January 18, 2022
The Senate is focusing on the approval of several priority measures and international agreements including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) within the next three weeks before Congress goes on a break on Feb. 4 for the upcoming elections. Congress resumes session on Monday, with the Senate still yet to approve at least 12 bills that have already been passed on final reading by the House of Representatives. “We urge the Senate to expedite the deliberations and approval of these measures so we can pass them into law before the campaign period,” House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco said in a statement.
The Department of Labor and Employment is urging employers in the private sector to extend paid leave, on top of existing leave benefits, to workers who have to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. DOLE issued the advisory on Monday "to ensure safe and humane working conditions" amid the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases. The department said employers are encouraged to adopt an appropriate leave program in consultation with their workers. It added that other leave benefits stated under the company policy, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws should still separately apply.
The threat of the Omicron variant is becoming real for many of Asia’s biggest countries just as it looks set to subside in some Western nations, and that’s complicating investors’ search for winning share bets in the region. The problem is that Asian governments are carrying out widely diverging coronavirus policies, with strategies ranging from China’s pursuit of COVID Zero to Australia’s move to live with the virus, and almost everything in between. The speed of vaccinations and the strength of healthcare systems also vary greatly in the region.
Coronavirus infections in the Philippines are not about to peak “any time soon” because the surge was now being felt in regions outside Metro Manila, according to researchers from the country’s premier university. “The surge is no longer just in the National Capital Region Plus,” Fredegusto P. David, a fellow from the OCTA Research Group of the University of the Philippines, told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo on Sunday in mixed English and Filipino. “It’s now all over the Philippines. It would not peak in the entire country even if we say that cases have peaked in the region.”
Although the Philippines showed improvement in its management of its COVID-19 situation, analysts still see steep economic challenges with one think tank saying the country remains the most vulnerable among 56 economies. In a Jan. 14 report, the London-based Oxford Economics said that compared with its assessment in October, “the biggest improvements were in Bangladesh, Egypt, New Zealand and the Philippines.”
Spanish renewable energy developer Iberdrola signed an agreement with local wind energy developer Triconti Windkraft Group and Swiss-based Stream Investment Holding for the co-development of as much as 3.5 gigawatts (GW) worth of offshore wind projects in the Philippines. The parties have entered an agreement that covers five offshore wind areas awarded to Triconti by the Department of Energy (DOE). The parties did not indicate the amount involved in the partnership.
The independent OCTA Research yesterday said as much as 2.44 million people in the National Capital Region (NCR) could actually be infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) if results from rapid antigen tests are to be included. In a social media post, OCTA fellow Guido David said that based on their estimates, the actual number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila could be several times higher than the 165,000 reported by the Department of Health (DOH).
Only vaccinated travelers will be allowed entry in all Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals starting today, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) yesterday announced in support of the “No Vaccination, No Ride” policy of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) which kicks off Monday, January 17. “In a time as sensitive as a pandemic, prioritizing safety is a must. CAAP believes that the DOTr’s ‘No Vaccination, No Ride’ policy will reinforce the importance of ensuring that public spaces such as airport terminals and aircraft remain as safe spaces for everyone that utilizes them,” CAAP Director General Captain Jim C. Sydiongco said in a statement.
The government will seek the help of big pharmacies and private clinics to be able to administer more booster doses for COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr on Monday said the government is planning to make booster shots available in select branches of Mercury Drug, Watsons, The Generics Pharmacy, Generika, South Star Drug, QualiMed, and Healthway in Metro Manila towards the end of the week. "Magsisimula po tayo sa Jan. 21 sa pitong malalaking mga pharmacies. Ipa-prioritize natin dito ang boosters to ensure safety sa lahat ng priority groups from A1-A5 and the rest of adult population," he said during a televised briefing.
Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to the Philippines could get a boost after national and local elections in May, as the policy directions of the new administration become clearer, analysts said. “Maybe FDI begins to pick up after the election… It’s been fairly subdued in terms of interest from foreigners, the way that I see it through the data,” Paul Mackel, Global Head for Foreign Exchange Research at the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC) Global Banking and Markets, said at a virtual briefing on Monday, January 17. Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed FDI inflows surged by 98.9% year on year to $855 million in October as the lockdown restrictions eased in the Philippine capital.
Regulators are backing a measure that seeks to enhance financial consumer protection amid a rise in cybercrime incidents as more Filipinos used digital financial services during the pandemic. This as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported the declared amount in consumer complaints reached P2 billion from 2019 to 2021. The proposed Financial Consumer Protection Act (FCPA) will provide government agencies and financial regulators with the legal authority to enforce prudent, responsible, and customer-centric standards of business conduct, said BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno.
Eradicating hunger and poverty will require governments to explore ways to merge its initiatives in water, food, and energy, according to an expert from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB). In an Asian Development Blog, ADB South Asia Department Principal Energy Specialist Jiwan Acharya said considering the water, food, energy nexus is critical for the growth and development of countries. Merging these initiatives will also help countries maximize their resources. Eradicating hunger and poverty are also part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which countries like the Philippines are struggling to meet due to the pandemic.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) indicators in Metro Manila are going down, the independent OCTA Research group yesterday said but cautioned against hastily concluding a downtrend in infections. OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David, during the Laging Handa public briefing, said the growth rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) has gone down to -1 percent, which is lower than the 2 percent recorded on Sunday. The region’s reproduction rate also dipped to 2.67 percent from 6 percent on January 6, while the positivity rate is at 50 percent from 54 percent last week.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic was the third leading cause of deaths in the country in the first 10 months of 2021, according to data released yesterday by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The PSA report indicated that COVID-19 (identified) accounted for 51,514 deaths, or an 8.5 percent share, rising from rank 15 with 7,357 deaths (1.4 percent share) during the same period in 2020. Taking the top spot was ischaemic heart diseases with 110,332 cases or 18.3 percent of the total deaths in the country. This is 28 percent higher than the 86,164 deaths or 16.9 percent of the total deaths in 2020.
The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC), along with private sector groups, reiterated the need to immediately pass the bill seeks to reduce major transportation accidents. In a joint statement on Monday, the foreign business groups called on the House and Senate to ratify the bill establishing the Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB). The groups noted that the bicameral conference committee has been constituted since September last year but has yet to meet. They are hoping that both chambers of the Congress will ratify the bill when they resume session so it can be finally endorsed for enactment by the President.
Members of the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) and transportation alliances have called on Congress to pass the bill creating the Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB) which languished in its chambers for nearly two decades. Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, in a statement said once enacted, the new PTSB can commence its programs to discourage and reduce major transportation accidents taking the lives of too many Filipinos.