Closed to trucks starting Feb. 20

Trucks and trailers will be banned from crossing the Nagtahan Flyover in Manila starting February 20 to avoid further damage and potential accidents on the structure that is already lined up for repair, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced Thursday. The agency said light vehicles can still use the bridge, based on the recommendation of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

P3.32-M calamity loan released to Marinduque electricity distributor

STATE-run National Electrification Administration (NEA) has extended a P3.32-million calamity loan to Marinduque Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Marelco) after it was hit by two typhoons last year, the agency said on Tuesday. In a press release, NEA said Marelco has received the calamity loan as of end-January. The loan is intended to help the electric cooperative restore power lines damaged by Typhoon Quinta (international name: Molave) and Super Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni). Data from the NEA’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department showed that Marelco facilities suffered P26.69 million in damage from the two typhoons. “The calamity loan program of the NEA has a 10-year repayment term and one-year grace period. It has an interest rate of 3.25 percent per annum,” the agency said. In December, NEA released P25 million in calamity loans to First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) for the repair and rehabilitation of its power facilities after the utility bore the brunt of Typhoons Quinta and Rolly. NEA earlier said it had lent P439.98 million to twenty cooperatives last year, with bulk of the fund going to the distribution utilities’ capital expenditures and working capital. Of the total, some P128.08 million were handed out as calamity loans. — Angelica Y. Yang

Palawan plebiscite in March will be a ‘dry run’ for holding elections amid COVID — Comelec

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said the upcoming plebiscite to ratify the division of Palawan into three provinces would serve as a “dry run” for the conduct of next year’s 2022 national and local polls as the country still battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In a virtual briefing on Thursday, Comelec Chair Sheriff M. Abas said the March 13 plebiscite will be the first time the poll body will implement stringent health measures during a voting exercise. “This will be like a dry run, how we run this plebiscite in Palawan, because if we reach May 2022, we will see in the plebiscite how ready the commission is, how ready the people, and how ready our partner agencies are in conducting this. The plebiscite is important on how we implement health and safety protocols,” he said in Filipino. Comelec Commissioner Antonio T. Kho, Jr. said the poll body en banc already approved “the creation of the new normal committee that will assist in the planning and anticipating of the health concerns to the 2022 elections.” The Palawan plebiscite is for the ratification of Republic Act No. 11259, signed into law in 2019. It divides Palawan into three provinces: Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur. There are 490,369 registered voters from 23 municipalities who are expected to take part in the voting. The plebiscite was originally set May 11, 2020. — Gillian M. Cortez

720 families still displaced after 2013 Zamboanga siege; city vows housing by August

THE Zamboanga City government aims to finally deliver by August the permanent housing units for the remaining 720 families who were among the thousands displaced during the September 2013 attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction under Nur Misuari. Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar called a meeting of the inter-agency committee earlier this week to direct both the involved local departments and national agencies to finish and turnover the houses before the 8th year since the siege. The attack prompted almost three weeks of armed urban battle between government forces and the MNLF members. “We want our IDPs (internally-displaced persons) to know that we have not forgotten them even as we are currently coping with the COVID pandemic,” Ms. Salazar, who also chairs the inter-agency committee, said in a statement following the meeting. “As mayor and chair of (the committee), I have given the agencies concerned a deadline until August 2021 to finish the construction of the housing units and award them to the target IDP beneficiaries,” she said. The offices involved in the program are the City Housing Division, City Engineer’s Office, National Housing Authority (NHA), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show 23,794 families composed of over 199,7000 individuals were displaced by the conflict. — MSJ

2 new Skyway 3 ramps opened on Thursday

SAN Miguel Corp. (SMC) opened on Thursday two new ramps of the Skyway Stage 3, its top official said. The company said in an e-mailed statement that it opened on February 11 the “A. Bonifacio northbound off-ramp, just before the Cloverleaf Mall in Balintawak, and the E. Rodriguez southbound off-ramp on Araneta Ave., which provides access to España.” The opening of the two ramps gives an option to Balintawak-bound motorists coming from Alabang, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Pasay, or Makati to avoid EDSA, Mr. Ramon Ang noted. “Those coming from NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) headed to Quezon City, on the other hand, can opt to take Skyway 3 to get to E. Rodriguez Ave,” he added. SMC is planning to open more access points soon, including Quirino Entry, Nagtahan Entry, Nagtahan Exit, E. Rodriguez Entry, and C3 Exit for northbound motorists. For southbound, it will open C3 Entry, C3 Exit, A. Bonifacio Entry, Plaza Dilao Exit, and Nagtahan Exit. SMC officially opened the new elevated expressway on Jan. 14. “With Skyway 3, motorists are now able to bypass EDSA and other busy streets and enjoy travel time from Buendia to Balintawak in just 20 minutes, and Alabang to Balintawak in only 30 minutes.” The project was built to reduce travel time between the South Luzon Expressway and NLEX to 20 minutes from around three hours previously. Magallanes to Balintawak should only take around 15 minutes, Balintawak to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) also only 15 minutes, and Valenzuela to Makati in just 10 minutes, the company said. — Arjay L. Balinbin