2GO waives P35-M rental fee for quarantine ships

Maris Federez   •   April 23, 2020   •   1048

MANILA, Philippines — Business tycoon Dennis Uy has clarified that the use of the shipping and logistics company 2Go’s vessels was offered to the government as a donation to be used as COVID-19 quarantine facilities for the repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

In a statement, Uy said he consulted with the company’s shareholders and they have decided to waive the rental.

“As Chairman of 2GO, I have conferred with other shareholders and have given explicit instructions to waive the PhP35M expected payment from the government,” Uy said.

He added that it was the Department of Transportation (DOTr) who offered to pay them P35-million as a lease on the two vessels but the company has no intention of accepting such payment.

DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade, on Wednesday (April 22), said that the contracted rental fee for the two-month use of the two vessels is P35-million.

“Ito nirerentahan ng gobyerno yung dalawa ng 35 million mura naman yan at nagamit if you will compute it on the basis of bed space and use,” Tugade said.

This roused the ire of netizens for the seemingly unjust charges that the company imposed on the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uy, in turn, apologized for the apparent misunderstanding and immediately clarified the matter further.

“Again, I apologize if this news has unduly offended some of our fellow Filipinos. So let me be clear. 2GO is providing two vessels to serve as quarantine facilities free of charge to the Filipino people,” Uy said.

“The PhP35 million was an offer made by the DOTr, for which we had no plans of accepting,” he added.

Meanwile, DOTr Asec. Goddes Hope Libiran said the P35-million rental was initially agreed upon in a negotiation of the agency with the shipping company. Uy, however, was not part of the 2Go team that they entered the contract with.

“There was a negotiation. To be clear, Mr. Uy was never part of any of the discussion. No actual payment of rent has been made by the government to 2GO Group Inc, as it was Sec. Tugade’s intention to talk with the principal of 2GO to ask for concessions,” Libiran said.

Libiran was also quick to clarify that up to this date, no payment has been settled yet with the company.

“Until that happens, and up to now, no payment has been made,” she said.

The business tycoon’s statement, on the other hand, further said that the actual operating cost for the two ships is at P260-million which the company decided to waive as their goal was to be of help to the government by way of rendering their services as a donation.

“To set the record the straight actual cost to operate the 2 vessels as quarantine facilities is at PHP260M. But this was intended to be a donation. The PHP35M was an offer made by the DOTr for which we had no plans of accepting,” the 2Go chairman reiterated.

Uy added that he believes this is the right moment for the government and the private sector to work hand-in-hand and sacrifice for the welfare of the Filipinos. —(from the report of Joan Nano) /mbmf

DILG defends decision to remove quarantine, travel authority requirement

Robie de Guzman   •   March 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has defended the decision of the government’s task force on COVID-19 response to remove and ease several protocols and requirements for domestic land, air, and sea travel amid the pandemic.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, DILG spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to streamline protocols across all local government units (LGU) was made in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines and League of Cities in the Philippines.

Under the IATF-MEID Resolution No. 101, the travel authority issued by the PNP and the medical certificate from LGU health office will no longer be required for domestic travel.

Malaya also said that the RT-PCR test was never a requirement from the national government.

“First, we wish to clarify that the PCR test was never a requirement by the national government. It was some LGUs who required it. Now, under the new protocols, the PCR test may still be required by the LGU of destination,” he said.

“Travelers just need to check with their LGU if its required. But please take note that LGUs can only require the RT-PCR test and cannot require the Antigen or rapid tests as requirement for travel,” he added.

On the removal of quarantine requirement, Malaya said that they consulted with the health professionals and they recommended that no traveler shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine.

Only those who exhibit symptoms upon arrival will be placed under quarantine.

“Therefore, the health assessment of passengers or travelers supervised by medical professionals shall be mandatory upon entry in the port/terminal and exit at point of destination,” he said.

He said that all LGUs, regardless if they require PCR tests or not, shall conduct clinical and exposure assessment at all points of entry and exit to ensure that only asymptomatic, non-close contact individuals are allowed to travel or move from one LGU to another.

The DILG issued the clarification after Vice President Leni Robredo criticized the removal of some travel requirement and testing protocols, saying it could trigger a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Malaya said Robredo’s criticism is misplaced.

“When the Vice President said that it was the locally stranded individuals who were responsible for the spread of COVID to the provinces, this was in the early days of the pandemic when our infection rates were high and compliance with minimum health standards were very low,” he said.

“A year later, compliance is now high, our active cases are low, and our people know what to do to protect themselves and their families,” he added.

Malaya said that they needed to streamline local regulations for domestic travel as well as recommend best options to encourage domestic travel for leisure to revive the heavily-hit travel and tourism sector and related industries while managing the risks of COVID-19 transmission.

He, however, reminded the public to continue observing strict health and safety protocols to prevent COVID-19 spread.

“Maging disiplinado pa rin po sa pagsunod sa physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette at pagsuot ng face masks at face shields. Disiplina muna para sa ligtas na biyahe,” he said.

DepEd urged to rollout ‘limited, very controlled’ pilot testing of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a pilot testing of face-to-face classes in areas with very few or zero COVID-19 cases to see how this will work.

Angara said that while he supports calls for the resumption of limited in-person classes, it would be best to conduct a dry-run in areas where physical distancing and other health protocols can be strictly observed.

“Gusto natin maibalik ang face-to-face classes pero be that as it may nagsalita na din si Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) na bastat walang bakuna ayaw niya mag upisa ng face-to-face classes nationwide,” Angara said in a statement on Sunday.

“Kung sakali, bago tayo mag umpisa ng nationwide rollout ng face-to-face classes, pumili tayo ng isa o dalawang probinsya muna para sa pilot testing,” Angara added.

The pilot areas should also have strong health systems that would be able to handle possible outbreaks in case of “super spreader” events.

“Kailangan ang lugar na yun ay walang masyadong kaso at handa ang kanyang health system kung sakaling magkaroon ng super spreader event,” he said.

Angara said the local government units that will be part of the pilot testing should ensure they have health facilities such as hospitals that are capable of handling a large number of cases–from isolation to treatment.

“Kung i-rollout ng DepEd itong face-to-face classes ay maingat at limitado talaga, under very controlled conditions muna,” Angara said.

Some senators have earlier pushed to reduce the number of schools participating in the dry-run.

Instead of 1,065 as initially proposed by the DepEd, lawmakers want the program be conducted in 500 or lower number of schools with smaller number of students.

The proposal aims to gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angara stressed that any plan to resume face-to-face learning should be done with extreme caution since the risk of contracting COVID-19 still exists in the country.

He believes that the resumption of limited in-person classes would ease off a lot of stress and pressure on both the students and their parents who have been forced to cope with blended learning due to the pandemic.

DepEd urged to form panel of experts on dry run of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to form a panel of experts that will guide the pilot tests of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said the panel of experts should look at the pilot testing program and resumption of in-person classes with a more specialized approach, considering the unique situations of each school.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na dahil nag-cancel ng face-to-face classes, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our learners,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

DepEd earlier said it is eyeing to conduct a dry-run of face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools but some senators proposed to reduce the number of schools to 500 or lower, with a smaller number of students.

Gatchalian said he has expressed support for this proposal to “gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Senate hearing last week, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) cited a global study of 191 countries which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates.

The PPS also said that one year of school closure is equivalent to two years’ loss on learning.

For the PPS, the effects of prolonged school closures on health and development—including learning losses, increased exposure to violence, sexual abuse, and early pregnancies—can be mitigated if the highest standards of safety measures are observed.

“The damage of school closures can be deeper and longer. During pre-COVID, our learners did not do well in international large-scale assessments and our national achievement scores were not doing great. And now, because of the lack of access to face-to-face education, internet, and gadgets, the learners are left on their own,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, citing an internal department survey which showed that more than 50% of students are in favor of attending physical classes.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission in February but it was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

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