World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
5 August 2020

JULY INFLATION ACCELERATES TO 2.7 PERCENT, FASTEST IN 6 MONTHS

 

MANILA - Inflation quickened in July based on government data released on

Wednesday, its fastest pace in 6 months due to rising transport costs.

The consumer price index rose 2.7 percent in July, within the Bangko Sentral

ng Pilipinas' estimated range of 2.2 to 3 percent, and between 2.2 to 2.8

percent based on a Reuters poll of 13 economists.

Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel items, was at 3.3

percent.

"Ito ay sanhi ng mabilis na pagtaas ng presyo ng pamasahe sa tricycle na

nagtala ng 33.9 percent inflation nitong Hulyo 2020 mula sa 26.8 percent

noong Hunyo 2020," said National Statistician Usec. Claire Dennis Mapa.

Transport inflation reached 6.3 percent for the month, from a negative in

March, April and May.

"The BSP forecast inflation to average 2.3 percent this year and 2.6 percent

in 2021," ING Philippines senior economist Nicholas Mapa told ANC.

"I think the higher but still benign inflation print is a reflection of a

weaker economic activity in the Philippines right now," Mapa said.

"The things that saw a rise in price pressures, basic commodities, transport

prices going up because you can no longer share a ride, you have to take a

ride by yourself…as long as the virus is out there, we’ll probably be seeing

this trend going forward," he added.

Under MECQ, more businesses would have to close again, including gyms,

internet shops and salons, while dine-in were again suspended to contain the

spread of COVID-19.

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier said reverting back to MECQ has

"limited impact" on the economy.

"The Monetary Board will consider the latest inflation outlook along with

the release of (second-quarter) 2020 GDP (gross domestic product) at the

upcoming monetary policy meeting on 20 August 2020," Diokno said.

 

 

PH REFUSAL TO JOIN SOUTH CHINA SEA MARITIME DRILLS IMPACTS CREDIBILITY:

ANALYST

 

MANILA - The Philippines' refusal to join maritime exercises with other

nations in the disputed South China Sea sends a signal that it is not

willing to "put its money where its mouth is," an analyst said Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the Philippine Navy would

not join the exercises for fear of raising tensions in the region.

The exercises, however, would not create tension as there is a "lot of

transparency historically" in its conduct, according to Jay Batongbacal,

director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

"Withdrawing from these exercises however sends a different signal now to

other potential competitors that the Philippines is not really willing at

this time to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to external

defense because it refuses to conduct simple exercises with its allies and

other countries on the waters it claims to be within its jurisdiction," he

told ANC.

Other countries will be "disappointed" that the Philippines will not

participate considering its strategic position, Batongbacal said.

"In a way it impacts on our credibility since we're the ones most directly

concerned in this region and our ability in the future to participate with

our allies on these types of operations because we are the direct

beneficiary and yet we do not seem to be willing to even have a stake on the

activities," he said.

"It affects perception about our reliability as a partner or as an ally in

these types of activities."

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said in his fifth State of the Nation

Address that he "cannot do anything" against Beijing's pursuit of territory

and resources in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by

Manila.

 

 

PHILIPPINES REQUIRES WEARING OF FACE SHIELDS IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

 

MANILA - All public transportation passengers will be required to wear face

shields and face masks beginning August 15, the Department of Transportation

said Wednesday.

Government's inter-agency task force (IATF), which formulates policies on

the pandemic response, was considering requiring the use of face shields

outside Filipinos' homes, a Cabinet official earlier said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said wearing of face shields

is recommended in Metro Manila and the Southern Tagalog Region (Calabarzon).

The Philippines as of Tuesday logged another record-high number of daily

virus cases at 6,352, raising the nationwide total to 112,593. Of this

number, 2,115 patients died while 66,049 recovered.

 

 

CHR RAISES ALARM ON PROPOSED SOCIAL MEDIA REGULATION UNDER ANTI-TERRORISM

LAW

 

MANILA — The Commission on Human Rights raised the alarm on the military

chief’s proposal to regulate social media under the anti-terrorism law for

possible overreach beyond the law’s intent.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, in a statement, noted that not only is

the proposal vague but it is also “broad and susceptible to overreach in

terms of guaranteeing the right to privacy and right of individuals to

freely express their ideas.”

“The threat of restraint posed by the inclusion of a provision to regulate

social media may constitute a bar for individuals to continue voicing out

their opinions and ideas, curtailing fundamental freedoms,” she added.

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said

Monday that they would propose to add a provision on social media regulation

in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The military chief said terrorists have been using social media to

“radicalize, recruit and even plan terrorist acts.”

De Guia, however, pointed out that there is nothing in the law that covers

regulation of social media and to push for this provision would go beyond

its legislative intent. This would also only justify the fears of the people

of the anti-terrorism law.

The CHR spokesperson stressed that a democratic society champions free

exchange of ideas. “Redress for wrongdoing, however, must not target

legitimate dissent and honest opinions. At times when the discourse is

critical and may seem discomforting, let critical points be taken in with an

eye towards improvement,” she added.

“In the end, the protection of the freedom of expression is not about

protecting our sense and sensibilities from criticism. It is protecting the

right of all individuals to freely express themselves without fear—with the

goal towards a better tomorrow and dignity for all,” De Guia also said.

 

 

TWO HUGE BEIRUT EXPLOSIONS KILL 73, INJURE THOUSANDS; 2 FILIPINOS KILLED, 6

INJURED

 

Two enormous explosions devastated Beirut's port on Tuesday, leaving at

least 73 people dead and thousands injured, shaking distant buildings and

spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.

The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, immediately

followed by a tornado-like shockwave that flattened the port and swept the

city, shattering windows kilometres (miles) away.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 tonnes of the agricultural

fertiliser ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a portside

warehouse had blown up, sparking "a disaster in every sense of the word".

"What happened today will not pass without accountability," said Diab.

"Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price."

Two Filipinos have been reported killed while six others were injured

following the two powerful explosions

"Per latest report from the Philippine Embassy 2 Filipinos have been

reported killed and 6 injured. All were in their employers homes during the

explosion," Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ed Menez tells reporters

Wednesday morning.

According to Menez, approximately 33,000 Filipinos are in Lebanon, 75% of

whom are in the Greater Beirut area.

 

 

DUTERTE BACK IN DAVAO

 

DAVAO CITY – President Duterte has returned home anew to this city, where

he will hold office and monitor developments in the fight against

coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 until next week.

The President arrived in a private jet on Monday night, a day after he

reverted Metro Manila and surrounding provinces to modified enhanced

community quarantine during a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task

Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at

Malacañang.

The President left Manila after addressing the concerns of medical groups,

who asked that the metropolis and the nearby provinces be placed under

enhanced community quarantine to give them a break from the rising cases.

Malacañang has yet to release the schedule of the President while he is

holding office in this city.

Palace officials have yet to confirm whether Duterte will hold the next IATF

meeting here.

 

 

PHILIPPINES BEGINS AVIGAN CLINICAL TRIALS FOR COVID-19 TREATMENT

 

The Philippine government said Tuesday that it has begun clinical trials for

Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan to see whether it would be effective in

treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The trials come as the Philippines is also conducting clinical trials for

remdesivir, used in the treatment of Ebola, as well as interferon, an

anti-viral agent, to treat COVID-19 patients.

The government said earlier that 18 million pesos ($367,000) has been

allotted for the Avigan trials, with at least three health care facilities

eyed to administer the drugs to 80 to 100 people.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said last week that the

Philippines had received around 199,000 Avigan tablets from Japan so the

trials could begin.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato De La Pena told a press

conference on Tuesday that the clinical trials were ongoing.

Avigan is an oral anti-viral drug generically known as favipiravir. It is

manufactured by a subsidiary of Japanese firm Fujifilm Holdings Corp.

 

 

‘PHILHEALTH MAFIA POCKETED P15 BILLION ’; SENATOR SEEKS PHILHEALTH

REORGANIZATION OVER CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

 

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp should reorganize its top leadership, a

senator said Wednesday after a legislative inquiry unearthed allegations of

corruption against officials and the possibility of the agency's collapse

due to fund deficit.

A whistleblower on Tuesday claimed PhilHealth officials pocketed some P15

billion from the state-run firm. Officials were also accused of releasing

funds to some favored hospitals and approving the purchase of overpriced

equipment and software.

"Maraming katiwalian na kagagawan ng mga opisyal. Sa aking tingin dapat

i-reorganize ang PhilHealth at itong matataas na opisyal na may kakayahang

gawin iyong mga nangyayari ay dapat either ilagay sa isang lugar na hindi

sila puwedeng gumawa ng katiwalian or ‘pag may ebidensya, dapat alisin na,"

said Sen. Franklin Drilon.

Last year, then PhilHealth chief Roy Ferrer and 6 board members resigned

over the allegedly anomalous dialysis reimbursements. Ferrer was later

appointed as undersecretary of the health department, which oversees

PhilHealth.

“Ang mga tao d’yan, may MBA: ‘may backer ako,’” said Drilon.

The fresh allegations on corruption in PhilHealth comes at the same time

that an official warned the agency could collapse in 2022 without additional

subsidy from the government after the coronavirus pandemic increased patient

payouts and decreased contributions.

 

 

'UNDER THREAT': LACSON SAYS PHILHEALTH CHIEF'S EX-AIDE 'BACKED OUT' FROM

TESTIFYING IN SENATE PROBE

 

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the former top aide of

Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales

"backed out" from divulging irregularities in the state-run insurance firm

at the last minute, after possibly being "harassed."

Etrobal Laborte, who resigned as Morales' head executive assistant in July,

logged on to the Senate's videoconferencing platform but later on begged off

from joining the hearing.

"Nag-log in siya sa hearing, biglang nag log out. 'Wag na lang daw. Kung

puwede wag na daw siyang makisali," Lacson said in an interview on

Teleradyo's Failon Ngayon.

This was not the first time Laborte suddenly changed his mind about giving

information on alleged scams and corruption woes in PhilHealth, the senator

said.

"Nakiusap sakin na baka puwedeng mag-audience siya sa'kin," the senator

said.

"Last minute, nagpasabi siya na under threat siya kaya hindi na natuloy

'yung aming meeting," Lacson told reporters in an online press conference.

Laborte was allegedly among the PhilHealth officials who figured in a

shouting match with the insurance firm's executives during a Zoom meeting

last week.

Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud official Thorrson Keith also backed out from

physically appearing in the Senate, saying he would rather participate

through videoconferencing.

"Natatakot daw sila kaya kung puwede hindi na pumunta," Lacson said.

"Ramdam natin na mayroong harassment... Kaya sila i-harass," the senator

said without naming particular officials.

Laborte was the official who flagged several "discrepancies" in the

PhilHealth's IT budget.

During the Senate hearing, Morales told senators that he "assumed" that

there was nothing unusual about the allegedly overpriced items in the budget

because he was "not an IT expert."

 

 

THE REST

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DOH ASKS PUBLIC NOT TO MISINTERPRET TOP OFFICIALS' STATEMENTS

 

MANILA — The Department of Health said Wednesday it was encountering

difficulty in dispelling misinformation on the coronavirus pandemic and

advised the public to refrain from misinterpreting information from top

leaders.

“Our job has always been challenging from the start and it’s really hard to

dispel misinformation,” said DOH Spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria

Rosario Vergeire.

“It’s really a challenge to give correct information to the general public

especially in times where a lot of people are trying to issue different

statements, information are all over, evidences are all over and people are

interpreting differently.”

The agency recently clarified that kerosene is not safe to be used for

disinfection after President Rodrigo Duterte urged the public twice to

disinfect their anti-virus masks with the substance.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque also had to take back his comments that the

Philippines was on the second wave of the pandemic and had flattened the

curve in April.

“We should not be misinterpreting whatever our senior officials are saying.

They might be saying something that has been misinterpreted by the public or

the media,” said Vergeire.

 

 

WE CAN’T AFFORD EXTENDED MECQ – PALACE

 

MANILA — The economy cannot afford an extension beyond Aug.18 of the current

modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and nearby

provinces, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

“Now, I would be lying if I will say that this two-week MECQ will not have a

negative impact, because 67 percent of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is

from Metro Manila and Region IV-A, including Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, which

are now under lockdown,” Roque said at a virtual press briefing.

“We are hoping this will just be two weeks since this is the recommendation

of our frontliners, a brief timeout. Right now, two weeks of MECQ won’t

affect (the country that much),” he said.

Economist-lawmakers said the 15-day MECQ is expected to cost the economy

P180 billion.

But Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the Chief

Executive was correct in granting the request of doctors and health workers

for a two-week lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby regions.

“Though we stand to lose P12 billion per day, I support the shift from GCQ

to MECQ for NCR and others, given the recent spikes in new COVID cases. Our

medical frontliners are in the best position to assess whether our health

care system still has the capacity to care for our increasing number of

COVID patients,” Quimbo stressed in a statement.

“When one’s family is safe, the community is safe and the nation is safe,

then our economy can move forward and each worker can begin to earn a living

again,” she said.

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE

 

 

IMELDA MARCOS BIOPIC 'THE KINGMAKER' NOW STREAMING FOR FREE

 

MANILA — Award-winning documentary "The Kingmaker" now streams for free on

the Filipino streaming app iWant.

In this documentary, Emmy Award-winning director Lauren Greenfield examines

the controversial history of Filipino politician Imelda Marcos and her

family.

After touring international festivals and gaining critical acclaim, “The

Kingmaker,” an illuminating examination of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’

life and legacy, arrived in the Philippines exclusively on iWant last May

15.

With contrasting accounts from Imelda, her family’s political rivals, and

Martial Law survivors, it offers a gripping look at the rise and fall of the

Marcoses, Imelda’s efforts to reestablish her family’s political power, and

the Marcos regime’s enduring influence on Philippine society.

Follow the link iwant.ph to watch this iWant Exclusive, or download the

iWant app on Google Play or App Store.

 

 

SPORTS

 

 

NBA: ROBINSON, ADEBAYO STEER HEAT PAST CELTICS

 

Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson came up big, and the Miami Heat claimed a

crucial 112-106 triumph over the Boston Celtics in the NBA restart on

Tuesday at the Walt Disney World Complex in Orlando (Wednesday in Manila).

The Heat were playing in the second game of a back-to-back and were without

star guard Jimmy Butler, but still had enough to overcome the Celtics. The

victory kept Miami in the hunt for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Robinson made five of his 11 three-pointers for 21 points, while Adebayo had

21 points and 12 rebounds. Goran Dragic came off the bench to score 20

points.

Robinson's first three-pointer of the game at the 9:11 mark of the first

quarter gave Miami the lead for good. They were up by as much 16 points in

the game.

The Celtics were within four points, 102-98, with still under five minutes

to go off a dunk by Daniel Theis, but Robinson responded with back-to-back

three-pointers to make it a 10-point game, 108-98, with 1:43 to go.

Triples by Kemba Walker gave the Celtics some hope, but Andre Iguodala and

Robinson made their free throws down the stretch to ice the game for Miami.

Jayson Tatum had 23 points and seven rebounds, while Jaylen Brown had 18

points and 10 boards for the Celtics. Walker finished with 15 points.

 

 

NBA: PACERS STILL PERFECT IN BUBBLE AFTER BEATING MAGIC

 

TJ Warren continued his strong play, and the Indiana Pacers remained

undefeated in the NBA restart after a 120-109 victory over the Orlando Magic

on Tuesday at the Walt Disney World complex (Wednesday in Manila).

Warren made 13 of 17 shots to finish with 32 points, and five other Pacers

also reached double-digits in the comfortable victory.

Indiana scored the first 10 points of the game and led 43-22 after the

opening frame. They would go up by as much as 26 points i the wire-to-wire

victory.

The Pacers are now 3-0 in the bubble, while handing the Magic their first

loss.

Indiana shot 54.8% from the field.

Nikola Vucevic had a team-high 24 points on top of 10 rebounds for the

Magic, while Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross each scored 20 points.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

FOREX $1 = P 49.09

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

Becoming a slave to our passions leaves us no freedom of choice. - Jeffrey

Fry

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