World Newsletter

23 January 2020


MANILA — Airlines in the Philippines stepped up defenses against a new
SARS-like virus from China, introducing jet disinfection, protective
equipment and health checks, representatives said Thursday, as authorities
moved to head off a billowing regional health crisis.

The new pathogen Novel Coronavirus has killed 17, stricken more than 500 and
reached other countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the
Cebu Pacific is disinfecting all its jets after every international flight,
including the one that supposedly carried 4 relatives of a Chinese man in
Hong Kong who tested positive for the new coronavirus, said Charo Logarta
Lagamon, spokesperson of the Philippines' largest carrier.
The Chinese man's family and all other passengers of the flight that landed
in Manila on Wednesday did not show any fever or flu symptoms, she said.
"Wala pong konkretong ebidensya, wala pong any sign na mayroon pong
infection," she told radio DZMM.
Cebu Pacific is nonetheless "still reaching out to Hong Kong authorities to
verify information and get additional details" and has advised all
passengers to consult a doctor if they feel sick, she said.
AirAsia Philippines, meanwhile, gave face masks to all its employees, who
would also be briefed on safety procedures on Thursday, said airline
president Ricky Isla.
Cebu Pacific will study whether or not to require its cabin crew to wear
face masks, too, said Lagamon.
Philippine Airlines urges China-bound travelers to wear face masks, drink
lots of water and avoid crowded places to avoid getting sick, said its
spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
The carrier also urges its passengers to cooperate with thermal scans upon
landing at Philippine airports, she said.
Passengers who have fever or flu will be brought to isolation areas for
further checks, said Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines
spokesperson Eric Apolinario.


MANILA — The Philippines is waiting for guidance from the World Health
Organization on possibly restricting travel to and from China to prevent the
spread of a deadly new virus.
The WHO is holding emergency talks about the new coronavirus that has spread
across China and beyond, with 17 people killed and more than 500 infected.
"Mataas iyan sa kanilang usapin: kung magkakaroon ng travel restriction,"
Health Secretary Francisco Duque told radio DZMM.
"Tingin ko, kung may travel restriction, mangunguna dapat siguro ang China
na sila mismo ang pagpipigil sa paglabas ng kanilang mga mamamayan," he
Countries do not usually impose travel restriction unilaterally because it
is "an international decision" that has "many repercussions" on trade and
labor, Health Secretary Eric Domingo earlier said.
Quarantine officers and thermal scanners have been deployed to all ports and
airports in the country to screen passengers for fever and flu symptoms,
said Duque.
China has already halted flights and trains out of Wuhan, the city of 11
million people at the center of a deadly SARS-like virus outbreak, as the UN
extended emergency talks on the disease.


The pace of the country’s economic growth is expected to accelerate to 6.3
percent this year on the back of robust private consumption and an
improvement in public spending, according to ATR Asset Management (ATRAM).
Ivan Ante, global multi-asset portfolio manager at ATRAM, said the country’s
gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to improve to 6.3 percent
this year, although still lower than the government’s 6.5 to 7.5 percent
target range.
“Last year, GDP disappointed because government did not spent. But this
year, we think all the unspent budget last year will be spent this year. At
the same time, the new budget will be also spent,” Ante said during Insular
Life’s forum on the 2020 Economic Outlook yesterday.
“We expect GDP to grow by 6.3 percent this year. Where will it come? From
robust consumption, which is the first pillar of growth. And the second is
the comeback of government expenditure,” he said.
The delay in the passage of the 2019 budget last year pushed back government
disbursements, which put a dent on the country’s GDP growth.
Ante also said ATRAM expects the peso-dollar exchange rate to weaken to a
range of 51.5 to 52 versus $1 this year.
“For policy rates, we think they (BSP) are going to cut again two times or
50 basis points this year. We also think they are going to cut the reserve
requirement ratio by two percentage points. That’s additional liquidity to
the system most importantly for growth,” Ante said.
The economy expanded by six percent in the third quarter of last year, the
same as the six percent recorded in the same quarter of 2018 and higher than
the 5.5 percent in the previous quarter.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier said the
country’s GDP likely expanded between 6.4 and 6.5 percent in the fourth
quarter of 2019, bringing the full-year growth to six percent.


MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law increasing taxes on
alcohol, heated tobacco and vapor products, his spokesman Salvador Panelo
confirmed Thursday.
Duterte in November last year certified the measure as urgent, saying tax
adjustments would "address the urgent need" to fund Universal Health Care.
Malacañang however has yet to release a copy of the new law.
In July last year, the President also signed a law raising excise taxes on
cigarettes by P45 per pack by 2020, P50 per pack by 2021, P55 per pack by
2022, and P60 per pack by 2023.


MANILA — Ahead of the Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, considered a
special non-working holiday, the Manila District Traffic Enforcement Unit
issued a traffic advisory announcing several Manila City roads closed on
January 24 and 25.
A stop-and-go traffic scheme will also be implemented on roads that will be
affected by the Chinese New Year 2020 Grand Parade on Saturday.
"STOP AND GO traffic scheme will be implemented during the Parade, closing
and opening of street shall be based on actual traffic conditions and still
subject to changes," the advisory read.


Dela Rosa: For role as PNP chief in war on drugs
MANILA — Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa confirmed yesterday that the United
States government has cancelled his visa, and he believes it is connected to
the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs, which was launched during
his stint as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
In a letter last December, Dela Rosa said he inquired with the US embassy
about the status of his visa.
“The reply was dated Dec. 27, but we received the official answer the day
before my birthday, Jan. 20,” Dela Rosa told reporters.
He said the US embassy did not specify when the visa was cancelled or why.
Dela Rosa said he was informed that he could still apply for a new visa.
“Basta mag-apply lang daw ako ulit kung gusto ko kasi the present visa was
cancelled,” he said.
Last December, it was reported that Dela Rosa had been banned from entering
the US.
Dela Rosa believed the revocation of his 10-year visa was connected to
allegations of extrajudicial killings perpetrated when he was PNP chief.
He said he has no intention of asking for an explanation from the US
“I’m disappointed. We are just human. I’ve been helping my counterparts from
the US government, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), CIA (Central
Intelligence Agency) and other agencies. We have worked together, and now
they cancelled my visa?” the senator said. “Who’s gonna be happy? I won’t be
able to go there.”
Dela Rosa said he would still apply for a visa if and when President Duterte
accepts the invitation of US President Donald Trump to attend the special
summit in the US.


MANILA — President Duterte’s attendance at the special summit in the United
States with other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) could be helpful for the Philippines, senators said yesterday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense and
security, said being an active and prominent member of the ASEAN, the
Philippines must maintain its status in the international community.
“The President may be well advised to attend the US summit, the Philippines
being a prominent and senior member in the Southeast Asian region,” Lacson
“Since he was officially invited by (US) President (Donald) Trump, Duterte
will be accorded the necessary diplomatic immunity and courtesy befitting a
head of state. So there should be no apprehension on how he will be treated
while in the US territory,” Lacson added.
He said Duterte’s presence at the summit can also serve as an opportunity to
clarify whatever issues are being raised, especially on human rights and the
administration’s campaign against illegal drugs as well as the country’s
judicial system and due process brought by the resolution filed by some US
senators in relation to the Magnitsky Act.
Asked about Trump’s invitation to Duterte, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa pointed out
that the US president was a Republican, who apparently knows the real
situation in the country better than the “gullible Democrats.”
“The more friends the better. He is being invited by a Republican US
president, not by those gullible Democrat US senators who knew nothing about
the real situation in the Philippines. So I think it’s OK. Such act will
show to the whole world that our independent foreign policy is real,” Dela
Rosa told reporters.
Sen. Richard Gordon said it would be Duterte who will make the final
decision on the matter.
“Certainly when a nation, let’s say America, China or Russia (invites you)
you should go, it’s always good to know each other very well for good
understanding,” Gordon said.


MANILA - Sen. Bong Go on Thursday said he will check on the status of his US
visa after the travel permit of his ally, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, was
Dela Rosa, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, backed moves to detain Sen.
Leila De Lima after drug convicts accused her of alleged involvement in the
production and sale of narcotics in the national penitentiary during her
stint as Justice secretary.
"I can only infer that maybe this is pursuant to the US 2020 federal budget
which includes a provision banning entry to the US of certain Philippine
government officials involved in the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima," Go
said in a statement.
"If it is, I have said this many times before and I am saying this again. De
Lima's detention is in obedience to a lawful order of the trial court. De
Lima and her lawyer/s were given their day in open court," he said.
"Walang political persecution sa kaso ni de Lima."
Go said he will check the status of his US visa as soon as Duterte decides
to attend the US-ASEAN summit in Las Vegas in March.
"Mamaya ko na check kung meron na sked going sa USA. So far wala pa," he
said, noting that he has been looking forward to travel to the US for the
first time.
"Excited pa naman ako makapunta first time sa USA sa US-ASEAN Summit pero di
naman sigurado," he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
Despite the cancellation of his ally's visa, Go said he is still willing to
travel to the US for leisure should Duterte decide to decline US President
Donald Trump's invitation to join the Nevada conference.
"I recognize that the issuance of a visa is an exclusive exercise of
sovereignty of the country issuing it. There is no question about that," he
"Maybe pag pasok na Lakers sa finals, hopefully makapunta. If not, sa TV na
lang ako manonood," he said.


MANILA — The construction of the Skyway Extension’s southbound section will
start on Feb. 16, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) announced yesterday.
In a statement, SMC president Ramon Ang apologized for the traffic problem
the upcoming construction project may create.
“This project is for your benefit, it will solve our long-standing traffic
problem on SLEX and in Alabang. Let’s give our engineers and workers the
chance to do what they need to finish the project,” Ang said, referring to
the South Luzon Expressway.
Bored piling and column installation will be done in the area and Ang said
it is expected to be completed in six weeks.


No classes in primary, secondary schools
MANILA — The provincial government of Batangas declared that classes will
resume in colleges and universities outside the 14-kilometer danger zone of
Taal Volcano Thursday.
In a memo released Wednesday, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said the
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has given clearance to
resume classes for all students under the Commission on Higher Education.
This covers all colleges, universities and Technical Education and Skills
Development Authority schools outside the danger zone.
However, classes in primary and secondary schools will remain suspended
while Alert Level 4 is raised.
"Announcement will be made when the classes in the primary and secondary
levels will be resumed," Mandanas said.


MANILA — More free public Wi-Fi services are being rolled out across the
country to bring connectivity to more people.
PLDT Enterprise has teamed up with the local government of Cagayan De Oro
(CDO) to roll out fast and free public Wi-Fi service across high foot
traffic areas, including the Port of CDO.
“As the country’s leading ICT and digital services provider, we believe
ourselves to be in the business of nation-building, which is why we remain
keen on partnering with the public sector to improve the lives and welfare
of our countrymen,” Smart president and PLDT chief revenue officer Al
Panlilio said.
“We are thankful to be joining hands with the local government of Cagayan de
Oro and we hope that the deployment of our services will help further spur
economic activity in the region” Panlilio said.
The local government of CDO now joins the growing number of partners in the
public sector which have Smart Wi-Fi services in place.
Meanwhile, the Department of Information and Communications Technology
(DICT) is also set to provide free internet access points in the province of
Zambales through the government’s Free Wi-Fi for All program.


With three words, Nadine Lustre cleared Issa Pressman in her controversial
breakup with James Reid, amid accusations tagging the model and artist as a
supposed third party in the relationship.
“Love you both,” went Nadine’s comment on the Instagram post of fellow
actress Yassi Pressman defending her younger sister against the allegations.
Nadine tagging both Yassi and Issa’s accounts in that reply, at least to her
followers, was an indication that the actress has no ill feelings toward the
woman whom some fans believed was the cause of “JaDine’s” separation.
Nadine has time and again identified Yassi, a fellow Viva talent and her
former movie co-star, as one of her closest friends in showbiz. Issa is also
under Viva Artists Agency, and has been seen in the same circle of friends
as Nadine and James.
Like Yassi, Issa is also a dancer. The two performed together on ABS-CBN’s
“ASAP Natin ‘To” in May 2017. For a time, Issa would also share dance covers
on her YouTube channel “Issavibe.”
Whereas Yassi has fully embraced showbiz and acting — currently, the older
Pressman stars in the long-running “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” — Issa has made
conscious steps away from that kind of celebrity.
She has said she wants to be known “more as an artist than an actual
celebrity.” Aside from being a makeup artist, Issa is a talented painter who
recently launched an Instagram page dedicated to her works.
Despite shying away from mainstream showbiz, Issa has found herself sharing
personal aspects of her life.
In November 2018, Issa made headlines when she introduced her girlfriend,
singer Marga Bermudez, and identifying as bisexual. The two are reportedly
no longer together.
On numerous occasions, Issa would also collaborate with her sister, leading
to interviews that touch on their relationship and family.
Yassi and Issa are the only two children of Ronnie, who is British, and
Belcy, a Filipino. Both were born in Hong Kong, and moved to the Philippines
when they were children.
In a September 2017 interview, a tearful Issa promised her older sister she
would do good on their father’s advice — “to be happy in everything that you
Issa credited her older sister as her source of guidance, pointing out that
Yassi matured early due to the absence of their mother, who had been working
Issa’s description of Yassi as “motherly” rang true on Wednesday, as the
latter came to her defense and said she can’t stand idly by, as hurtful
words continue to be hurled at her sister.


MANILA — A Taguig court junked on Monday an estafa complaint filed by
actress Kris Aquino against her former business partner Nicko Falcis.
Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 117 dismissed the case after Aquino’s
consecutive non-appearance at its hearings, noting the previous settlement
she had reached with Falcis’ camp, reported.
The decision, signed by presiding judge Ma. Victoria Padilla-Awid, reads:
“There is a Joint Motion to Dismiss however, the private complainant is
again not present, she was already given several opportunities to come to
Court to validate, affirm and confirm the Joint Motion to Dismiss she
co-executed and her Affidavit of Desistance. Hence, the Court will now act
on the instant Joint Motion to Dismiss.”
The dismissal of this case leaves only one more for Falcis to face: a credit
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