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ECCP@Work Featured News Articles | May 28, 2021

May 28, 2021

ECCP Online

Establish holding areas, ensure ordinance compliance: DOJ lists draft guidelines in arresting COVID-19 protocol violators

Local government units (LGUs) will be tasked to designate "holding areas," as well as to ensure strict compliance of citizens to ordinances, under the draft guidelines formulated by the Justice and Interior departments in apprehending COVID-19 protocol violators. In an interview, Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay revealed some of the salient points of the joint memorandum circular, which the agency said may soon be ready for signing.

International flights to Cebu airport diverted to NAIA from May 29 to June 5

All international flights bound for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport will be diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from May 29 to June 5 as part of new COVID-19 measures, according to a memorandum released by Malacañang. Malacañang also ordered the strict implementation of COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols for inbound international travelers in all ports of entry, "regardless of any specific protocols that may be issued by local government units to the contrary."

Tourism frontliners now part of top vaccination priority group, DOT says

In a statement, the DOT said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved its request to include frontline tourism workers in the A1 priority group, which was initially reserved for healthcare workers. Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the department has been informed about the A1 inclusion by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. last May 15.

Metro Manila mayors favor GCQ, but with increased capacity for businesses

Metro Manila mayors are in favor of extending the general community quarantine in the capital region, but with a gradual easing of capacity restrictions for businesses as COVID-19 cases continue to decline in the area, an official said Thursday. Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Benhur Abalos said this consensus came up after the Health Department reported at Wednesday's meeting with the Metro Manila Council the continuous decline in COVID-19 cases in the region.

BSP seen keeping interest rates unchanged for the rest of 2021

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is likely to keep its key interest rate unchanged for the rest of this year despite the disappointing pace of economic recovery amid a prolonged coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-induced recession. This is according to Citi economist for the Philippines Nalin Chutchotitham, who projected that the BSP’s overnight borrowing rate would be kept at 2 percent until early next year, at the latest, even as demand-pulled inflation would likely stay subdued.

26 groups want PHL bank secrecy eased

The group, led by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), said the country’s existing bank secrecy laws weaken the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ exercise of its mandate of maintaining a sound and stable banking system, as it constrains BSP’s supervisory activities and assessment, especially in cases involving unsafe and unsound banking practices.

The ECCP is among the signatories in the said statement. 

Govt eyes vaccinating 3 subgroups of essential workers in initial June rollout – Duque

The government plans to start with three subgroups within the A.4 priority sector when vaccination for essential workers is rolled out next month, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. In the final list released by IATF in April, these three subgroups refer to workers in commuter transport, including logistics; public and private wet and dry market vendors; frontline workers in groceries, supermarkets, delivery services; and workers in manufacturing for food, beverage, medical and pharmaceutical products. There are 17 subgroups under A4.

FDA evaluation on Sinopharm EUA nears completion

In a televised Cabinet meeting Wednesday evening, Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo announced that the Department of Health has applied for Sinopharm’s emergency use authorization in the Philippines. Domingo noted that only a few more documents are still to be submitted by the DOH. He is expecting that a decision will be released towards the end of this week or early next week.

Philippines to allow Pfizer vaccine use for 12 to 15-year-olds

FDA Director General Eric Domingo made the pronouncement in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials, saying the agency will issue within the week an amendment to the emergency use authorization granted to Pfizer in January. Domingo revealed that the American manufacturer applied for the EUA amendment on May 20, in a bid to cover the said age group. He added that local experts studying the application so far had “favorable” recommendations.

Sotto: Bayanihan 3 priority despite exclusion by Ledac

Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured that the P401-billion Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan 3) is on the Senate priority agenda even as lawmakers are poised to adjourn regular sessions next week when Congress goes on its scheduled recess from June 5 to July 25. In separate interviews, Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros and  Juan Edgardo Angara, however, earlier signalled their determination to scrutinize and use up the remaining Bayanihan2 fund and the “extended”  2020 national budget before Congress enacts a new Bayanihan law.

DTI looks to expand operating capacity of establishments

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said at a virtual event that the National Capital Region (NCR)—along with Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite—is likely to remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) even after May 31. He said transitioning to GCQ allowed the economy to allow more business activities while implementing the safety protocols. The trade chief explained that fewer establishments have remained closed in the pandemic with the easing of the mobility restrictions.


DOT mulls limiting tourist volume in select destinations

Picking up lessons from the government’s decision to close Boracay Island for six months to rehabilitate it, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the agency may put a cap on the number of people that can go to certain destinations at a time. He said the Boracay outcome proves the necessity to control the volume of tourists, especially in island attractions.

MSMEs to be hit hardest by slow PH recovery, says Moody’s Analytics 

Small businesses will suffer the most from the slow economic recovery of countries like the Philippines, which have meager fiscal stimulus despite ballooning debt for pandemic response, think tank Moody’s Analytics said. Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for over 99 percent of businesses in the Philippines. The government had extended wage subsidies for their workers as well as offered loans to help MSMEs bounce back but many had been shying away from borrowings due to fears they may be unable to pay them back.

External pressures seen to keep inflation above gov’t forecast

While the government has already moved to arrest the rise in food prices, especially of pork, by flooding the market with imports, elevated commodity prices worldwide would keep inflation above the government’s 2-4 percent target range for the rest of 2021, Metrobank Research said. Revillas noted that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in April had reported 11 straight months of rising world food prices, with the FAO’s food price index hitting its highest since May 2014.

Gov’t further ramping up domestic borrowings in June

The Bureau of the Treasury will ramp up domestic borrowings to P215 billion in June through weekly treasury bills and bond issuances to take advantage of strong market reception to longer debt tenors. In a May 26 memorandum to all government securities eligible dealers, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said a total of P75 billion in T-bills plus P140 billion in bonds would be offered next month.

BPO industry grows despite pandemic

Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines president Rey Untal said the sector grew by around 1.8 percent in terms of headcount and 1.4 percent in terms of revenue. Untal said that during the first and second quarter of this year, BPOs thrived with more companies expanding their operations and new ones investing in the country.

House OKs economic cha-cha resolution on 2nd reading

Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 — filed by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco — was approved through viva voce or voice voting. The measure seeks to include the line "unless otherwise provided by law" to constitutional provisions restricting foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institutions, media, and advertising companies.

PH govt to lower COVID-19 vaccination target, DOH official says

The government will recalibrate its vaccination target due to global supply issues. From the initial goal of inoculating 70% of the population or 70 million Filipinos by year-end to achieve herd immunity, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said it will be brought down to 50% to 60% by focusing on Metro Manila to reach immediate protection. If the global supply improves, the official said the Philippines could still reach the initial goal of vaccinating 70 million people to achieve herd immunity this year.

Dizon: Guidelines for vaccinating A4 priority group to be released this week

The National Task Force Against COVID-19 said it is set to release guidelines for vaccinating economic frontliners as the country gears up to vaccinate more Filipinos to achieve herd immunity by year-end. NTF Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon also said during a briefing that once this is issued, immunization of essential workers, specifically those in the NCR and 8 other areas as approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, can start by June.

3 more Covid vaccine developers apply for clinical trials in PHL

DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina Guevara said that West China Hospital and Sichuan University, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co., and Eubiologics Co. Ltd. have submitted their application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Meanwhile, Guevara said that they expect to receive by the end of this month the protocols and specific list of vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO).

DOH backs move to prioritize NCR Plus 8 for vaccine deployment program

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said it supports the prioritization of the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus 8 areas for the Covid-19 vaccination program following the directive of President Duterte. The DOH added that there is a continuous need to allocate to other regions especially to cover the remaining A1, A2, and A3 population groups who have not been vaccinated, “consistent with the objective of reducing hospitalizations and deaths among high risk population groups.

Meralco to source 1,500-MW renewable power in next 5 years

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) plans to draw on renewable energy (RE) sources for 1,500 megawatts (MW) of its power needs in the next five years as the firm ramps up the construction of utility-scale renewables plants, a company official said. This comes about two weeks after Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen) said that its subsidiary had begun commercially operating a 50-MW solar plant in San Miguel, Bulacan after receiving clearance from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). MGen is the renewable energy arm of Meralco.

COVID booster shots, LGU assistance are 2022 budget priorities

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado on Monday issued National Budget Memorandum No. 140, which laid out key programs that will receive priority funding in the 2022 budget, namely coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines and booster shots, assistance for “disadvantaged” local government units (LGUs), establishment of a virology center, national identification system, and programs for family planning and nutrition.

Deficit narrows as spending drops

Preliminary data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) showed April’s fiscal gap was more than six times lower than the P273.9-billion deficit recorded in the same month in 2020, and a 76.8% decline from the P191-billion deficit in March. This marked the smallest budget deficit in three months or since the P14-billion gap in January. The Treasury attributed the narrower deficit to base effects, with revenues surging from last year’s extremely low base while elevated spending from last year’s pandemic response dwarfing the April’s expenditures.

BSP seeks to mitigate risk from banks’ shift to ‘sustainable finance’

The central bank wants financial institutions to be better prepared for the risks associated with shifting more credit “green” borrowers and away from those engaged in more traditional carbon-heavy economic activities. As such, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Tuesday said it will be issuing second-phase regulations to allow the banking industry to be more responsive to risks arising from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Nearly 1 million individuals so far fully vaccinated vs COVID-19

As of May 24, a total of 986,929 individuals have received their second dose of the vaccine. Of those who are now fully vaccinated, 560,375 are health workers, 181,765 are senior citizens, 244,393 are persons with comorbidities, and 296 are essential workers, National Task Force against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said.

DOH: Herd immunity can't be attained in a year

There is no assurance that the Philippines will achieve herd immunity by the end of the year, even if the government attain its target of vaccinating half a million people every day, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. As of May 22, about 2.87% of the population — or 3,147,486 individuals -- have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 949,939 have completed the required doses.

PH jobless rate worst in emerging Asia

Despite an easing in the March unemployment rate, the Philippines remained the worst job market in emerging Asia with the biggest share of the unemployed to the labor force, a report of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) showed. From mid-March to May last year, the unemployment rate hit a record 17.6 percent, equivalent to 7.2 million jobless Filipinos. As quarantine restrictions gradually eased, the country’s jobless rate steadily declined reaching 7.1 percent March, even as 3.4 million Filipinos remained without livelihood but among seven emerging Asian countries, the Philippines’ latest unemployment rate was the highest, Neda’s report showed.

House committee approves bill creating 3-year development plan for domestic auto industry

On Monday, the House Committee on Trade Industry approved an unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill 1833 or the proposed Philippine Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Industry Act. The bill authorizes three-year planning for the industry, culminating in a document known as the National Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Development Plan, to be prepared by the Board of Investments (BoI).

Foreign chambers push early OK of Public Service Act

Business groups believe the passage of a law amending the Public Service Act (PSA) at this time would place the country in the league of its neighbors that are more open to foreign investments. The foreign chambers said the PSA, known as Commonwealth Act 146, has been in effect for the past 85 years and has regulated public services and considers 25 services, which are not natural monopolies, as public utilities. The amendments will allow and encourage foreign investments in telecommunications, transportation, and other services which will not only increase competition but also improve technology, modernize and lower the price of services.

PHL energy accounts: Non-RE gone in 50 years

In the Energy Accounts of the Philippines, which is based on 2019 data, the PSA estimated that the first to go would be natural gas which only has an asset life of seven years; condensate, nine years; coal, 26 years; and oil, 43 years. Data showed, the PSA noted, that in a span of 20 years, the volume of stocks of coal reserves increased but the volume of stocks of oil, natural gas, and condensate reserves declined.

PHL will be laggard in region—think tank

In an analysis published on Monday, Moody’s Analytics—the research arm of Moody’s Group —said the Philippines is “struggling to shake the pandemic” as its cases remain elevated despite implementing one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. The country’s struggle, according to Moody’s Analytics, comes from the country’s decentralized health system and sluggish vaccination program.

Tourism frontliners now part of top vaccination priority group, DOT says

DOT Secretary Puyat said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved its request to include frontline tourism workers in the A1 priority group, which was initially reserved for healthcare workers. Other workers in the tourism industry will fall under the A4 cluster. The rollout in this priority group is seen to start in June, with focus on the NCR+8 areas.

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