DoT lobbies for inclusion of more tourism workers in vaccine priority list

THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DoT) has asked the national task force handling the coronavirus response to expand the list of the industry’s workers who are included in the priority group for vaccination. “We have asked Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., the chief implementor of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, to widen the vaccination priority list for frontline workers of the tourism industry to include tour guides, operators and other accredited workers and service providers,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday. “The frontline nature of the jobs of these workers requires face-to-face interaction with individuals and groups as we prepare for the recovery of the industry,” it said. The DoT noted that before the pandemic, the tourism sector contributed almost 13% to the country’s 12.7 percent of the country’s economic output. “Not only will vaccination protect these workers from the COVID-19 virus as we prepare to welcome foreign and domestic tourists; it also serves as a firewall of sorts that will restrict the spread of the virus in our tourist destinations,” DoT said. Under the current priority list, first in line for vaccination are medical workers, followed by senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, and frontline personnel in other sectors, including tourism but limited to those assigned at airports and hotels accredited as quarantine facilities. “The lifting of travel restrictions and the quick recovery of the tourism industry — and the national economy as a whole — hinge heavily on the health and safety of our tourism workers,” DoT said.

Lawmaker wants building workers prioritized for coronavirus vaccines

CONSTRUCTION Workers Solidarity (CWS) Party-List Rep. Romeo S. Momo is calling on the government to add construction workers in the priority list for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination, citing their crucial role in economic recovery through the administration’s infrastructure program. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Momo said the industry’s workers are indispensable in ensuring that projects under the Build, Build, Build program continue unhampered. “Our very productive construction workers are our economic frontliners as well, they are one of those who will bring about the very much needed economic recovery and growth of our country, that is why they must also be given protection against the virus,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Duterte appoints new head of toll board

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has appointed Alvin A. Carullo, a lawyer, as executive director of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB). In a joint statement on Tuesday, the TRB and Department of Transportation (DoTr) said Mr. Carullo’s appointment took effect March 15. Transport Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran told reporters via Viber that Abraham P. Sales, the former TRB executive director, resigned in Jan. Prior to Mr. Sales’ resignation, the TRB was facing issues regarding the implementation of the non-contact Radio Frequency Identification payment scheme. Mr. Duterte, in a speech in December, threatened to fire officials involved in the matter that was deemed important in helping mitigate coronavirus transmissions. “If you cannot perform what is expected of you, then the best that you can do is resign and do not wait to be fired,” the President said. Mr. Carullo on Tuesday vowed to improve the TRB’s performance. “I intend to inculcate the culture of competence, integrity, and good public service in the TRB,” he said. The DoTr and the TRB said Mr. Carullo would be taking a look at pending applications of tollroad operators for rate increases. “Toll rates should not be too low as to be confiscatory nor so high as to be oppressive,” Mr. Carullo said. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Top gov’t lawyer defends military officer’s social media posts vs anti-terror law petitioners

THE Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) defended Lt. General Antonio G. Parlade, Jr.’s social media posts against petitioners questioning the anti-terror law, saying these were made in a personal capacity and so do not violate the Bill of Rights. Mr. Parlade, an active military officer, is the spokesperson of the government’s task force against communist rebels. “There can be no violation of the Bill of Rights when committed by a private individual,” the OSG said in its official response to the Supreme Court on March 19. The Supreme Court is currently hearing more than 30 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act passed last year. Before the oral arguments started in Feb., the petitioners filed before the high court a manifestation and motion for “possible intimidation” pertaining to the post of Mr. Parlade. The military officer’s cited posts on his Facebook page include describing the petitioners as “the noisy and belligerent minority” who are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army-National Democratic Front, and who act “as if they represent the Filipino people.” — Bianca Angelica D. Añago