WHO asks for more private sector help in providing PPE to health workers

THE WORLD Health Organization’s (WHO) Philippine representative has called on the private sector to help in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, citing a global shortage problem as the new coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, continues to spread around the world. “Again our call is for everybody in the private sector to help support the government efforts in procuring and supplying personal protective equipment so that the health care workers can feel protected and secured so that they can do their job and care for COVID infected patients,” WHO Country Representative Rabindra R. Abeyasinghe said in a briefing Tuesday. Some health care workers around the country have been using improvised PPE sets, adding to their risk of exposure to the virus. Mr. Abeyasinghe said WHO does not encourage the use of “do it yourself” PPEs as they are not 100% protective, but added that given the circumstances, “any protection is better than no protection.” Early this month, WHO asked industry and governments to increase production of PPEs by 40% due to global demand. In the Philippines, several conglomerates have donated PPEs and other medical kits, including the Aboitiz Group, SM Group, and Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, among others. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DFA clarifies donated COVID-19 test kits will still undergo assessment

DFA logo seal
AS DONATIONS of COVID-19 test kits pour in from foreign governments and organizations, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified on Tuesday that these will still undergo local assessment before put to use. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, in a media briefing, said test kit donations from other countries must be approved by their respective food and drug board, and the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration will also assess the kits based on Department of Health (DoH) guidelines. The DoH earlier said it could not roll out mass testing due to lack of available kits. Several patients under investigation of the new coronavirus disease around the country have died without confirmation if they were afflicted by the virus. — Gillian M. Cortez

LPG group flags prohibition of delivery to households

THE PHILIPPINE Liquified Petroleum Gas Association (PLPGA) called on authorities to address the reported barring of LPG deliveries, which is supposedly exempt from the community quarantine measures in effect around the country due to COVID-19. “Ngayon po nanawagan po kami sa DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), sa mga LGU at lalong-lalo na po sa PNP (Philippine National Police) na sana po makipag-cooperate po sila o sumunod po tayo sa memorandum na nilabas ng national government. Ang LPG po ay kasama sa exemption, necessity po ito so sana po i-allow po natin sa mga checkpoints po (We are appealing to the DILG, local government units, and most especially to the police to please cooperate and follow the national government’s memorandum),” PLPGA member Daniel Brian Joven said in a radio interview on Tuesday. Mr. Joven noted that some barangays have been issuing their own local ordinances which prohibits the entry of LPG deliveries. Mr. Joven said they are currently distributing accredited identification cards from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to their employees to facilitate the unhampered delivery of LPGs. Memorandum Circular No. 20-08 of the Department of Trade and Industry mandates the unhampered movement of all types of cargo, both food and non-food within, to and from Luzon amid the enhanced community quarantine to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus disease. Meanwhile, the IATF has reaffirmed that food, agricultural commodities, and personnel are allowed unhampered passage to, from, and through the localities of LGUs. In its Resolution No. 14 passed March 20, the IATF reiterated that all types of cargo, such as food and non-food cargo, should be granted uninterrupted passage. The resolution also covers employees of business establishments that are allowed to operate. The latest resolution was issued after Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar appealed to LGUs to guarantee unhampered movement of goods such as agriculture and fishery inputs, food products, and agribusiness personnel across the country. “We would like to always emphasize that the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of COVID-19. I believe my colleagues in the Task Force agree with me on the matter, hence our unified call to conquer this threat by allowing free movement in the food value chain,” Mr. Dar said. — Genshen L. Espedido and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

Alien employment permits processing suspended

PENDING applications for alien employment permits (AEP) will be suspended, the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DoLE) Metro Manila regional office announced Tuesday. In Advisory No. 20-04, the DoLE National Capital Region (NCR) Office said, “Due to the ongoing threat posed by the Corona Virus (COVID-19) and pursuant to the Memorandum from the Executive Secretary entitled Community Quarantine over the Entire Luzon and Further Guidelines for the Management of Corona Disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation, all AEP clients are hereby informed that the processing of the said permit shall be suspended until further notice.” The enhanced community quarantine will be in effect until April 15. DoLE-NCR also said that AEPs that will expire within the period of the enhanced community quarantine will not be slapped with a fine if not reapplied within two weeks. “New AEP applications of foreign nationals whose employment contracts are effective during the suspension period or the fifteen (15) days grace period already lapsed will not be imposed with penalty,” DoLE-NCR said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Hong Kong bars entry of non-residents, transit passengers from March 24

NON-RESIDENTS will not be allowed to travel to and from Hong Kong for two weeks beginning March 24, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported Tuesday. The new travel restriction also applies to passengers transiting in Hong Kong. “All travelers are advised to check if their inbound or outbound flights from Philippine airports will be affected by this new restriction, and adjust travel plans accordingly,” the DFA said in a statement. The DFA also reminded Filipinos to keep updated on travel restrictions being imposed by countries in efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration said in a March 22 advisory that only Filipinos, their foreign spouse and children, accredited officials of foreign government and international organization, and foreign airline crew members will be allowed to enter the country. Foreign nationals, overseas Filipino workers, and holders of permanent visa and student visa are allowed to exit the Philippines.

In a separate development, Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Tuesday received test kits and a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine from the Singapore government. It was turned over by Singaporean Ambassador to the Philippines Gerard Ho. Also present were Health Undersecretary Mario C. Villaverde and Deputy Chief of Mission Zhou Suli. The Deed of Donation was signed on Monday by Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph del Mar Yap, on behalf of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III. Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Director General Constance See signed the Deed on behalf of Singapore. She was represented by MFA Country Officer Olivia Chong at the signing. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Communist leader accedes to ceasefire offer

EXILED Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria C. Sison has recommended a unilateral ceasefire with the government after initially shrugging off President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s call for a truce as the country deals with the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Sison said his recommendation is in line with the United Nation’s (UN) call for a global armistice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), he said, “I am advising the negotiating panel of the NDFP to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines to the New People’s Army (NPA) in order to respond to the call of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.” The NPA is the CPP’s armed group. Last week, Mr. Duterte called for a unilateral ceasefire with the Reds, which Mr. Sison said had no basis and that the move was “insincere.” — Gillian M. Cortez

Senate committee asks DepEd, CHEd to release student subsidies

THE SENATE Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture asked the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to release the last tranche of student subsidies. Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the panel, is referring to the subsidy for the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) and Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for school year 2018-2019. He said this could serve as additional financial relief to affected families and may also allow private schools to advance payment of salaries and 13th month pay. “This would help families who are bearing the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Kung may tamang panahon para putulin ng DepEd at CHED ang red tape, ito na ang pagkakataong gawin nila ito (If there is a right time for DepEd and CHED to cut red tape, this is the opportunity for them to do so),” he said. Mr. Gatchalian said DepEd’s 2020 budget allocates P23.93 billion for the SHS VP program while the TES has a P16 billion allocation for 2018-2019. — Charmaine A. Tadalan