World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
11 Dec 2020

MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL FILED

 

MANILA — Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has pushed for the passage of

his bill that seeks to legalize the local production and export of medical

marijuana, but the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) opposed the measure.

The DDB opposed the proposal to legalize the production and export of

marijuana and instead urged lawmakers to pass a law that would strengthen

government’s rehabilitation programs for drug dependents.

Villafuerte urged the committee on health to deliberate and approve House

Bill No. 3961, which seeks to expand the use of medical cannabis “to make it

a lot more accessible and cheaper for Filipinos in need of this

revolutionary medicine.”

The United Nations Commission on Narcotics Drugs (UN-CND) voted last week to

remove from its list of most dangerous drugs cannabidiol (CBD), a

non-addictive and non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

Villafuerte, vice chair of public accounts committee, said this development

is game-changing and has bolstered the international recognition and

commercial marketing of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of CBD.

“Considering the UN-CND vote last week to remove cannabis from the list of

the dangerous category of narcotic drugs—where it used to be listed

alongside heroin and other addictive opioids—it’s about time for the House

health panel to submit HB 3961 to a committee vote so lawmakers could

finally take action on this proposal,” the ranking lawmaker stressed.

Villafuerte gave assurance that his bill does not run counter to the Duterte

administration’s policy against illegal drugs.

“CBD is the medicinal strain of the cannabis plant that is neither addictive

nor producing the so-called buzz or ‘high’ for recreational users,” he

argued.

The DDB had already approved last February the use of CBD for people with

epilepsy.

 

 

PALACE VOWS NO GRAFT IN VACCINE PURCHASE

 

MANILA — Health authorities tasked to study potential COVID-19 vaccines

won’t allow any form of bribery, Malacañang said yesterday following reports

that Chinese firm and vaccine frontrunner Sinovac had bribed regulators to

secure approvals.

The Washington Post reported last week that Sinovac – one of the companies

negotiating with the Philippines for the possible supply of COVID-19 vaccine

dosages – has “acknowledged” a bribery case involving its chief executive

officer.

The CEO had claimed that he could not refuse demands for money from a

regulatory official, the report said.

One of the statements cited by the report was a 2016 trial testimony,

wherein Sinovac’s founder had supposedly admitted giving bribes from 2002 to

2011 to an official reviewing vaccines.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte is confident that

the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be able to perform its

functions properly.

“We are consistent in saying that we will only allow the use of vaccines

that are proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19,” Roque said at a

press briefing.

“The President has complete trust in Doctor Domingo so when it comes to

allegations of bribery, I don’t think it will happen in the Philippines,”

Roque added, referring to FDA director-general Eric Domingo.

 

 

DUTERTE TO EXERCISE VETO POWERS IN BUDGET REVIEW

 

MANILA — President Duterte will exercise his powers to review and possibly

veto certain provisions in the P4.506-trillion national budget for next

year, which includes the P72.5-billion fund to be used for COVID-19 vaccine

procurement, storage and distribution, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. also assured the public that the

President would be able to sign the budget program by yearend to avoid a

reenacted budget.

“We will take all steps necessary to ensure this will become a law on time

without the Palace or the President surrendering his authority to review the

budget and to make sure that there would be no items that need to be

vetoed,” Roque said.

“So the President will still exercise his power of review and his power of

line veto,” he added.

As of last night, Roque said the Office of the President had not yet

received the ratified copy of the 2021 budget.

“We are waiting for it, and we want to assure that the Palace will

fast-track its review to determine if there are specific line items that

need to be vetoed. But that will not happen until we get a copy of the

budget. We need to ensure we have a new budget by Jan. 1,” he said.

 

 

PAF RECEIVES 6 NEW HELICOPTERS FROM POLAND

 

MANILA — The Philippine Air Force (PAF) yesterday received six brand new

Black Hawk helicopters purchased from Poland.

This is the first batch of a total 16 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat

utility helicopters that were purchased from Poland-based subsidiary PZL

Mielec.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that 10 more units are expected to

be delivered early next year under a $241-billion contract signed in March

2019.

The aircraft is capable of cargo and personnel transport, disaster relief

operations, troop insertion and extraction, combat search and rescue, and

limited close air support.

 

 

DOLE CASH AID PROGRAM FOR PANDEMIC ENDS

 

MANILA — After today, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) won’t be

accepting any more applications for cash assistance from displaced formal

workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said that DOLE has reached the number of

target beneficiaries for the COVID Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP).

“As of Dec. 8, a total of 1.5 million workers from 36,355 establishments

have applied for CAMP, exceeding by more than 2,000 workers the number of

target beneficiaries of the program,” DOLE said in a statement.

Bello said the DOLE regional offices would still evaluate and process CAMP

applications sent before the deadline.

He said DOLE’s regional offices would continue receiving and processing

applications for financial assistance under CAMP for tourism sector workers.

 

 

CHR OFFERS E-LAWYERING SERVICE

 

MANILA — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has launched an e-lawyering

service to provide virtual legal assistance amid physical restrictions

imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The e-lawyering service, which seeks to expand the assistance provided by

the commission to the marginalized sector, was launched in time for the

annual commemoration of International Human Rights Day yesterday.

The initiative will be implemented in partnership with the Office of Legal

Aid of the University of the Philippines College of Law (UP OLA), the

Governance in Justice Program of the European Union and various civil

society organizations.

CHR commissioner Roberto Cadiz said the e-lawyering service aims to provide

quick legal assistance to immediately address possible violations of human

rights.

“This project seeks to provide a real-time legal assistance to our citizens

whose rights are under threat or being violated either by government or

being abused by private parties,” he said.

“Our services are especially needed by the poor, those who are uneducated,

those who cannot afford to hire lawyers, the vulnerable sector,” he added.

 

 

PHILIPPINES MAY END 2020 WITH 480,000 COVID-19 CASES: OCTA

 

MANILA - The Philippines may end the year with 480,000 cases of COVID-19

infections based on the current trajectory, hitting the lower end of earlier

projections, OCTA research group said Friday.

An earlier monitoring report from the group pegged cases to reach 470,000 to

500,000, but current trends show the lower end is more likely, said Dr.

Guido David.

"Right now, actually, we are projected to reach the lower end of our

projection, which is closer to 470,000. It looks like we’re going to reach

something like 475,000 to 480,000 but that is with the current trajectory,"

he told ANC's Headstart.

"If the situation worsens a little bit, we might get closer to 500,000. But

right now, that is not the case," he said.

David said latest data show that the number of cases is decreasing, with

less than 2,000 new infections reported everyday nationwide and only about

400 in Metro Manila. However, he said there are indicators that "an uptick

might already be starting."

"We don’t have the full details yet because these are just indicators... but

we would know more by next week if the uptick is continuing to grow. In that

case, a surge or at least an uptick might happen in Metro Manila," he said.

 

 

NO CHRISTMAS COVID LOCKDOWN UNLESS CASES SPIKE: DOH

 

The Department of Health on Friday said there will be no adjustment of the

general community quarantine in Metro Manila unless COVID-19 cases spike.

Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

rejected rumors that the government would impose a stricter COVID-19

lockdown before Christmas.

"Hindi mababago. Nasa GCQ pa rin tayo, walang katotohanan 'yung mga balita

na mag-e-ECQ or MECQ ngayong Kapaskuhan. Sabi nga nila December 23 daw,

walang katotohanan iyan," he said.

However, he said a tighter lockdown could still happen if there is a boom in

COVID-19 cases. "Unless na may biglang sipa ng kaso, mag rerekomenda ulit

ang [Inter-Agency Task Force] sa Pangulo," he said.

The government warned against a hoax that another lockdown will be imposed

from Dec. 23 this year to Jan. 3 next year.

Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine until Dec. 31, where

not all businesses are allowed to operate at full capacity.

 

 

PH HOSPITALS TOLD: PREPARE FOR PATIENTS WITH COVID-19 VACCINE ALLERGIES

 

MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday said hospitals

should be ready to provide medicines to patients who would show allergic

reactions after taking COVID-19 vaccines.

Duque said allergic reactions or what they call the adverse effect following

immunization (AEFI) should be documented.

“Dapat paghandaan din kung magkaroon ng ganun, kailangang handa ang mga

ospital na makapagbigay ng mga gamot katulad ng epinephrine o adrenaline,”

Duque said in an interview on TeleRadyo.

Health officials in the United Kingdom issued a warning on Wednesday that

anyone with history of allergic reactions should not have the

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID shot for the time being after two people showed severe

allergic reactions to the vaccine.

“Sinasabi nga nila sa advisory nila kung meron kang tukoy na allergy, ke sa

gamot, ke sa pagkain, sa ibang bagay, wag ka na lang munang magpaturok kasi

nga posibleng magkaroon ng malubhang allergy, mauwi sa anaphylactic shock na

pwedeng magkaproblema,” he said.

The COVID-19 vaccine may become available to the Philippines in the first or

second quarter of next year, he said.

 

 

THE REST

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COVID-19 CASES IN PH TOP 445,000 AS COUNTRY LOGS 1,383 NEW INFECTIONS

 

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported 1,383 new

COVID-19 cases or a total of 445,540 confirmed cases in the Philippines.

Additional cases have remained below 2,000 for each of the last 11 days, and

below 1,500 for the last 3 days. Thursday’s tally, though, does not include

the results of 9 testing laboratories that failed to submit on time.

Leading among areas with the most number of new cases are Quezon City with

83, Laguna with 75, Manila City with 68, Bulacan with 65, and Davao City

with 61.

The Philippines also logged 133 additional recovered patients, bringing the

total number of recoveries to 409,058.

There were also 24 additional COVID-related deaths or a total of 8,701

fatalities.

 

 

QUEZON CITY WAIVES PENALTIES, EXTENDS TAX DEADLINE

 

QUEZON CITY — Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte has approved two measures

waiving the penalties and extending the deadline for the payment of business

taxes from Jan. 20 to April 20 next year.

“We recognize the financial difficulties that most of us are experiencing

now, especially entrepreneurs who were forced to close shop or suspend

operations. This way, we hope to ease their burden and to help them

recover,” Belmonte said.

“We will continue to look for ways to ease the impact of the pandemic on

local economy and to ensure uninterrupted business continuity,” she added.

Ordinance 2981 provides for a three-month extension for the payment of

business taxes, fees and charges originally set on Jan. 20.

 

 

BULACAN MAYORS WANT CASH LANES BACK ON NLEX AS RFID MESS GETS FIXED

 

MANILA — Bulacan mayors on Thursday backed Valenzuela City Mayor Rex

Gatchalian’s decision to suspend North Luzon Expressway’s (NLEX) business

permit and proposed the temporary return of cash lanes on toll plazas while

toll operators sort out issues with the RFID system for cashless toll

collection.

In a statement, the League of Municipalities of Bulacan aired their

frustration over the RFID system rollout, which they said cause heavy

traffic even in their areas.

The said system was intended to implement a cashless toll collection in the

tollway, as its operators complied with government measures to curb the

coronavirus spread and to promote ease of passage.

“Kaming mga halal na Punong Bayan ng iba't ibang munisipalidad sa lalawigan

ng Bulacan ay… hinihiling na maglagay muna ng ‘cash lane’ upang maiwasan ang

pagsisikip ng daloy ng trapiko sa mga toll plazas na labis na nakaapekto sa

mga motorist at biyahero,” the statement from the mayors read.

Bulacan is among provinces where the NLEX cuts through.

 

 

PRICIER NOCHE BUENA LOOMS DUE TO TRUCK BAN, LAST MINUTE SHOPPING

 

MANILA - Last minute shopping and the return of the Metro Manila truck ban

could lead to pricier Noche Buena items before Christmas, a local

supermarkets association said Friday.

Steven Cua, president of Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association,

told Teleradyo the truck ban starting Dec. 14 may prompt suppliers to

increase prices of basic and prime commodities due to limited windows for

deliveries.

This will also in effect hike retail prices in supermarkets, he added.

Continuing relief efforts to areas affected by the typhoons are also

contributing to lower supply of goods, Cua noted.

Sending Christmas gifts is also slower as meet ups are limited, with more

people opting for "virtual gifts" for their inaanak and loved ones.

Despite price increases, consumers are still seen to flock supermarkets "3

to 4 days before Christmas" to purchase food items for Noche Buena feast,

Cua said.

He advised the public to buy at the earliest time possible to avoid higher

prices, shortages in items, and the spread of coronavirus.

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF LUIS MANZANO, JESSY MENDIOLA STIRS WEDDING RUMORS

 

MANILA -- Fans of celebrity couple Luis Manzano and Jessy Mendiola are

wondering if their idols are finally getting married after the two stars

posted the same clip on their Instagram accounts showing "12-12-12" written

in the sand.

In the caption of his post, Manzano simply wrote: "#TheHowhows."

For her part, Mendiola wrote: "This Saturday."

In the comment section of her post, Manzano's mother, veteran

actress-politician Vilma Santos, left thumbs-up, folded hands and heart

emojis.

Just last month, Mendiola's post showing a diamond ring triggered

speculations that they are finally engaged.

Others speculated that the ring is simply Mendiola’s latest accessory,

noting she has in the past posted photos of diamond rings, sans any personal

milestone.

Manzano, 39, has been open about wanting to settle down with Mendiola. As

early as 2017, the actor-host said he was in fact “ready,” but noted that

Mendiola, now 28, was still early in her career and still had goals as a

single woman.

"Para sa akin, I completely understand the fact that she still has so much

responsibilities for herself, for her family, and I will never take that

away from her. I respect her timetable the same way she respects my

timetable... But when she’s ready, I’m definitely right by her side,” he

said at the time.

 

 

SPORTS

 

 

NBA: LAKERS' LEBRON JAMES IS TIME'S 2020 ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

 

LOS ANGELES - LeBron James, who won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers

and formed a coaltion to battle voter suppression, was Thursday named Time

magazine's 2020 Athlete of the Year.

The honor from Time comes days after James was named among Sport

Illustrated's Sportspersons of the Year -- a list that also featured

activist athletes after 2020 saw the Black Lives Matter movement sweep

through sport along with the rest of US society.

Time lauded James's More than a Vote, a non-profit organization aimed not at

endorsing candidates but at encouraging Black citizens and others to

exercise their right to vote.

Time noted that the group promoted the use of sports arenas as polling

places -- offering larger spaces that would allow for social distancing

during the coronavirus pandemic -- and helped recruit more than 40,000

election workers nationwide.

"At every step, James supported the work by recruiting fellow athletes to

the cause, promoting More Than a Vote to his more than 48 million followers

on Twitter and turning himself into a billboard by wearing a Vote or Die!

shirt to a practice," Time wrote.

"It was the highest-profile example of the surge in activism that spread

across the sports world in 2020."

Recalling the famous reluctance of NBA icon Michael Jordan to speak out on

politics and social issues, Time said that James had "established a new

paradigm, in which commercial clout exists alongside political principle.

"He remains one of the world's top pitchmen, endorsing Nike, AT&T, Walmart

and other major brands. And he has laid waste to the dated notion that

political and social engagement is some sort of distraction for athletes."

The magazine noted that on the way to his fourth NBA title, James led the

league in assists for the first time in his career, and his simultaneous

success on and off the court shows that athletes "can now bring their full

humanity to their games".

"James has been incredibly successful both on the court and in the business

world in 2020, but the biggest reason he has received as much recognition as

he has is that he's used those successes to look out for people who once

struggled in life as he did," Time said.

 

 

PHILIPPINES GETS GREEN LIGHT TO HOST 3RD WINDOW OF FIBA ASIA CUP QUALIFIERS

 

MANILA — The Philippines will play host to two groups of teams in the third

window of the FIBA 2021 Asia Cup Qualifiers, the federation announced

Thursday.

Along with fellow host nations Bahrain, Qatar, and Japan, the Philippines

was named to the official list of hosts for the next window set in February

2021.

The location approved for the bubble is Clark, Pampanga, where the PBA

recently ended its bubble season.

Clark will serve as hosts for both Group A, and Group C come the February

window.

Group A is composed of the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, Group C includes Australia, New Zealand, Guam and Hong Kong.

Other host cities are Tokyo, Japan, Manama, Bahrain, and Doha, Qatar.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas had been long offering to become hosts

for a window in the Asia Cup qualifiers amid the novel coronavirus

(COVID-19) pandemic.

The Philippines is currently ranked first in Group A with a 3-0 win-loss

record.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

FOREX $1 = P 48.06

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. - Bruce

Lee

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