Party-list rep calls for resumption of POGO operations to boost tax collection

A LAWMAKER called for the resumption of operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to boost government funds as it addresses the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. “In view of exhausting government coffers, the suspension of POGO operations should be lifted immediately to give our tax collection a much-needed boost. We need all the help that we can get right now… Lives are at stake and we need to act fast,” said ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric G. Yap, vice chair of the House games and amusement committee. “Kung nandito lang naman din sila (If they are here anyway), why not allow them to operate? Work from home arrangements should be explored or… stay-in. If you can’t do either, you will not be allowed to operate,” added Mr. Yap, who is also chairman of the House appropriations committee. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) earlier said the suspension of POGO operations is intended to ensure the safety of all employees and prevent the potential spread of the virus. “PAGCOR should come up with guidelines stipulating do’s and don’ts,” Mr. Yap said. PAGCOR Chair and Chief Executive Officer Andrea D. Domingo, in a Viber message to BusinessWorld, said she “fully supports” Mr. Yap’s petition. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Domiguez III, meanwhile, told reporters Monday that they are still evaluating if the suspension of POGO should be lifted – Genshen L. Espedido

NPC pushes for mass testing, but gov’t says available kits must be rationalized

THE National People’s Coalition (NPC) party on Monday appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Department of Health (DoH) to speed up the implementation of mass testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). IATF Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, however, said the conduct of “expanded” testing will have to be rationalized given the limited number of available test kits not just in the country but globally. Under the guidelines released by the IATF on Monday, health care workers, especially those showing symptoms of COVID-19, will be prioritized. “All sub-national laboratories are directed to allocate between 20% to 30% of their daily testing capacity for health workers, and the remaining 70% to 80% for patients,” Mr. Nograles said in a briefing Monday. The NPC, in a resolution dated April 17, particularly asked the IATF and DoH to assist local government units (LGUs) in establishing testing laboratories “sufficient to meet the demands of mass testing.” The DoH has so far accredited 16 testing centers, majority of which are in Metro Manila, with a capacity of at least 3,000 samples per day.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nograles reported that all LGUs in Metro Manila have already issued an ordinance to prevent discrimination against health workers. He also called on victims and witnesses of discriminatory acts to report to the National Bureau of Investigation. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez

64% of Metro Manila households have 1 member who lost job

ABOUT 64% of Metro Manila residents reported that at least one member of their family lost employment under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), with low-income households having a higher incidence of job loss, according to the second run survey by political consultancy firm Publicus Asia, Inc (PAI). “The data suggest a strong negative correlation between income and the likelihood or incidence of job loss. 78.12% of respondents from poor households reported that at least one member of their households had lost their job due to the ECQ. The proportion of respondents who reported job loss in their household decreases as household income increases,” Executive Director Aureli C. Sinsuat said in a virtual presser on Monday. PAI conducted its second run Online Panel Survey from April 13 to 18, with a weighted sample of 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 70 years old. Meanwhile, 39.5% of respondents said they are doing “good” or “very good” under the ECQ, 18.7% said they are doing “bad” or “very bad,” while 41.8% said neither. Good or very good family condition went down by 8% compared to the April 2 to 6 run of the survey, while bad or very bad condition increased by 3.7%. “Respondents from the three lowest income groups recorded higher incidences of bad or very bad family conditions than the 18.7% average across all income groups,” Mr. Sinsuat said. — Genshen L. Espedido

Sugar to be included in relief packs

THE INTER-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the inclusion of refined sugar in relief packs distributed by local government units (LGUs) to help boost demand for local produce. Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar welcomed the approval and said LGUs can now include at least two kilograms (kg) of sugar in the relief packs. “Through this, we can ease pressure brought about by the high supply of the sweetener,” Mr. Dar said in a statement on Monday. According to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), sugar traders have experienced a 30-40% decline in orders from food manufacturers and other buyers due to the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. “With the IATF approval, we are hopeful to offset the slowdown in demand for sugar during the quarantine period,” Mr. Dar said. SRA assured that there is enough sugar supply in traders’ warehouses in Luzon. Total raw sugar stock is at 1.793 million bags while refined sugar stock is at 2.2 million bags. Each bag is equivalent to 50 kilograms. Total nationwide sugar output is 12.3 million bags while withdrawals is at 8.8 million bags. The DA recently implemented a revised suggested retail price (SRP) list for basic food commodities, which included sugar. Refined sugar is priced at P50/kg while brown sugar is at P45/kg.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it has released 90% of the P81 billion emergency cash subsidies to LGUs for distribution to identified beneficiaries. “Naibigay na rin natin ang (We have released) P74.5 billion (to) 1,359 na lokal na pamahalaan sa buong bansa (to LGus nationwide),” DSWD Undersecretary Camilo G. Gudmalin said in a press briefing on Monday. Mr. Gudmalin said more than one million low-income families not covered by the government’s conditional cash grants have received P6 million in cash aid as of April 19. The poorest of the poor families under the state’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) have received P16.3 billion in financial assistance, he added. Meanwhile, about 40,000 public utility drivers in the National Capital Region received P323 million. Aside from emergency cash subsidies, Mr. Gudmalin said more than 445,580 food packs worth P173 million have been distributed to LGUs. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave and Genshen L. Espedido

Korean wanted for cybercrime nabbed at Manila airport

Bureau of Immigration (BI) logo
A SOUTH KOREAN wanted for cybercrime and operating an illegal online gaming business was nabbed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last April 16, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported Monday. In a statement, BI said Ju Minhyeok, 23, was identified before boarding his flight to Incheon as his name appeared in the Interpol watchlist. He was allowed to board his flight and South Korean authorities were informed of his arrival. “He was arrested upon his arrival at the Incheon airport where operatives from the cybercrime investigation squad of the Busan police were waiting for him,” Grifton SP. Medina, port operations division chief, said. Mr. Ju has a standing arrest warrant issued by the Busan district court last April 11 for violating the national sports promotion act for allegedly engaging in illegal gambling activities, BI said, adding that he could be sentenced for up to seven years. “Korean authorities charged that the suspects ran the sites called ‘Deadpool’ through which bettors could win or lose money by predicting the results of various sports competitions,” BI Interpol chief Rommel S. Tacorda said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas