World Newsletter

24 March 2020




MANILA – Some 10,000 Filipino seafarers are in need of repatriation after

COVID-19 halted the operation of cruise ships worldwide, a crew service

agency said Tuesday.

Magsaysay Maritime Corp. is chartering flights for the repatriation of the

seafarers, its chairman Marlon Rono said.

“Naguumpisa na po ang repatriation. Asahan po natin sa darating na mga araw

ay marami po ang uuwi diyan,” he told radio DZMM.

“They are floating in some areas. Alam mo naman ang cruise ship may sariling

doctor, may sariling ospital. They are taken cared of kung may symptoms na


The repatriation is shouldered by principal, Roño said. The challenge,

however, would be getting seafarers from Visayas and Mindanao home as travel

is suspended nationwide which is why the agency is appealing for help from

government, he added.

Once the situation “normalizes,” Filipino seafarers can go back to their

jobs, he said.

Magsaysay is the agency of some 400 Filipino crew members of the Diamond

Princess, the virus-hit cruise ship moored off Japan. All but 100 Filipino

crew opted to stay onboard to help man the ship.





MANILA — The Department of Health on Tuesday morning said there are 39 new

COVID-19 cases.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario

Vergeire said there are now 501 COVID-19 cases in the country.

There is also an additional recovered patient, bringing the total number of

recoveries to 19.

The total number of fatalities is still 33.

The number of cases may still go up later in the day when the DOH holds its

regular briefing.

Luzon has been on lockdown since the DOH confirmed community transmission in

the country. This means that public transportation and other services have

shut down temporarily.





MANILA — Senate, in a special session Monday, approved the proposed

legislation that would give President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping emergency

powers to address the new coronavirus outbreak in the country.

With a shutout 12-0 vote, the upper chamber approved Senate Bill1418 or the

Bayanihan to Heal As One Act authored by Senate President Tito Sotto III and

Senator Pia Cayetano.

Some senators, being unable to physically attend the special session,

reportedly voted via phone.

The proposed measure would authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to undertake

extraordinary measures to contain COVID-19 and mobilize at least P200

billion to help over 24 million mostly-poor families.

Provisions in the proposed legislation sparked concerns over the request of

Malacañang for power to take over private establishments.

Cayetano said Senate’s version of the bill will never have a provision on

takeover of businesses.





MANILA — While Congress is pushing to grant emergency powers to President

Rodrigo Duterte to address the crisis brought by the novel coronavirus, a

group of lawyers argued that provisions of the bill are unnecessary and


“The proposed bills seek to confer powers that are already conferred by

existing laws and fail to set forth a national policy, as required by the

Constitution,” the Free Legal Assistance Group said in their public opinion

released Tuesday.

The proposed measure to grant President Rodrigo Duterte with additional

powers to address the pandemic is up for his signature.

The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the “Bayanihan to

Heal as One Act” dawn of Tuesday.

FLAG, however, said that giving emergency powers to the president “may not

be the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic at this time.”

They pointed out that other countries have not resorted to extraordinary

measures in fighting the pandemic, but are instead relying on

“evidence-based strategies and scientific resolutions.”

The legal opinion was penned by rights lawyers Chel Diokno and Theodore Te,

also former Supreme Court spokesperson.








MANILA -- The Philippines' billion-peso stimulus package against the

coronavirus pandemic is "good enough" for now, the socioeconomic planning

chief said Monday, adding that it was "possible" for the economy to contract

should the crisis persist until June.

Gross domestic product could register negative growth of 0.6 percent to an

expansion of 4.3 percent, depending on how long the lockdown of Luzon will

last, said Sec. Ernesto Pernia, director general of the National Economic

Development Authority.

The Philippine economy last contracted, by 0.6 percent, in 1998 during the

Asian financial crisis, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics.

Luzon, which is on lockdown until April 12, accounts for 75 percent of the

economy, Pernia told ANC's Market Edge. The island region is also home to

half of the Philippines' 100 million people.

Lawmakers approved before dawn on Tuesday a response package that will,

among other, provide P5,000 to P8,000 monthly aid for 2 months to poor

families, P100,000 for every health worker who contracted COVID-19 and P1

million for every health worker who died from the disease.

The measure, once signed into law, will allow President Rodrigo Duterte to

realign spending in the current P4.1 trillion budget and "direct" operations

of private hospitals and pubic transport.

"Under these extraordinary times, we need special powers. We don't have an

alternative," Pernia said.

"To begin with, I think it's good enough," he said. "We just need to monitor

closely, watch everyday so we can make the adjustments necessary."

Pernia said taking out a provision in a draft bill that called for

a"takeover" of some businesses was the "correct" thing to do. "It's not good

to have powers to dictate the private sector right away."





MANILA - The Philippines has enough rice supply as the 1-month lockdown of

Luzon island drives demand for the staple grain, the National Food

Administration (NFA) chief said Tuesday.

There are 9.3 million bags of rice lodged in NFA warehouses across the

country, NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal told DZMM.

"Lahat po ng bodega ng NFA punong-puno last year so we have a good inventory

to start this year. At kahit na nangyari yung sakuna sa Taal, sobra-sobra pa

rin tayo [ng supply]," Dansal said.

The NFA also has unmilled rice on standby in case the country needs more,

she said.

"We have exerted effort na tuloy-tuloy po ang milling dahil malaki po ngayon

ang demand ng ating local government units at sa Department of Social

Welfare and Development," she said, without disclosing demand figures.

Local government units are not expected to hoard rice for their constituents

because they don't have enough storage facilities, the NFA chief said.

Luzon's borders were temporarily closed since last week to limit the entry

and exit of possible coronavirus carriers. The transport restrictions don't

apply to food, medicine and frontline workers.





MANILA - A local "pillar" of cardiology has succumbed to the novel

coronavirus, his peers said Tuesday, as cases of the pandemic continued to

increase in the Philippines.

The Philippine Heart Association announced on Facebook the demise of Dr.

Raul Jara, its former president and "one of the great pillars of


Asked to clarify if the doctor died to COVID-19, the group said, "yes" and

that it would be best to get more details from the Philippine Heart Center,

which treated him.

He had tested positive for the respiratory disease, PHC medical director Dr.

Joel Abanilla told ABS-CBN News. It was not immediately clear when Jara

passed away and whether he had other pre-existing medical conditions.

Jara is the latest Filipino doctor to reportedly succumb to COVID-19,

following Dr. Israel Bactol of the PHC and anesthesiologist Dr. Gregory

Macasaet. The health department has yet to confirm how many doctors have

died due to the pandemic.





MANILA - Some politicians who were screened for the novel coronavirus had

passed the initial criteria, which were later changed as the country

wrestled with a shortage of test kits, the health department said Tuesday.

The VIPs directly requested the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine

(RITM) in Muntinlupa to conduct the test, said Health Secretary Francisco


"Pumasa naman daw sa unang criteria," he told DZMM.

The previous criteria allowed those with mild symptoms to be tested for

COVID-19. The health department on March 16 changed the protocol, under

which those with mild symptoms could only get tested if they were senior

citizens, pregnant or had pre-existing medical conditions, said Duque.

The health secretary was also screened for COVID-19 because he had asthma,

hypertension and exposure to a patient. He later tested negative. He will

remain in home quarantine until Wednesday because he had coughs, he said.

Duque also denied that he had replaced the head of RITM, Dr. Celia Carlos,

who allegedly refused to prioritize politicians for COVID-19 testing.

He said he only gave Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago oversight powers

over RITM so that it could improve its testing capacity. Carlos, who has

"technical competence and expertise", is still RITM's head, he said.

"Hindi mo iyan puwedeng basta-basta palitan ng hindi niya katulad. Pero

dahil nga iyong demand for more testing e ramdam na ramdam na, maigi nang

isang Assistant Secretary tumulong na sa kaniya," he said.

Authorities confirmed Monday 82 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest daily

increase so far, which took the nationwide total to 462. The tally included

33 deaths and 18 patients who recovered.





MANILA — Police have arrested a barangay captain caught selling quarantine

passes in Marantao, Lanao del Sur, in what turned out to be just one of the

hundreds of violations of rules governing the Luzon-wide enhanced community

quarantine enforced by the government to contain the 2019 coronavirus

disease (COVID-19).

The arrest of Barangay Mantapoli chairman Cassar Abinal on Sunday came after

Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government

(DILG) warned that selling barangay quarantine clearances is illegal.

Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

(BARMM) police director, said policemen – responding to reports – went to

barangay Mantapoli headquarters at 3:50 p.m. and caught Abinal in the act of

demanding P20 for each quarantine pass from residents.

“It’s a clear violation of the directives for non-payment of barangay

passes,” Abu said in a text message.

Col. Madzgani Mukaram, police director of Lanao del Sur, said there was even

a sign on the wall of the barangay hall stating that each pass cost P20.

Local officials are issuing quarantine passes to families so that at least

one member of a household can go outside to buy food and other basic

commodities while the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is in effect.





MANILA -- Deliveries of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are allowed during the

month-long lockdown of Luzon, a group of dealers said Tuesday following

reports that some households have trouble buying cooking gas.

Guidelines released by Malacañang on the lockdown specified that

establishments offering basic services, such as fuel, should be allowed to


But some LPG stores have encountered problems in checkpoints in Luzon, said

Daniel Brian Joven, a member of the Philippine LPG Association.

“Ang LPG po ay exemption, necessity po ito so sana po i-allow po natin sa

mga checkpoint,” Joven told radio dzMM.

“Exempted po ito, Pinapayagan po ito. Dapat po unhampered ang pagdeliver ng

cargo kasi necessity po ito,” he added.

The government placed Luzon under lockdown until April 12 to control the

spread of COVID-19. The measure means strict home confinement in all

households, suspension of public transport, regulation of provision for food

and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed

personnel to enforce isolation procedures.








MANILA — "Got to Believe," the launching teleserye of superstars Kathryn

Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, made its television comeback on Monday and, as

expected, became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter.

The Star Creatives production is airing under ABS-CBN's temporary

programming, after the network halted its entertainment productions due to

the coronavirus pandemic.

As it did when it originally aired on primetime in 2013, "Got to Believe"

again generated social media buzz as its re-run debuted in ABS-CBN's

afternoon lineup.

#G2BTheMagicalComeback, in fact, was the top trend on Twitter in the

Philippines from afternoon until evening of Monday. Several other terms

related to the teleserye also ranked in the list.

Its enduring social media presence is fitting for "Got to Believe," as the

series pioneered the per-episode hashtag on local television to help fans

track conversations online.

Owing to the popularity of "Got to Believe," Bernardo and Padilla have since

become among the most in-demand and bankable artists in the Philippines.





MANILA — Actress and philanthropist Angel Locsin is mobilizing efforts to

provide sleeping tents for health workers inside or near hospital grounds,

in the hope of aiding their situation amid the Luzon-wide quarantine that

has halted public transportation.

Over the weekend, Locsin asked her followers as well as her fellow artists

to donate items that can be used to provide comfortable sleeping

arrangements for frontliners, "so they don't have to worry about where to

stay and transportation."

The project, she said, is with the assistance and recommendation of the

local government. Locsin is spearheading, alongside her fiance, film

producer Neil Arce, as well as wedding organizer La Belle Fête.

"To my friends in the industry, maybe you can spare your taping beds for our

health workers? Also to everyone reading this, if you have available folding

beds that we could borrow, we would greatly appreciate it. We'll name the

bed after the donor and you could also write down a note to thank them for

their hard work," she wrote.

Locsin mentioned fellow actresses Angelica Panganiban, Bea Alonzo, and Anne

Curtis for "donating their taping beds right away."

Detailing the donation process in a video on her Instagram page, Locsin said

in its caption: "We acknowledge that this is a challenging time for

everyone, but we also know that we, Filipinos, are strong and resilient,

especially when united."

"We made it through Ondoy, Yolanda, Mt. Pinatubo and Taal eruption, and we

will surely overcome this as a nation," she said, referring to past

calamaties in the Philippines.

"This is a plea to everyone to support our dear frontliners. Let's help them

save lives!" she said.

On Monday, Locsin then shared a photo of her with Arce wearing face masks.

In its caption, she indicated that it was the second day of their

"operation," with the hashtag #HealTheWorld.

In her Instagram Stories, Locsin shared a glimpse of the tents that they

have so far set up for health workers, including the beds donated by her

colleagues, including Paulo Avelino, Ria Atayde, and Lorna Tolentino.

One video (seen below) also showed a tour of an airconditioned sleeping

tent, which notably observes social distancing.

As of Monday afternoon, the Philippines has reported a total of 462

coronavirus cases — a single-day increase of 82 — with 8 more patients

succumbing to the disease, bringing the total fatalities to 33.





GOLD COAST, Australia -- Hollywood megastar Tom Hanks said he and wife Rita

Wilson were on the mend Monday, after two weeks in hospital and

self-isolation with the coronavirus.

"Hey folks, two weeks after our first symptoms and we feel better," he

posted in a social media message to fans, urging them to respect lockdown


The multiple Oscar-winning actor was on Australia's Gold Coast to film an

Elvis Presley biopic when he and Wilson, both 63, came down with the


The pair were admitted to hospital, where they were treated before being

released into self-isolation last week.

The movie has since been put on ice.

As both the United States and Australia struggled to curb infections and

keep people from social gathering places, Hanks on Monday urged supporters

to listen to advice about containing the pandemic.

"Sheltering in place works like this: You don't give it to anyone -- you

don't get it from anyone. Common sense, no?"

"Going to take a while but if we take care of each other, help where we can,

and give up some comforts... this too shall pass. We can figure this out."








BERN - This season's Champions League, Europa League and women's Champions

League finals scheduled for May have been formally postponed because of the

coronavirus pandemic, European soccer's governing body UEFA said on Tuesday.

All three competitions are currently suspended along with almost every

European domestic league because of the coronavirus while UEFA last week

postponed the Euro 2020 tournament until next year.

"No decision has been taken on rearranged dates," UEFA said in a statement.

It also did not say whether it would be able to complete the competitions in

the current format or would have to shorten them.

The Champions League was halted halfway through the return legs of the round

of 16 with four ties still to be decided. The final was due to take place in

Istanbul on May 30.

Some media reports have suggested ties could be reduced to one leg instead

of two from the quarter-finals with a "final four" tournament in Istanbul.

In the Europa League, two of the round of 16 first leg matches have still to

be played and all of the second legs. The final was due to be held in

Gdansk, Poland, on May 27.

The women's Champions League final was scheduled for Vienna on May 24.





FOREX $1 = P 51.33





In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The

learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer

exists. - Eric Hoffer

Share Your Thoughts