Duterte calls for self-restraint amid issues in West Philippine Sea

Maris Federez   •   November 22, 2021   •   718

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has called on stakeholders in the West Philippine Sea “to exercise utmost self-restraint, avoid the escalation of tensions and work towards the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law,” referring to the issues on the disputed waters as  “a strategic challenge that cannot be solved by force.”

A statement released by Malacañang said the President joined the discussion at the ASEAN-China Special Summit with his counterparts in the region to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations via video conference on Monday, November 22.

“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership,” Duterte said.

“UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award provide legal clarity …pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes. We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity,” he added.

The President also asked China to remain committed to the conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law,” he said.

During the summit, Duterte underscored the depth and breadth of the 30-year partnership between ASEAN and China who, he stressed, deserves its status as the region’s “Comprehensive Strategic Partner”.

The president also pointed out China’s timely assistance to ASEAN’s COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, and the first country to provide life-saving vaccines and medical supplies to the ASEAN member nations.

Duterte also expressed his views on the region’s recovery efforts against the pandemic.

“Enhanced multilateralism and connectivity will be the drivers of inclusive and comprehensive recovery,” the President said as he welcomed China’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Malacañang said that the President also touched on the recently concluded 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, reiterating the Philippines’ call for urgent climate action anchored on the principles of justice and fairness.

He also pushed for the protection and preservation of biodiversity and the marine environment through sustained cooperation by supporting the work of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity hosted by the Philippines, among others.

Labor dept asks employers to provide workers with paid isolation, quarantine leave benefits

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday urged employers in the private sector to provide paid leave benefits to workers who have to undergo isolation or quarantine period due to COVID-19.

In a labor advisory, DOLE said this is to “ensure safe and humane working conditions” amid the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.

The labor department said employers in the private sector are encouraged to adopt and implement appropriate paid isolation and quarantine leave program, on top of the existing leave benefits under the company policy. Leave benefits under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws should be separately applied.

“The paid isolation and quarantine leaves shall be without prejudice to other benefits provided by the Social Security System and the Employees Compensation Commission,” it added.

DOLE said its advisory applies to all establishments, employers, and their employees in the private sector.

Under the updated guidelines from the Department of Health, fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms need to isolate for seven days while those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated need to complete the isolation period for 10 days.

The isolation period for moderate cases is 10 days while those with severe and critical symptoms, and immunocompromised would have to isolate for 21 days.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts has been shortened to five days.

Isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop an infection.

Philippines posts 37,070 new COVID-19 cases; active tally at 290K

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Monday logged 37,070 additional cases of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said, pushing the country’s total confirmed cases to 3,242,374 since the pandemic started.

Data released on Monday showed that about 36,001 of the new cases occurred between January 4 to January 17.

Most of the cases were recorded in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon.

This is the sixth straight day that the country logged more than 30,000 new infections, and the fourth day that it announced record-high cases – 39,004 cases last Saturday, 37,207 on Friday, and 37,154 on Sunday.

The new tally brought the number of active infections to 290,938, the DOH said.

Of the newly reported cases, 9,187 were asymptomatic, 277,020 were mild, 2,947 were moderate, 1,480 were severe, and 304 were in critical condition.

The positivity rate was at 46% based on 77,410 tests administered on January 15.

The DOH reported 23 more fatalities, pushing the number of COVID-related deaths to 52,929.

There were 33,940 more recoveries, raising the total number to 2,898,507.

Twelve laboratories were not able to submit their data on time. These facilities contribute on average 5.1% of the samples tested and 5.1% of positive cases.

The utilization rate of intensive care units in use nationwide was at 49% while 58% in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Isolation beds being utilized across the country was at 47%, and 48% in NCR.

Ventilators in use in the capital region was at 22% and 30% in the capital region.

OCTA: COVID-19 growth rate in NCR slows down to -1%

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The growth rate of COVID-19 is decreasing in Metro Manila, the OCTA Research group said on Monday.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said the daily growth rate of the seven-day moving average in the region has slowed down to -1 percent.

“Base sa datos kahapon na may 15,959 cases ay bumaba ang daily growth rate to negative 1 percent from 2 percent. So ibig sabihin, naging negative na, mukhang pababa na ng kaunti,” David said in a televised public briefing.

“Pero again di pa tayo pwedeng mag-celebrate,” he added as he stressed the need to closely monitor the case trends in the coming weeks to see if figures are really declining in the NCR.

In a post on Twitter, David said that the growth rate over the past four days, in order, were 11%, 5%, 3%, and 2%.

The region’s COVID-19 reproduction number also went down to 2.67 from around 6.16 recorded last January 2. The rate refers to the number of people infected by one positive case.

While this trend is encouraging, and suggesting the possibility that cases in the NCR have peaked, David said that the possibility still remains that visibility of the situation in the region is clouded because of limitations in testing.

And though the peak may be nearing in the NCR and other nearby areas, David noted that there are many areas outside in the country that have shown an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Actually, all over the country now, we’re starting to see an increase in cases, kaya makaka-affect ito sa sinasabi nating peak kung pinag-uusapan buong bansa,” he said. “Pero possible na sa NCR, tsaka Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal ay baka malapit na ang peak o nagpi-peak na tayo.”

David urged those in the provinces to get vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19 to protect themselves from hospitalization and severe form of the disease.

He also advised the public to continue adhering to public health protocols such as the proper wearing of face mask, social distancing, and refrain from unnecessary travel to help curb COVID-19 transmission. (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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