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A soldier guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Manila, April 24. -- REUTERS

WHO recommends localized lockdowns, no return to stringent quarantine

THE PHILIPPINE capital does not need to revert to stringent lockdown measures and can just enforce localized quarantine in specific areas to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Tuesday. “We don’t believe that the situation in the Metro requires a reversal,” WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in an online briefing. The localized lockdown policy can be applied nationwide at the town or village level when there are spikes in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. Mr. Abeyasinghe said this strategy will not compromise both public health and the economy of the entire National Capital Region (NCR). The NCR, also referred to as Metro Manila, accounts for about a third of the country’s economic output, registering a 36% contribution to the gross domestic product in 2018. This is the biggest share among 17 regions. Mr. Abeyasinghe also emphasized the need to strictly maintain health safety protocols such as wearing of face mask, physical distancing and personal hygiene. President Rodrigo R. Duterte was expected Tuesday to announce adjustments in the quarantine category for Metro Manila and other parts of the country starting July 1. — Gillian M. Cortez

Senate reviewing amendments to proposed law on COVID measures

THE EXECUTIVE department has submitted its proposed amendments to the proposed law relating to response measures for the coronavirus crisis, and is in discussion with the Senate leadership for a possible special session for its passage, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said on Tuesday. “Early this morning, the office of the committee on finance… has just received a proposal of their amendments to the Bayanihan 2 from the executive department,” Mr. Sotto said in an online briefing Tuesday. “The committee will review it. I’m sure Senator (Juan Edgardo M.) Angara will tell us what it’s about.” Mr. Sotto also said he is expecting a call from Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea on Wednesday regarding Malacañang’s decision about the special session. The senator also recommended that before holding a special session, Congress leaders should meet with the executive department to settle amendments as they had done in the first Bayanihan law. “When I was talking with ES Medialdea last night, I suggested to him that if ever they would indeed call a special session… the leadership of the House, Senate and executive department (should) sit down first, and find out what we can agree on,” he said. The Senate on June 3 approved on second reading Senate Bill No. 1564, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which extends certain special power granted to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to address the crisis brought by the coronavirus disease 2019.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sotto said there are three proposals on how Mr. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address will be set up on July 27. One option is to have Mr. Duterte and only select members of the House and the Senate convene at the House of Representatives building. Another option is for Mr. Duterte to deliver his speech in Malacañang while the legislators are at the House. “And another option, we are here in Senate, HoR in Batasan, and President is in Malacañang,” he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Voter registration remains suspended until end-August

REGISTRATION OF voters for the 2022 national elections has been suspended anew in consideration of the continued coronavirus outbreak, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced Tuesday. The suspension will be in effect until Aug. 31 this year. “The suspension was previously set only until June 30 but was extended for two more months in view of the still rising number of COVID-19 cases nationwide,” Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez said in a statement. The commission first suspended the operation of all its offices on March 9 until March 31, then extended to April 30 and again to June 30. “Our field personnel continue to outfit their existing offices and procure supplies in order to be COVID-19 ready,” Mr. Jimenez said, “We are continuously refining our guidelines and health safety protocols so that we do not contribute to the further spread of the virus.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Lawmakers order social welfare dep’t to give updated data on PWDs

LAWMAKERS IN the House of Representatives on Tuesday asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide an updated data on persons with disabilities (PWDs) for more relevant legislation. “This is very difficult because when we continue doing our plans and programs and allocating budgets both local and national, we should have a basis for all these programs in place. And benchmarks are always used also to evaluate how far we have done in reaching these marginalized sectors,” Bohol Rep. Edgar M. Chatto said during the virtual hearing of the House committee on PWDs. “If there is no data, then what we are just gathering is the number of persons served but we are not taking cognizance of what percent of the total PWD population has really been served,” he added. DSWD Division Chief Miramel G. Laxa said she will raise the matter to the agency, acknowledging that there is currently no organized data available. Ms. Laxa said the agency, based on 2016 statistics from its National Household Targeting Office, has a record of more than 823,000 households with PWDs, of which 545,882 are non-poor households while 277,132 are poor. She reported that the agency was able to serve 1,187 PWDs affected by the coronavirus pandemic from January to May through its crisis intervention unit. DSWD is still finalizing the number of PWDs who received emergency subsidy under the social amelioration program. — Genshen L. Espedido

Salceda warns of closed POGOs reopening under different ownership

THE GOVERNMENT should “watch out” for shut Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) that may reopen under different ownership to avoid tax dues, a senator said on Tuesday following reports that two POGOs have exited the country. “POGOs will still be liable to the law, as withholding agents of their income tax liabilities. We should watch out for the operators of these POGOs, as closure may be used by some as a tactic to reopen under different declared ownership, with the real owners and operators being able to evade previous tax liabilities,” said Albay Representative Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who chairs the House of Representatives ways and means committee. Mr. Salceda also reiterated the need to pass bills establishing a tax regime for POGOs. House Bill 5777, which seeks to impose a 5% franchise tax on POGOs and a 25% withholding tax on foreign workers, was approved at the committee level in December. Its counterpart measure, Senate Bill 1295, is pending at the committee level. — Genshen L. Espedido