Malacañang not dismissing suggestion to return Dengvaxia vaccine to the market

MALACAÑANG ON Wednesday said it is open to the suggestion of former Health secretary and now Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette L. Garin to make the controversial Dengvaxia vaccines available to the public to help curb the increasing dengue cases nationwide. “We are always open to anything that will benefit the Filipino people. We are not closed to any suggestion,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a media interview at the Palace on Wednesday when sought for comment. He added that there is still a need to conduct an “extensive” investigation on the alleged Dengvaxia vaccine-related deaths. “We need to investigate exactly the situation involving Dengvaxia,” he said. Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, during a visit to Iloilo last week, told the local media that the Department of Health (DoH) is not considering just yet a possible revival of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccination program. “We need to study the recommendation… because there is no specific test that would exactly prove that a person has been infected by dengue,” he said. He emphasized that risks should be balanced with many other factors, noting that those who can benefit from the Dengvaxia vaccine are only those with prior exposure to the dengue virus. Mr. Duque explained that the available dengue test “cross-reacts” with other viruses like Chikungunya and Zika virus. “Remember the test cross reacts with other viruses, so it could be Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, it could be Zika virus, and I heard it cross reacts with measles virus. So having said that, if it is positive, you are not sure if it’s positive of dengue virus,” he said. The DoH’s Dengvaxia vaccination program has been cancelled and the vaccine banned in the Philippine market since last year following allegations of related deaths among children who received the vaccine. — Arjay L. Balinbin

TESDA-certified service providers can now be hired online

GRADUATES OF trainings certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) can now be hired through the website, which was formally launched Tuesday. Among the services available are basic housekeeping and cleaning; carpentry; and massage therapy. In a statement on Wednesday, TESDA said its National Institute for Technical Education and Skills Development “developed 911TESDA as a free web-based linking program that aims to provide employment opportunities for certified graduates of technical vocational education and training (TVET), and deliver skill-service needs of individuals, households and enterprises.” TESDA said their partner digital service platforms anticipate demand for service providers this year to be as high as 11,425. As of July 26, more than 2,000 national certificate holders have already registered in the system. The 911TESDA services are initially available in the following areas: Metro Manila, Bulacan, Palayan City in Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna. By next month, TESDA plans to expand these services to the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, and Davao. — Gillian M. Cortez

Leonen to propose computerized Bar exams, other reforms

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE Marvic F. Leonen said he intends to propose reforms in the Bar examinations in 2020, including the possibility of conducting computerized testing, which would allow for more than one venue. He also plans to propose a simple “pass or fail system” in viewing the exam results. Mr. Leonen, chairperson for the 2020 Bar examinations, also wants to have all Bar question and suggested answers submitted in the past 40 years be uploaded in the Supreme Court website. “We want the bar to simply be a qualifying exam. It is not an exam to find out the most brilliant of lawyers, it is only an exam to add into our ranks the lawyers that deserve to practice,” he said during the Legal Education Board Summit held in Manila. The annual Bar examinations, conducted through hand-writing, are held in four Sundays of November at the University of Santo Tomas. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DILG reports 86 cities now have smoke-free ordinances

THE DEPARTMENT of Interior and Local Government (DILG) reported that 86 cities in the country have already passed smoke-free ordinances since the President issued Executive Order No. 26 two years ago. “Smoke-free means 100% free from tobacco smoke, where it cannot be seen, smelled, sensed or measured,” DILG Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said in a statement on Wednesday. There are 145 cities in the country, according to Philippine Statistics Authority data. DILG also reported that 48 cities have designated smoking areas in their respective localities while 65 cities have created smoke-free task forces that ensure compliance to smoke-free policies. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras