House committee approves proposed quarterly payment of senior citizens’ pension

A House of Representatives panel has approved a proposed measure for the quarterly distribution of pension to indigent senior citizens instead of every six months. In its hearing on Thursday, the House special committee on senior citizens approved House Resolution 1047, which will change the release schedule for the P500 per month pension for every senior beneficiary. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) handles the fund distribution. House Deputy Speaker Rufus B. Rodriguez, who filed the resolution, said the semi-annual schedule is “too long,” especially with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “A six months wait, and they’re indigent too, is certainly not the proper way to be of help to our senior citizens,” he said in the hearing. He added that ideally, the DSWD should distributing monthly, but every three months is “not a tall order” for the agency to implement. — Gillian M. Cortez

DFA again calls on Filipinos in Myanmar to take caution as violence escalates

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday reiterated its call to Filipinos in Myanmar to remain cautious and avoid going to areas of protests. “The Philippine government is deeply concerned with the recent escalation of violence in Myanmar and calls on security forces to exercise restraint and refrain from using excessive force against unarmed demonstrators,” the department said in a statement late Wednesday. “Filipinos in Myanmar are once more advised to avoid places of protest, monitor developments through reputable sources, and check with the Philippine Embassy in Yangon for further advisories,” it added. The military in Myanmar is back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency after seizing control on Feb. 1 following a general election that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide. Ms. Suu Kyi and other officials have been detained. The public took to the street its dissent to the military’s take over of the  government. On Wednesday, 38 protesters were killed, bringing the total to over 50, according to an article by the Associated Press, citing United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. in an informal online meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tuesday said the government is “deeply concerned” about developments there. He has called for a return to the previous state of affairs there and the immediate release of Ms. Suu Kyi. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Energy sector on the watch to ensure uninterrupted power supply for vaccine rollout

THE Energy department has instructed generation companies to be on the watch and ensure uninterrupted power supply, especially in areas where the coronavirus vaccination program is already being rolled out. The advisory issued Tuesday comes after a similar list of guidelines was released to distribution utilities in mid-February to provide stable and continuous electricity supply to cold storage and healthcare facilities for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines. The guidelines include setting up back-up sources and a response plan for emergency situations. Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, in a statement on Thursday said the department has been “meeting with the members of the energy family to fortify our strategies.” The government’s vaccination program started earlier this week in Metro Manila and vaccine doses have been distributed to major cities outside the capital. — Angelica Y. Yang

Supreme Court to look at alternatives as AstraZeneca vaccine not immediately available

THE Supreme Court, which has allocated funds to vaccinate members of the judiciary against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is now looking at other options after being informed that the AstraZeneca brand will not be immediately available. “The Judiciary will have to consider other options,” the court’s Chief Public Information Officer Brian Keith F. Hosaka told reporters via Viber on Wednesday. “Hopefully, the Judiciary will be able to procure vaccines at the soonest possible time considering the crucial role which the courts play in times of crisis,” Mr. Hosaka said. He added that Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta wants the country’s judges and court personnel to be fully protected from COVID-19 as they “have direct contact with the public on a daily basis.” The Supreme Court announced on Feb. 11 the approval of the vaccine procurement plan. About 30,000 justices, judges, officials, and employees of the judiciary are expected to get inoculated. The Philippine’s vaccination program started earlier this week with the delivery of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government, while AstraZeneca doses under the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility were expected to arrive Thursday night. The priority list of recipients include healthcare frontliners, senior citizens, indigents, and uniformed personnel. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago