Gov’t urged to restore TESDA’s scholarship fund for workers displaced by pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   June 19, 2020   •   950

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday called on the national government to restore the funding of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) scholarship programs to help displaced workers become more employable despite the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Villanueva said the agency’s capacity to provide training for displaced workers and overseas Filipino workers (OFW) was “severely hampered” when part of its budget was realigned for the government’s COVID-19 response.

The senator said about P2.3 billion of TESDA’s budget under the 2020 General Appropriations Act was realigned for COVID-19 fight under the Bayanihan Law.

“Mas mabilis at madali po sana ang pagbangon ng ating mga manggagawang nawalan ng trabaho kung may kakayahan ang TESDA na magbigay ng training para sa mga in-demand na trabaho,” Villanueva said.

“Sa panahon natin ngayon mas kailangan ang tech-voc upang i-ahon ang ating mga manggagawa sa kanilang sitwasyon,” he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier estimated that around five million Filpino workers will be displaced by the pandemic by the end of the year.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, stressed there is a need to restore TESDA’s scholarship fund to help OFWs who have lost their jobs, as well as online sellers trying to make a living amid the pandemic.

“Isa po ang tech-voc training sa mga mabisang sandata ng gobyerno laban sa problema sa kawalan ng trabaho,” Villanueva, who previously served as TESDA secretary, said.

He also appealed to the finance and budget departments to allocate more funding to help TESDA technology institutes (TTI) to purchase the appropriate equipment and software to be able to adequately and effectively deliver blended learning in light of the new normal.

TESDA likewise needs to build up the capacity of its trainers by training them to use learning management systems, and purchasing the necessary tools such as laptops, the senator added.

“The shift to blended learning delivery entails a lot of cost, but rather than seeing it as an expense, our government should look at it as an investment for our workers,” Villanueva said.

“After all, it is our workers who will jumpstart and sustain our economic recovery,” he added.

Supply ng COVID-19 vaccine sa Metro Manila LGUs, paubos na

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Paubos na ang supply ng bakuna kontra COVID-19 sa ilang lokal na pamahalaan sa Metro Manila.

Ayon sa mga alkalde, kinukulang na ang supply ng kanilang bakuna sa dami ng mga nagpaparehistro para makatanggap ng COVID-19 vaccine.

Sa Quezon City, hanggang sabado na lang ang schedule ng pagbabakuna sa mga indibidwal na maaaring tumanggap ng unang dose.

Sa mahigit 300,000 nagparehistro, mahigit sa 100,000 pa lang ang nababakunahan.

Ayon kay Joseph Juico, ang pinuno ng Quezon City Task Force on COVID-19, kakaunti na lang ang natitira nilang COVID-19 vaccine at hihintayin pa nila kung kailan ulit sila mabibigyan ng national government.

“As to the exact delivery of the vaccines, just like the national government, we are still waiting for the exact time and date,” ang wika ni Juico.

Sa lungsod naman ng Maynila, nasa 2,500 Sinovac vaccines na lang ang kanilang ginagamit ngayon. Sa 300,000 nagparehistro para sa vaccination, nasa 72,000 pa lang ang natuturukan.

Ang Malabon City naman ay mayroon pang nasa 6,000 vaccine doses ngunit kulang na ito para sa mahigit 13,000 pang kailangang mabigyan ng bakuna.

Ang lokal na pamahalaan naman ng Marikina, sa Lunes na inaasahang mauubos ang hawak nilang mga bakuna. Nasa 30 porsiyento pa lang din sa mga nagparehistro online ang natuturukan.

“Paunti-unti ang dating ng bakuna. Tulad ngayon, may dumating na bakuna. Pwede nating magamit hanggang Lunes para sa isang libong indibiduwal lamang. Kulang na. Kulang na. Kulang na talaga,” ang wika ni Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro.

Una nang sinabi ng national government na ngayong buwan inaasahang darating sa bansa ang karagdagang supply ng bakuna.

Nagkakaroon umano ng delay sa delivery ng mga bakuna dahil sa isyu sa produksyon nito at pagkakaroon ng supply shortage sa ibang bansa. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

Battle against COVID-19 not yet lost despite overcrowding of patients in hospitals, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has not yet lost its battle against COVID-19 despite the surge in cases and near-critical hospital capacity especially in Metro Manila, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

“Hindi naman talaga tayo talo, the health system is not collapsing. It’s just that we’re trying to manage the challenge of the surge,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said during the Laging Handa public briefing.

Vega issued the statement in response to the remark of the Philippine Hospital Association that hospitals are already “overwhelmed and overrun” in view of the uptick in COVID-19 cases due to their depleted resources and lack in manpower.

Several hospitals in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, and Navotas have earlier reported high critical situation in the use of their intensive care units (ICU).

Other hospitals in Metro Manila have also reached moderate risk situation in terms of their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

The severity of the situation and overworked hospital staff have prompted the Philippine Hospital Association to say that the country has already lost in the fight against the pandemic.

But Vega said the country’s health system is not yet collapsing amid the alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

In response to the situation, he said hospitals are already re-allocating their beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients.

More healthcare workers from provinces with low COVID-19 incidence have also been deployed in the NCR Plus bubble.

Medical adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Dr. Ted Herbosa also does not subscribe to the notion that the country has lost the fight as hospitals still continue to manage patients and have not shut their doors.

“Hindi naman, kasi gumagana pa ang mga ospital. When you say collapsed, ang tawag namin diyan sa disaster medicine ay ‘functional collapse’ — hindi na magamot ang mga tao, mamamatay na yung di dapat mamatay,” he said.

He, however, admitted that many hospitals in Metro Manila are experiencing overcrowding of COVID-19 patients and this is the reason why some patients are being sent for admission in hospitals outside the NCR Plus bubble.

“So as of now, ang nangyayari is we are at a period of surge capacity, over capacity yung ating health system,” he said.

Metro Manila and four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – collectively called as NCR Plus bubble – have been placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in a bid to arrest the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The ECQ period is from March 29 to April 4.

The DOH earlier recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ to see a decline in the number of cases and its effect on the healthcare utilization rate.

The Inter-Agency Task Force is set to meet on Saturday to discuss the proposal. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

PH gov’t eyes scaling up of COVID-19 vaccination by April and May – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   March 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is looking to boost its vaccination drive against COVID-19 as part of its calibrated strategy to contain the virus and revive the economy, vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte, Galvez said 2021 is intended for a “containment strategy with the government securing steady vaccine supply and scaling up its vaccination through the mobilization of the national government, LGUs, and the private sector.”

Under the strategy, the government will scale up vaccination in April and May, targeting to inoculate 500,000 to one million per week.

Galvez said that once the bulk of the vaccines arrive in June and July, the government eyes to increase vaccination up to three million per week. From August to December, three million to five million per week.

“Ang parang pinakatarget po natin is we will have a better Christmas sa 2021,” Galvez said in a televised briefing on Monday.

To achieve herd immunity, Galvez stressed that there is a need to maximize the vaccination drive, with the government administering more or less 450,000 to 500,000 doses a day.

“The main goal is to completely eliminate COVID-19,” Galvez said.

To achieve this, he said they are communicating with the different vaccine manufacturers developing booster vaccines that can neutralize new COVID-19 variants.

“The government will authorize local pharmaceuticals companies to directly communicate with their foreign counterparts in order for the country to attain vaccine security by 2022,” he added.

The vaccine czar said the Philippine government is looking at India’s self-sufficiency strategy, stressing that if the country can establish its own manufacturing capability, there is no need for the importation of vaccines and other medicines.

“So iyon po ang isang nakita po namin na magkaroon po tayo sana ng aside from the Universal Health Care Law, magkaroon po sana tayo ng Health Security Act na ‘yong ating DOH at ang ating health care system will be modernized,” he said.

“So to 2023, at least we can start ‘yong health self-sufficiency to next pandemic so that we can prepare just in case na magkaroon po ng next pandemic,” he added.

The government targets to inoculate 1.7 million health workers. So far, 668,018 healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

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