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Country must fortify evacuations centers, President Duterte tells lawmakers

November 24, 2020

The government should prioritize the construction of sturdy evacuation centers to provide shelter to vulnerable population during disasters, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said on Tuesday as he asked lawmakers to act on it. “Alam mo, it is high time that government consider really, of course, in the government units facing the Pacific Ocean, gamit na gamit ito na we build a strong structure, stronger than a typhoon that would come their way para mapuntahan ng mga tao, and maybe small rooms with many comfort rooms where people can really stay for a while,” the President said in a public address on government response on the coronavirus pandemic. At present, schools and public buildings are being used as evacuation centers, which the President said creates “an aberration in the movement or in the development” of governmental functions and education. “Iyan nga ang sanang tugunan ng Congress, Senator Bong Go, kasi pagka itong ganitong a deluge, they tend to go to places for shelter and relief,” he said. Assessing typhoon damages, the President said that despite the ferocity of the weather disturbances, the government was able to manage the disaster well because of the commendable performance of security forces and government agencies. The President said that comparing the impact of Typhoons Rolly, Siony, Tonyo and Ulysses to previous typhoons, the damages and casualties left by the recent calamities were comparably smaller, adding that this is due to the administration’s extensive preparations prior to the typhoons’ impact. “But despite of its fury, we were able to manage. Hindi naman… I know that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth to say that minimal ang namatay. Pero hindi kagaya ng Ondoy,” he said. President Duterte praised government troops for their rescue efforts, lauding Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for taking the lead in the planning and deployment of government personnel. The government’s initiative to buy new equipment for security forces such as rubber boats has helped save more lives during rescue operations, he pointed out. Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, who is also present during the meeting, said the impact of the typhoons was mitigated by the President’s order for government agencies to conduct early coordination and planning as well as deployment of troops and other personnel. Striving for zero casualty in calamities in the future, Año said government agencies including the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) are committed to further improve their disaster management and strategies. On November 1, Super Typhoon Rolly, internationally known as Typhoon Goni, battered the Bicol Region and Southern Luzon. It was followed by Typhoons Siony and Tonyo. And on November 11, Typhoon Ulysses, internationally known as Typhoon Vamco, devastated Quezon Province, Central Luzon, and the Bicol Region with heavy precipitation and strong winds. The successive typhoons that ravaged the country left billions worth of damages in agriculture and infrastructures in its wake. (PND)

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PHL thanks Korea for support to ‘Build, Build, Build,' COVID-19 response

November 24, 2020

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has thanked the government of Korea for its swift assistance to the Philippines in its COVID-19 response efforts as well as for increased fund support to the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program and initiatives to reform the country’s tax system.  Secretary Dominguez also expressed his appreciation for South Korea’s plan to further expand its investments in the Philippines and step up the pace of the negotiations on the proposed Philippines-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), during a recent lunch meeting with Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man.  On top of providing a US$50-million loan to the Philippines-Korea Project Preparation Facility (PK-PPF) to help bridge operational gaps in implementing projects under the “Build, Build, Build” Program, Korea has also expressed its willingness to extend funding support to the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge Project in Western Visayas, Secretary Dominguez said.  Korea also signed an agreement for a US$100-million loan for the Philippines’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Program last October 29 and has extended its expertise and assistance in setting up an electronic invoicing system in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to improve tax administration.  During the meeting, Secretary Dominguez assured Ambassador Han that the Philippine government is intent on advancing the processing of loans and grants with Korea in the pipeline, such as a possible additional loan for COVID-19 response and financing support for projects on maritime safety, a water resources management information system, agricultural modernization and forest management.  Secretary Dominguez also sought Korea’s support in establishing a framework agreement that will provide a basis to process tied financing intended for the procurement of military equipment for the Department of National Defense (DND). Ambassador Han, for his part, said Korea is always ready to assist the Philippines in implementing its development agenda and in extending support during emergencies such as the COVID-19 outbreak, given the strong ties and enduring friendship between the two countries.  These strong ties have been cemented by the sacrifices made by Filipino soldiers during the Korean war, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, Ambassador Han said.  During the meeting, the Ambassador also said Korea is planning to expand business opportunities in the Philippines, but he has expressed concern over the country’s high corporate income tax (CIT) rate of 30 percent.  He welcomed Secretary Dominguez’s clarification on the proposed CIT reduction under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill, which seeks to provide an outright tax cut of 5 percentage points from the current 30 percent tax rate to 25 percent starting this year, and an additional 1 percent reduction every year until the rate goes down to 20 percent.  The Ambassador said a possible investment opportunity that the two countries can explore is the manufacture of environment-friendly vehicles, considering that the Philippines is one of the world’s biggest producers of nickel, which is a key component in making electric car batteries.  Korea and the Philippines are also in the final stages of negotiations on an FTA, which will further expand trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, Ambassador Han said.  Secretary Dominguez said the Philippines is 100-percent behind this FTA as he underscored the Philippines’ strategic location in expanding Korea’s trade footprint in the US$2.6-trillion ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market.   Korea is the country’s 5th largest provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA), with loan and grant commitments amounting to around US$679.65 million or 2.59 percent of the country’s total ODA portfolio as of June 2020. Through the Korea Export Import Bank- Economic Development Cooperation Fund (KEXIM-EDCF), Korea has likewise committed ODA loans to the Philippines in the amount of US$631.77 million.  Korea is the 9th largest provider of ODA grants to the Philippines, with a total of US$ 47.88 million as of June this year.  (DOF)  

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Typhoon-affected farmers, fishers in Catanduanes get more than P200-M worth of agri-fishery assistance

November 13, 2020

Agriculture Secretary William Dar on November 10, 2020, handed over more than P200-million worth of farm and fishery assistance, benefiting thousands of farmers and fishers in Catanduanes, particularly in the municipality of Bato, where typhoon “Rolly” hit hardest, and in the capital town of Virac. The agri chief joined Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and three other department secretaries — Francisco Duque of health, Silvestre Bello of labor and employment, and Rolando Bautista of social welfare and development — who also extended their respective financial aid, food packs and other forms of assistance to Catandunganons, who felt and experienced the brunt and devastation of the strongest typhoon that visited the country this year, according to DOST-PAGASA. Senator Go led the handing of assistance to typhoon victims through Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, Bato Mayor Juan Rodulfo, and Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento, Jr., during a simple program held at the Bato Central Elementary School and at Virac municipal multi-purpose auditorium that were both partially damaged by typhoon “Rolly.” The various DA assistance for typhoon-affected farmers and fishers in Catanduanes and Bicol region, respectively, consist of: ·      P121 M – to rehabilitate abaca farms in Bicol region through the DA’s Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA); ·      P23-M worth of seeds of hybrid and inbred rice, corn and assorted vegetables, urea fertilizer, 4-wheel tractor, and farm implements for Catandunganon farmers; ·      P25 M – for fishing boats and engines, nets and other paraphernalia, marine plywood and other materials for boat repair, tilapia fingerlings, canned sardines, and other forms of assistance from the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for Bicol region, of which P5.5M will go to Catanduanes; ·      1,000 metric tons or 20,000 bags (50 kg each) of rice from the DA’s National Food Authority (NFA) for the Province of Catanduanes; ·      Crop, livestock or fishery insurance payments, ranging from P10,000 to P15,000 per insured farmer, from the DA’s Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC), alloting a total of P592.4 M as insurance payments for 32,761 Bicol insured farmers affected by super typhoon “Rolly;” and ·      Emergency and rehabilitation loan, worth P25,000 per borrower, from the DA’s Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), under its Survival and Recovery (SURE) loan program. The DA-ACPC allotted an initial P100M for Bicol under the SURE program. The loan is non-collateral, has zero interest, and payable in 10 years. During the program in the town of Bato, Senator Go also handed over P10-M financial assistance from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to the province of Catanduanes. He also distributed hundreds of face masks and shields, boxes of medicines, and dozens of bicycles and computer tablets. Last week, Secretary Dar also visited Polangui, Albay, where he led the distribution of P90-M worth of various assistance to typhoon “Rolly” affected farmers and fishers. The initial estimate of the agri-fishery damage in Bicol due to typhoon “Rolly” amounts to more P3 billion, said DA Bicol Regional Director Rodel Tornilla. During the visit in Catanduanes, Secretary Dar was joined by DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan, NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal, BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona, PhilFIDA Administrator Kennedy Costales, and DA Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Noel Reyes.  (DA StratComms)  

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Bong Go urges careful study to ensure safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

November 13, 2020

Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go issued a strong reminder to the Department of Science and Technology and other relevant authorities to avoid any pressure in the vaccine approval process, and to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine before it is distributed to the general public. “Kailangan siguraduhin muna natin na safe na, so antayin muna natin ang pag-aaral ng health experts at concerned authorities tulad ng Food and Drug Administration at ng DOST. Magkakaroon naman ng clinical trial. Alam ko nagmamadali na ang ating mga kababayan pero dapat unahin natin ang safety,” Go said during an interview after visiting typhoon victims in Bato, Catanduanes on Tuesday, November 10. He disclosed that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr., the country’s newly designated vaccine czar, had identified potential vaccines from which government could make its decisions. “Kagabi, inabot sa amin ni Secretary Galvez ang mga possible na vaccine natin na pwedeng kunin. Iba’t-ibang presyo, iba’t-ibang bansa. ‘Yung iba, nasa stage three na. In fact, ang ating Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte gusto na rin magpa-vaccine [dahil] may edad na [siya],” he added. His statements come after an American pharmaceutical company announced a vaccine candidate it is developing with a German partner was determined to be 90% effective based on initial trial results. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III cautioned during the interview that the effectiveness of any vaccine must first be validated by the DOST and the country’s vaccine expert panel before it can be distributed within the country. “Hindi tayo pwedeng maniwala basta-basta ng mga claims so kailangan po validation. Kailangan i-validate ng iba’t-ibang eksperto. Sa isang taon pa ang bakuna. Gusto man natin bukas kung kakayanin pero ‘di ganun dahil sinisiguro ng pamahalan na maging ligtas at epektibo ang bakuna. Number one ang kaligtasan. Sinisiguro natin ang kalidad,” said Duque, before stressing the importance of waiting for the World Health Organization’s assessment on the matter. Senator Go continued and reassured the public that the government’s national vaccination program would prioritize the poor and vulnerable who have been most affected by the pandemic. “Huwag kayo mag-aalala. Uunahin namin [ni Pangulong Duterte] ang mahihirap, vulnerable. Alam ko, hirap na sila pero importante maging safe na muna ang vaccine na ito,” he stressed. Under Republic Act No. 11494, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the government has set aside P10 billion as standby funds for the testing and procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and medication . Under its initial plan, the government intends to purchase vaccines for twenty million Filipinos. Medical frontliners, including barangay health workers and other healthcare workers, shall be vaccinated first. Senior citizens, low-income households and the vulnerable sector will also be prioritized. In recent weeks, Go issued an appeal to the government to find ways to provide COVID-19 vaccines for free to poor and vulnerable sectors once they are declared safe and effective. “Naiintindihan din namin ni Pangulo ang kahalagahan ng pagbibigay-prayoridad sa mga mahihirap na Pilipino pagdating sa COVID-19 vaccine. Kaya naman po umapela rin ako sa gobyerno na mag-develop ng isang national vaccination program na mangangasiwa sa sistematikong pag-i-immunize sa ating mga kababayan kung saan uunahin natin ang mga mahihirap at parte ng vulnerable sectors. Dapat gawing libre ang COVID-19 vaccines para sa mga pinaka-nangangailangan nito,” he stressed. (OSBG)

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‘Grateful’ Velasco takes oath before PRRD

November 13, 2020

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco took his oath of office, this time before President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in a private ceremony held at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace Monday night. “I am deeply honored to be sworn in by President Duterte who I admire a lot and have high regard for. He is also one of the persons to whom I am greatly indebted,” Velasco said The oath-taking happened on the same day Velasco celebrated his 43rd birth anniversary and almost one month after he was elected Speaker by an overwhelming majority of House members last Oct. 12. Velasco once again thanked the President for all his help in making sure the speakership term-sharing agreement he brokered last year would be followed. The Marinduque lawmaker promised to pay it forward by carrying out the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration in Congress. Velasco said the House will adhere to the Chief Executive’s call for enabling legislation that would put an end to systemic corruption and protect the interests and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, farmers and fisherfolk. “I assure the President that he can rely on Congress to help him fulfill his promises to our people before his term ends in 2022,” Velasco said. As the 27th House Speaker, Velasco also vowed to exert all efforts toward attaining his goal of a “stronger, inclusive and united House.” “We will work together in Congress to pass laws that are timely and responsive to the needs of our countrymen and to make the lower chamber truly the House representing the people,” he said. Velasco first took his oath before barangay captain Allan Franza of Matandang Balara, Quezon City, shortly after his election as Speaker in a remote session held at the Celebrity Sports Plaza last Oct. 12. The following day, more than 200 House members ratified his election at the plenary hall of the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City. (House of Representatives PPAB)  

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Nat’l ID syst can address delays in gov’t aid distribution to beneficiaries - DSWD official

November 13, 2020

 The Philippine Identification System or PhilSys can help address recurring delays in the distribution of government assistance to beneficiaries. This is according to Assistant Secretary Joseline Niwane of the Department of Social Welfare and Development at a public webinar recently organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Niwane, who served as a discussant at the PIDS event, said that one of the major causes of delays in distributing government assistance like the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) is the lack of identification cards among many beneficiaries.   She said that through the PhilSys, it would be easier for the department to identify target recipients for social protection programs like the SAP. “Once the national ID system is in place, we will be able to assist our beneficiaries directly through digital means. They will also be able to access government benefits better and faster,” the DSWD official explained. DSWD currently relies on the SAP forms distributed and provided by barangay officials and local government units. PIDS Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert, the main presenter in the webinar, supported Niwane’s statement. The national ID system’s implementation in the Philippines is long overdue, he said.  “It should have been implemented years ago before the pandemic. Unfortunately, there have been some delays in its implementation that is why, as Assistant Secretary Niwane pointed out, it has not been easy for the DSWD to provide the SAP and other kinds of benefits [to the people],” he said. Albert also emphasized the need to have ‘data interoperability among government agencies’ once the national ID system is in full swing. “Will [other government agencies] be able to share databases with the DSWD so that we won’t be wasting resources?  Because sometimes, we seem to be giving too many benefits to people, and we don’t know whether there are actual changes in their lives as a result of all the programs that we are [providing them],” he pointed out. Concurring with Albert, Niwane said that government agencies must synchronize and share their data to prevent beneficiaries from receiving “double or triple assistance”. Data interoperability will also help the government monitor the assistance’ impact on the beneficiaries' lives, she added.      Moreover, Albert underscored the importance of data privacy in the implementation of the national ID system. “We have a stringent privacy law that is sometimes misunderstood by people. How do we implement [the national ID system] while maintaining privacy? The issue is not whether people should have access to one’s personal information. It is more of making sure that there will be those who will be made accountable because sometimes people can misuse the access to data,” he said.   The nationwide implementation of the PhilSys is mandated by Republic Act No. 11055, otherwise known as the “Philippine Identification System Act”. Signed by President Duterte on August 6, 2018, the Act decrees the establishment of a single national identification system that aims to provide a valid proof of identity for Filipino citizens and resident aliens in the country.   The PhilSys is lodged with the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA). The agency aims to register low-income household heads by the fourth quarter of 2020 and open the registration to the general public by 2021.  Watch the video of this seminar at https://www.facebook.com/PIDS. PH/videos/256956769024542. For more videos of PIDS events, go to https://www.pids.gov.ph/videos .  (PIDS)

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