Cash aid for tourism sector now covers informal, support service businesses

THE cash assistance program for the tourism industry has been expanded a second time and now covers workers in support service enterprises that are registered with the local government. “With this amendment, the Cash Assistance Program under the Bayanihan II (law) can benefit more displaced workers, especially those in the informal sector. We encourage our local government units and tourism enterprises to extend assistance in the completion of documentary requirements for our affected tourism workers,” Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement on Thursday. Ms. Puyat and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III signed the amended memorandum on Feb. 3. Mr. Bello reported that as of Feb. 2, almost 183,500 workers from 9,728 establishments and organizations have been approved as beneficiaries. Payments totalling P790.8 million have been remitted to 158,166 workers. — MSJ 

Firms to offer saliva-based testing for coronavirus

ELECTRONICS solutions firm MyEG Philippines, Inc., in partnership with IP Biotech, Inc. and Family Vaccine and Specialty Clinics, Inc., is expecting the delivery of saliva-based coronavirus testing this month. In a statement, MyEG said the saliva-based testing will enable “home and on-site corporate collection of saliva samples by licensed medical professionals,” which will be sent to partner laboratories. Results will be out in one to two working days, it said. Ann T. Saldana, chief executive officer of MyEG-Philippines, said via e-mail that up to 20,000 kits will arrive within the month. MyEG said the diagnostic kit, developed by Singapore-based biotechnology company Veredus Laboratories, has been approved by the local Food and Drug Administration and has also been approved for use in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. This can also detect other coronavirus variants, it said. The state-owned Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is finalizing its validation of saliva testing and will be issuing related guidelines for laboratories outside of the Philippine Red Cross, currently the only institution with accreditation for such type of testing. The Red Cross will subject one out of every 100 saliva samples to a parallel swab test for RT-PCR testing to ensure the quality of the testing.—Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Ressa, reporter ask court to drop cyber liber case

RAPPLER Chief Operating Officer Maria A. Ressa and a reporter of the online news site asked a Manila court to junk the cyber libel case filed against them over an article on alleged corruption in an academic institution. In a 15-page motion to quash, the counsel of Ms. Ressa and Rambo Talabong, the author of the story published in January last year, said that the facts charged “do not constitute an offense.” The filing asserted that the prosecution did not provide evidence that Ms. Ressa participated in the editing and publication of the story. On the part of Mr. Talabong, the motion said the cited portions of the article were not defamatory and were “not maliciously written” as “they are direct quotes from the complaint or statements attributable to a source.” The case, filed by a professor who was allegedly involved in the payment scheme, is the third cyber libel charge against the Rappler chief. Ms. Ressa and a former Rappler researcher were convicted of cyber libel in June, which was filed by businessman Wilfredo D. Keng. The case is now pending at the Court of Appeals. Another case filed by the businessman is pending at a Makati court. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Comelec sets deadlines for party-lists joining the 2022 elections

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Thursday that it has set March 31 as deadline for both new and existing party-list groups to file their intent to participate in the 2022 elections. For substitution of party-list nominees, the Comelec said groups have until November 15 to do so if the substitution is by reason of withdrawal, and May 9 if due to death and incapacity. “If a nominee withdraws his acceptance, he is no longer eligible to be re-nominated by the same party or be nominated by other parties. If a nominee dies or becomes incapacitated, notice and proof of his death must be filed with the Comelec within ten (10) days,” the commission said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bill filed for additional cash aid to families most affected by pandemic

TAGUIG City–Pateros Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano filed a bill that will grant additional cash assistance to families most affected by the pandemic. In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Cayetano said he filed House Bill 8597 that seeks the distribution of P10,000 per household or P1,500 per family member. Priority beneficiaries, he said, will be “senior citizens, persons with disabilities, solo parents, displaced workers, medical frontliners, families of overseas Filipino workers, individuals who were not able to secure aid through the Social Amelioration Program, Philippine National ID holders, and members of vulnerable groups.” Mr. Cayetano said the aid will not only help those affected but also “boost economic performance.” — Gillian M. Cortez