Proposed P10B aid to pandemic-hit firms ‘grossly inadequate,’ Drilon says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 18, 2021   •   562

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Franklin Drilon has questioned the P10-billion rescue package for companies heavily-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “grossly inadequate.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Drilon said the proposed amount is a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the government’s P19.5-billion fund to combat insurgency activities.

During a Senate hearing on the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Act (Guide bill) on Wednesday, the senator stressed that rescuing strategically important companies (SIC) should be given priority since these can help save people’s employment.

He noted that the principal objective of the GUIDE bill is to give necessary access to credit and financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and SICs), affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Drilon questioned the sufficiency of the amount considering that the country suffered a 9.5 percent economic contraction in 2020, equivalent to P1.5 trillion, and an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, equivalent to 4.5 million jobless Filipinos, due to the pandemic.

“Given all of these, I raise questions on the sincerity of the administration in helping these strategically important companies. Will it make a dent?” he asked.

“The P10 billion rescue package is a joke, especially if you look at it in the context of the P19.5 billion this government allocated to the anti-insurgency fund,” he added.

Drilon said there is clearly a need for the government to provide more meaningful interventions to help pandemic-hit companies, save jobs and revive the economy.

He also insisted that the government should put more funds from the national budget instead of utilizing the funds of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Under the measure, DBP and Landbank will be authorized to invest in, or enter into a joint venture agreement to incorporate a special holding company (SHC).

The SHC is intended to assist in the rehabilitation of strategically important companies affected by COVID-19 pandemic which are experiencing temporary solvency issues.

The bill provides for a capital infusion of P7.5 billion to LBP and P2.5 billion to DBP.

Drilon said using the existing funds of the state banks poses risks to their financial positions.

“I hope that the subcommittee can review the proposed structure of the special holding company, review the total financial exposure of the government in incorporating this, and check the finances of the LBP and DBP,” he said.

“We should also place more safeguards in the bill to ensure that the people’s money is protected,” he added.

DOJ, DILG crafting guidelines for Duterte order to detain people improperly wearing face masks

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are crafting guidelines for the latest order of President Rodrigo Duterte to detain those who are improperly wearing face masks in public, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday.

In a message to reporters, Guevarra said the guidelines will include details on the booking and detention processes, as well as the investigation and the filing of charges against those who will be apprehended.

The DOJ chief, however, stressed that Duterte’s order takes effect immediately even if the guidelines are still being formulated.

“The President’s directive takes effect immediately even without the guidelines. Existing laws and ordinances define the prohibited acts and impose the corresponding penalties therefore, and the relevant rules of court govern the procedure,” Guevarra said.

He also advised the public to wear face masks properly and to follow the law to avoid being detained.

“The best way to avoid being arrested while the guidelines are being formulated is to wear a face mask and obey the law,” he said.

On Wednesday, Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to impose a stricter mask mandate to stem the spread of COVID-19 that mostly affected urban centers.

Clinical trials on ivermectin to start in June – DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that preparations are underway for the anticipated clinical trials on the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (May 5), the official said the trials will be spearheaded by pulmonary doctor Dr. Aileen Wang of the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and will be implemented for eight months from June 2021 to January 2022.

He said the Department of Health (DOH) has allotted a total of P22 million for the trial of ivermectin.

It will be conducted on 1,200 volunteer adults, 18 years old and above, who are asymptomatic or non-severe COVID patients.

The team is awaiting ethics approval this month before proceeding with the trial.

“Ang ginagawa ay ethics approval para sa kanilang gagawin at recruitment ng staff na mag-a-administer ng clinical trials,” Dela Peña said.

They are currently coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross for the utilization of its facilities.

Other agents also under clinical trial are as follows:

* Randomized control clinical trial on the efficacy and safety of Tawa Tawa for adjunctive treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients (11 months);

* Randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the safety and efficacy of Lagundi in patients with mild COVID and without comorbidities (10 months);

* Clinical trial on the safety and efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID patients (12 months);

* Beneficial effects of VCO among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19 (14 months, extension included);

* Melatonin as adjuvant treatment for COVID-19 in patients requiring hospitalization (9 months) ;

* Convalescent Plasma as adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. (12 months).

Dela Peña noted that the duration of clinical trials for ivermectin is almost similar in period as other agents. The progress of each study still depends on the number of patients who want to volunteer for the trial.

“Kapag dumadami ang pasyenteng magbo-volunteer, mas mapapabilis ang pagtatapos ng mga trials,” the official assured.

Quezon Governor Suarez contracts COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines – Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez on Thursday said he has tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Suarez made the announcement on the social media account of the Quezon Public Information Office.

The governor said he took an RT-PCR test on May 5 and he received his test result on Thursday morning.

“Sa kasalukuyan, maayos ang aking kalagayan at binabantayan ng aking doktor ang aking kondisyon,” he said.

06 May 2021

Ipinaaabot ko po sa inyong lahat na ang inyong lingkod ay nag-POSITIBO sa COVID-19.

Bilang pag-iingat ay…

Posted by Quezon Public Information Office on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Suarez urged those who had close interaction with him in the past few days to undergo a self-quarantine and check any symptoms of COVID-19.

“Ipinapaalala ko rin sa inyong lahat na pamalagiang magsuot ng face mask, maghugas ng kamay at sundin ang mga health protocols para sa kaligtasan ng lahat,” he said.

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