MWSS directs Maynilad, Manila Water to extend grace period for bills

THE METROPOLITAN Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office has ordered Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company, Inc. to extend the grace period for customers to pay their bills until the third quarter this year. In a statement Thursday, MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty said the extension will cover bills during the strict lockdown periods tagged as enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). Further, Mr. Ty said the concessionaires have been directed to suspend all water service disconnection activities, resolve billing inquiries and complaints, and give enough time for customers to update payments for accumulated water bills. “The directive was initiated on the basis of humanitarian and public health considerations; and with the intention of providing further economic relief to customers, in addition to the staggered and installment payment schemes currently in effect for ECQ and MECQ water bills,” he said. Manila Water Corporate Strategic Affairs Head Nestor Jeric T. Sevilla, in a mobile phone message, said they will comply with the latest directive of the MWSS. “We will implement the latest directive of the MWSS, as we always have, extending payment and no disconnection until September 30 to help alleviate the current plight of our customers,” Mr. Sevilla said. Maynilad Corporate Communications Head Jennifer C. Rufo said they have already extended the payment deadline for its customers. “We acknowledge that our residential customers need more elbow room for the settling of bills that may have accumulated during the ECQ, so we agreed to the extension of the grace period for payments to the end of the third quarter,” Ms. Rufo said in a mobile phone message. On Wednesday, the MWSS served a show-cause order to the two concessionaires after it received over 400 billing complaints from customers. Maynilad and Manila Water have been given until the end of the week to submit an official explanation. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

More COVID beds ready soon in 2 Metro Manila hospitals

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) said it is fast-tracking the completion of facilities in two Metro Manila hospitals with beds dedicated to coronavirus patients. One of these is a 250-bed area at the East Avenue Medical Center and 130 beds at the Quirino Memorial Medical Center. At the same time, the DoH again underscored the need for more health care workers while appealing to the public to observe health protocols “to avoid burdening our health facilities, health care workers and the community.” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire previously said there are now fewer applicants in the government’s emergency hiring program for health care workers. She added that they are now working to partner with universities and other institutions to hire medical graduates for the program.

In another statement, the DoH reiterated the need to create the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (PH CDC) to improve the country’s preparedness and capacity to handle emerging diseases. “Establishing a PH CDC will help ensure that the Philippine health system is well-prepared to forecast, prevent, monitor, and control emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases and threats both of national and international concern,” it said. Consultations are ongoing if the center will be a separate agency or attached to the DoH. Several bills on the establishment of the CDC have been filed at the Senate and House of Representatives. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Emirates to resume flights to Clark on Aug. 1

DUBAI-BASED Emirates airline announced that it is resuming commercial passenger flights to Clark International Airport on Aug. 1. The airline said it will have six weekly flights to Clark, located in Pampanga north of Manila, starting next month as it aims to boost its global network to 68 destinations. “With the resumption of flights to Clark, Emirates will now operate with scheduled services to two gateways in the Philippines, with services to Manila being in operation since June 11 with daily flights,” Emirates said in a statement e-mailed to reporters on Wednesday. The company currently flies to 13 destinations in southeast and east Asia. Emirates noted that Dubai is now open for business and leisure visitors. It said its government has set air travel protocols for all visitors. The flag carrier of United Arab Emirates said it will cover all medical expenses of its customers if they get diagnosed with the coronavirus disease 2019 during their travel. “This cover is offered by Emirates free of cost to its customers regardless of class of travel or destination. It is immediately effective for customers flying on Emirates until October 31 (first flight to be completed on or before October 31, 2020), and is valid for 31 days from the moment they fly the first sector of their journey,” it said. “This means Emirates customers can continue to benefit from the added assurance of this cover, even if they travel onwards to another city after arriving at their Emirates destination,” it added. — Arjay L. Balinbin 

400-room Bohol 9° hotel breaks ground in Panglao as province readies ‘travel bubbles’ plan

THE BOHOL-PANGLAO airport, which opened in November 2018, is the main international gateway in the province.

THE 400-room Bohol 9° hotel in Panglao broke ground on Tuesday, as the province’s tourism sector met to discuss the development of “travel bubbles” to revive the industry, a major contributor to the local economy. Panglao, an island off mainland Bohol, is the main beach destination of the province. Panglao Mayor Leonila P. Montero led the groundbreaking for the hotel, owned by Chinese nationals Jeff Tung and Jessie Hu. The municipal government, in a statement, said Messrs. Tung and Hu’s realty business is headquartered in Beijing, with a satellite office in Florida, USA. The hotel will be built on a 2.6-hectare area in Barangay Danao.

Meanwhile, Bohol’s tourism stakeholders will present its “Bohol bubbles” plan to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who is scheduled to visit Friday, July 28. Travel bubbles, also referred to as travel corridors, involve country-level partnerships for direct flights to and from areas that have shown considerable success in containing and managing the coronavirus pandemic. Ms. Puyat has previously said the government is looking at Bohol as a model for such scheme. Bohol Governor Arthur C. Yap, in a statement posted on his Facebook page Wednesday, said while he fully supports the national government’s plan, he “wants to be certain on the two thresholds to cross in reopening Bohol to visitors — to convince visitors that it is safe to come to Bohol and to convince the people of Bohol that it is safe to welcome visitors.” — MSJ

Mati City pitches P150M fish port project to PFDA

THE PHILIPPINE Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) is now evaluating the P150-million fish port proposed by the city government of Mati, capital of Davao Oriental province. Mayor Michelle N. Rabat said the agency’s top officials visited on July 28 to discuss the project, which may possibly be implemented through two P75-million programs under the 2021 and 2022 budgets. “The bays of Mati have been known as part of the tuna highway. In fact fishermen pass through Mati before going to GenSan (General Santos City) to unload their catch. So once Mati would have a new and modern fish port, then instead of traveling all the way to GenSan they can do it here in Mati City,” she said through Facebook messenger. The port, to be developed on a five-hectare area in Barangay Central, will include a cold storage facility. Ms. Rabat said PFDA suggested private sector participation in the project for the development of a complementary food processing and packing facility. — Maya M. Padillo

Cimatu lobbies for law creating Boracay Island Development Authority

ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY Roy A. Cimatu called on lawmakers to pass the measure creating a permanent agency that will sustain developments under the Boracay rehabilitation program. “This is the opportune time to pass a law creating the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) to sustain the gains achieved by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), which term has been extended for only one year or until April 2021,” Mr. Cimatu said. On May 11, President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order 115 extending the term of the BIATF by one year. The task force was originally set to end on May 8, two years after it was created in 2018. “It is the tacit duty of the task force to ensure that Boracay does not backslide and slip to a state of environmental degradation especially with all the hard work, cooperation and concern shown by all stakeholders,” Mr. Cimatu said. The BIATF approved on June 11 its own draft of the BIDA bill and endorsed it to Congress. Under the BIATF’s proposal, BIDA is mandated to formulate policies, plans, programs, and projects for the rehabilitation, preservation, and enhancement of Boracay, one of the country’s major tourist destinations. “The proposed framework is focused on developing Boracay as a self-sustaining commercial, financial, investment and tourism center to generate employment opportunities, attract local and foreign tourists and promote productive investments,” the BIATF said.

Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group General Manager Natividad Y. Bernardino said the BIATF’s version of the bill makes the BIDA a regulatory body while the local government retains its taxing authority. “BIDA will not be a government-owned and controlled corporation akin to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority,” Ms. Bernardino said. The BIDA board will be composed of 11 members and chaired by the Environment secretary, while the Interior and Tourism secretaries will serve as vice-chairs. Mr. Duterte, in his 5th State of the Nation Address on Monday, urged Congress to pass the BIDA measure. “For the rest of my term, I hope to see concerted efforts in protecting the environment. The rehabilitation of Boracay island showcased our reserve to safeguard the environment,” Mr. Duterte said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave