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Duterte to promptly suspend, detain officials who will pocket COVID-19 funds

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte on Monday (March 30) warned officials who will embezzle funds meant for programs to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that they will be promptly arrested and detained.

In a taped message aired late Monday night, Duterte said those that will be reported to have misused parts of the P275-billion emergency funds will also be suspended.

“Kung mamumulitika ka tapos mabalittan ko na ‘yun ang ginawa mo, I will suspend you ora mismo…I will detain you, and maybe I will release you pagkatapos ng Covid. Hindi ako nananakot,” the President said.

Duterte signed into law last March 24 Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan Act).

He said he already issued the executive order detailing how the government will use the emergency funds granted by Congress to the Executive Branch via the Bayanihan Act.

Duterte said the money will go to the cash subsidy to the families affected by the lockdown, purchase of medical equipment and other needs to strengthen the country’s health system, and initiatives to shield the economy from the negative impact of COVID-19.  

He again thanked health workers in the frontline of the fight against the spread of the disease.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa hlahat ng ating mga doktor who are honest at talagag nagtratrabaho; sa inyo po personal kong gratitude na hindi mababayaran ng pera. Nagpapasalamat din ang tao bayan sa inyo, salamat po,” Duterte said, “at ako ay regularly makipag-usap sa inyo until this crisis is over. Huwag kayong matakot ngayon, may pera ako; kung may palpak man diyan ay aayusin namin.”

Duterte also identified and personally thanked the private companies and individuals who are donating massively to the government and private institutions that are involved in the coronavirus programs.

Agri chief assures rice supply not a problem

in Tabloid PH News

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar assured that the country’s rice supply at the end of March will be enough to feed Filipinos up to the next four months despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“With harvest already coming in, along with the steady arrival of imported rice, we expect no shortage of the staple during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine and beyond,” Dar said.

Filipinos consume an average of 35,369 MT per day, or about 1.2 million MT per month, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The country’s rice stock, meanwhile, is seen to rise to 2.66 million MT by the end of March, good for 75 days. This will be augmented by importation and new harvests.

“By end of June, rice inventory level is projected at 2.38 million MT, which is enough for 67 days. As a strategy, the DA will maximize government-supported expansion areas as a catch-up plan to stabilize food availability,” Dar said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is now considering early planting in most areas, including Regions 2 and 3, to boost production during the third quarter of 2020. The DA will also expand coverage in area planted, on top of the existing rice production areas covered by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. At the same time, the use of hybrid seeds is encouraged to boost productivity.

Dar assured that the DA is trying its best to cover all areas and concerns to ensure that Filipinos will have a stable supply of rice and other agricultural commodities.

The agri chief reiterated the importance of ensuring the unhampered movement of food commodities, as well as agri-fishery products, inputs, activities and personnel in the food value chain amid the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.

“We can’t be complacent now. Cooperation, coordination, and understanding of each other’s plight can go a long way. Let’s help each other, consumer and producers alike,” Dar said.

Likewise, Secretary Dar called for the establishment of so-called mobility corridors for the food supply chain to move with ease –including personnel, processing, delivery, distribution, and management in food production.

Duterte pleads to Filipinos: Stay at home

in Tabloid PH News

Like a father imploring obedience from his children, President Duterte asked Filipinos to follow the government’s advice to stay at home, as this will make or break the efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“I repeat: Stay at home. Huwag matigas ang ulo. The outcome of this war depends largely on you as well,” Duterte said in his latest televised message to the nation.

He stressed that the government will extend financial assistance to almost all Filipino families, “especially to those in the margins and the vulnerable groups.” “Huwag kayong matakot. Nandito ‘yong gobyerno ninyo para kayo pagsilbihan at totoong pagsilbihan,”

Duterte added: ”I now call on every Filipino to participate in this war by following the guidelines set by the national government and your local officials. Nothing is more important [now] than your cooperation…Gagawin namin ang lahat. Hindi namin kayo pababayaan.”

He also assured that government agencies will ensure the speedy delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment to health facilities, “from the approval, importation and to the delivery.” “Everything must go smoothly to make sure that we do not waste time…I do not want red tapes. I do not want so many questions. Pagka sinertify ng isang government employee ‘yan. I said, do not commit a mistake and we will all be happy and comfortable…Kung gusto ninyong magluko, huwag ngayon itong panahon na ito.”

“Yes, things will not be easy. [But] we Filipinos are tough. Mas malakas ang Pilipino sa anumang hamon. Now, we all must do what we can and must, para sa ating bayan. I look forward to the day that we Filipinos can finally claim victory in this war and emerge as a stronger and more united Filipinos and Philippines,” Duterte declared. 

The President also thanked the different sectors that are giving their all in the fight against COVID-19, especially the health workers. ”First, let me reiterate my sincerest gratitude to all our courageous frontliners in this war, especially our healthcare workers—our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, and other allied health professionals. Maraming-maraming salamat. Asahan niyo ang suporta ng inyong gobyerno.”

“I am saddened by the news that the virus has claimed the lives of our doctors along the way. Lahat po sila ay bayani and not only that, talagang bumilib ako. Bihira akong sumasaludo ng tao pero ‘pag mga doktor natin, mga health workers na nadisgrasya, talagang saludo ako sa inyo. Wala na kayo dito sa mundong ito pero ganun na lang ang pagtingin ko sa inyo.”

“To the able officials and staff of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, thank you for staying on top of this situation,” he added. ”To the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, thank you as well for ensuring peace and order in these trying times.”

“I also thank the rest of the frontliners who ensure that basic services are provided to our people, from those manning various government agencies, groceries, banks, food establishments, and delivery services, among others. Maraming, maraming salamat po.”

“To the gracious members of the private sector who are foregoing profit to alleviate the suffering of our people; to the valiant volunteers who are bravely supplementing our frontliners; to the noble civil society organizations who are working tirelessly in calling for donations and performing charity work— Thank you very much for your kindness, compassion and generosity.” 

Malacanang tells Filipinos to be wary of fake news as Congress grants Duterte special powers

in Tabloid PH News

With Congress granting President Duterte the much-needed special powers to better tackle the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019), Malacanang asked Filipinos to be on guard against people who are out to sow disorder and undermine government efforts by circulating fake news through social media.

“Once again, we urge our countrymen to be wary of rumors and false news designed to create panic and confusion propagated by the enemies of peace and order,” Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

The Palace was reacting to numerous fake reports that are popping in social media sides that make people worry, including an alleged plan by Duterte to impose food rationing as he implements his emergency powers.

The two houses of Congress have already passed the bill titled “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act” granting stand-by powers to the President to carry out effectively the national policy of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“There is an urgent need to implement measures that will help address the health scare brought about by the spread of COVID-19 in our land. They include the effective detection of the virus among the populace, prompt testing by health facilities of patients, protection and access to transportation in favor of our health workers who are at the frontline of this battle, maintenance of availability and pricing of essential and basic commodities for consumers, and provision thereof to those belonging to the vulnerable sectors of society, among others,” Panelo said.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act authorizes the President to immediately implement measures, such as:

Effective education, detection, protection, and treatment of Filipinos versus COVID-19; 

Expediting the accreditation of testing kits and facilitating the prompt testing by public and designated private institutions; 

Providing allowance or compensation and shouldering medical expenses in favor of public and private health workers; 

Directing establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution locations, as well as public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel; 

Ensuring the availability of essential goods, in particular food and medicine, and protecting the people from illegal and pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of certain essential items; 

Directing the extension of statutory deadlines for the filing of government requirements and setting grace periods for payment of loans and rents; and 

Providing subsidy to low-income households and implementing an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Program.

Panelo assured the Filipino people that the powers granted the President shall be enforced strictly in accordance with the Constitution. “The grant of powers is for a limited period and subject to the restrictions contained therein.”

President Duterte, in a taped message, said: ”I particularly thank Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the strong and decisive leadership you have demonstrated in shepherding this measure to fruition during this critical time in our national history.” 

“To the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for this measure, I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests. Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis.” 

Duterte admin to give 18M families P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidy under emergency bill

in News/Tabloid PH News

Lawmakers are now fast-tracking the passage of a bill that will give President Duterte the authority to re-allocate existing budget to fund various emergency programs, including the grant of P5,000 to P8,000 to 18 million families to tide them over the enhanced community quarantine.

These 18 million families are those belonging to the so-called informal sector, or those considered poor and with “no work – no pay” types of livelihood.

Both houses of Congress held special sessions starting on Monday (March 23) to speed up the passage of the emergency powers bill.

The House version of the bill, if passed, will allow President Duterte to gather about P275 billion from the unused 2019 budget and 2020 national appropriations.

Around P200 billion will go to the cash subsidy for the 18 million families. The Philippines is estimated to have about 22 million families.

The remaining P75 billion will go to other expenditures, including the purchase or medical equipment and goods that will allow the health sector to better combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The bill will also empower the President to direct private hospitals and hotels to operate under the direction of the government in managing COVID-19.

Duterte has already approved the grant of hazard pay to government personnel that are still reporting for work despite the lockdown. Administrative Order No. 26 grants a maximum of P500 daily hazard pay to them.

“Government employees and workers engaged through contract of service (COS) or job order (JO), whose services are urgently necessary and who physically report for work during the period of the Enhanced Community Quarantine are inevitably exposed to health risks and hazards,” Duterte said in his order.

Christopher de Leon is first Filipino actor to be infected with COVID-19

in News/Tabloid PH News

Veteran actor Christopher de Leon became the first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) casualty in the Philippine showbiz industry.

The Kapamilya actor, now playing a key role in Kim Chiu-led series “Love Thy Woman”, announced via Instagram that his COVID-19 test yielded positive.

De Leon wrote: ”Today, our doctor confirmed that I have COVID-19. I’ve had no recent travel history outside of the Philippines and no known contact with anyone who is positive to have the virus. However, due to the nature of my work in the entertainment business, I have interacted with many people.” 

He advised those who came into contact with him “within the last week or two to observe stringent self-quarantine, observe for symptoms and follow the triage procedures published by the DOH, whether asymptomatic or not.”

The 63-year-old actor added: “Please cooperate with the authorities in their contact tracing efforts.”

De Leon was the first showbiz personality to test positive for COVID-19 in the country. 

He said his wife Sandy Andolong, their daughter Mica and their house helpers are now under self-quarantine. “In this time of trial, we ask for your prayers and we continue to praise and thank the Lord for His goodness in our lives,” he said. 

Kim Chiu, in an IG message to De Leon, said: ”Get well soon, Tito Bo! Let’s all include Tito Bo sa prayers natin!”

PH under state of calamity as more measures put in place vs COVID-19

in News/Tabloid PH News

The entire country is now under a state calamity, which means prices of all products are already frozen, and the national and local government units can use available resources to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) while cushioning its economic impact down to the vulnerable sectors.

President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929, which “will, among others, afford the National Government, as well as LGUs, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population.”

The state of calamity is effective for six months, unless changed by the President.

Memorandum Circular No. 77, meanwhile, directs the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Trade and Industry to continuously monitor the prices of basic commodities and enact price control measures as provided by law.

It said: “The ongoing global concern on the spread of the COVID-19 has increased the demand for essential emergency drugs and medical supplies, and basic food commodities, thereby making these products susceptible to acts of illegal price manipulation.”

Duterte has already placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine, to further limit the movement of people, and consequently possible carriers of the coronavirus.

At least P27.1 billion has been readied for various programs to contain the spread of the disease and support the public and businesses via various interventions.

“As directed by President Duterte, the government will provide targeted and direct programs to guarantee that benefits will go to our workers and other affected sectors. We have enough but limited resources, so our job is to make sure that we have sufficient funds for programs mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on our economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said they are now closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government and LGUs for proper implementation of the food resiliency protocols – including the identification of food lanes and the implementation of quarantine measures for the movement of food and other agricultural commodities.

The DA chief said that only trucks and suppliers with accreditation from the agriculture department could use the proposed special lanes. “All vehicles carrying essential food commodities, agri-fishery products and inputs bearing government-issued stickers must be allowed passage at quarantine checkpoints through these food lanes.” 

Meanwhile, the Department of Health announced its emergency hotlines for all concerns regarding COVID-19: 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.

Duterte: Every Filipino is a soldier in war against coronavirus

in News/Tabloid PH News

In expanding and enhancing the community quarantine to cover the entire Luzon starting Tuesday (March 17), President Duterte rallied every Filipino in the war against the “invisible enemy” known as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“We are in a fight against this vicious and invisible enemy. In this war, we are all soldiers, bata lalaki, bawat Pilipino ano mang estado sa buhay ay maituturing na sundalo sa laban na ito,” Duterte said in his address to the nation as he announced his decision to lock down the entire Luzon.

Duterte assured this is not leading to a Martial Law.

“Let me make this clear, this is not Martial Law. Under the Constitution Martial Law is declared when there is invasion rebellion or if public safety requires it.  Huwag kayong matakot, walang magdi-display ng baril dyan, except the armed forces and police,” Duterte stressed.

The enhanced community entails the closure of almost all establishments and ban on public transport in Luzon for the duration of the quarantine to control the movement of people, and subsequently the spread of the contagion.

Households should be confined to their respective homes.

“Ang general rule ay stay at home. If you leave your home to buy necessities, only one person ang puwede bumili, hindi puwede isama ang buong pamilya,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said .

These are the only establishments that will be allowed to operate: public markets, supermarket, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drug stores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, manufacturing and processing plants of basic food products and medicines, banks, money transfer services, power, energy, water, and telecommunications supplies and facilities.

Restaurants will be allowed to operate if they have delivery services. 

For those who can’t afford to buy food and other supplies, the national and local governments, though the barangays, will deliver their needs to them.

Supply of COVID-19 test kits no longer a problem as UP-NIH commits to produce 1,000 units a week

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Supply of test kits for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will no longer be a problem by next week, with the University of the Philippines (UP) committing to produce 1,000 units every week, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

Eric Domingo, FDA officer in charge, said with the COVID-19 test kits developed by the UP-National Institutes of Health (NIH) already approved by the agency and pre-approved by the World Health Organization, the institute can now start producing the kits by volume.

“Ang pangako po nitong UP-NIH kaya nila at 1,000 a week tuloy-tuloy. Ang directive po e within one week, up na po dapat ang testing na ito,” Domingo said in an interview with radio station DZMM.

This will solve the supply constraints, as the country is currently buying kits from Japan. The test kit stocks right now is only about 2,000.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the country has enough budget for the purchase of COVID-19 test kits, with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation committing to provide a P2-billion funding for it. However, even the WHO said there is shortage of supply.

According to reports, the test kits developed by UP-NIH can yield “very accurate” results in just 2 hours.

This is better than the kits from Japan, which yield results in 24 hours.

With the test kits available, the government is advising those with fever and cough and have traveled abroad to go to accredited hospitals for free screening. The P2,000 cost for the test kits will be shouldered by the government.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has risen to 33 as of Wednesday (March 11) morning. Most of these are in Metro Manila, prompting President Duterte to suspend classes in schools in the region this week. Duterte has already a state of public health emergency.

DA, DTI advises Metro Manila residents against panic buying

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have advised Metro Manila residents to free themselves of fears that the region would run out of food and other basic supplies during the monthlong community quarantine that will begin on Sunday.

The two departments said supply will not be a problem in Metro Manila, so there is no need for the public to engage in panic buying that will only worsen the situation by creating artificial shortage.

“The Department of Agriculture assures all Filipino families that there is enough food for everyone,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

“Wag mag panic buying dahil lalo ho talaga mag-artificial shortage, artificial pag may namamakyaw. ‘Yan po ay siguradong marereplenish dahil maraming stocks ang mga manufacturers,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

The DA regulates the sale of agricultural products, while the DTI oversees the manufactured goods. 

Dar said for rice, Metro Manila’s inventory is good for at least 9 months, and this will be augmented with the scheduled April harvest. The region consumes at least 26,241 metric tons (MT) of rice per week.

Meanwhile, the region’s requirement for vegetables and root crops, estimated at 5,000 MT per week, will be supplied Cordillera, Benguet, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon.

Also, the needed 7,934 MT of poultry and meat supply weekly and 8,000 MT fish demand will be met easily.

“Again, reiterating our call to the public, don’t hoard too much food. There is enough food supply that you can buy during this time of health emergency,” Dar said.

DTI, which chairs the National Price Coordinating Council, has already asked the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to help ensure hoarders, profiteers and those who will sell fake medicines and medical supplies will be dealt with accordingly.

“Ipapahanap namin kayo lalo na kung ang ibinebenta niyo mga medical products at illegal po ‘yun. Unang una hindi kayo certified seller, hindi kayo drug store at ang ibinebenta niyo ay walang FDA seal,” Lopez said.

Duterte places Metro Manila under lockdown

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President Duterte has placed the entire Metro Manila under community quarantine on Thursday night (March 12) as a way to contain the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has now taken the lives of five persons in the country.

Duterte, in nationally televised address, also said the Philippines is now under Code Red Sub-Level 2 alert, the highest level.

Community quarantine means there will be no land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila from March 15 to April 14. However, intra-region travel via mass transports like trains and metro rail transit will be allowed.

Duterte assured that this “lockdown” is now a Martial Law but is necessary in the fight against COVID-19.

“Ayaw naming gamitin yan kasi takot sa lockdown, but it’s a lockdown,. There is no struggle of power here, it is a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19,” he said.

Duterte added: “It’s subject again for review day to day, tingnan namin nangyayari if there is a slowdown in the contagion… Hindi ito martial law. It is not a martial law. It is not even something extraordinary. But what is sought to be solved here is the again, walang iba except to fight the virus, and to exact compliance.” 

Duterte also suspended work in the government’s Executive Branch, except for those dealing with health and emergency matters. Offices, however, need to ensure there will be a skeletal force manning their agencies.

Private firms, while encouraged to continue operations, will need to practice strict social distancing measures. 

Classes for all levels in Metro Manila have been suspended up to April 12.

“Mass gatherings, defined as a planned or spontaneous event, where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, shall be prohibited during said period,” he also declared.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 52 as of Thursday night, with fatalities at 5. Four of those who died were Filipinos. The first fatality was a Chinese.

Several national government officials, local executives and lawmakers, meanwhile, have placed themselves under self-quarantine after they appeared in events that were attended by COVID-19-infected persons.

President also had himself tested for COVID-19 after he attended an event last March 5 where a COVID-19 patient was present.

UP-NIH just saved the day for Filipinos

in Editorial/News/Tabloid PH News

Filipinos should be thanking the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of  Health (UP-NIH) for successfully developing the test kits for the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) just as the world is starting to see a supply shortage amid the spread of the disease to over 100 countries.

The announcement made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it has approved the UP-NIH-developed test kits, which were also pre-approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), was indeed a very welcome development, especially with local transmission of COVID-19 already happening in the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it: we have the money to buy test kits, but there is no supply. Currently, our COVID-19 test kits came from Japan, and there were only 2,000 units available.

Now, the UP-NIH has committed to produce 1,000 units of these test kits every week. Not only that, the locally developed kits were reported to be superior than their Japanese counterparts. According to the FDA, UP-NIH test kits can yield results in just 2 hours, as compared to the 24-hour wait for the Japan-made kits.

Raul Destura, who led the UP scientists in developing the test kits, said these were developed just two weeks after the WHO released the whole genome sequence of the virus.

For those who do not know, UP-NIH was established in 1996 by the UP Board of Regents. It was then declared as a national health research center by the government in 1998. According to its website, the NIH, while considered a unit of the University of the Philippines Manila, has its own Board of Advisers that recommends the general direction, determines priorities and thrusts of the organization, and generates resources in support of the programs and component units. The Board of Advisers is composed of the Department of Health Secretary, Chancellor of UP Manila, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), the Executive Director of NIH, and 2 other recognized scholars appointed by the UP Board of Regents.

This makes facilities like the UP-NIH very crucial for the country. This should also make the policymakers realize the importance of providing adequate funding for them. This should also make the private sector more generous in their donations to these research institutes.

Just imagine the situation the country would be in if we could not develop our own COVID-19 test kits; underreporting of cases would surely persist. Not only that, the country would be ill-equipped in the fight against the disease. How would you know who to quarantine and cure if you do not have the test kits to determine who was infected?

Indeed, UP-NIH has saved the day for Filipinos. They should be thanked, congratulated and recognized properly for this.

Duterte to continue attending public events but suspends classes to shield children from COVID

in News/Tabloid PH News

With local transmissions causing the number of confirmed 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country to rise from 2 to 24 in just a matter of days, President Duterte on Monday night (March 9) ordered the suspension of classes for one week in Metro Manila as a preemptive move.

But Duterte said despite the suspension of classes up to March 14, barangay officials will help ensure chidden will still be studying their lessons as home, as recommended by Education Secretary Leonor Brions.

“The reason being that parang tignan natin yung incubation period which is not ordinarily like a normal virus, 3 or 4, ito umaabot ng 14 days. So itong 14 days na ito, one is to keep safe the children; second is we’re going to establish a benchmark kung ilan pa ang madagdagan. At ngayon kung itong walang klase, would it somehow reduce the number of the victims, if we keep our children sequestered at home and study there,” Duterte said.

Several cities in Metro Manila already had confirmed COVID-19 cases, including San Juan, Quezon City and Taguig.

The President said parents will be lectured “on the responsibilities of being a parent, that the children should study even while they are detained in their respective homes.”

He made the announcement shortly after his meeting with Metro Manila mayors and members of the COVID-19  interagency task force.

But while keeping the children from harm’s way, the President will not be distancing himself from public occasions and would still continue shaking hands with guests and participants of the events he will be attending. 

“Trabaho ko ‘yan eh. Puwera na lang kung ‘yung participants nila, matakot,” Duterte said. “No, I will not decline invitations. I will shake hands with everybody. I will go to Mindanao to visit my dead soldiers, if they are still there, and to congratulate my warriors. Namatayan ako ng apat na sundalo.”

He reiterated what he always says that if it is time for him to die, he will have no problem with. “Sinasabi ko sa inyo, na kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayong oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako.”

Govt task force sets criteria in determining countries to be included in travel ban

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More countries, including Japan, could be included in the country’s travel ban depending on the criteria that will be set by the government in determining future travel restrictions to contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the new criteria is set for release on February 28 once finalized by the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Duque, in an interview with radio stations DZMM on Thursday (February 27), said among the considerations being looked at in including a country in the travel restrictions are the number of local transmission of COVID-19 and the volume of travelers that go in and out of that country.

Latest reports said there were already 186 cases of COVID-19 in Japan, with 8 fatalities.

The government has already banned travels to and from China and the South Korean province of North Gyeongsang.

If Japan is included in the ban, the Philippines’s tourism sector will surely suffer a big blow, as South Korea, China and Japan are three of the top 4 tourism markets of the country.

In 2019, there were 1.98 millions arrivals from South Korea, followed by China with 1.74 million, the US, 1.06 million, and Japan, 682,788.

These markets recorded hikes in tourist arrivals in 2019.  Korean arrivals went up by 22.48 percent, China by 38.58 percent, US by 2.90 percent, and Japan by 8.07 percent.

Overall, the Philippines received 8.26 million international visitors in 2019, up 15.24 percent from 2018.

“Depende, kung ito (Japan) ay pumasok (sa criteria)…Magde-decision ang task force,” Duque said.

Duterte to boost PH shopping festival by joining tours around the country in March

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Despite the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), President Duterte will be personally supporting the local retail and tourism sectors by joining promotional tours around the country in conjunction with the monthlong “2020 Philippine Shopping Festival” in March.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Duterte will be joining them in touring the major islands in the country, including Bohol, Cebu and Boracay.

This is to impress upon foreign and local tourists that it is safe to travel around the Philippines even with the COVID-19 reaching the country.

The DOT said this will boost the first-ever shopping festival in the Philippines, which will run from March 1 to 31 in Metro Manila, Agusan Del Norte, Antique, Bacolod, Baguio, Bataan, Bicol Region, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Butuan City, Cagayan De Oro, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Cebu, Davao, Ilocos Norte, Iloilo, Lanao Del Norte, Legazpi City in Albay, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, South Cotabato (General Santos City), and Zambales (Olongapo City).

The DOT said it aims to position the country as a destination where shopping is fun, unique, and affordable. Based on DOT’s Visitor Sample Survey in 2018, shopping is the most common tourist activity in the country at 38 percent.

“It’s not hard to see that elevating the shopping experience will go a long way to enhance the attractiveness of our tourist destinations all over the Philippines, whether it is our big cities or in our beautiful provinces. We’ve recognized this in the National Tourism Development Plan of 2016-2022, where leisure, entertainment and shopping tourism is one of the 10 products we want to further develop in the next few years,” Puyat said.

The campaign goes by the slogan “There’s Fun in Every Find”, a tweaking of the DOT’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” official marketing pitch. #FunFinds2020 is the official hashtag.

Puyat said the shopping fest will also feature variety of Philippine-made items. “Buying local helps support our craftsmen and artisans, as well as their communities; more importantly, it helps preserve our culture, traditions, and Filipino way of life.” 

During the shopping fest, foreign and local tourists alike can expect 15 percent to 70 percent discounts on many exciting Philippine-made products, including food and dining, jewelry and fashion, crafts, furniture, and decor, and beauty and wellness products, enabling shopping an integral part of visitors’ itineraries.

Travelers can also look for affordable airfares and cheaper hotel accommodations for the promotion period.

“We invite all tourists to ‘Be Part of the Fun’ by supporting the 2020 Philippine Shopping Sale this March. We also look forward to it becoming a yearly and anticipated feature on the nation’s event calendar,” said Puyat.

Interested consumers can revel on the shopping sale through participating malls such as Araneta Group, Ayala Land Malls, Inc., Duty Free Philippine Corporation, Filinvest Land Inc., Greenfield Development Corporation, Vista Malls, Megaworld Corporation, Oritgas Land, Power Plant Mall, Robinsons Land Corporation, Rustan Commercial Corporation, Shangri-La Plaza Corporation, SM Supermalls, and Stores Specialists, Inc.

Associations supporting the event are the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, Philippine Franchise Association, Philippine Owners Association Inc., Philippine Retailers Association, Philippine Tour Operators Association, Philippine Travel Agencies Association, and Tourism Congress of the Philippines.

Airlines including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia, Air Carriers Association of the Philippines will be slashing off airfare tickets to spur domestic tourism.

“This ambitious project, designed to increase tourism expenditure in the country, would not have been possible without the full support and cooperation of the nation”s mall operators, retailers, franchise holders, hotel and tour operators, and travel agencies,” added Puyat.

Ban on travels to and from Taiwan lifted

in News/Tabloid PH News

Malacanang announced that the government has decided to lift the travel ban covering travels to and from Taiwan after a determination made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) that Taipei has put in place strict measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19).

The decision immediately drew a positive reaction from the Taiwanese government, which earlier threatened to retaliate if Manila would continue to impose the travel ban.

Salvador Panelo, the President’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said: “Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa. The lifting of travel restrictions for Taiwan has been agreed by the members of the IATF by reason of the strict measures they are undertaking, as well as the protocols they are implementing to address the COVID-19.”

The lifting of the ban on travels to and from was “effective immediately”.

In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) said it welcomes the announcement. “Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Taiwan will continue to work closely with the international community, including the Philippines, to fight against the COVID-19 to safeguard the health and welfare of humanity.”

Aside from the Taiwan, the government is also likely to lift the travel ban covering Macau. 

Panelo said Macau has submitted the protocols it has been observing to contain COVID-19.

These measures, Panelo added, prevents potential carriers of the virus from entering and departing their territory and enable others to determine the recent travel history of any traveler exiting their borders.”

Manila previously banned the entry of any foreigner coming from China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Filipinos or holders of Philippine permanent visa are allowed to enter the Philippines, on the condition they will be on a 14-day quarantine.

Taiwan was included in the ban based on the advice from the World Health Organization.

The IATF met again on Friday (February 14) to firm up plans to address the threats posed by COVID-19.

TECO added in its statement: “The Republic of China (Taiwan) attaches great importance to its long-standing relationship with the Republic of the Philippines. We are determined to strengthen our bilateral ties and promote our people-to-people connectivity. TECO would like to express deep appreciation to all Filipino friends who have voiced their sincere support for removing Taiwan from the temporary travel ban. We especially commend the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for its tireless efforts to help remove Taiwan from the travel ban.”

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