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China defends WHO, lashes out at US move to withdraw

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BEIJING — China on Wednesday defended the World Health Organization and lashed out at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. body.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the U.S. pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.”

WHO is “the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

The U.S. departure from the organization “undermines the international anti-epidemic efforts, and in particular has a serious negative impact on developing countries in urgent need of international support,” Zhao said.


Keep on reading: China defends WHO, lashes out at US move to withdraw

QC doing contact tracing of employees possibly exposed to Joy Belmonte

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MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City local government is doing contact tracing among city hall employees who may have encountered Mayor Joy Belmonte days ago after the local chief executive tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (QCESU) chief Dr. Rolly Cruz said that city hall employees, especially those whose offices are located from the 3rd to the 14th floors, would be subjected to COVID-19 swab testings.

“We are currently doing contact tracing on all those who had direct contact with the mayor in the last few days,” Cruz said in a statement.

“Other people who had direct contact with the Mayor and the two other employees,…

Keep on reading: QC doing contact tracing of employees possibly exposed to Joy Belmonte

John O, former senator, wins battle with COVID-19

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CEBU CITY—Former senator John Henry “Sonny” Osmea won his battle with COVID-19.

Osmea, 84, was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday (July 8) after at least 20 days of fighting SARS Cov2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Ferliza Contratista, Toledo City community affairs and development officer, posted on social media a photo of Osmea smiling and raising an arm while being wheeled out on a stretcher.

“There were cheers and claps by hospital staff as he was sent home,” said Contratista on a post on Facebook.

Contratista said Osmea was not wearing any shirt when he went out of the hospital since he still has bedsores.

Osmea, the grandson of the late President …

Keep on reading: John O, former senator, wins battle with COVID-19

Enhanced travel insurance mulled as requirement to exit PH

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MANILA – A travel medical insurance with additional two weeks or 15 days coverage may soon be required before a Filipino traveler can exit the country, a ranking Department of Tourism (DOT) official said Wednesday.

Ang napag-usapan doon sa technical working group ay malamang tataasan natin ‘yong insurance coverage, in fact, isa sa mga napag-uusapan is baka bukod doon sa travel duration baka kailangan kumuha ka pa ng insurance for extra two weeks or 15 days (From the technical working group discussion, the required insurance coverage may further be increased, in fact, part of the discussion is that aside from travel duration there may be a need to get insurance for extra two weeks or 15 days),” DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. said in a radio interview.

Bengzon said this is to ensure that Filipinos traveling abroad amid the pandemic are protected in case emergencies arise or when they undergo a long period of quarantine and hospitalization.

The official said DOT is currently in talks with travel agents but “haven’t finalized yet the agreements”.

Despite this, the agency expects to release more details on the subject in the coming days. “We hope to have something by next week,” he said in a text message.

The restriction on non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos was recently lifted subject to certain conditions set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Based on IATF-EID resolution No. 52 dated July 6, travelers must have “adequate travel and health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses if stranded, and hospitalization in case of infection, in such amount as may be determined by the DOT”.

Travelers exiting the country on tourist visas must also submit confirmed round-trip tickets. 

Revenue for stakeholders 

The lifting of restrictions, in a way, is seen to bring revenues to the government by way of travel taxes as well as to travel agencies that had been bleeding for months due to the economic impact of Covid-19.

But Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) president Ritchie Tuaño said this would still depend on the number of people who will travel and the countries that will allow them entry.

“The lifting of the ban on non-essential travel does not mean immediate revenue coming in for travel agents,” he said in a text message.

“Within our neighboring countries in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and North Asia, most if not all have not opened their borders to any nationalities with leisure as the purpose of travel. This is the biggest challenge we see now,” he added.

According to the latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs, a total of 31 countries have so far lifted their inbound border restrictions on Filipino travels, subject to medical protocols on arriving passengers.

On the other hand, 68 countries/territories still do not allow entry in their borders such as Cuba, Haiti, Palau, Timor Leste, France, and most countries in Middle East/Africa, among others.

About 78 countries/territories, despite inbound border closures, meanwhile give entry exemptions to Filipinos who are citizens of the destination country and returning residents, overseas Filipinos with work visas and contracts, and diplomatic or United Nations passport holders going to post or on official travel. (PNA

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

17 new confirmed Covid-19 cases reported in W. Visayas

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POSITIVE. Western Visayas recorded 17 additional confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (July 8, 2020). Except for one who is admitted to a hospital, the rest of the new cases are under facility quarantine. (Photo by DOH-CHD6)

ILOILO CITY – Confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the region rose to 412 with 17 new cases recorded by the Department of Health Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD6) on Wednesday.

A total of 366 results were released by the DOH with 347 coming from the Western Visayas Medical Center sub-national laboratory in Mandurriao district.

The additional cases came from the 19 results by the Teresita L. Jalandoni Provincial Hospital Molecular Laboratory in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

Only one recovery was recorded, a 40-year old male repatriated overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from San Joaquin, Iloilo.

The new cases brought the region’s active cases to 248 and recoveries to 153.

The confirmed cases are composed of 12 locally stranded individuals, three repatriated OFWs, and two locals.

Except for the 34-year old male currently admitted to a hospital, all the other confirmed cases are quarantined in a facility.

In a press conference, the DOH advised those who are inquiring about the result of their reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test to coordinate with their disease reporting unit (DRU), local government unit (LGU), or those who conducted the swab test.

DOH regional director Marlyn Convocar said all negative results are released to DRU through the provincial or highly-urbanized city epidemiology and surveillance units (ESUs).

The positive results are initially released by the testing laboratory to the DOH through the regional ESU (RESU). In turn, the RESU will release the RT PCR Covid-19 laboratory positive result to all ESUs, DRUs, and concerned requesting agencies.

Dr. Stephanie Abello, WVMC pathologist, said she asked for the official email addresses of all LGUS and districts and city hospitals where the results will be sent.

She reported that as of Wednesday, the WVMC sub-national laboratory has 3,200 pending samples.

“We have an average releasing number of results at 800 though we are targeting a thousand so that we can cope with the previous’ week setback because of the massive contract tracing of several hospitals undergoing a lockdown,” she said. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

NegOr marks Disaster Resilience Month with focus on Covid-19

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Adrian Sedillo, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Negros Oriental. (PNA file photo courtesy of Capitol PIO)

DUMAGUETE CITY – The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) in Negros Oriental is asking for public cooperation on disaster response and mitigation programs, with a focus on the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

PDRRMO chief Adrian Sedillo on Wednesday said the country is observing National Disaster Resilience Month this July, highlighting measures to stem the spread of Covid-19, adding that other emergencies and hazards should not be relegated to the sidelines.

“This time is a very peculiar observance of Disaster Resilience Month because we are in the midst of a very uncertain situation, a major disaster not only in our country but worldwide with the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Sedillo, who is also the executive director of the provincial Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Sedillo reiterated Gov. Roel Degamo’s message that it is a “fifty-fifty sharing between government and the local government units” to ensure the success of disaster management programs with the help of the private sector and the general public.

“As PDRRMO chief, I would like to reiterate the position of the governor that in other aspects of DRRM (disaster risk reduction and management) we are hopeful that, with the help of the cities, towns, and including the barangays, we can manage the needs and concerns if there are other emergencies outside of Covid-19,” Sedillo said.

On the financial capacity for other emergencies, he said that funding is just one aspect of the entire disaster management “but we should also consider all the other capabilities”.

“It is true that we have a big challenge when it comes to funding especially when it comes to our third, fourth, and fifth class municipalities, but this is not peculiar to these local government units because even the national government which has the biggest chunk of funding is also experiencing certain budgetary limitation,” he added. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Bohol exec asks NGCP to fast-track power interconnection project

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Google map of Bohol province

TAGBILARAN CITY – Governor Arthur Yap has pressed the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to present a clustered work program and timeline to fast-track the power interconnection project in Bohol province.

Yap raised this concern on Wednesday during a virtual meeting with NGCP officials, 1st District Rep. Edgar Chatto, and mayors of Bohol.

He noted that the decision to move the site for the 180-kilometer submarine cable terminal from Loon to Maribojoc town was made in August 2019 and yet up to this date no significant change has happened.

The governor said if not for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, Bohol’s power consumers would have again suffered the consequences of overloading on power consumption, resulting in higher electricity bills.

In another round of virtual meeting with the NGCP scheduled on Saturday, Yap is expecting the country’s leading power grid firm to be able to give a detailed presentation on its clustered work.

Meanwhile, the NGCP also announced that it is expanding the Corella substation as part of the preparatory activities for the laying of the interconnection.

It has also been agreed that the new target is 2021 and no longer 2022.

“That is our fighting target. To what extent it can happen, we will do our best. We are asking NGCP to present a clustered work program, so consultations can be done simultaneously as we also do the technical work and the permits,” Yap said.

The governor wants to know the details of the project and the kilowatt-hour rate this interconnection will deliver to the Boholano households. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

WHO refrains from commenting on planned US withdrawal

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GENEVA – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday stopped short of commenting on a recent US decision to officially withdraw from the UN organization at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

The UN office in Geneva said the office of the Secretary-General had been notified by the US that it planned to withdraw from the WHO effective July 6, 2021.

“The Secretary-General, in his capacity as depositary, is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met,” it said in a statement.

The WHO, which employs several high-ranking American doctors and scientists said it had no further information and would not comment further.

Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Spahn, who recently said his country would add USD500 billion of EU money to the WHO’s coffers after a visit to Geneva, tweeted that the US withdrawal was “a setback for international cooperation.”

“Global infection dynamics show that coordinated action is required. We need more international cooperation to fight pandemics, not less. European states will initiate WHO reforms,” said Spahn, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

Domestic opposition

A top member of the Democratic Party in the US criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the novel coronavirus and its withdrawal from the WHO as isolating Americans.

“Congress received a notification that POTUS [president of the US] officially withdrew the US from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic,” Senator Robert Menendez said on Twitter.

“To call Trump’s response to Covid chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” said Menendez, who represents New Jersey.

The US move concluded months of withdrawal threats made by Trump, claiming the organization was slow to respond to the pandemic as it originated in Wuhan, China.

According to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, the US is the worst-hit country by the pandemic with almost 3 million cases and over 131,000 fatalities. In all, more than 924,000 recoveries have been recorded.

Worldwide, cases of the disease have exceeded 11.8 million, including over 544,000 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 6.4 million recoveries. (Anadolu)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Couple swept away by huge wave during wedding pictorial by the beach

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A couple was swept away by a massive wave during a wedding photo shoot at a beach in California, United States.
The bride and groom were posing on a rock in Treasure Island Beach when the wave hit, as per ABC-affiliate KABC last Thursday, July 2.
One eyewitness named Ionel Coroama captured the incident on camera, People reported. The video showed the wave approach them while they were dressed in a white gown and black tuxedo.
The clip then cut and showed the bride later being carried in the water by a lifeguard. A second lifeguard quickly swam to them and handed the woman a floating device.
Moments after, the two lifeguards lifted the woman out of the water as they neared the shore…

Keep on reading: Couple swept away by huge wave during wedding pictorial by the beach

Opt for cremation, Bello urges kin of OFWs who died of non-COVID-19 causes

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MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday advised families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who died due to causes unrelated to COVID-19 to opt for the cremation of their remains, which are set to return home from Saudi Arabia next week.

“Under the strict protocol na ‘yung mga namatay sa COVID-19 ay dapat pagdating na pagdating dito ay kaagad i-cremate. Ngayon yung mga kamag-anak ng mga namatay na hindi naman dahil sa COVID-19, we will also encourage them na i-cremate na rin, para sa ganun hindi na rin sila mahirapan sa pagta-transport kung saan man iyon dadalhin,” Bello said in an online interview with reporters.

(Under the strict protocol, the re…

Keep on reading: Opt for cremation, Bello urges kin of OFWs who died of non-COVID-19 causes

Easterlies to bring clouds, rains in many parts of PH – Pagasa

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MANILA, Philippines —Easterlies, or warm winds from the Pacific region, will bring clouds and rain in many areas nationwide, the state weather bureau said Wednesday.

Based on its 5 p.m. July 8 bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the easterlies, which bring hot and humid weather, is the prevailing weather system in the country now.

However, it added, the wind pattern also brings along cloud bands, which can cause light rains in the eastern section of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

In Luzon, localized thunderstorms like the one experienced in the eastern parts of Metro Manila on Wednesday evening will likely…

Keep on reading: Easterlies to bring clouds, rains in many parts of PH – Pagasa

DOH warns vs COVID-19 money-making venture: P80,000 per bag of plasma from cured Cebu City villagers

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CEBU CITY—The Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas has warned hospitals against processing plasma from patients who had recovered from COVID-19 and are making money out of it.

At an online press conference, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, regional DOH spokesperson, said her office received reports that some people, who had recovered from COVID-19, are selling plasma to patients in Cebu City.

“The licensing division will actually look into it,” said Loreche.

“We have advised also the blood banks of the hospitals that they should not process these even for their own patients,” she said. “If we find out that they are doing this, their license may be revoked,” she said in Cebuano….

Keep on reading: DOH warns vs COVID-19 money-making venture: P80,000 per bag of plasma from cured Cebu City villagers

Cayetano denies ‘rumors of threats’ from certain groups, House leaders on ABS-CBN franchise vote

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MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano denied on Wednesday rumors that certain religious groups and leaders in the House of Representatives are using “threat and intimidation” to influence the votes of other lawmakers on granting media giant ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise.

Cayetano made the remark amid the upcoming voting of several lawmakers on whether or not ABS-CBN’s bid for a new franchise will pass the committee level in the House and be brought to the plenary floor for further debates.

“Rumors of threats and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations, and congressional leaders are completely false and is an unprodu…

Keep on reading: Cayetano denies ‘rumors of threats’ from certain groups, House leaders on ABS-CBN franchise vote

212 inns, hotels in W. Visayas get DOT nod to resume operations

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BACOLOD CITY – Some 212 accommodation establishments (AEs) in Western Visayas (Region 6) have been allowed by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to operate as of Tuesday.

A list released by the DOT-6 on Wednesday showed that of the number, 82 have been issued certificates of authority to operate (CAO) while 130 were given provisional certificates of authority to operate (PCAO).

“(These are) issued by the DOT Region 6 in pursuant to DOT Administrative Order 2020-002. These AEs are authorized to proceed with limited operation during the enforcement of the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ),” the DOT-6 said in its Facebook post, which also listed the establishments in each of the six provinces, two highly-urbanized cities, and Boracay Island with CAOs and PCAOs.

Western Visayas is currently under MGCQ as part of the continued precaution to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In Negros Occidental, two establishments were issued CAOs and 26 have PCAOs while in Bacolod City, all 17 identified establishments were granted PCAOs.

Also, CAOs were issued to three establishments in Iloilo City; 13 in Capiz; and 64 in Boracay Island.

PCAOs were given as well to 36 establishments in Iloilo City; 13 in Iloilo Province; four in Antique; 16 in Aklan; three in Boracay Island; and 15 in Guimaras.

Last month, both the DOT and the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) stressed the need for all accommodation establishments to secure a DOT certificate of authority to operate before the resumption of operations under MGCQ.

“DOT-accredited AEs need only to submit to the DOT regional office with jurisdiction over their area the letter of intent to operate, while non-DOT-accredited AEs will need to apply for accreditation to ensure compliance with requirements,” the DOT and TCP said in a joint statement.

The AEs that resume operations without DOT accreditation and the DOT certificate of authority may be subject to the relevant penalties under applicable laws, rules, and regulations. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

DepEd-NegOcc receives P9-M aid from provincial gov’t

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AID TO SCHOOLS. Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson (left) turns over the check amounting to PHP9 million to Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Marsette Sabbaluca (2nd from left), in the presence of other education officials, as financial assistance for schools in three municipalities, during the Provincial School Board meeting held at the Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City on Wednesday (July 8, 2020). The amount will be used for the upgrading of public school facilities in said towns. (Photo courtesy of PIO Negros Occidental)

BACOLOD CITY – The provincial government here has released PHP9-million financial assistance to the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Negros Occidental on Wednesday.

Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson turned over the check to Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Marsette Sabbaluca during the Provincial School Board meeting held at the Capitol Social Hall here.

The amount, sourced from the Special Education Fund, will be utilized for the upgrading of public school facilities in the municipalities of Calatrava, Candoni, and Isabela, which received PHP3 million each.

“The main goal of the DepEd Division of Negros Occidental is to endeavor that education will continue even in times of disruptions. How do we do that? By improving practices for a better normal,” Sabbaluca said during the meeting.

This is the second in two months that the provincial government released financial assistance to the DepEd Division of Negros Occidental.

On May 12, Lacson also handed a P7-million check to Sabbaluca as financial assistance to improve the facilities of 64 elementary and secondary schools.

Sabbaluca said that through assistance, they will be able to improve the facilities of the recipient-schools so they can provide a conducive environment for learners and school personnel.

“This will do so much especially now that our schools are preparing for the opening of classes amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” the DepEd official said. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Region 8 breaches 600 mark in Covid-19 cases

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MORE CASES. The Department of Health regional office in Palo, Leyte. Eastern Visayas on Wednesday (July 8, 2020) breached the 600-mark of total confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, doubling the number in just three weeks. (PNA file photo)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed 10 new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in Eastern Visayas, bringing the region’s total to 600, doubling the number in just three weeks.

DOH Regional Director Minerva Molon reported in a press briefing on Wednesday that of the 600 cases, only 111 (18 percent) are active cases. Majority or 486 have already recovered with three deaths.

Among those who recovered are 98 health workers assigned at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center and rural health units.

Molon said 91 percent or 548 patients are asymptomatic, six have severe symptoms with three deaths, and the rest have mild symptoms.

Confirmed cases significantly surged since last month with the return of residents stranded by movement restrictions in Metro Manila and Cebu.

Of the total cases, 385 are locally stranded individuals, 160 are local cases, 52 are returning overseas Filipino workers, and three recipients of Balik Probinsya program.

Meanwhile, of the new reported cases, five are from Leyte — three in Carigara town, two in Barugo, and one in Bato.

Maasin City in Southern Leyte has two more cases, while the towns of Cabucgayan in Biliran and Gandara in Samar have one new case each.

These are part of the 465 swab results from the region’s two Covid-19 testing laboratories, of which 13 turned positive, including the repeat test of three coronavirus patients from Leyte.

Despite the doubling of the number of cases, Molon said: “We are happy to report that we have lifted the status of local transmission in the municipalities of Tarangnan in Samar; La Paz, Burauen, and Hilongos in Leyte since there are no more active cases in these areas.

She added that community transmission was prevented in the region due to the immediate isolation of returnees upon arrival.

An area can be declared as coronavirus-free if there are no new cases for 28 days or two incubation periods.

The health department has called on residents to continue to practice minimum health standards such as wearing masks, physical distancing, proper handwashing, cough etiquette, and practice healthy lifestyle. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

P15-M emergency vehicles released to 14 Agusan Sur LGUs

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SUPPORT VEHICLE. Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago Cane Jr. (left) hands over to Bayugan City Mayor Kirk Asis one-unit patient transport vehicle for the city. A total of 14 emergency vehicles worth over PHP15 million are given to 14 local government units (LGUs) in the province on Wednesday (July 8, 2020). (Photo courtesy of Agusan del Sur Provincial Information Office)

BUTUAN CITY – The Agusan del Sur provincial government handed over patient transport vehicles to 13 municipalities and one city in the area amounting over PHP15 million.

Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago Cane Jr. turned over the said vehicles to the local government units (LGUs) in a ceremony held at the Provincial Capitol grounds in Prosperidad town on Wednesday.

“The funding for the transport vehicles is from the provincial government through the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office or PDRRMO,” provincial information officer Alfredo Plaza said.

Plaza said each vehicle is already equipped with accessories and emergency equipment.

“Governor Cane sees the need to provide some of our LGUs with these types of vehicles to transport their patients or during this time to support the transportation needs of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) or the returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) to our province,” Plaza said.

He said each vehicle costs over PHP1 million which includes emergency equipment and accessories.

Cane handed over the vehicles starting Wednesday to the LGUs of Sibagat, Esperanza, San Luis, Talacogon, La Paz, Prosperidad, San Francisco, Rosario, Bunawan, Trento, Sta. Josefa, Veruela, Loreto and Bayugan City.

Plaza said the governor aims to strengthen the capabilities of the LGUs to respond to emergencies, especially that the province is facing the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Prosecutors drop libel raps vs. CDO mayor

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Cagayan de Oro City Oscar S. Moreno. (PNA file photo)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A libel complaint filed by a resident against Mayor Oscar Moreno has been dismissed by the City Prosecutor’s Office.

In a four-page resolution dated June 24 but was made available to the media on Wednesday (July 8), Acting City Prosecutor Lito Sanchez said the complaint was unsubstantiated.

Sanchez said the “absence of any witness to substantiate this claim, the allegation of complainant is merely speculative in the absence of any corroborative evidence”.

Maria Leonafe Cabagnot filed a libel complaint against Moreno for identifying her as the person who made the call to the national government hotline 8888 regarding the city government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In interviews, Cabagnot has admitted that she is a consultant at the office of Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano.

But Cabagnot denied she made the call to 8888. An undated copy of the recording began circulating on social media on May 9 this year.

Another person, Bernadine Castillo, has claimed she was the one who made the call.

The caller alleged that the city government has not been handling well the coronavirus cases in Cagayan de Oro and suggested that it should be put on lockdown for fear that the contagion could spread further and affect more people.

At the time, the city was declared as under the general community quarantine, with seven persons confirmed positive of the virus.

In his daily press briefing on May 9, Moreno identified Cabagnot as the caller.

Five days later, Cabagnot filed the libel complaint against Moreno before the city prosecutor’s office.

In her affidavit, Cabagnot said she was “utterly shocked” when Moreno mentioned her name and identified her as the 8888 caller.

The complainant also alleged the mayor’s statement had put her and her family to “public ridicule and social humiliation”.

However, the prosecutor’s four-page resolution said Cabagnot did not submit any “supporting document nor affidavit of witnesses attached to her complaint to further substantiate her complaint”.

Sanchez said there was no malice in Moreno’s part identifying Cabagnot as the one who made the call.

“The alleged imputation made by respondent in naming complainant as the alleged 8888 Caller cannot be considered as made with actual malice as respondent has presented seven (7) witnesses who executed affidavits identifying complainant as the alleged 8888 caller,” reads part of Sanchez’s resolution.

In his counter-affidavit, Moreno has denied any complicity in the charge.

Sanchez said Moreno “found it opportune to address the dissatisfaction expressed by the City’s constituency which he believed a majority of whom belong or associated with the political opposition”.

Moreno also alleged that in naming Cabagnot, he was duty-bound to disclose any misrepresentation which could undermine the efforts of the city government in abating the threats of the coronavirus pandemic.

Moreno’s lawyer Dale Bryan Mordeno said the decision of the prosecutor is “instructive to the cavalier, irresponsible and malicious nature of criticisms from the local opposition”.

“People are already tired of their dirty tactics and would stand up against their lies,” said Mordeno, referring to the seven individuals who executed affidavits pointing to Cabagnot as behind the 8888 call that made the rounds in social media.

As of this writing, Cabagnot has yet to issue a statement, although the city prosecutor’s office has noted that she has withdrawn her complaint through an affidavit of desistance, which she executed on May 20.

“However, an affidavit of desistance is viewed with suspicion and reservation and regarded as exceedingly unreliable. Hence, it cannot be made as the basis of a resolution of this case by the undersigned investigating prosecutor,” Sanchez said. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Construction of BBB projects on track: DPWH chief

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Department of Public Works and Highway Secretary Mark Villar (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) on Wednesday reported that construction of big-ticket projects of the government are on track despite the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a virtual presser after the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum by economic and infrastructure clusters, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said the construction of projects are on schedule, as they have resumed the works on projects under Build, Build, Build (BBB) program even when Metro Manila was still under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“At this point, we are working 24/7, so the works were not that much affected since we resumed during the ECQ. The construction has been fast since there were less vehicles on the road. We feel we are still on track to meet our target in terms of infrastructure accomplishment,” he said.

He said many of the projects are set to be completed.

“We’re confident with regards to the big-ticket projects because of the new guidelines implemented. Based on our studies, we see that the constructions are continuing,” Villar said.

Villar said the amount of infrastructure projects under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is “almost more than double to date”.

“More than double than any other administration,” Villar said. “Already we’ve delivered, and we have two years, we still many more to accomplish specially the Luzon Spine Expressway. We are nearing in decongesting Edsa. Our message to our countrymen, we are getting closer in providing comfort through the BBB projects.”

He said the Luzon Spine Expressway is a 905-kilometer (km) road network that will reduce travel time between Ilocos and Bicol from 20 hours to nine hours.

Villar believed that the BBB will play a major role in helping to jumpstart the economy.

“The BBB will play a central role especially in this Covid (pandemic), in jump starting the economy again. As I said earlier the infra has a high multiplier effect, it creates a lot of jobs. It also yields as high economic rate of return, it attracts investors,” he added.

Villar also reported that government built 137,000 classrooms, constructed more than 23,000 kilometers of road, created 8,941 flood mitigation structures, and erected 4,900 kms of bridges.

Among these projects are the NLEX Harbor Link C3-R10 Section which was inaugurated on June 16. It is a 2.60-km, six-lane ramp extending the NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10 exit to Radial Road 10, using C-3 Road.

The NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10, a 5.58-km expressway connecting McArthur Highway and C-3 was also finished.

Set to be completed next week is the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX). It is an 89.21-km expressway from Tarlac City to Rosario, La Union.

Aside from the DPWH, top economic executives as well as officials of the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and other cluster-member agencies also presented their accomplishments during the three-part pre-SONA forum.

The second forum will be held on July 15 wherein the Participatory Governance, and Human Development and Poverty Reduction Clusters will report their accomplishments.

The third and last pre-SONA forum to be headed by Security, Justice and Peace Cluster, and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster is set to be held on July 22.

The fora would be held leading up to the fifth SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

414 Zambo, Basilan LSIs rerouted to CDO

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BAYANIHAN. Food packs are delivered by the JCI Kagayhaan Gold for the locally-stranded individuals from the Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan province. The ship carrying the LSIs was rerouted to Cagayan de Oro City following the national Inter-Agency Task Force approval of the request of Basilan Gov. Hataman Jim Samillan to temporarily suspend the repatriation of returning residents for at least 15 days. (Photo courtesy of Keny L Waban)

ILIGAN CITY–A vessel carrying at least 414 Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) from Manila that was supposed to dock in Zamboanga City was diverted instead to the port of Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday.

Most of the passengers come from Basilan province and the Zamboanga Peninsula, who had to be diverted following the approval of the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of the request of Basilan Gov. Hataman Jim Samillan to temporarily suspend the repatriation of LSIs to the province for at least 15 days.

The provincial governments of Lanao del Sur, Bangsamoro Region, and Cagayan de Oro City agreed to give temporary relief to the LSIs, who are now temporarily staying at the University of Science and Technology (USTP) CDO Campus.

Lanao del Sur provincial information officer Jennie Tamano said on Wednesday that Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. has directed the personnel of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to immediately respond to the needs of LSIs from Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

“From the port area, the LSIs were brought to the USTP where they spent the night. The PDRRMO staff checked on their condition and distributed dinner and water to them. The LSIs were also given breakfast this (Wednesday) morning by the provincial government of Lanao del Sur,” Tamano said.

Tamano said the LSIs will be taken to Zamboanga City on July 9 by the 17 buses hired by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government.

“As Muslims and public servants, it is our duty to ensure that we provide assistance to our fellowmen at any time and wherever they may be, should they need it. The 2017 Marawi siege experience taught us the importance of immediately responding to the needs of our people because we know how it feels to be hopeless and helpless in times of crisis,” Adiong said.

Bayanihan spirit

Meanwhile, private individuals and organizations responded by giving additional food packs to the LSIs.

JCI Kagayhaan Gold delivered additional food supplies with the help of Basilan representative Mujiv Hataman.

Nadzfar Hayudini Totong, a scholar student of Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan, responded to call for help by personally buying and distributing food packs on the first night the LSIs stayed inside USTP. He was originally a resident of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

The immediate response of individuals and local organizations was facilitated by the OurMindaNow communication network that monitors cases of Covid-19 and the movements of incoming LSIs and repatriated overseas Filipinos in Mindanao. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Bicol peace, order council OKs tighter control of border with Quezon province

in Latest News

LEGAZPI CITY—The peace and order council of Bicol passed a resolution to narrow the passage of stranded individuals through the region’s border with Quezon province.

The resolution sought to bar the entry of vehicles carrying stranded persons who have not completed the documentary requirements for travel during the pandemic.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, in a text message, said that the council resolution was an offshoot of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Bicol which officials are blaming on stranded Bicolanos returning to their home provinces in the region.

Rosal said the resolution to strengthen border checkpoints would enable police, the Land Transportation Office and health …

Keep on reading: Bicol peace, order council OKs tighter control of border with Quezon province

Constitution framers join call to strike down provisions of anti-terror law

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MANILA, Philippines – Two of the framers of the 1987 Constitution have joined the call for the Supreme Court to strike down several provisions of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for being unconstitutional.

Constitutional Commission (ConCom) members Christian S. Monsod and Felicitas A. Arroyo are the sixth petitioners against the highly contentious law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last Friday. They are joined by professors from the Ateneo Law School, Ateneo Human Rights Center and Xavier University College of Law; Fr. Albert Alejo and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.

In their petition, they want the high court to declare as unconstitut…

Keep on reading: Constitution framers join call to strike down provisions of anti-terror law

Community transmission, cause of Covid-19 case hike in NCR: DOH

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MANILA — Community transmission is one of the major factors for the increase of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections in Metro Manila apart from the increased testing capacity of laboratories nationwide, a health official said Wednesday.

In a virtual Covid-19 presser, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said community transmission started when the community restrictions eased up.

Lalo napapa-igting ang community transmission kung lax o hindi naten sinusunod ang (Community transmission intensifies when we’re lax or not practicing) minimum public health standards,” she said.

Emphasizing that health protocols would keep the public healthy and safe against Covid-19, Vergeire advised the public to always wear masks, practice safe physical distancing, and observe home quarantine measures while waiting for Covid-19 swab test results.

“It may sound repetitive but we will not stop reminding everyone to wear masks, observe physical distancing, sanitize. This is DOH’s call to everybody, whether you be in the private or public sector,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the country already has total Covid-19 cases of 47,873. The recovered cases are now at 12,386 and the death toll at 1,309. (PNA

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

P8-M smuggled Peking duck, pork meat seized in Angeles City

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SMUGGLED MEAT. Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. (center) leads the inspection of a warehouse where smuggled Peking duck and pork meat were seized in Barangay Anunas, Angeles City, Pampanga on Wednesday (July 8, 2020). Lazatin said appropriate charges will be filed against the illegal importer of the “hot” meat and the owner of the warehouse where the items were found. (Photo courtesy of city government of Angeles)

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga – The city government on Wednesday seized a huge volume of smuggled Peking duck and pork meat from a warehouse along Don Juico Avenue, Barangay Anunas here, with an estimated value of at least PHP8 million.

Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr., who led the inspection, said appropriate charges would be filed against the warehouse owner and illegal importer of the meat that could fit into two container vans.

The city government also discovered that the meat dealer operated without the necessary business permits.

Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel, officer-in-charge of the City Meat Inspection Division (CMID), said the meat dealer would be charged for violation of Republic Acts 9296 and 10536, the Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines.

Lazatin immediately ordered the burying of the confiscated meat at the materials recovery facility (MRF) in Barangay Pampang here after a report said the items were already contaminated.

He assured his constituents that continuous inspection of meat shops will be conducted for their safety.

Lazatin also reminded Angeleños to stay vigilant and not be afraid to report illegal sellers of contaminated or double dead meat.

“Help me to clean our city from people who know nothing but to abuse and take advantage of others,” he added. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Speaker denies threat rumors on voting for ABS-CBN franchise

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Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano 

MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday dismissed rumors that certain religious groups and congressional leaders are resorting to threats and intimidation to influence the voting on the franchise application of media giant ABS-CBN.

Cayetano made the statement as the House committees on legislative franchises and good government and public accountability are set to wrap up deliberations on ABS-CBN’s bid for a 25-year franchise this week.

“As the committee hearing [on] the franchise of ABS-CBN approaches the day where its members have to decide on the fate of the network, the House leadership would like to reiterate that each vote must and will be based on the appreciation of the facts as they have been presented by both sides during these exhaustive proceedings, as well as the application of the relevant laws and public policy,” he said.

“Rumors of threat and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations, and congressional leaders are completely false and is an unproductive exercise in trying to manipulate the vote to favor a particular decision,” he added.

He said these “clumsy attempts at mind conditioning” clearly pose a threat to the fairness and impartiality of the House committees.

“By trying to poison the well of public opinion, those spreading this propaganda are trying to blackmail Congress into acceding to their demands,” he said.

“We advise all sides to continue to advocate, but never to engage in black propaganda and fake news,” he added.

Cayetano noted that since the start of the proceedings, the House leadership has advocated for a fair, transparent, and impartial hearings.

He has also urged colleagues to cast a “conscience vote” in line with the ABS-CBN franchise bill.

ABS-CBN, upon the directive of the National Telecommunications Communications (NTC), ceased the operations of its television and radio broadcasts on May 5 after its franchise expired on May 4.

On June 30, the NTC issued another cease and desist order, directing ABS-CBN to stop operating its digital transmission using Amcara Broadcasting Corp.’s Channel 43 and the direct-to-home satellite transmission of its cable firm, Sky Cable Corp.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated that the Palace would let Congress exercise its independence when it comes to deciding on ABS-CBN’s fate.

Respetuhin na lang natin ang kapangyarihan ng mababang kapulungan dahil sa kanila dapat magsimula ang panukalang batas na magre-renew ng franchise sa ABS-CBN (Let’s respect the lower chamber in exercising its authority because the franchise bill of ABS-CBN will have to come from them),” Roque said. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

PCC flags anti-competition provisions in stimulus bills

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MANILA – Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio Balisacan has identified some provisions in the stimulus package bills that may restrict the enforcement of the Philippine Competition Act (PCA) to preserve fair and healthy market competition.

In an online seminar of Ateneo de Manila University Department of Economics on Wednesday, Balisacan said the provision on regulatory relief for business entities under the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) bill in the House of Representatives and some provisions in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (BARO) bill in the Senate limit the mandate of the PCC.

Balisacan said ARISE bill requires the PCC to desist from imposing fines and other monetary penalties, requires submission by parties to proceedings such as fact-finding and preliminary inquiries, and issuing show cause order, cease and desist order, subpoena, statement of concern or similar statement and other similar issuances.

The BARO bill, on the other hand, requires moving of statutory deadlines and immediate action on all pending applications, particularly involving mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and joint ventures.

Balisacan further said the enforcement of competition policy amid the pandemic is crucial to avoid anti-competition behavior and protect consumers from abusive anti-competition behavior.

“Competition policy enforcement remains relevant during the pandemic, even more so on the way to recovery and building a resilient economy,” he said. 

Balisacan said the PCA has built-in flexibility to undertake M&A applications quickly, but the antitrust body has to study these filings to ensure that market competition will be maintained.

“Acquisition of a failing firm by another firm is not prohibited provided that is the only feasible solution to save the failing firm,” he added. 

Balisacan said the market dominance level in the Philippines is already high, and anti-competitive policies may only promote abuse of dominance.

Moreover, as more M&As will likely happen during or after the pandemic, lawmakers said PCC might be overwhelmed with M&A cases.

Balisacan said there is a small number of mandatory notifiable cases but potentially harmful to consumers and competitive processes therefore, the need for the PCA enforcement.

The PCC has also expedited merger rules for easy cases and provided exemption rules for public-private partnerships and joint ventures while offering pre-notification consultations, he said.

“Suspending PCA enforcement during the crisis can exacerbate the harm to consumers, and is bad for inclusive recovery and sustainable economic development,” he added. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Cebu Landmasters sales up 41.3% in H1 amid coronavirus

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MANILA – Cebu Landmasters, a residential developer in Visayas and Mindanao (VisMin), announced a 41-percent growth in sales to PHP7.43 billion in the first semester of 2020 year-on-year, driven by increased demand from end-users of affordable homes seeking safer and more secure dwellings as protection from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

CLI chairman and chief executive officer Jose Soberano III said “the pandemic has heightened the realization that good housing means good health. In March, we began helping our buyers afford our homes by offering stretched payment terms and other promotions.”

Reservation sales as of June 2020 come largely from the listed company’s residential developments in key VisMin cities impacted by the pandemic. 

A significant 40 percent of sales were from projects in Cebu City, where the enhanced community quarantine was recently extended. 

Iloilo City and Cagayan de Oro also accounted for 23 percent and 19 percent of sales, respectively. 

These are classified as low-risk areas by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) along with Bacolod that contributed 10 percent of sales and Bohol at 8 percent.

CLI is located in 15 key cities in VisMin and its strong sales performance is driving the company to launch a total of 14 projects in 2020 worth PHP19.4 billion focused on the economic and mid-market market segment. 

It intends to roll out 7,000 more economic housing units by year-end to replenish its diminishing housing inventory.

Soberano was optimistic that CLI would be able to meet its year-end goals in terms of sales targets. 

Construction on the majority of CLI projects continued during the lockdown period in 13 VisMin cities where it is allowed by the respective local government units strictly enforced social distancing and other safety measures. (PR)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

2 new laboratories to boost testing capacity of Western Visayas

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MORE LAB CENTERS. Officials of the Department of Health in Western Visayas welcome the opening of additional testing laboratories for Covid-19 in the region. The two new laboratories are set to commence processing specimens this July, health officials said on Wednesday (July 8, 2020). (PNA photo by Perla G. Lena)

ILOILO CITY – Two additional laboratory centers in Western Visayas will begin operations this month that will boost the testing capacity of the region against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“The advantage is that we can free up those examined by the (Western Visayas) Medical Center and we will coordinate with private facilities for rerouting based on the guidelines of the DOH (Department of Health),” said Dr. Marlyn W. Convocar, regional director for the Department of Health-Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD 6) in a press conference on Wednesday.

The new testing laboratories are the Qualimed Hospital in this city and the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) in Bacolod City.

Convocar said the CLMMRH, which is now ready to open, will be inaugurated on Saturday. It is expected to accommodate specimens coming from Negros Island.

“They are telling us that they will try with 100 tests in a day and increase their capacity as they go along,” the regional director said.

Meantime, the Qualimed Hospital has been given its license to operate on Monday.

“Technically they are ready to perform the tests but they requested just today that they will observe with regard to reporting and other documentary requirements required them by the epidemiology bureau and the DOH,” Dr. Stephanie Abello, the pathologist of the WVMC, said in the same press conference.

Abello added that it is now up to the management of the Qualimed when to start with the processing of specimens since the hospital is now compliant with all the regulatory requirements.

Convocar said Qualimed plans to start with just one shift catering to 96 specimens.

The DOH and the hospital management met in the afternoon to discuss the rerouting of patients and the agreement that needs to be signed by the parties.

The hospital is expected to meet with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to discuss charges for the tests.

Currently, Western Visayas specimens are being processed at the WVMC sub-national laboratory and the Teresita L. Jalandoni Provincial Hospital Molecular Laboratory.

Convocar said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will inspect the Dr. Rafael S. Tumbokon Memorial Hospital, the proposed laboratory center, in Aklan on July 14. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

DepEd reports 18.8M enrollees for 2020-21 school year

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DepEd Undersecretary Jesus Mateo (Screengrab)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday said 18,871,245 learners have enrolled in public and private schools nationwide for the school year 2020-2021 which begins next month.

Data from the department showed that there are 17,957,202 learners enrolled in public schools and 894,161 in private schools.

Region 4-A (Calabarzon) logged the highest number of enrollees at 2,553,471 while the Cordillera Administrative Region registered the lowest at 305,645.

The enrollees are from kindergarten to senior high school, as well as learners with disabilities and those taking alternative learning system.

In an online press conference, DepEd Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said the department has been conducting Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) to ensure that all learners are properly enrolled under the “new normal”.

The OBE, which started on June 1 and will end on August 29, aims to address problems, queries, and other concerns that are commonly encountered before the school opening.

“Under the new normal, like basic education, public service should continue, and find ways to make communications accessible with the public,” Mateo said.

He said OBE will also strengthen the synergy with the DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela initiative under the “Bayanihan sa Paaralan” banner for this school year “to engage agencies, organizations, and other stakeholders in contributing to educational needs, especially at this critical time.”

He said learners and parents can send in their concerns and questions through DepEd’s social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter – and other media of communication like SMS, phone, e-mail, letter, or walk-in. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

OVP’s blueprint for COVID-19 response in Cebu based on experience in NCR — Robredo

in Latest News

MANILA, Philippines — The blueprint of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) COVID-19 response in Cebu City was based on a previous drive centered on Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday.

Robredo explained that their efforts — partnering with private sectors in providing free shuttle services and temporary dormitories for frontline workers — were previously done back during the start of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, which barred public transportation from operating.

As of now, Cebu City is under ECQ, which forces some health workers in the city to walk for long hours after a strenuous shift due to the…

Keep on reading: OVP’s blueprint for COVID-19 response in Cebu based on experience in NCR — Robredo

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