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ECCP@Work Featured News Articles | August 20, 2021

August 20, 2021

ECCP Online

DoE hopes to issue demand-side bidding rules for spot market

“The rules on demand-side bidding for the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) (are) undergoing development. Target issuance is by next year,” Director of the Energy Utilization Management Bureau Patrick T. Aquino said at a webinar hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. Demand-side bidding, according to the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), allows consumers to actively participate in electricity trading by bidding or pricing their energy demand block to match the offers of generators. The Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) has said that no customer has submitted any demand bid on the WESM as of June, according to the PEMC.

House set to resume sessions on Monday

The House of Representatives will resume session next week after the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, the same time that the budget department is expected to submit the proposed national expenditure program for 2022. Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said yesterday the chamber would continue to observe and adopt “hybrid” deliberations, which combine the physical presence of House officials in the plenary hall and others remotely attending the session through the Zoom app.

Gov’t can afford to ramp up stimulus, economists say

The government should tap the huge war chest built up during the pandemic and ramp up its stimulus spending to speed up the economy’s recovery. ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said that the National Government has a “whopping” P1.6 trillion in its demand deposit account, or the Treasury single account (TSA), “sitting idly” in the central bank that can be tapped. He said the existing balance in the TSA has been built up to an all-time high in July during the pandemic from just P200 billion in 2019, when the state delivered a huge, last-minute spending push to end the year.

Lockdown to deepen ‘economic scarring’

S&P Global Ratings downgraded its Philippine growth outlook to 4.3% for 2021, warning that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and stringent lockdown measures will likely stifle its economic growth potential in the next four years. This latest estimate is sharply lower than the 6% gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection it gave in June, the debt watcher said S&P released its new growth outlook for the Philippines a day after the government cut its full-year growth target to 4-5%. The Development Budget Coordination Committee had said that without the current spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections and the more stringent lockdowns, the previous 6-7% GDP growth target was achievable.

Duterte seeks P240B budget for 2022 Covid-19 response

President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking the approval of the P240.7 billion budget for the country’s pandemic response next year, in which P45.3 billion would be used for procuring Covid-19 booster shots. Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque outlined the items under the proposed budget to address the health crisis. Based on his presentation, the Executive department put the P45.3 billion budget for anti-coronavirus booster jabs under “unprogrammed appropriations,” which means that it would only be funded if the government has enough money. While experts have yet to complete their studies on the efficacy of booster jabs, Roque said the government has allocated funds for it to strengthen the country’s inoculation drive. 

BSP gives new digital banks until end-August to submit applications

New digital banks, including converting banks, have only until end-August to hand in their applications, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said closing the application window will allow the central bank to "monitor the performance and impact of digital banks on the banking system and their contribution to the financial inclusion agenda." The Monetary Board has so far approved the application of five digital banks. These include UNObank, UnionDigital Bank, and GoTyme. Meanwhile, Overseas Filipino Bank, Inc. and Tonik Bank converted their existing licenses to digital ones.

NCR, Laguna shift to MECQ from Aug. 21 to 31

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the Inter-Agency Task Force's recommendation to place Metro Manila and Laguna under the more relaxed modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 21 until the end of the month, Malacañang announced. Bataan will also be under MECQ from August 23 to 31, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. MECQ means indoor and al-fresco or outdoor dining, as well as personal care services such as beauty parlors, barbershops, and nail spas are still prohibited. Religious gatherings shall also remain strictly virtual, the Palace said.

China donates 1M Sinopharm shots to PH, vaccines to arrive this week

The Chinese government is giving the Philippines an additional donation of one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by state-owned Sinopharm. Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said the shipment will arrive in the country on Friday and Saturday.

PH gets three million more Sinovac doses in biggest single delivery

The country's stockpile of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines continues to grow as another three million doses arrived on Thursday (19 August).The plane carrying the latest batch of the government-procured shots — the biggest single-day delivery — landed past 5 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The new shipment forms part of the 26 million doses the national government has ordered from the Chinese firm.

PhilHealth offers home isolation package for mild, asymptomatic COVID-19 patients

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is offering a home isolation package for mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients in order to free up hospitals beds and accommodate more moderate to critical cases. However, the home isolation package will only be implemented in surge areas identified by the COVID-19 pandemic task force, and will be paid as a case rate. This also means only PhilHealth-accredited facilities in high-risk areas may apply for re-accreditation as a provider of this package. Re-accreditation is valid until December 31, 2021.

Metro Manila mayors leave ECQ extension to IATF

Metro Manila mayors are leaving it to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to decide whether to end or retain the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) beyond Friday. In past instances, the MMC – composed of mayors of all 17 local government units (LGUs) in the NCR – would submit its proposed community quarantine status for Metro Manila to the IATF for deliberation and approval by the President. At present, Metro Manila is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

IFC commits $399 million to Philippine projects

The International Finance Corp. (IFC) in a statement on Wednesday said that its investments in the Philippines accounted for 10.5% of its overall commitments in the East Asia and the Pacific region worth $3.8 billion from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Among the IFC’s investments in the country included extending $15 million in debt financing to CARD Bank, Inc. and CARD SME Bank, Inc., which would benefit over 60,000 companies. Since 1962, IFC has invested over $5.5 billion to 160 local companies in the Philippines to projects that mitigate the impacts of climate change; promote financial inclusion; improve the capacity of private sector and those supporting sustainable infrastructure.

Delays in PH import shipments seen as Delta sidelines China ports

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) warns of “looming delays” in the shipment of goods such as online shopping products and raw materials for manufacturing as the contagious Delta variant shutters key transfer hubs in China—where most of the country’s imports are coming from. At the same time, the PPA said importers and exporters should brace themselves for the expected surge in shipments once the situation returned to normal to avoid congestion at the country’s cargo hubs.

A3 jab priority group also to have ‘plus 1’

Aside from those accompanying senior citizens to vaccination areas, companions of some individuals belonging to the A3 priority group (persons with comorbidities) of the national vaccination program will also be allowed to get inoculated against COVID-19, the Department of Health said. Vergeire said not all members of the A3 group will be allowed to have a “plus 1.” “Only those in immunocompromised stages, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, had organ transplant, and others that are very weak and in need of assistance, are allowed (the plus 1),” she said. 

Bank Deposits Secrecy Bill among President’s priorities

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)-backed Bank Deposits Secrecy Bill has been included under President Duterte’s Legislative Priorities for the 18th Congress, according to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office The Office of the President (OP) has also informed the BSP that it has referred the Bank Deposits Secrecy Bill to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council for prioritization and inclusion in the Common Legislative Agenda for the Executive and Legislative. In the House of Representatives, the BSP is in constant communication with the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries for the interpellation of the bill. Meanwhile, the BSP has touched base with various offices of Senators for possible sponsorship and conducted briefings in this regard.

PH economic managers again lower 2021 growth target to 4-5 pct amid Delta lockdowns

The National Economic and Development Authority said that the government is now looking at 4 to 5 percent growth this year, down from 6 to 7 percent growth announced earlier. This was also lower than the 6.5 to 7.5 percent target set at the start of the year.  NEDA said the cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) made the revision "in light of the reimposition of stricter mobility restrictions in various areas of the country to effectively address the heightened risks brought about by the COVID-19 Delta variant." NEDA said that without the present spike, the original growth target of 6 to 7 percent would have been achievable.

DTI rejects proposal to allow only vaccinated people in malls, other establishments — official

The Department of Trade and Industry does not agree with the proposal to prohibit non-vaccinated people from entering shopping malls and other establishments, an official said. DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said such a move would be discriminatory, adding many Filipinos have not yet received an anti-coronavirus shot, not of their own accord but because of the availability of vaccines. 

COVID spreading faster – OCTA

Dr. Guido David of the OCTA Research Team said the reproduction rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) went up to 1.55 on Monday (August 16), from 1.46 on Saturday (August 14). The World Health Organization has said that the ideal reproduction rate is less than 1. David, like the DOH, said that cases even in areas placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), will not immediately go down and added that the reduction of cases can be hastened if community restrictions will be strictly implemented.

Delta has spread to 16 regions: DOH

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that based on the last four batches of the samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), it was observed that the Delta variant has spread in 16 out of the country’s 17 regions. Vergeire said the number of Delta variant cases has been increasing from 116 on August 4, to 119 on August 5, 177 on August 11, and 182 on August 12. She added that based on the latest PGC sequencing of 338 samples, almost 50 percent were Delta variants. 

Health, education get biggest part of 2022 NEP

With the health and economic impact of Covid-19 expected to persist next year, the government allocated the biggest chunk of its proposed P5-trillion 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP) to health and education-related programs. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque disclosed the said programs, collectively known as the social service sector, will get 38.3 percent or P1.92 trillion of the 2022 NEP. He added that the allocation will also cover the purchases of Covid-19 vaccine and personal protective equipment (PPE), among others.

DTI opposes ECQ extension in NCR

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Tuesday he supports the calls of business groups to place Metro Manila under a less restrictive quarantine status after Aug. 20 to restore more jobs. He said the inter-agency task force is set to discuss the new quarantine status of Metro Manila this week Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua earlier warned the Philippine economy could lose ₱105 billion each week the NCR is under ECQ.

Allow only fully vaccinated persons in NCR malls, restaurants – Concepcion

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion is pushing for malls, restaurants and other establishments in Metro Manila to only allow fully vaccinated people in their premises to create "safer bubbles" that could control the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. He cited places such as Jakarta in Indonesia which opened malls partially to those who have completed their vaccine doses. However, Indonesia has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. Concepcion also noted that Singapore is giving vaccinated individuals freedom to move around without requiring them to wear masks.

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