Senators oppose resumption of POGO operations to aid gov’t COVID-19 response

Marje Pelayo   •   April 22, 2020   •   451

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators expressed opposition against a proposal to resume operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country allegedly to raise funds to support the national government’s response against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

During a live broadcast aired through Facebook by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque highlighted the contribution of POGO industry as among the government’s sources of funds.

Ang POGO po ay kabahagi siguro ng industriya na nagbibigay ng cash resource sa presidente, sa ating pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng buwis. Ang tatanungin po natin, (ano) ang risk na pino-pose ng operation ng POGO?” Roque said.

[POGO contributes to the cash resources of the President and the government in the form of taxes. If we may ask, what risks do POGO operations pose?]

But according to Senator Joel Villanueva, POGO is a ‘high-risk sector’ as its workforce is mainly comprised of Chinese nationals.

“It has a huge potential of spreading the disease because there are several workers working in an enclosed area and are residing in high rise condominiums,” the Senate Committee Chair on Labor and Employment.

Villanueva also argued that most POGOs in the country don’t pay government taxes which is enough reason not to allow their operation.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Senator Franklin Drilon said he is totally against the proposal.

“The resumption of POGO will not serve the rationale for a partial lifting of the ECQ to enable essential industries to operate. Since when did POGO become an essential industry?” he said.

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan raised the question: why not prioritize employment for Filipinos affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) than paying attention to Chinese businesses such as POGO?

Boost state funds? DOF na nga ang nagsasabi na ni hindi nga nagbabayad ng bilyong-bilyong pisong buwis ang mga ‘yan, [It’s the (Department of Finance) that confirms those (POGOs) do not pay taxes,]” he added.

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, said he might agree to the idea only on a work-from-home setup.

“If not (work from home), It’s non-essential. I would rather allow construction workers and farmers to go back to work,” he said.

Another opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, stressed that China owes the Philippines big time.

The lady senator said the government should press China to pay over P200-B for environmental damages in West Philippines Sea and about P50-B for unpaid taxes from previous POGO operations.

“POGOs are simply not worth it, and it’s way past time to say goodbye to POGOs,” she said.

Hontiveros vowed to study the possible filing of a resolution that would move China to face its arrears. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

DOH sees clustering of COVID-19 cases in over 400 areas nationwide

Robie de Guzman   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported it has monitored around 488 clustering of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in different areas in the country.

The DOH said this means that an active transmission of virus is happening in these areas.

As of July 8, the department said that 379 of the clusters were reported in communities, 46 in health facilities, 24 in jails, and 39 in other areas.

The DOH also reported clustering of cases in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), at a construction site in Metro Manila and several barangays across the country.

It also said that event-based report showed that Metro Manila had six new barangays with clustering, and one each in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Palawan, and Albay.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 50,359 cases.

The DOH surmised that the continued increase in coronavirus infections in the country is not just attributed to improved testing as it may also due to the clustering of cases and community transmission.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the spike in cases, especially in Metro Manila, is also probably due to increased physical contact following the easing of quarantine restrictions.

“Maaaring ang pagtaas ng mga cases sa Metro Manila ay dahil sa increased testing capacity at community transmission na ating nararanasan nang simulan ang pag ease ng community restrictions,” she said.

“Lalong napaiigting ang community transmission kung lax o hindi natin sinusunod ang minimum public health standards,” she added.

Vergeire said they are now closely monitoring possible clustering of coronavirus cases in different areas of the country.

The country’s coronavirus cases rose to 50,359 on Wednesday after the DOH reported additional 2,539 cases. The agency said that 1,922 of this figure were fresh or newly-validated while 617 were reported late.

The DOH also reported a total of 12,588 recovered patients and 1,314 fatalities.

Vergeire reiterated the agency’s appeal to the public to be more cautious and strictly observe health protocols such as the wearing of face mask, frequent handwashing and social distancing.

“This is our call to everybody, whether you be in the private or public sector. If you are going out and exposing yourself and your loved ones to an unseen enemy, protect yourself. by doing so, you protect your family, you protect your community, you protect the nation,” she said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Australia closes state border for first time in 100 years to halt coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 6, 2020

The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday (July 7) for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday (July 6), following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.

The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. 53 of those were detected from the public housing towers. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.

Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June. (Reuters)

(Production: James Redmayne)

Fear of new wave of coronavirus infections drives some to flee Beijing

UNTV News   •   June 18, 2020

Travelers, weary of rising COVID-19 infections, departed Beijing on Wednesday (June 17) as authorities ramped up efforts to contain a new outbreak in the Chinese capital.

Health officials recorded 31 new confirmed infections for Tuesday (June 16), bringing the cumulative infections since June 11 to 137 cases, the worst resurgence of the disease in the city since early February.

Beijing authorities on Tuesday raised the city’s COVID-19 emergency response level to two, the second highest in the four level alert system.

“I’m afraid to be infected. So I want to escape back soon,” said Ms. Wang just before boarding a flight to her hometown in central Hunan province.

Aviation data tracker Variflight showed that half the scheduled inbound flights and 40% of outbound flights from Beijing Capital International Airport, one of the city’s two major airports, have been or will likely be canceled on Wednesday. The majority of the flights are domestic routes. (Reuters)

(Production: Thomas Suen)

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