Gov’t launches centralized COVID-19 referral station for Metro Manila

A CENTRALIZED referral station for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients was launched Thursday to improve the management of hospital beds in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak in the country. The One Hospital Command Center, located at the MMDA headquarters in Makati City, will handle the distribution of patients to all private and public medical facilities with allocated COVID-19 beds. “This system will help the government in efficiently overseeing the coordination of referral of patients across all health facilities and ensure we have enough hospital beds for moderate to severe COVID-19 cases,” Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of the COVID-19 response program, said during the launching ceremony. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region, accounts for more than half of the country’s total cases at over 64,000 as of Aug. 6, with more than 26,000 categorized as active. The center may be reached through mobile numbers 0919-977-3333 or 0915- 777-7777, landline number 886-505-00, or through the PureForce Citizens App. — Gillian M. Cortez

2nd round of franchise application opens for Davao City bus routes after 2 firms fail to qualify

THE GOVERNMENT has opened another round of franchise applications for three bus routes in Davao City after two Mindanao-based companies failed to qualify. In a circular dated Aug. 5, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-Davao Region office said new applicants have until 9 a.m. of Aug. 20 to submit their documents for evaluation, which will start the same day and to be completed within seven days. The routes up for grabs under the interim bus service are Toril, Catalunan Grande, and Diversion Road. The first round of application proceedings was completed July 17, where two companies — Bachelor Express, Inc., and Davao Metro Shuttle Corp. — both failed “to comply with all the requirements,” according to the LTFRB memo signed by Regional Director Armand B. Dioso. The second round of application is open to “non-area based applicants.” The interim bus service is part of the Davao City government’s High Priority Bus System, which aims to deploy around 1,000 units, replacing 7,000 public utility jeepneys in 29 routes around the city.

Hundred Islands expands visitor base to all Pangasinanresidents; Bolinao open to Region 1 locals

THE HUNDRED Islands National Park in Alaminos City will be open to all residents of Pangasinan starting Aug. 8, the local tourism office announced on Thursday. The protected area resumed operations on July 1, but was limited to those from Pangasinan’s 1st District towns. There are now 43 establishments around the area with a provisional permit to operate following inspection by the Department of Tourism and local government for compliance to health safety standards. For inquiries and bookings, contact the city government through its Facebook page @AlaminosCityTourism, e-mail, or call 0998-5975153/09178286592. The entire Pangasinan province is under the modified quarantine category, where tourism facilities are allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Another coastal town in western Pangasinan, Bolinao, is also open to local tourists from Region 1 provinces that are under the modified quarantine category. For guidelines, visit or their Facebook page.

2 Negros Oriental bays positive for red tide

THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has warned consumers from eating shellfish collected from Tambobo Bay in the town of Siaton and Bais Bay in Bais City — both in Negros Oriental — after the two areas tested positive for red tide contamination in the latest sampling. In a shellfish bulletin, BFAR said the bays join other red tide positive areas such as the coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; Cancabato Bay in Tacloban City, Leyte; Balite Bay in Mati City, Davao Oriental; and Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur. All types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang collected from these areas are unsafe for human consumption. Other marine species harvested in the area are safe to eat. “Fish, squid, shrimp, and crab are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” BFAR said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

ERC orders local governments to allow meter reading in lockdown areas

THE ENERGY Regulatory Commission (ERC) asked local governments to allow utility meter reading activities in areas reverted to a strict lockdown. The uninterrupted conduct of meter reading would allow distribution utilities to bill their customers based on actual consumption “in order to avoid possible bill shocks,” the regulator said in a statement on Thursday. Power distribution firms, meanwhile, were directed to provide transportation and logistical needs to readers who should perform their duties in full personal protective equipment. Areas under strict quarantine rules from Aug. 4 to 18 are Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna. For its part, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the Philippine’s biggest distribution utility catering to about seven million customers, said it will continue meter reading activities, while it requested the same plea of permitting their readers to enter locked-down areas. “Rest assured this will be unobtrusive and the deployed meter readers will be in complete personal protective equipment, bearing in mind safety procedures,” Meralco Spokesperson Joe R. Zaldarriaga said in a statement on Wednesday. — Adam J. Ang