May 11, 2021
The Philippines is demanding at least $21.8 million (or over ₱1.04 billion) from the foreign contractor in its free internet access project, as a refund for the Wi-Fi sites the company failed to install after four years. The national government has sought to end its deal with service provider Speedcast after it said only 10,000 of the target 120,000 hotspots have been deployed since President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law on free public Wi-Fi in 2017.
In a statement, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the government “[does] not wish to downplay” the position of the NPF board, which has raised concerns regarding the project, including its impact to the ecosystem. Galvez stressed, however, the “urgency” of building the facility, which is seen to help hit the target of nationwide herd immunity from COVID-19 within the year. He also assured that the environmental impact of the project has been “carefully considered” in the vaccination site’s design by renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox.
Independent research group OCTA is in favor of relaxing community quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and nearby provinces by May 15 as new COVID-19 cases continue to see a downtrend. "With the current development and downward trend, if this continues until the end of this week, definitely it can be considered to downgrade to GCQ 'yung quarantine classification," said OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said P18.6 billion or 80.95 percent of the total amount was already given to qualified beneficiaries in the NCR and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a week before the May 15 deadline. A total of 18 LGUs have finished their distribution, most of which are in the province of Laguna. These include Biñan, Cabuyao, San Pedro, Santa Rosa, Alaminos, Calauan, Famy, Magdalena, Nagcarlan, Paete, Pila, Rizal and Santa Cruz.
The government is willing to further reopen some industries in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to allow more people to work and address hunger caused by prolonged lockdowns, a Cabinet official said. Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles, also the co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said the trade and labor departments would determine what industries can be further reopened in MECQ areas.
The Philippines’ trade in goods with the rest of the world rose 5 percent year-on-year to $43.1 billion in the first quarter of the year amid an overall recovering global economy from last year’s pandemic-induced recession. The latest preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that merchandise exports from January to March grew by 7.6 percent year-on-year to $17.6 billion, while imports were up by 3.2 percent to $25.6 billion, reversing the 5.6-percent contraction in external trade a year ago.
A BusinessWorld poll held last week showed 15 out of 17 analysts are of the view that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will maintain its overnight reverse repurchase rate or the key policy rate at a record low of 2%. Analysts said the scope for interest rate adjustment is limited as inflation continued to exceed the annual target and supply issues persisted.
The BSP’s report on the Philippine financial system for the second semester of 2020 showed that banks were able to weather the crisis so far, as evidenced by their net profits and capital. While banks remain well-guarded and amply capitalized, the central bank warned the industry will continue to face a pile up of nonperforming loans (NPL) but “will remain within manageable levels.”
Philppine gross domestic product (GDP) likely declined at a slower pace in the first three months of 2021 compared with the previous quarters as a renewed surge in coronavirus infections and a stricter lockdown imposed in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces dampened recovery. A BusinessWorld poll of 18 analysts yielded a median GDP decline of 2.6% for the first quarter, easing from the -8.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020, but still slower than the -0.7% in the first quarter of 2020.
Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Francis Tolentino have filed a bill granting tax deductions to such employees, saying they have been incurring additional expenses at home, such as higher power consumption and longer internet use. Senate Bill No. 1706, or the Tax Incentives for Individuals on a Work-From-Home or Telecommuting Program, seeks a tax deduction of P25 for every hour of work rendered by a WFH employee.“
The Inter-Agency Task Force has allowed point-to-point air travel for leisure purposes from NCR Plus to select tourist spots, its spokesperson said. Roque stressed the policy will still be subject to specific guidelines being crafted by the Tourism Department.