World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
20 Nov 2020

DUTERTE TO JOIN TRUMP, XI, PUTIN IN VIRTUAL APEC

 

MANILA — President Duterte joins other world leaders including United States

President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President

Vladimir Putin in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) virtual

summit tonight.

The leaders of the 21 APEC nations are expected to tackle the policy

direction for the region in the face of the health and economic crises

spawned by the coronavirus pandemic. Malaysia is this year’s summit host.

APEC economies also include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong,

Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New

Guinea, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

Duterte will engage world leaders through digital teleconference from the

Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang.

It will be Trump’s last time to represent the US in the APEC summit. He lost

his reelection bid to former vice president Joe Biden.

The APEC leaders shall start their digital teleconference at 8 p.m. tonight

after which three more sessions will be held followed by a virtual family

photo session.

World leaders usually don their national costume during group photo

sessions. With the prevailing pandemic, APEC organizers decided to forgo

tradition in deference to global protocol on physical distancing. It’s not

clear how the virtual group photo would be done.

 

 

BANGKO SENTRAL MAKES SURPRISE RATE CUT AS ECONOMIC SLUMP CONTINUES

 

MANILA – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas made a surprise 25 basis points

policy rate cut on Thursday, bringing the overnight reverse repurchase

facility to a new historic low of 2 percent.

This is the central bank's fifth rate cut this year as it saw the need for

further easing to shore up the economy amid the series of typhoons and a

resurgence in global coronavirus cases.

The interest rates on overnight deposit and lending facilities were also

slashed to 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. The new rates are

effective on Friday.

The rate cut was unexpected as the BSP earlier said that it was in no rush

to further reduce borrowing costs despite the economic slump caused by the

COVID-19 pandemic.

"There remains a critical need for continuing policy support measures to

bolster economic activity and boost market confidence," the BSP said in a

statement.

   

 

DUTERTE PLACES HOMETOWN DAVAO CITY UNDER GCQ AS COVID-19 INFECTIONS RISE

 

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has placed his hometown Davao City back

under General Community Quarantine due to a spike in COVID-19 infections in

the city, his spokesman said Friday.

The southern city will revert to GCQ, the third strictest in a 4-level

lockdown scheme, "effective immediately" until Nov. 30, said Duterte's

spokesman Harry Roque.

Only select businesses are allowed to operate at full capacity in GCQ areas.

The President assigned Melquiades Feliciano, Deputy Chief Implementer of the

National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 for the Cities and Bacolod and

Cebu, to head the contact-tracing teams that would be deployed to the city,

Roque said.

A One Hospital Command Center will likewise be established there to ensure

an efficient referral system as private hospitals are mandated to increase

their ward bed occupancy by at least 20 to 30 percent, he said in a

statement.

The government will address the shortage of nurses in health facilities and

to provide additional high-oxygen cannulae, drugs for treating COVID-19, and

medical equipment, Roque added.

Accommodation establishments will be tapped to serve as quarantine

facilities for health workers and patients with COVID-19, he said.

 

 

AS PHILIPPINES EYES VACCINE PROCUREMENT, GOV'T TO FINALIZE WHO GETS IT FIRST

 

MANILA - The Philippines is prioritizing certain sectors to receive the

initial batch of free COVID-19 vaccines as it targets to expand the vaccine

coverage to about half of the country's population, the Department of Health

said Friday.

The DOH now hopes to vaccinate some 50 to 60 percent of the population from

the original plan of 20 percent. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario

Vergeire said the government plans to prioritize certain sectors before

reaching the whole expanded coverage.

"We are still working on that. The President has given the priorities as

discussed with the Secretary of Health and our vaccine czar. We are going to

finalize our prioritization over the weekend," she told ANC's Headstart.

"We will be prioritizing specific populations first and then we can be able

to roll it out and hopefully we can achieve this 60 percent of the

population," she said.

As herd immunity may only be possible with about 50 to 60 percent of the

population vaccinated, Vergeire said the public must continue observing

minimum health standards to stem the transmission of the virus.

The department will also ensure transparency in its COVID-19 vaccination

program as lawmakers seek additional funding for it, she said.

Vergeire said the increase in budget allocation to procure the vaccines will

depend on which vaccine is chosen.

"We are in a pandemic and everybody’s lives are at stake. Government is

trying to ensure that whatever money we put in this basket for the vaccine

and whatever response we have for COVID-19 will be used diligently, will be

used appropriately and that corruption will not be there," she said when

asked about the unprogrammed budget.

 

 

"THEY'RE OUTSPOKEN AND RIGHTFULLY SO': ROBREDO DEFENDS DAUGHTERS AFTER ROQUE

FUMES OVER TWEETS

 

MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday came to the defense of her

daughters after Presidential spokesman Harry Roque criticized their tweets

that allegedly pertained to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Roque earlier was asked to explain Duterte's claim that Robredo did nothing

to address the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses' onslaught in the country and

propagated the viral hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo, which literally means "Where

is the President".

But Roque did not directly answer the issue and alleged that Robredo's

overnight tweets giving updates on rescue operations in Cagayan Valley,

which was besieged by raging floods caused by Ulysses and the northeastern

monsoon, implied the Vice President alone acted to help the typhoon-hit

residents.

"Mali naman iyong impresyon na ibinigay natin na kung hindi dahil kay Vice

President, baka hindi gumalaw itong mga ito—Hindi po," he told reporters.

Roque then pointed out Robredo's daughter Tricia tweeting, "Tulog pa rin?

Alas otso na" (Still asleep? It's already 8 a.m.) and that her sister Aika

replied "Sabado eh. Weekend" (It's Saturday, a weekend).

The tweets did not name anybody, but Roque also claimed that it pertained to

Duterte.

Robredo said in a Facebook post Thursday that she has always been proud of

her daughters, their hard work and accomplishments.

"They never used our name or whatever little influence we have to get what

they want. They’re all adults now," she said.

"They’re not in government. They are not politicians and they don’t plan to

be. Totoo, they’re outspoken and rightfully so. We have trained them to

stand up for themselves and what they believe in," Robredo emphasized.

 

 

UP DILIMAN PUSHES BACK VS RED-TAGGING, VOWS TO UPHOLD CRITICAL THINKING,

ACADEMIC FREEDOM

 

MANILA — University of the Philippines Diliman has pushed back against

red-tagging and false accusations of recruiting communities, as it vowed to

continue upholding its “time-honored traditions of academic freedom and

critical thinking.”

UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said Friday that the threat to defund UP

was borne of a “misunderstanding” that the university does nothing but

recruit communists.

“Those who blame UP for breeding communists forget that UP has bred more

scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers, diplomats and civil servants,” he

added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to pull funds for the university in

relation to Ateneo de Manila students holding a strike to hold the

government accountable for its disaster response.

Nemenzo asserted that what crticis brand as subversive “comes from

discontent at the way things are, a desire for change.”

He explained that UP exposes its students to different perspectives and

allows them to learn to think on their own and critically. “In keeping with

its tradition of academic freedom, UP is a safe haven for civilized and

intelligent discourse,” Nemenzo also said.

But the UP Diliman chancellor stressed that the university has “no place for

intolerance, bigotry and red-tagging,” that last of which he stressed is

dangerous as it focused on labels over substance.

“Academic freedom is essential for the life of the mind and for UP’s dual

role as knowledge producer and social critic. We play the role of social

critic from a position of evidence-based scholarship and moral courage. This

role is a distinct service to the nation,” he also said.

“We will strongly defend the University’s time-honored traditions of

academic freedom and critical thinking. UP’s proud history of service and

activisim has shown that we can do both,” Nemenzo added.

 

 

PRIORITY BILL TO CUT RED TAPE GETS STUCK IN SIGNING PROCESS

 

MANILA — A priority legislation meant to speed up projects got stuck in

Congress for over a month now, lessening the likelihood the measure could

speed up stalled infrastructure outlays critical to a last-minute recovery.

An enrolled copy of the so-called anti-red tape bill was just signed by

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday, his office said. The measure

would go back to the Senate which would transmit it to President Rodrigo

Duterte for enactment. Senate President Vicente Sotto said early in the day

that Velasco was supposed to "sign and transmit" the bill to the Palace.

It took more than a month for the bill to get here despite Congress doing

away with a bicameral conference committee typically convened to marry

conflicting provisions of two versions of the bill. Sotto said the House

agreed to adopt the Senate's output, but it was unclear what delayed sending

the measure to the Palace for Duterte’s signature.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has not responded to request for

comment.

But the measure's importance to the Duterte administration cannot be denied.

Shortly before the upper chamber passed Senate Bill 1844 on October 14,

Duterte himself certified it as urgent, allowing the Lower House

counterpart, House Bill 7884, to breeze through the measure’s second and

third readings 2 days after.

 

 

2020 ENGLISH PROFICIENCY INDEX: PHILIPPINES OUT OF WORLD'S TOP 20 BUT IS

NO.2 IN ASIA

 

MANILA — The Filipino people's English competency in 2020 placed seven spots

lower on a global proficiency index compared to last year.

International company Education First ranked the Philippines 27th in its

2020 English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), with the country garnering a score

of 562 out of 700. For comparison, the highest ranking country, the

Netherlands, garnered a score of 652.

The country's English competency in Asia is ranked second only to Singapore

which garnered a score of 611 and is ranked 10th on the index overall.

From 2016 to 2018, the Philippines managed to remain in the top 15 of the

index, placing 13th, 15th, and 14th, respectively although the number of

countries in the index varied. It included 88 countries in 2018 and 72 in

2016.

In 2019, when the index grew to include a total 100 countries, the

Philippines fell six spots compared to the year previous, but managed to

remain in the Top 20.

Philippines maintains 'high' proficiency

The country's "Proficiency Band," which is based on score rather than rank,

has consistently remained at "high" from 2016 to 2020. The proficiency bands

range from very low proficiency to very high.

According to Education First, those with a high proficiency band can

accomplish the following tasks:

Make a presentation at work

Understand TV shows

Read a newspaper

Education First said it came up with the index by administering its English

Standard Test to over 2.2 million individuals across 100 countries and

regions, 54% of whom were female and 46% of whom were male. The median age

of test takers, the company said, was 26 years old and 94% of them are below

the age of 60.

 

 

THE REST

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PH LOGS 1,337 NEW COVID-19 CASES, TOTAL TOPS 413,000

 

MANILA — The health department Thursday reported 1,337 additional COVID-19

cases, raising the country’s cumulative total to 413,430.

This is the 10th straight day that cases counted fewer than 2,000, although

they do not include data from 11 accredited laboratories that failed to

submit results on time to the COVID-19 Data Repository System.

Davao City led areas in the country that recorded the highest daily tally

with 110, followed by Laguna with 74, Quezon City with 66, province of

Batangas with 54, and Manila City with 53, data from the Department of

Health’s (DOH) latest bulletin showed.

The number of recovered patients increased to 374,939 as the DOH logged 286

more recoveries. The total recoveries account for 90.7 percent of the total

recorded cases.

The department also logged 41 additional deaths, bringing the death toll of

the highly-contagious disease to 7,998.

 

 

GET TESTED FOR COVID-19, EVACUEES URGED

 

MANILA — Navotas residents who were evacuated during Typhoon Ulysses were

asked yesterday to avail themselves of the city government’s free mass

testing for COVID-19.

Mayor Toby Tiangco made the appeal after experts warned of a spike in

COVID-19 cases among the evacuees.

“We are calling on the evacuees to voluntarily undergo swab tests to ensure

that they and their families are safe from the virus,” Tiangco said.

At least 1,797 residents or 448 families were evacuated in Navotas during

the onslaught of Ulysses.

 

 

HOME SECTOR WANTS DELAY ON TRAIN-ERA TAX IN LOW-COST HOUSES

 

MANILA — Housing regulators backed appeals from homebuilders to postpone

levying taxes in low-cost houses next year while the pandemic rages on, a

levy that could end up getting passed to buyers through expensive prices

that the poor may not afford.

“This will surely have a significant impact on the sales of real properties

intended for low-income buyers,” Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said

in a letter to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

“Housing is a key industry in the economy due to its strong linkages to

other industries,” he added.

The letter was sent last July 9 to back up calls from the Subdivision and

Housing Developers Association Inc. (SHDA), an industry group, for the delay

in lowering the threshold in home prices chargeable with 12% value-added tax

(VAT) over the next 3 years. SHDA sent a separate letter last May 16. Copies

of both letters were obtained by Philstar.com.

Both letters appeared to have gone unanswered to date. Dominguez did not

reply to request for comment on Wednesday.

 

 

DELTA TO RESUME MANILA TO SEATTLE, ATLANTA FLIGHTS VIA SEOUL STARTING

JANUARY 2021

 

MANILA - US carrier Delta said on Friday it will resume flights to Seattle

and Atlanta from Manila via Seoul starting January next year.

The flights to Seattle and Atlanta from Manila will be operated via

Seoul-Incheon, Delta’s trans-Pacific hub with its joint venture partner

Korean Air, it said.

The Incheon to Manila service will start on January 2, 2021 every Monday,

Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, while Manila to Incheon flights will begin

on January 3, 2021 every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The Incheon

to Seattle and Atlanta are existing services.

"Since COVID-19 began, Delta has focused on offering customers the safest

and cleanest experience possible. We are confident to welcome and serve our

customers again via our industry-leading trans-Pacific hub in Seoul with our

joint venture partner Korean Air," said Patricia Celis, Delta Country

Manager for the Philippines.

The US airline said the Manila-Incheon route will be operated with its

latest widebody aircraft Airbus A330-900neo, while the Incheon-Atlanta route

continues to be operated with Delta's International flagship aircraft,

Airbus A350-900.

 

 

POPCOM MOVES TO CURB RISE IN TEEN PREGNANCY

 

MANILA — The Commission on Population is moving to stop the rising

prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the country, with 75,000 young women

likely to become first-time mothers next year.

PopCom yesterday launched the Philippine Challenge Initiative (PCI) in a bid

to significantly reduce the growing number of young Filipino mothers. The

population agency has partnered with the Zuellig Family Foundation in

bringing the initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that

provides high impact family planning solutions to the poor.

“The battle begins in many cities and municipal hospitals where adolescents

become first-time mothers, and we encourage mayors to address this

phenomenon with programs for first-time young mothers with services and

support extending beyond hospitals,” PopCom executive director Juan Antonio

Perez III said during the virtual launch.

According to Perez , about 75,000 more girls are likely to add to the

alarmingly high number of teenage pregnancies in the country in 2021 unless

measures are immediately taken.

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE

 

 

‘BREAKUP HAPPENED SO FAST’: DEREK RAMSAY CONFIRMS SPLIT WITH ANDREA TORRES,

SAYS NO 3RD PARTY

 

MANILA — Actor Derek Ramsay on Thursday confirmed his breakup with his

co-star and girlfriend of one year, Andrea Torres, after days of rumors

spurred by the actress un-following him on social media.

Ramsay addressed the speculation in an Instagram comment, as he replied to

one follower who blamed Torres for the separation.

The user noted that Ramsay’s past relationships had mostly been long-term.

His most recent before Torres, with model Joanne Villablanca, lasted six

years, the comment pointed out.

Ramsay answered: “Please don’t point the finger at anyone. There is nothing

wrong with Andrea. She is a great woman.”

“There is no third party!” the actor emphasized.

As recently as September 2020, the former couple appeared to be in good

terms, and in fact agreed in an interview that they were “ready” to get

married. They also have a shared YouTube channel, dubbed “Andrek,” whose

most recent episode was released in October.

“The breakup has happened so fast,” Ramsay said on Thursday. “Maybe two

people are just not meant to be. Please respect us nalang. We shared our

love to all of you. Sana naman we can keep this to ourselves.”

Referring to Torres, he added, “Mahal ko si Ada kaya ‘di ako magsasalita,

pero if I hear lies about her I will defend her.”

As of writing, Torres has yet to issue a statement about the breakup.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not

accumulation of facts. - Albert Einstein

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