Duterte wants deferment of PhilHealth contribution hike this year

Marje Pelayo   •   January 5, 2021   •   319

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) Corporation Chief Atty. Dante Gierran to postpone the scheduled increase in members contribution this year while the public is facing a pandemic.

Huwag muna ngayon (Not at this time). No increase in contributions. I will look for the money to fill it up. Maghahanap tayo ng pera (I will look for money)” the President said in a late night meeting on Monday (January 4).

Prior to this, Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go mentioned that the President is willing to sign any proposed measure that seeking the deferment of PhilHealth premium increase such as an amendment in the Universal Health Care law which mandates the annual increase in members contribution up to 2025.

Alam rin ng Pangulo na kailangan ng batas para maisakatuparan ang deferment, at kailangan ring masigurong hindi maaapektuhan ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth sa taumbayan,” Senator Go said in a statement.

(The president also knows that a law is required to push through with the deferment while making sure that it does not affect the services of PhilHealth.)

“Sinabi niya na kung may maipapasang batas ang Lehislatibo na naglalayong ipatupad ang deferment, o kung may kailangang aprubahan na dagdag na pondo mula gobyerno para hindi maantala ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth, pipirmahan niya ito pagkatapos mapag-aralan ng mabuti,” he added.

(He said that if the Legislative is able to pass a measure on deferment, or if the government is needed to release additional funds so as not to affect the services of PhilHealth, he will sign it after careful scrutiny.)

In the Senate, Senator Imee Marcos filed a bill on the matter to stop the premium increase this year.

Go said based on his talk with Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, the Budget Department is now studying possible ways that the government may augment PhilHealth’s needed funds this year so the deferment of premium rate hike would push through.

He added that the government is currently studying possible legislative interventions for that matter including an amendatory bill that will address the specific provision in the UHC law mandating the increase and a possible inclusion of a provision in the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill that would allow moving statutory deadlines and timelines for payments required by law.

Duterte won’t compromise on quarantine protocols for returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   April 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said he is not comfortable with relaxing quarantine and testing protocols for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

During Wednesday’s (April 21) public address, the President noted that less stringent measures could compromise the entire country as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

“I’m not quite comfortable with the relaxation that’s being brought now,” he said.

“I am not ready for a compromise lalo na ngayon. ‘Yung ibang sakit siguro, pwede pa – iyong mga rabies. Pero ito, talagang … as I have said, dapo rito, dapo roon,” he added.

The meeting which included health experts was in response to the appeal of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III for an immediate swab test on OFWs upon arrival and a shortening of the quarantine period or their stay in hotels or isolation facilities.

“Kaya nga po kami nakikiusap sana, na kung maaari, ay we go back to the original protocol noon na pagdating ng ating OFWs, swab kaagad sila,” Bello said.

The medical experts recommended a review of the testing protocol but insisted that the implementation of strict quarantine measures is still best to be strictly enforced at this time.

“The [Technical Advisory Group] had some preliminary discussions po regarding the current issue, and we were thinking that based on the data that we have right now, it’s a better option to review the testing protocol,” said DOH-TAG member Dr. Anna Ong-Lim.

“We recommend that it be done at a later time, but the critical intervention should really be that quarantine should be strictly enforced,” she concluded.

Duterte OKs grant of one-time P20K aid to employees’ compensation pensioners

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the grant of one-time financial aid of P20,000 to qualified pensioners under the employees’ compensation (EC) program.

Under Administrative Order (AO) No. 39, which was signed on Monday, Duterte authorized the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) to grant the cash aid to EC pensioners for permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, and survivorship, in the private and public sectors, “subject to the availability of funds and pertinent laws, rules and regulations.”

Duterte directed the ECC, Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to set aside and release appropriate funding to cover the financial assistance from the Social Insurance Fund under the EC Program.

The ECC, in coordination with the SSS and GSIS, will issue the implementing rules and regulations necessary for the effective implementation of the order.

In signing the AO, Duterte recognized that the “adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, supplementary health necessities for the battle against the virus, and restrictions imposed on our mobility and social interaction, have increased the financial and health burdens experienced by the EC pensioners.

The one-time cash aid will be granted to around 31,000 pensioners of the SSS and GSIS.

Duterte said AO 39 will take effect following its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

Statements of ‘alter-egos’ also reflect Duterte’s stand on West PH Sea issue — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to speak on China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying the strong statements of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) also reflects the president’s stance on the issue.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement to dispel notions that Duterte has been silent on the reported number of Chinese vessels still lingering in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Doctrine of qualified political doctrine, kapag po hindi dini-dis-own ng president ang mga sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter-egos, parang siya na po ang nagsasalita, hindi na kailangang siya ang magsalita,” Roque said in an online briefing.

The Palace official was referring to a Constitutional Doctrine which states that “utterances of alter egos are utterances of the President unless the president renounces them.”

Roque also reiterated that Duterte already stressed the importance of the 2016 Hague Ruling on the West Philippine Sea and that the Philippines will not set aside the landmark decision.

The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea earlier reported that at least 240 Chinese vessels were found lingering in various parts of the West Philippine Sea during its latest sovereignty patrols in the area.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded the immediate withdrawal of the remaining Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, telling the ships to sail away and for the Chinese to “leave our sovereign territories and abide by the international law.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also repeatedly fired off diplomatic protests and called for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

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