here to stay, the Philippine government must redouble efforts to ensure that everyone can access the internet, including in marginalized and rural communities.   The combination of lockdown and school closure has also heightened the risks of increased Violence Against Children (VAC), particularly online sexual exploitation in Philippine. The financial and psychological pressures brought about by the pandemic have increased tensions in the home, resulting in huge spikes in calls to domestic violence hotlines in Philippine. Children have been particularly hard hit by what the UN has called a “shadow pandemic”, as they have been unable to access the protection services they normally would or find sanctuary and safety in schools. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Cybercrime said 279,166 child sexual abuse cases have been reported from March 1 to May 24 this year, compared to 76,561 cases over the same period in 2019. The cases of internet-based sexual exploitation of children this year was an increase up to 264 percent, the Philippine’s DOJ pointed out[ix].   The government leaders must use the pandemic to strengthen systems protecting children from domestic violence and other forms of abuse. They must invest in remote monitoring systems that can better detect violence against children behind closed doors in family homes. The virus has also shown that social service workers who play a crucial role in protecting children from harm must be deemed “essential” in the same way that medical doctors and nurses are.   The pandemic has wrought havoc across war-torn and wealthy societies worldwide. In Philippine, the situation is not any better with 33 million children facing different forms of issues associated healthcare, learning and violence on different levels. We owe it to children to learn our lessons from the virus and create a world where they can not only stay alive with their families, but also grow and thrive.

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SEC paving way for new investment vehicle to upport corporations' liquidity needs amid pandemic

July 11, 2020

THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is working on a new regulatory framework for the development of a capital market where closed-end investment companies primarily invest in corporate debt papers of large and medium enterprises, as part of efforts to cushion the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission on July 8 issued for public comment the draft rules providing the minimum requirements and guidelines in the creation and operation of such investment companies called Corporate Debt Funds (CDFs). “With the proposed regulatory framework, we hope to help avert credit and liquidity crises that may arise from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and support the recovery of businesses and the overall economy therefrom,” SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino said. “The new investment vehicle called Corporate Debt Fund will be particularly helpful in providing for the liquidity needs of large- and medium-sized corporations for repayments, emergency spending and investments necessary to sustain their operations and preserve jobs in these challenging times.” A CDF is a closed-end investment company that offers for sale a fixed number of non-redeemable units of participation or shares and has a limited offer period. Its objective is to invest in the portfolios of corporate debt papers of large corporations and medium-sized enterprises operating or deriving income in the Philippines, or any company guaranteed by a large or medium-sized domestic corporations or by the Philippine government and/or its agencies. The CDF may offer different share or unit classes with similar investment objectives but are managed as separate asset pools. Each class shall correspond to a distinct part of the assets and liabilities of the CDF. Subscription in a CDF is done only on initial public offering and redemption is at maturity although it can make periodic distribution of income to investors on a pro-rata basis. It may also pay out the proceeds of the underlying investments of each share/ unit class upon their liquidation until the termination and maturity of its securities. To incorporate, the CDF shall have a minimum subscribed and paid up capital of P50 million. But as an exception, the subscribed and paid up capital shall not be lower than P1 million, if the CDF forms part of a group of investment companies to be created or already in existence to be managed or under management by the same fund manager with a track record of at least five years. The CDF shall be exempt from the registration requirements prescribed under Section 8.1 of Republic Act No. 8799, or The Securities Regulation Code. However, such exemption must be confirmed or approved by the SEC and, for such purpose, the CDF shall submit a simplified prospectus and a product highlight sheet. Moreover, the conduct by any person in the purchase, sale, distribution of CDF securities, settlement and other activities shall comply with the provisions of The Securities Regulation Code and applicable rules. The approval or confirmation by the Commission of the CDF shares or units as an exempt transaction shall likewise be subject to a payment of a fee. The prospectus shall include the investment objective, strategy and limitations of the CDF, the investment powers of the fund manager; the valuation methodology used, the key risks and risk management processes of the CDF, the liability of the CDF and fund manager, and the rights and protections afforded to investors, among others. The CDF may issue its shares or units in tranches. It shall issue the first tranche within six months from the approval of its simplified prospectus and product highlight sheet, and the subsequent tranches within three months from the filing of a current report outlining the material changes in its prospectus and the updated prospectus. The CDF may offer the securities to qualified buyers such as banks, pension funds, insurance companies and registered investment houses under private placements, or to not more than 19 non-qualified buyers in the Philippines during a 12-month period. The CDF shall invest the proceeds from the issuance of securities in corporate debts such as bonds and promissory notes of large corporations and medium-sized enterprises. However, it may also invest in deposits and money market instruments pending the deployment of the proceeds in accordance with its investment objectives. Investments in corporate debt issued by a single enterprise must not exceed 25% of the net asset value (NAV) of the CDF and 50% in the case of single group entities. The limit shall be computed based on the total proceeds of the securities sold within the initial offering period. The single issuer limit may be raised to 30% if the corporate debts are assessed by any domestic or global rating agency to have the best quality and highest safety for timely payment of interest and principal. It may also be waived if the CDF securities have a capital protection feature. The reportorial requirements of the CDF shall include a monthly report showing its net assets, details of corporate debts acquired for the month, and the outstanding balance of the investments held in the portfolio. In its annual audited financial statements and interim financial statements, the CDF shall likewise present a combined statement of net assets and a detailed breakdown of the financial statement for each class of share/ unit. The draft Rules on Corporate Debt Funds, prepared  in consultation with the mutual fund industry through Philippine Investment Fund Association (PIFA), are available on the SEC website. All interested parties may submit their comments on the draft rules not later than July 17 to the SEC Corporate Governance and Finance Department located on the Ground Floor, Secretariat Building, PICC Complex, Pasay City. Comments may likewise be emailed at cgfd@sec.gov.ph and cgfd_ld@sec.gov.ph.

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