World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
18 MARCH 2020

FULL SALARIES, BUT NO EARLY RELEASE OF 13TH MONTH PAY FOR GOV'T WORKERS —  DBM

MANILA — The country's biggest employer, the national government, is taking
the lead on sustaining its workers as business got essentially shut off the
main Luzon island under a month-long community quarantine.
"All national government employees are receiving their full salaries even if
they are working from their homes," Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said in
a text message to Philstar.com.
Contractors and casuals covered by job orders will also get paid as
scheduled, he added.
The assurance from the budget chief to more than 1.36 million state workers
as of May 2019 is a welcome reprieve to employees wary about the potential
repercussions the lockdown brings to their source of income.
The relief is more felt by 159,935 casuals and contractors who according to
data from the Civil Service Commission typically receive fixed payments,
depending on work done, but whose job is currently halted by the lockdown.
Government offices are currently working on skeletal force, meaning not
everyone are required to report to their offices, as a social distancing
measure meant to prevent the further spread of coronavirus disease- 2019
(COVID-19).
13th month pay
Unlike some private companies like PLDT Inc. and Manila Electric Co.
however, Avisado said "there is no directive from the President yet" to
release the 13th month pay of state workers way ahead schedule.
In a related development, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said in a
statement it would also release half of the 13th month pay of its employees
and legal clerks by April 15. Meanwhile, state employees are only scheduled
to receive half of their 13th month pay by May 15.
"There is no directive since our workers are even able to save money because
they do not need to commute everyday to their offices because work is
suspended, and most importantly, they are with their families," Avisado said
in Filipino.
"The focus of the government now is to help our poor families that are
hand-to-mouth existence, the daily wage earners," he added.


DOH LAUNCHES HOTLINES FOR COVID-19 QUESTIONS, ASSISTANCE

MANILA — The Department of Health on Tuesday launched dedicated hotlines for
COVID-19 where Filipinos can direct questions or ask for assistance anytime
for free.
“Callers can ask questions if they suspect they are infected with COVID-19,
or request assistance if they have symptoms and/or known exposure to
confirmed cases or patients under investigation,” the department said in its
Tuesday release.
“The information collected from emergency calls is transmitted to the
COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center and other relevant agencies for
immediate facilitation and response.”
The emergency hotlines are 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.
Free 24/7 services will be available through the 02-894-COVID hotline.


BIR KEEPS APRIL 15 TAX FILING DEADLINE DESPITE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

MANILA -- The Bureau of Internal Revenue rejected Wednesday calls to extend
the April 15 deadline for filing of income tax returns (ITRs), which will
come just days after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown in Luzon.
The public can file their ITRs through the agency's website and pay their
taxes through online channels like PayMaya and GCash before the April 15
deadline, said BIR Deputy Commissioner for Operations Arnel Guballa.
The Luzon-wide quarantine, which restricted millions to their homes and shut
most of public transport, is scheduled to end on April 13.
"Hindi po kami magbibigay ng extension, April 15 pa rin," he told DZMM.
"Ang tax po kasi, lifeblood po iyan... Mabobokya naman po ang gobyerno natin
[kung ililipat ang deadline], kailangan natin ng pondo," he added.
Taxpayers may opt to pay only a partial amount before April 15, and settle
the rest of their liabilities and submit documents like certificates from
accountants before June 15, said the official.
"Kahit magkano lang po muna ang pansamantala, basta makakolekta lang po
kami... Saka na po tayo magtuos," Guballa said.
Those who fail to meet the tax filing deadline will pay a 25-percent
surcharge, on top of a 12-percent annual interest, the BIR earlier said.
The Philippines has confirmed 187 cases of the novel coronavirus, including
14 deaths and 6 patients who recovered as of Tuesday, said the health
department.


STATE OF CALAMITY IN PHILIPPINES FOR 6 MONTHS

MANILA — President Duterte has declared a nationwide state of calamity for
six months to address the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019
(COVID-19) in the country.
The declaration will allow the President to tap, among others, the
government’s calamity funds, which were earlier reported to amount to P16
billion under the 2020 national budget.
It will also allow local government units (LGUs) to speedily access special
funds to assist their constituencies during the public health emergency.
“There is hereby declared a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines for
a period of six months, unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstance
may warrant,” Duterte said in Proclamation No. 929 signed last Monday.
In Proclamation 929, Duterte noted that COVID-19 cases continue to rise
rapidly, which has prompted the Department of Health (DOH) and the
Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) to raise the
alert level to CODE Sublevel 2, indicating there are already recorded cases
of community transmission.
“Despite government interventions, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19
continues to rise,” the President said.
The President added that the declaration will “afford the National
Government, as well as the Local Government Units, ample latitude to utilize
appropriate funds including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster
preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, and to
continue to provide basic services to the affected population.”
Duterte declared the state of calamity on the same day he imposed an
Enhanced Community Quarantine throughout Luzon starting March 17 to April 12
as part of the government’s intensified efforts to contain the spread of the
virus.
“All government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to render full assistance to
and cooperation with each other and mobilize the necessary resources to
undertake critical, urgent and appropriate disaster response and measures in
timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19,” the
President said.


LUZON LOCKDOWN: GOV'T DEPLOYS BUSES TO FERRY HEALTH WORKERS FOR FREE

MANILA - Health workers can avail of free bus rides starting Wednesday as
the Luzon-wide COVID-19 lockdown shuttered public transport, the Department
of Transportation said.
Ten buses were deployed at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX)
and BFCT East Metro Transport Terminal in Marikina City at 7 a.m. Wednesday,
according to the DOTr.
The buses will ply the following routes, subject to change depending on the
data and requests from the Department of Health, the DOTr said.
The bus service will comply with containment protocols such as social
distancing, body temperature checks, and regular disinfecting of vehicles,
the DOTr said.
Grab Philippines also committed to help government transport health workers
to hospitals free of charge but details have yet to be announced, it said.
The Office of the Vice President has also launched free shuttle service to
health workers.


PNP EYES 'SPECIAL LANE' FOR HEALTH WORKERS AT LUZON CHECKPOINTS

MANILA - The Philippine National Police will consider setting up a "special
lane" for health workers at Luzon checkpoints after the region was placed on
lockdown due to COVID-19, the PNP chief said Wednesday.
Health workers are among those exempted from travel restriction during the
“enhanced community quarantine” set to end on April 13.
The PNP will "do its best" to ensure faster movement of vehicles at
checkpoints, Director General Archie Gamboa said.
"Ang premise sana (should be) everybody should stay home. The PNP would
always scrutinize on the exemptions. If we keep adding exemptions, baka
lahat na (maybe everyone will be included). I hope the public will
understand this," he told radio DZMM.
"Kung gagawin natin magkaroon ng lane kunyari sa medical, sasabihin ng food
sa amin din. Kung ganyan, lahat na special lane. The PNP will be formulating
policies sa checkpoint para maibsan (ang traffic)."
The PNP will discuss Thursday the creation of the special lane with
government's inter-agency task force on emerging infectious diseases, Gamboa
said.


OFWS, FOREIGNERS CAN LEAVE PHILIPPINES DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN, GOV'T SAYS

Hotels, other lodging allowed to accommodate existing bookings
MANILA (UPDATE) - Filipino migrant workers and foreigners can travel abroad
from Luzon during the "enhanced community quarantine" in the area, Cabinet
Secretary Karlo Nograles said Tuesday.
"OFWs and foreign nationals leaving for abroad shall be allowed to leave the
Philippines anytime for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine,
provided that proof of international travel itinerary scheduled within 24
hours must be presented," Nograles said in a press briefing.
Only one person is allowed to accompany a traveler bound for abroad,
Nograles said. The driver should carry with him/her a copy of the airline
ticket of the passenger as proof of conveyance, according to the Department
of Transportation.
Filipino migrant workers also should be ferried to their respective airports
and seaports by transport vehicles provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare
Administration (OWWA), Nograles said.
Passengers from Italy and Iran are required to present medical certificates
of good health to be validated by their respective embassies, the DOTr said.
Non-essential travel from any port of Luzon is suspended. Outbound movement
to countries where travel restrictions are imposed due to the coronavirus
disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, is also prohibited during the quarantine.
Hotels, hostels and similar establishments meanwhile are not allowed to
operate during the quarantine, except those accommodating existing bookings
as of Tuesday, March 17.


EMPTY METRO MANILA STREETS DUE TO LUZON LOCKDOWN

As cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country continued
to rise, President Rodrigo Duterte announced an enhanced community
quarantine in Luzon in efforts to stop the spread of the virus, which has so
far claimed 14 lives.
On Monday night, government announced a stricter lockdown of the entire
Luzon, halting public transport, mass gatherings, school and work, save for
frontline services in a bid to contain the outbreak.
On the first day of the enhanced community quarantine, Metro Manila was
practically empty, with the usual hustle and bustle absent in central
business districts.
Only a few cars, if any, were plying the roads as workers either cycled or
walked to their destinations.
With the lockdown expected to last a month, it seems that this will be the
new normal for Metro Manila.


FILIPINO DIPLOMAT INFECTED WITH COVID-19 SHOWING SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT

The Philippine Consulate General in New York continued its 14-day mandatory
lockdown after one of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus
disease 2019 (COVID-19) last March 12.
Deputy Consul General Kerwin Tate said all consulate employees were
instructed to self-isolate in their own homes including the unnamed COVID-19
positive employee.
"With regard to our colleague who got infected, I am glad to state that she
has shown signs of improvement. Thank goodness, (she’s taking her medicines,
and is in constant contact with her doctor). We expect her hopefully to make
a fully recovery from her infection," Tate said.
According the online U.N. directory of diplomatic staff, there are about 12
diplomats at the Filipino mission, which is on 5th Avenue in Midtown
Manhattan. The sick diplomat represented the Philippines in the U.N. General
Assembly's legal affairs committees.
The deputy consul general said the state of New York is no longer conducting
contact tracing. The consulate's clients must now presume that they have
been exposed to the virus, and conduct themselves accordingly -- observing
sanitation and social distancing procedures.


ALLEGED HOARDER'S NEAR-P1M GROCERY BILL, SOCIALITE'S 'ANTI-POOR' VIDEO GO
VIRAL AMID LUZON QUARANTINE

MANILA — "Mga hampaslupa! Wala kayong pambili," an Internet user joked as
caption for a viral photo of a bill showing almost a million pesos worth of
groceries amid panic buying due to the Metro Manila and Luzon quarantine
imposed to suppress the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Social media users were on a roll on Twitter and the tag “EAT THE RICH”
became a trending topic on Tuesday when a Twitter user posted photos of
jam-packed grocery carts and an alleged almost P1-million-peso grocery bill.
“Very good my yayas and chef! Need to stock up!” said the caption of one
photo.
The other photo showed a bill allegedly issued by grocery store in Alabang.
The bill said the groceries totalled to P950,636 or almost P50,000 short of
P1 million.
“From one of the titas in the gym viber GC. woahh baka naman may for
donation sa frontliners? Hahaha eto yung panic na panic,” the text in the
photo said.
One Twitter user accused that the first photo was from a businessman’s wife.
“Word from the tita vibers haha... wife decided to brag about her hoarding
the shit out of supplies. Oh sige po ma'am ito na po ung publicity na gusto
mo,” the Twitter user wrote.
Internet users couldn’t help themselves but to react on the viral photos
while voicing out their anger to the two alleged rich hoarders.
“Eat the rich. Eat them. Who the hell needs almost 1 million pesos worth of
groceries?? While yung mahihirap walang mabili, itong mga bruhang to
nag-impak ng for 20 years?? PRIVILEGE IS SUCH A DISGUSTING WORD. I hope they
rot in hell and get reincarnated as cockroaches,” a Twitter user wrote.
“And here i am thinking spending 1k+ on emergency food for a month is
already hoarding. Eat the rich talaga,” another user commented.
“Almost 1M for groceries???? Wtf. Whole new level of fckup. I hope they were
hoarding to donate some of that to the less fortunate,” another user said.


ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE


PACQUIAO DONATES 600,000 FACE MASKS TO COVID-19 FRONT-LINERS

MANILA - Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday donated some 600,000 face masks to
front-liners fighting against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
pandemic.
Some 100,000 face masks were handed out to the Philippine National Police
(PNP), 50,000 to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), 75,000 to the
Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), 75,000 to the Department of
Health (DOH), 75,000 to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)
and some 50,000 to other medical workers.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, deputy director for operations of the
Philippine National Police (PNP), said the lawmaker's donations are a
valuable assistance to the police who are manning security throughout the
metro.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma's foundation had also teamed up with Pacquiao's
group to donate 50,000 COVID-19 testing kits to the Philippines.
"With everything that’s happening around the world today, there is no better
time to unite and do whatever we can to help each other," he said.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 187 cases of the novel
coronavirus, with 14 fatalities and 6 recoveries.


ACTOR CHRISTOPHER DE LEON TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

MANILA — (UPDATED) Screen veteran Christopher de Leon said Tuesday he tested
positive for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), amid a pandemic that
has put the Philippines under a state of calamity.
On Instagram, the "Love Thy Woman" actor shared a statement addressed to his
family and friends, including those in the entertainment industry.
"Today, our doctor confirmed that I have COVID-19. I've had no recent travel
history outside of the Philippines and no known contact with anyone who is
positive to have the virus. However, due to the nature of my work in the
entertainment business, I have interacted with many people," he wrote.
De Leon, 63, asked those who have "come in contact me within the last week
or two to observe stringent self-quarantine, observe for symptoms and follow
the triage procedures published by the DOH, whether asymptomatic or not."
"Please cooperate with the authorities in their contact tracing efforts," he
added.
De Leon is currently part of the ABS-CBN afternoon drama "Love Thy Woman".
While the series continues to air episodes it has so far taped, it is one of
the ABS-CBN programs that have indefinitely halted production due to
COVID-19.
Kim Chiu, de Leon's co-star in "Love Thy Woman", was among the first to wish
him a swift recovery. In Instagram Stories, she wrote: "Get well soon, Tito
Bo! Let's all include Tito Bo sa prayers natin!"
De Leon's wife, fellow actor Sandy Andolong, their daughter Mica, as well as
their household helpers are practicing self-quarantine at home, he said.
"In this time of trial, we ask for your prayers and we continue to praise
and thank the Lord for His goodness in our lives," he said.
Quoting a verse from the Bible, de Leon further wrote: "Rejoice always, pray
without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of
God in Christ Jesus for you."
De Leon is the second Filipino personality to announce he has tested
positive for the disease, following Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 187 cases of COVID-19,
including 12 deaths. It's unclear whether that latest tally from the
Department of Health included Zubiri or de Leon.


SPORTS


TENNIS: WIMBLEDON STILL PLANNING FOR PLAY DESPITE VIRUS MAYHEM

LONDON -- Wimbledon organizers are still planning to play the Grand Slam
this year, despite the coronavirus chaos that led the French Open to be
pushed back until September.
Wimbledon is scheduled to run from June 29 to July 12, but All England Club
chiefs are aware the sporting schedule has been decimated by the deadly
pandemic.
French Open bosses on Tuesday revealed the clay-court event will move from
its scheduled spring slot to September.
The year's second Grand Slam was due to begin on May 24, but will now run
from September 20 to October 4.
A roof has been installed over Roland Garros' centre court, Philippe
Chatrier, with floodlights on the three other main courts, enabling play to
go on later.
Wimbledon remain hopeful that play at the grass-court tournament will be
able to go ahead if the spread of the virus is slowed.
But Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and
Croquet Club, insisted they would put public safety first.
"While we continue to plan for The Championships at this time, it remains a
continuously evolving situation and we will act responsibly, in the best
interests of wider society" Lewis said.


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