NBI to probe ‘human smuggling’

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Wednesday said he would order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the illegal transport of people who have not been tested for the coronavirus into the capital region and nearby provinces.

“I’ll direct the NBI to look into these alleged incidents of ‘human smuggling’ and conduct a full-blown investigation if there is any indication that the practice is widespread,” Mr. Guevarra said in a Viber group message.

Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade earlier called on law enforcers and local governments to help end the “COVID-19 smuggling” involving trucking companies and vans that allegedly transport untested people in exchange for cash.

A viral video had been circulating on social media showing a truck being opened, revealing people inside who were mostly not wearing face shields and masks. The video showed the people in the truck being instructed to ride separate vans that would take them to Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Mr. Guevarra said suspects would be charged with violating local ordinances on quarantine and other health regulations. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Government to hire more contact-tracers

THE DEPARTMENT of Labor and Employment said it would allot more than P200 million to hire contact-tracers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces as part of its emergency employment program.

The hiring would start next week, Karen Perida-Trayvilla, director of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, told an online news briefing on Wednesday.

The government should  lengthen the work period to three months from the usual 10 days so it doesn’t have to keep training people for the job, she said.

A 30-day work period means the program could accommodate about 12,000 contact tracers, she added. — Gillian M. Cortez

US, Korea partner for development

THE UNITED States and South Korea on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding to advance development cooperation in the Philippines, the US Embassy said in a statement.

The memo aims to strengthen the US-Korean partnership “to foster sustainable development,” it said.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) programs will cover poverty reduction in rural areas, empowerment of women and girls, water resource management, community rehabilitation in Marawi and climate resilience.

“Under the MOU, USAID and KOICA will explore additional areas of cooperation in these and other sectors in the Philippines,” according to the statement. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Pag-asa Island now has free internet

RESIDENTS of Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea now have free internet as part of a government program to provide connectivity in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas across the country, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“Residents of Pag-asa Island in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan can now access free internet connectivity through the DICT’s VSAT installation,” it said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. — ALB