World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
17 Dec 2020

ASEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS URGE DUTERTE ADMIN TO 'END RED-TAGGING' OPPOSITION

LAWMAKERS

 

MANILA - Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia on Thursday called on

President Rodrigo Duterte to end the dangerous campaign of red-tagging

opposition lawmakers which is allegedly an attempt to silence his critics.

“Red-tagging has had extremely violent consequences in the Philippines, and

the fact we are seeing President Duterte leading the way on such a menacing

practice is utterly inexcusable,” Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of

Parliament (MP), and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

said in a statement.

Santiago said red-tagging not only attempts to silence political opposition

and undermine democracy but it “also directly put people’s lives at risk,

particularly those who oppose his agenda.”

Duterte has been accusing progressive groups in Congress of being alleged

legal fronts of the communist insurgency movement.

Constitutional expert Antonio Laviña, a former Ateneo School of Government

dean, urged senators to criminalize red-tagging. But Durterte allegedly just

laughed at the proposal, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

“How can lawmakers be expected to fulfil their role as a check on the

executive when they themselves are being attacked? We urgently call on

President Duterte and the Philippine government to stop labelling

directly-elected representatives as terrorists, and allow opposition

lawmakers to effectively fulfil their mandates and freely express their

opinions,” Santiago said.

 

 

PFIZER DEAL JUST DELAYED; DUQUE DROPPED THE BALL?

 

MANILA — The Philippines’ deal with drug manufacturer Pfizer for the

procurement of coronavirus vaccines is still “in progress,” Philippine

Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said yesterday.

Romualdez made the clarification after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro

Locsin Jr. said on Tuesday that the Philippines was assured of getting 10

million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer by January until “somebody

dropped the ball.”

Romualdez said in an interview with CNN Philippines that the January 2021

delivery date of the vaccines was pushed back to June because other nations

finalized deals earlier and the Philippines “did not act quick enough on the

Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA)” for the procurement.

“Only pushed back to later date of delivery possibly June next year… Other

countries got ahead of us like Singapore,” Romualdez said.

He noted that the deal with US drug manufacturer Moderna for the supply of

COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines is also “in progress.”

“We are ‘work in progress’ with Pfizer and Moderna for supply of vaccines.

If we commit soon we can possibly get delivery by mid next year,” he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that there was no “dropping of

ball” on the negotiation to procure some 10 million doses of COVID-19

vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech.

“There is no such thing as dropping of the ball because the negotiations are

ongoing. It has been continuing,” he told a press briefing.

 

 

DUTERTE RIPS ‘INCOMPETENT’ TOLL REGULATOR OVER RFID MESS, WARNS OF FIRINGS

 

Tugade: NLEX should bear cost of RFID system failure

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday blasted the government regulator

tasked with overseeing toll operations for its role in the alleged faulty

RFID system that jammed traffic in Valenzuela City and neighboring areas.

Duterte said during a briefing that aired late night that the Toll

Regulatory Board should have at least assessed the efficiency of the RFID

system before allowing the North Luzon Expressway Corp. to put it in place.

"Mayroon tayong regulator. That's the purpose of having a regulatory board

'yung toll. Ang problema ang regulator is another set of incompetent people,

they should not have allowed a system right now to put into use without a

trial for about 1 week and anticipate what could be the problem," Duterte

said, adding that dismissals at the toll board were possible.

“If you cannot perform what is expected of you, then the best that you can

do for decency sake, resign, and do not wait to be fired because masakit

iyan, mapahiya ka.”

The President said government has taken the brunt of the blame over the

inconvenience caused by the faulty RFID.

"'Yung failure n'yo would reflect on us," he said. "Kami ang nagpu---- ina

kasi alam naming may system but it was not tried."

"If there's an innovation, you try to do it. Mag-dry run ka ng isang linggo,

madaling araw na walang traffic at tignan ninyo . . . And on the day of the

implementation, anak ka ng . . . Saan ka nakakita na doon pa ilagay ang

sticker while the traffic cueing is almost also exponential, hanggang puwet

na, dumating na sa Maynila?" Duterte added.

Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade said he would order NLEX to remove the

toll barriers if indeed its RFID sensors were functional.

 

 

GROUPS WARY OF BACK-TO-SCHOOL 'EXPERIMENT' IN JANUARY

 

MANILA - Two groups on Thursday expressed concern over holding limited

face-to-face classes in January in areas deemed low risk for COVID-19 as the

virus continues to rage across the country.

Speaking to Teleradyo, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) deputy

secretary-general Alex Legaspi said reopening select schools without careful

planning could spell disaster.

"'Di ko alam kung saan sila kumukuha ng kanilang ideya na ginigiit na naman

nila itong isang plano't sistema na hindi pumasok sa consultation, lalo na

hindi tinanong ang mga stakeholders tungkol dito," he said.

Legaspi added, "Isusubo na naman ba natin ang mga estudyante sa isang

experiment na hindi natin alam ang kahihinatnan? Siguradong delubyo na naman

ito."

While the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) is supportive

of holding select classroom teaching as it is crucial in the learning

process of students, the group urged the government to ensure the safety of

students and teachers.

"Ayaw din naman natin na ma-compromise 'yong kalusugan nila nang biglang

magkaroon ng pilot testing at wala pang malinaw na national guidelines,"

NUSP president Jandeil Roperos said.

For authorities to determine an area is low risk for COVID-19 spread,

Roperos said there should be a mass testing and intensive contact tracing.

Local officials must also provide safe transportation for students and

teachers, and install health personnel in schools in cases of emergency, she

added.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the

Department of Education (DepEd) of conducting a dry run of in-person classes

in select schools in January.

 

 

DUQUE AMID QUESTIONS ON CHINA COVID-19 VACCINE: TRUST SCREENING PROCESS

 

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said China’s COVID-19

vaccine would undergo a strict screening process in the country like other

vaccine candidates, quelling the public’s fear regarding its efficacy and

safety.

In a press briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the public

should trust the screening process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

“Mayroon tayong nakatakdang proseso, at dapat sundin 'yan, respetuhin ang

DOST, ang kanilang vaccine panel, sila po ang sumusuri ng lahat ng

scientific evidence para patunayan na itong mga bakuna ay ligtas, may

dekalidad at epektibo, at kaya na implement, ipatupad,” Duque said when

asked about his thoughts on Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. earlier said the country is

eyeing to secure 25 million doses of the said vaccine for next year, as it

finalizes negotiations with the firm.

But the legitimacy of Sinovac products was recently questioned after the

Washington Post reported that the company's chief executive officer admitted

to bribery.

Duque, meanwhile, said after DOST’s evaluation, the vaccine would need

approval from the Single Joint Research Ethics Board and the Food and Drug

Administration.

 

 

HOSPITALS URGED TO ALLOT MORE BEDS, VENTILATORS FOR POSSIBLE SURGE IN COVID

CASES DURING HOLIDAYS

 

MANILA--The Department of Health on Wednesday directed hospitals and

treatment facilities to set up more beds and mechanical ventilators, as the

Philippines braces for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases during and after

the holidays.

"Hihingin natin ang commitment ng mga ospital, lalo na ang pribadong

ospital, na maglaan po ng sapat na bilang ng kama at mechanical ventilators

para po mapaghandaan natin ang sapat ng posibleng surge in the COVID

caseload," Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said in a public briefing aired

late Wednesday night.

Duque also urged local government units to allot more isolation beds at

their temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs) to quarantine

suspect COVID-19 patients and their close contacts.

COVID-19 testing laboratories will continue to operate during the holidays,

the health chief added, saying that as of Dec. 12, around 6.2 million

Filipinos have been tested for the deadly disease.

Duque noted the the country's cumulative positivity rate is at 8.7 percent,

which was 8.8 percent on Dec. 7, and its test positivity rate stands at 5

percent.

"This is the benchmark that the WHO (World Health Organization) has

prescribed. Nakasunod na po tayo doon," he said.

 

 

MORE THAN 200 LAW DEANS, PROFS: JUNK IMPEACH BID VS LEONEN FOR 'UTTER LACK

OF MERIT'

 

MANILA — More than 200 professors and deans of law from across the country

joined the mounting calls for the dismissal of the impeachment rap against

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

In a statement of support with 215 signatories, the law professors said that

the impeachment complaint “with its unsubstantiated and groundless

allegations, should be dismissed for utter lack of merit.”

They added that the ouster rap against Leonen is “palpable assault on

judicial independence in the attempt to remove an Associate Justice for

standing as an obstacle to the ambitions of a privileged few.”

The law professors stressed: “Mere disagreements or objections with the

judicial opinions of a magistrate do not rise to the level of an impeachable

offense, much less malicious and baseless insinuations that cast aspersions

as to his competence, probity, integrity and independence.”

Edwin Cordevilla of “Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government” filed

the impeachment complaint. He was assisted by controversial lawyer and known

Marcos loyalist Larry Gadon who previously asked the SC for Leonen’s wealth

declaration documents for another ouster rap, through quo warranto, but

failed.

The complaint was endorsed by Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba (Ilocos Norte),

cousin of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who sought to remove

Leonen from the proceedings of his vice presidential poll protest, but also

failed.

Gadon and Marcos both denied the latter’s hand in the ouster moves.

 

 

SMC MAKES A BID FOR NAIA

 

MANILA — Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) could end up operating and

maintaining the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after government

talks with a super consortium of conglomerates bogged down and Megawide

Construction Corp. lost its upper hand.

“I heard they did,” a ranking official from the Department of Transportation

(DOTr) told The STAR when asked if SMC has submitted an operations and

maintenance (O&M) proposal for the NAIA, the country’s main international

gateway.

The official said the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which

manages NAIA, would have more information on the proposal.

Officials from MIAA and SMC, however, did not respond to The STAR’s requests

for comment yesterday.

The DOTr official said there is no published or written policy preventing

one group or one company to be involved in airports that are in close

proximity or in the same region as each other.

SMC is also undertaking the massive P740-billion Manila International

Airport project in Bulacan, construction of which is expected to commence by

the first quarter of next year.

 

 

THE REST

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COVID-19 CASES IN PHILIPPINES RISE TO 452,988

 

The country now has nearly 453,000 confirmed coronavirus cases after the

Department of Health reported 1,156 new infections Wednesday.

The additional cases brought the nation’s caseload to 452,988, of which

1,156 or 5.5% were considered active.

Lawmakers have allocated P72.5 billion in funding as the government plans to

inoculate 24 million against the novel coronavirus in 2021. But as the

picture on the health crisis continues to unfold, concerns grow that the

Philippines may be lagging behind in securing supplies.

A global tracker has estimated that 9.6 billion doses have already been

reserved — 3.9 billion of which will go to high-income countries even with

the vaccine still not out in the market.

 

 

MANILA HAILED AS MOST COMPETITIVE CITY

 

MANILA — Manila bagged the first spot for the Overall Competitiveness Award

for Highly Urbanized Cities during the National Competitiveness Council

(NCC)’s 8th regional summit yesterday.

Manila was awarded the most competitive highly urbanized city based on the

2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index.

The city also received awards in government efficiency, infrastructure

competitiveness, economic dynamism and resiliency.

The award was based on programs being implemented by the city government,

which were compiled by the NCC.

The economic dynamism category was scored based on the cost of doing

business, cost of living, financial deepening, increase in employment, local

economy growth, economy size, presence of business and professional

organization, productivity, safety compliant business and local economy

structure.

Government efficiency, on the other hand, was based on the data on

compliance to business permits and licensing system standards, business

registration efficiency, capacity of health services, compliance with the

national government’s directives, capacity of school services, recognition

of performance, peace and order, presence of investment promotion unit,

capacity to generate local resource and social protection.

In scoring the infrastructure category, the NCC considered the factors of

availability of basic utilities, accommodation capacity, financial

technology capacity, distance to ports, education, health, information

technology capacity, LGU investment, road network and transportation

vehicles.

 

 

PRIMEX SAYS INKS DEAL TO DEVELOP SECOND PULLMAN MANILA HOTEL IN METRO MANILA

 

MANILA - Real estate firm Primex Corp. announced Thursday it will sign a

deal with global hotels brand Accor to develop a second 200-room Pullman

Manila hotel within the gated community of Greenhills.

Expected to be completed by 2023, Primex said the 5-star Pullman hotel will

sit on the topmost 10 floors of a 50-story Primex Tower, which will also

house office and commercial spaces on lower floors.

Andrew Langdon, senior vice president for development of Accor Southeast

Asia, said both Accor and Primex are confident of a tourism rebound in the

Philippines, seeing the country as a key growth destination in Asia.

"This is a great market which will continue to thrive in the long-term due

to its great potential driven by economic development, natural attractions,

the people’s warm hospitality, and the ongoing improvement of transport

infrastructure," Langdon said.

This is the second Pullman hotel in Manila. Its first is in the Makati

central business district.

To be developed by its subsidiary Primex Realty Corp, Primex said the

premium hotel will have two restaurants, a lobby lounge, rooftop bar,

fitness center, swimming pool, ballrooms and private meeting rooms, a

business center, as well as a scenic view of the Metro Manila skyline.

"We strongly believe Pullman Manila is the perfect fit for this landmark

development as it allows visitors to stay connected and engaged with a range

of pioneering amenities that is perfect for both work and play," Karlvin L.

Ang, executive vice president and director of Primex, said.

Primex said Accor operates seven hotels in Manila at present and aims to

expand aggressively in the Philippines with 16 more hotels in the pipeline,

scheduled to open across the country in the next five years.

The Department of Tourism continues to be "optimistic" of the hotel

industry, earlier saying that there will be a boom on staycations amid the

pandemic.

 

 

MORE COPS TEST POSITIVE FOR DRUG USE

 

MANILA — The number of police officers who tested positive for illegal drugs

increased by 42.85 percent this year.

Fifty police officers were found to have used illegal drugs this year

compared to 35 in 2019, Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service

(PNP–IAS) records show.

A total of 461 police officers and 10 non-uniformed personnel have been

found hooked on illegal drugs since July 2016.

The IAS has resolved 459 of the cases. Five died while in service while 12

are either pending or forwarded to the PNP Directorate for Investigation and

Detective Management.

IAS inspector general Alfegar Triambulo expressed concern over the increase

in the number of drug users in the police force.

“Tumaas imbes na bumaba kaya very alarming,” Triambulo said in a phone

interview.

PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas has intensified random drug testing to weed out

drug users among their ranks.

Police officers caught using drugs face dismissal from the service.

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE

 

 

BRIDE-TO-BE ALEX GONZAGA IS A STUNNER IN WEDDING GOWN

 

MANILA — Ahead of her actual wedding, bride-to-be Alex Gonzaga on Wednesday

shared a glimpse of what she might look like on the big day, as she was

introduced as the muse of a bridal fashion designer.

“This is pure elegance,” Gonzaga said in her Instagram post showing her in

one of the creations of Joe San Antonio for his La Grace line.

In his own post, San Antonio described Gonzaga as the “purest embodiment” of

his collection, noting that “grace” can mean both elegance and goodwill.

Gonzaga, 32, got engaged to her boyfriend of four years, Mikee Morada, in

January 2020.

While they have yet to reveal a date for their nuptials, the couple appears

to be on track to settling down soon, as they shared early this month that

the construction of their dream house has begun.

 

 

SPORTS

 

 

NBA SCORES DEC 15

 

    1    2    3    4    T

Celtics 0-1    19    25    28    27    99

76ers 1-0    29    21    32    26    108

SCORING LEADERS

    S. Milton PHI

19 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST

 

 

    1    2    3    4    T

Spurs 0-2    31    24    17    26    98

Rockets 2-1    25    31    21    35    112

SCORING LEADERS

    L. Walker IV SA

17 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST

    B. McLemore HOU

15 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST

 

 

    1    2    3    4    T

Warriors 1-1    27    20    34    32    113

Kings 2-1    25    37    26    26    114

SCORING LEADERS

    S. Curry GS

29 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST

    K. Guy SAC

20 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST

 

 

INDICATORS

 

FOREX $1 = P 48.06

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to

grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts

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