DOE urged to create body to monitor new round of fuel tax hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   269

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a task force that will closely monitor the implementation of the new round of increases in excise tax on fuel.

Gatchalian made the call as the third and last tranche of tax hikes on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law took effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

He said that under the TRAIN Law, the estimated rate impact on pump price for unleaded premium gasoline would be around ₱1.01 per liter, while the estimated rate impact of the third tranche of the excise tax on diesel price is ₱1.65 per liter.

For 100 percent coal contracted power distribution utilities, the estimated rate impact is around ₱0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The senator said the creation of the task force is aimed to protect consumers from premature price increases and profiteering.

“Kailangan paigtinging mabuti ng Department of Energy (DOE) ang pagbabantay laban sa hoarding at profiteering sa bansa ngayong nakaamba ang dagdag na excise tax sa huling pagkakataon,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Huwag na nating hayaan ang ilang mapagsamantalang retailers na ibenta sa mataas na halaga ang kanilang mga lumang imbentaryong produkto, gayong nabili nila ito bago pa man maimplementa ang third tranche ng excise tax sa fuel,” he added.

Gatchalian noted that local oil companies maintain a minimum inventory equivalent to 15-day supply of petroleum products as provided under DOE’s Department Circular No. 2003-01-001 or the Implementing Guidelines for the Minimum Inventory Requirements of Petroleum of Oil Companies and Bulk Suppliers.

The DOE earlier said the new round of fuel tax hikes are only applicable to new stocks imported beginning January 1, 2020. It also advised oil firms to deplete old stocks before implementing new price schemes reflecting the new levies.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of goods in the market in order to ensure that unscrupulous businessmen will not take advantage and pass on the impact of higher oil prices to consumers as a result of the third tranche of the TRAIN law implementation.

“Mabigat na sa bulsa ng bawat isa ang pagpataw ng excise tax sa krudo. Sana naman ay huwag na natin dagdagan ang pasanin ng taong bayan sa pamamagitan ng hindi makatarungang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin,” he said.

Gatchalian calls on Chinese schools to suspend classes

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 31, 2020

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is urging Chinese schools to suspend classes after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Thursday (January 30) the first case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country.

“Because the case of mainland Chinese coming from China, the probability of them carrying the coronavirus is very high. So immediately, Chinese schools should suspend their classes, especially the ones who have high number of Chinese students,” he said.

Gatchalian also called on the government to consider a complete ban on travelers coming from China.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday (January 31) imposed a travel ban from Wuhan City and Hubei province, China which is the ground zero novel coronavirus.

“Upon the recommendation of DOH [Department of Health] Secretary Francisco Duque, the President has issued a travel ban to Chinese nationals coming from the Hubei province of China where the nCoV originated, as well as in other places in China where there is a spread of the disease,” Presidential Spkoesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.—AAC

Gatchalian calls on DFA to be ready to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan

Robie de Guzman   •   January 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to prepare for the possible repatriation of Filipinos in Wuhan City amid the rapid spread of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged the DFA to have systems in place for the evacuation of Filipinos in Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the 2019-nCoV outbreak in China.

Gatchalian said it is important to locate Filipinos staying in the Chinese city ahead of a possible extraction, adding that the DFA should constantly monitor the situation there so the government can address their needs.

The lawmaker cited the example of the United States, which initiated an evacuation of its citizens from the epidemic-stricken city.

“We have to prepare for any eventuality,” he said. “Nakakabahala ang mabilis na pagkalat ng coronavirus sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo at mahalagang may regular din dapat na ibinibigay na balita ang DFA tungkol sa kaligtasan ng ating mga OFW.”

The senator noted that there are around 150 Filipinos in Wuhan City as reported by the DFA.

Gatchalian said the DFA should closely coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are protected from the threat of the deadly disease.

China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday announced 26 new deaths, bringing the nationwide total to 106. Confirmed infections also climbed to 4,515, nearly double compared to Monday’s over 2,700 cases.

The 2019-nCoV was first reported in Wuhan in December 2019. Symptoms of this new strain include fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.

As a type of coronavirus, the 2019-nCoV belongs to a large family of viruses that include the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

Authorities warn that the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.

The Department of Health recently revealed that 11 persons are under investigation for suspected 2019-nCoV in different hospitals in Metro Manila, Mimaropa, Northern Mindanao, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and in Central Visayas.

The DFA, for its part, said it has met with local health officials and other government agencies to discuss strategies and protocols for the possible evacuation of Filipinos in the locked down city of Wuhan and other Chinese areas affected by the outbreak.

PH Gov’t urged to take precautionary measures vs threat of new coronavirus strain

Robie de Guzman   •   January 22, 2020

Passengers wearing face masks who arrived from Guangzhou, China lineup for immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, 22 January 2020. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

MANILA, Philippines – Several lawmakers on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to take precautionary measures and prepare emergency response plans amid the threat of a new strain of coronavirus from China.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to put schools on alert and ensure that preventive steps are in place to protect students from the respiratory disease that has already infected 222 individuals across neighboring countries of China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.

“Sa ating pangambang makapasok itong bagong coronavirus sa ating bansa, mabuti nang maging sigurado tayo dahil ang isang kumpirmadong kaso ay maaaring maikalat sa iba,” Gatchalian said.

He made the appeal after the Department of Health (DOH) reported Tuesday it is closely monitoring a child who may have contracted novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) prior to entering the Philippines from Wuhan, China.

The DOH said the child manifested symptoms such as cough, throat irritation, and fever. He is currently stable but still has a cough.

Based on samples examined by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the unnamed child tested negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Both diseases are caused by a family of viruses called coronavirus.

But he tested positive for a non-specific pancoronavirus assay, meaning he is infected with a strain of coronavirus. The sample has been sent to a laboratory in Australia for further testing.

The new strain of coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City on December 31, 2019.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said novel coronavirus causes respiratory infections which may develop into severe cases such as pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death if left untreated.

Coronavirus, which is a large group of viruses common among animals, may be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected person or animal.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture also said that schools should have protocols in identifying students displaying flu-like symptoms and emphasize the practice of good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, to avoid any diseases.

Senator Nancy Binay, meanwhile, called on the DOH and other government agencies to prepare for an emergency response plan in dealing with the respiratory illness from China.

Binay said she filed Senate Resolution 293 which aims to determine appropriate measures and necessary funding requirements to ensure quick government response to address possible outbreaks.

“Preemptive measures will always the better option. Kailangan natin paghandaan na dahil actionable ang impormasyong hawak ng DOH. We must act immediately to monitor reports of the disease or sightings, and abate the possibility of an outbreak,” she said in a statement.

“Mabuting maging handa, hindi lamang ang DOH at ang pambansang pamahalaan, kundi pati na rin ang mga local na pamahalaan hanggang sa lebel ng barangay,” she added.

The DOH earlier advised the public to always practice frequent handwashing, avoid crowded places and contact with an infected person, and to thoroughly cook food, especially those containing meat and dairy products.   

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