House Speaker Velasco renews push for Bayanihan Law 3 amid COVID-19 surge

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2021   •   346

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has renewed his call for the passage of Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known as Bayanihan 3, that will provide direct aid to Filipinos struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco revived his proposal as more areas are placed under localized lockdowns and some businesses were again forced to shut down due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

“There are a lot of Filipinos who are suffering financially and are in dire need of help now. A third economic stimulus package will provide a much-needed lifeline to individuals, families, and businesses severely affected by the pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement.

The lawmaker was referring to his own version of the Bayanihan 3 bill that proposes a P420-billion fund to stimulate the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

House Bill 8628 or the proposed Bayanihan 3 seeks to allocate the following funds:

  • P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households
  • P100 billion for capacity-building for impacted sectors
  • P52 billion for wage subsidies
  • P70 billion for capacity-building for agricultural producers
  • P30 billion for internet allowances to students and teachers
  • P30 billion for assistance to displaced workers
  • P25 billion for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines
  • P5 billion for the rehabilitation of areas impacted by recent floods and typhoons

Velasco filed the measure in February after the passage of the bill extending the validity of Bayanihan 2, and upon seeing further need to allocate additional funds to help the nation cope with the pandemic.

To date, 224 members from the supermajority, minority, and independent blocs in the House of Representatives have signed either as principal authors or co-authors of the measure.

Lawmakers said reports that the Philippine economy contracted 9.5 percent in 2020—the worst performance in the country’s post-war history—underscore the importance and urgency of passing Bayanihan 3.

The country’s economic managers had reportedly said they were not sure if the third stimulus package would still be necessary if quarantine restrictions were eased further and the economy moves faster.

However, Velasco said that during a recent virtual meeting, he got an assurance from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that efforts are being made to identify funding sources for the Bayanihan 3.

“It’s a matter of finding revenues to be able to fund those programs. Secretary Dominguez did not actually shoot down Bayanihan 3,” Velasco said.

“Definitely, he (Dominguez) really wants to help the Filipino people. Ang sinabi lang niya e give him time to look for the funding,” he added.

The measure also seeks to provide each household member P1,000 regardless of their economic status. On top of this, a P1,000 allowance will be provided to each student and teacher and P8,000 for every displaced worker.

Over 514K persons in PH now fully vaccinated vs COVID-19 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 514,655 individuals in the country have received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

 

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the Philippines has so far administered a total of 2,539,693 doses in 1,047 active vaccination sites as of May 11.

 

Of this number, 2,025,038 people have received their first dose, including health workers (1,195,381), senior citizens (466,899), and persons with comorbidities (353,842). Around 8,916 individuals who are frontline personnel in the essential sectors have also been inoculated with their first jab.

 

Cabotaje reported that among the more than 500,000 fully immunized individuals, 35,242 were healthcare workers, 25,070 were senior citizens, and 134,343 were persons with co-morbidities

 

She also noted that 23 percent of the 1.5 million health workers listed in the vaccination priority have yet to be immunized.

 

“Many of these are from the other regions kasi nag-prioritize tayo sa NCR (National Capital Region),” Cabotaje said during a Laging Handa briefing.

 

Cabotaje also reported that as of May 4, the seven-day average of vaccinated individuals per day reached 36,491.

 

She said the government is targeting to increase the average vaccinees per day this May to more than 70,000, and up to 100,000 in the second quarter to expedite the vaccination rollout.

 

The health official, however, noted that this would still depend on the country’s vaccine supply.

 

“Marami na tayong vaccines, so kailangan para ma-meet yung ating target jabs per day, we need to expand the existing number of vaccination sites,” she said.

 

“Currently, we 1,000 na nagre-report, if they have 100 per day, makaka-100,000 tayo. But it depends on the number of vaccines that they have so they will really look by area, ano ba ang population nila, ano ba yung kailangan nilang ibakuna na number and we will be able to get to the numbers that we have targeted,” she added.

 

The national government earlier said that it is looking to vaccinate around 70 million Filipinos this year.

 

It also plans to start the vaccination of the general population by August or September when the bulk of vaccines procured by the government are expected to arrive.

IATF places Cagayan, Apayao, Benguet back to MECQ due to high COVID-19 cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Northern provinces Cagayan, Apayao, and Benguet have reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) after recording high cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The MECQ status will take effect on May 11 until May 23.

As of May 10, Cagayan has 4,657 cases followed by Benguet with 531 and Apayao with 63.

Business operations in the said areas will be limited according to the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

A liquor ban will be implemented while religious gatherings will only be allowed at 10% capacity.  Entertainment and recreational events also be suspended.

Benguet governor Melchor Diclas reported that majority of the COVID-19 cases in their area are severe. Hospitals in Benguet are also in short supply of respirators.

“Dumadami talaga ang mga pasyente natin. Marami ang namamatay at marami ang nagkakasakit ng critical at serious. Ang respirator natin may nagagamit tayong 13 na respirator. Ang bakante nalang ay dalawa,” he said.

(Our patients are increasing. Many have died and many are in critical or serious condition. We have 13 respirators but there are only two available units left.)

Hospitals in Apayao, meanwhile, are at 80% critical level.  In Cagayan Province, Governor Manuel Mamba said Tuguegarao City’s home quarantine setup is still contributing to the rising cases of COVID-19.

“Hindi magiging epektibo ang MECQ sa Tuguegarao City hangga’t may home quarantine,” he said.

(MECQ in Tuguegarao City will not be effective as long as home quarantine is being implemented .)

Mamba continues to reiterate the need to build isolation facilities in Tuguegarao to accommodate COVID-19 patients. AAC (With reports from Marvin Calas)

 

 

Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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