PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Louella DesiderioAlexis Romero (The Philippine Star ) - December 15, 2020 - 12:00am

 

MANILA, Philippines — An “accelerated” or early rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 would boost business confidence and promote economic recovery, business group Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said yesterday.

 

“The rollout of the vaccines, especially if their acquisition and distribution are accelerated, will certainly boost this confidence and hasten the economic recovery of our country,” MAP president Francis Lim said.

A survey conducted and released in September by MAP with PwC Philippines showed most chief executive officers are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the economy.

 

In particular, 83 percent of the CEOs surveyed expect the economy to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in one to two years, and 59 percent are confident about their revenue growth prospects in the next 12 months.

 

Earlier, presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said British drug maker AstraZeneca has approved a second batch of COVID-19 vaccine procurement for donations by the private sector.

Late last month, Concepcion together with over 30 representatives from the private sector and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. entered into a deal with AstraZeneca Philippines country president Lotis Ramin for the purchase of 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The private sector would donate half of the vaccines from AstraZeneca to the Department of Health (DOH), with the rest earmarked for their employees.

 

Vaccines to be purchased under the signed deal are expected to be available by May or June next year.

The DOH said AstraZeneca may apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) to supply COVID-19 vaccines.

 

According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, there are two “pathways” for the country to secure vaccines for COVID-19 – one is to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines and the other is to apply for EUA with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

Last week, AstraZeneca withdrew its application with FDA to do clinical trial for its candidate vaccine in the Philippines.

“Apparently, they were already able to meet the sufficient number of (trial) participants required. So they don’t need to have another trial here in the country,” she said.

 

Vergeire noted the government is now having negotiations with AstraZeneca “whose next step will be the application for an EUA here in the country, if ever.”  She also reported that there are now 16 participants in the ongoing clinical trial for Japanese drug Avigan from the original eight when trial started on Nov. 20.

 

Vergeire added that they are expecting to have more participants as the protocol for recruitment has been modified. A total of 144 participants are being targeted for Avigan trials.

Sinovac deal this week

 

National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Galvez said the government aims to finalize a purchase deal with Chinese firm and vaccine frontrunner Sinovac this week, as he assured the public that regulators would look into the bribery allegations against the company.

“Most likely, this week. We want to finalize it this week, our final negotiation so that we can firm up the terms and also we are looking at the exact time of the distribution,” Galvez said at a press briefing yesterday when asked for updates on the negotiations with Sinovac.

He said the government is planning to buy 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac.

 

“They (Sinovac) said they are very confident that they will have the resources in April, but we are negotiating that March will be our target,” the vaccine czar added.

 

Galvez said Philippine regulators have vowed to probe the bribery accusations involving Sinovac officials.

“We asked the regulatory board about it and they will examine those allegations. And we found out that that allegation was during the year 2017 and we are talking also with Sinovac,” he said.

 

“We feel that, in fairness to them, they have given us a lot of after sales freebies and we saw that Sinovac’s service is good, including what we call the apps (to be used) after the inoculation,” he added.

 

He noted that Sinovac would be having vaccine rollout in other countries like Indonesia and Brazil.

“We saw that the ongoing negotiation that we have is very clean and very open,” he said.

He also maintained the government may sign most of the COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreements next month as the phase of procurement would depend on the approval of drug regulators.

Galvez noted that under the Philippines’ arrangement with multilateral lenders Asian Development Bank and World Bank, EUAs are required before procurement.

 

“Once the EUA… of the originating country is out, it serves as our cue... All our procurement will be through multilateral arrangement with the Asian Development Bank and also with the World Bank and they require what they call stringent regulatory compliance,” Galvez said at a press briefing.

 

He said the government is negotiating with nine pharmaceutical firms, four of them already in the advanced stage. Talks with the five other companies are still in the exploratory stage.

Rich get 80 percent

 

He admitted that the government is facing challenges because rich countries have already cornered 80 percent of vaccine supply.

“For now, most probably, we would have a vaccine in the first quarter (of 2021), most probably March. And then also, the second tranches will arrive in the second quarter, third quarter and the fourth quarter. But we are expecting volumes of vaccines in the early third quarter,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque allayed concerns that China may use COVID-19 vaccines to pressure the Philippines to change its stance on the South China Sea row.

 

“Our policy is to build friendships with everyone, we have an independent foreign policy. And the President in fact shares many values with the leadership of China, including personal friendship with President Xi (Jinping),” Roque said.

“So I think, the possibility of using the vaccine as pressure as far as the Philippines is concerned is almost nil,” he added.

Philippine ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said China is offering vaccines to improve its standing in the world and to “win hearts and minds.”

 

“As you know, the rating of China, for example in the Philippines, when it comes to trustworthiness is quite low. And so the point of this vaccine diplomacy is on the one hand, their pledge to make it a global public good, to make it available particularly to their close friends, countries that are friendly to them, neighboring countries,” Sta. Romana said.

“But whether they’ll make it as a condition in geopolitics, that has not come up in any discussion. And I think the Chinese are very clear that when it comes to the Philippines, we put it on separate tracks. Where we have differences, we discuss it. But if you’re going to use one to press on the other, that will certainly not work under this current administration. So there has been no attempt by the Chinese to link the two together,” he added.

 

Politicking

Roque also assailed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Vice President Leni Robredo for raising issues about the administration’s vaccine procurement.

 

Earlier, Drilon likened the P72.5 billion earmarked for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to an unfunded check.

Drilon said only P2.5 billion of the P72.5 billion is funded. The remaining P70 billion is in the unprogrammed fund, the availability of which depends on approved loans or if government exceeds its non-tax revenues targets.

 

“Sen. Drilon, Vice President, the elections are still far off. Stop the politics. I have repeatedly said that we can borrow from multilateral sources and bilateral sources for the needed 72.5 billion,” Roque said.

“I’m sure Senator Drilon knows about this already having been a veteran lawmaker, the same thing goes for the Vice President. They should know how the budget works. It should be in the budget, otherwise we can’t spend for that item, even if we plan to borrow money to finance it,” he added.

He also scored Tony Leachon, a public health advocate and former adviser of the COVID-19 task force, for questioning the government’s decision to prioritize Sinovac despite the vaccine’s unproven safeness and efficacy.

 

“I’ll be honest with Dr. Leachon. They were edited out of the talk to the people but the President had cursed you many times. He said you kept on saying a lot of things but you were just after a government position,” Roque said.

 

“Next time the President curses you, I would insist it would be shown to the people. Perhaps you thought the President is happy with what you are doing. No, all the other Cabinet members who have been in attendance in the recording of the talk to the people can attest to this,” he added.

 

Galvez also said he found it difficult working with Leachon. “May sariling mundo (has his own world),” he said, referring to Leachon.

In a Tweet, Leachon said he is “not affected anymore by what others would say as long as you work for the greater good.”

“These are minor bumps in a life full of challenges. As a health advocate you will face these problems. We can’t please everyone. Roll with the punches. Focus on the higher goal,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robredo’s spokesman has criticized the seeming lack of urgency on the part of the Duterte administration in purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.

 

“Shouldn’t vaccines be our government’s first priority for next year? Isn’t that (COVID-19) our biggest problem right now?” lawyer Barry Gutierrez said over dzXL on Sunday.

 

“All countries, all people around the world want to be vaccinated because of the big problem we are facing. So I wonder why it appears we are not acting that much. There’s no sense of urgency,” Gutierrez said.

He also expressed concerns about the lack of a definite source of funds to immunize around 60 million Filipinos next year.

“This is what Sen. Drilon was saying, it doesn’t seem to be a priority, even if it’s in the budget, P72 billion, it’s not clear where the money will come from,” Gutierrez said. – Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - December 2, 2020 - 12:00am

Philippines wins top plums in World Travel Awards

 

MANILA, Philippines — The old walled city of Intramuros has been adjudged the world’s leading tourist attraction for this year at the 27th World Travel Awards (WTA), which also crowned the country as the leading diving destination.


 

“We are incredibly grateful for the recognitions given to the Philippines’ magnificent dive sites and the beautifully-restored heritage site of Intramuros at the 27th World Travel Awards,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.


 

“We will continue to promote sustainable, inclusive and world-class tourism, especially now as we slowly reopen our attractions to more domestic tourists,” she added.


 

This is the Philippines’ second win as the World’s Leading Dive Destination, beating different dive destinations around the world such as Azores Islands, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Maldives and Mexico.


 

In contrast, it is Intramuros’ first time to win World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, beating 15 different attractions such as Acropolis of Greece, Burj Khalifa of Dubai, the Grand Canyon National Park of the US, Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania and Taj Mahal of India, among others.


 

The Philippines earlier bagged accolades in the Asian leg of the WTA, particularly winning as Asia’s leading dive and beach destination. Intramuros also won as Asia’s leading tourist attraction.


 

In addition, the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) was declared as this year’s leading tourist board in Asia, beating 11 nominated countries.


 

“These recognitions are certainly an inspiration to the industry as we safely and gradually reopen our destinations for tourism. These would not be possible without the combined efforts from our tourism stakeholders, local government units, partner agencies and our fellow Filipinos who have tirelessly promoted our country’s attractions, products and culture,” Puyat said earlier.


 

DOT has recognized dive tourism as one of the key areas for positive industry growth, including increased visitor count, extended length of stay and higher tourism revenue.


 

The Philippines is home to the highest concentration of coral reef life and a variety of marine species in its world-renowned dive sites such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Apo Reef Natural Park in Mindoro and Apo Island in Dumaguete, among others.


 

Batangas recently reopened its dive sites establishments in Anilao for recreational diving, but guests are required to present negative COVID test result as well as observe minimum health and safety standards.


 

In Manila, on the other hand, Intramuros Administration (IA) has restored the walled city, with extensive renovations including installing bright capiz lamps around monuments and trees, unveiling colorful murals and new sites, such as the dungeon, to highlight the country’s Hispanic past. Through its programs, IA ensures Intramuros remains an iconic tourism site that honors the Philippines’ glorious past.


 

Founded in 1993, the World Travel Awards has been recognizing brands and organizations worldwide from the travel, tourism and hospitality industries through its annual Grand Tour, a series of six regional gala ceremonies held in each continent. Each year is capped with a Grand Final Gala.


 

The Philippines continues to retain the interest of the international traveling market despite the raging pandemic as a number of its destinations continue to be cited in travel magazines and websites.


 

In October, Palawan and Boracay ranked 8th and 18th in the Big 7 Travel’s 50 most beautiful places in the world list. The islands were also voted as among the best islands in Asia by readers of Conde Nast Traveler.


 

The DOT said it is optimistic that the WTA honors will inspire more people to travel and in effect help the Philippines’ tourism industry to recover after a challenging period.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - December 1, 2020 - 6:51pm

PAGASA: 1-2 more storms could hit the country before year ends

 

MANILA, Philippines — At least two tropical cyclones may still enter the country this December, state weather bureau PAGASA said, capping off what has been a year for the Philippines dealing with a pandemic and reeling from three consecutive strong typhoons.


 

The agency in its 5 p.m. update on Tuesday said the storms will be named "Vicky" and "Warren" once they enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility and are likely to hit Bicol Region, Visayas, Northern Mindanao and MIMAROPA.


 

"Bilang guidance kung saan puwede tumama, kadalasan ay landfalling at sa gitnang bahagi ng bansa tumatama ang bagyo. Just in case makapaghanda na rin 'yung ating mga kababayan," said weather specialist Ariel Rojas.


 

(For guidance, these storms normally make landfall over the central part of the country. This is just so the public living in these areas could be prepared.)


 

PAGASA in November projected one to three weather disturbances to hit the country that month — with "Ulysses" (international name Vamco) battering Luzon and leaving a trail of destruction that had left the entire island under a state of calamity.


 

Latest figures by the NDRRMC showed that showed that the cost of damage from Ulysses alone had reached a combined P19 billion, more than Super Typhoon Rolly (international name Goni) left at over P17 billion.


 

The onslaught of these storms had left groups calling for a climate emergency declaration, which had been backed by Congress in a resolution that only urges — not compels — local governments and agencies to adopt policies to mitigate climate change's impact.


 

The weather bureau said the low pressure area currently inside PAR was last seen at 115 kilometers east of Borongan City in Samar.


 

While it is not expected to intensify, it could still bring isolated rains over central parts of the country such as Eastern Visayas and Bicol, along with the tail end of a frontal system.


 

Eastern parts of Luzon will also see the same weather condition tomorrow due to the tail-end, particularly in Cagayan, Aurora, Quezon and Bicol Region.


 

The remaining areas in Mainland Luzon including MIMAROPA will see generally fair weather but could expect slight chances of rain and colder mornings due to the northeast monsoon or the Amihan.


 

PAGASA added that colder weather should be expected by the second half of December, which will prolong until January to February, still brought by the northeast monsoon.


 

Visayas will experience rainy weather condition still due to the LPA, while Mindanao will have fair weather with the possibility of localized thunderstorms.


 

Gale warning, meanwhile, is up over the seaboards of northern and central Luzon, eastern seaboard of Quezon including Polilio Islands, as well as the northern and eastern seaboards of Bicol and Eastern Visayas due to the Amihan.


 

Ulysses was the 21st tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, with PAGASA in October declaring the onset of the La Niña, where above normal rainfall conditions will be seen at least until March 2021. — Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - November 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Philippines wins top plums in World Travel Awards

MANILA, Philippines — The old walled city of Intramuros has been adjudged the world’s leading tourist attraction for this year at the 27th World Travel Awards (WTA), which also crowned the country as the leading diving destination.


 

“We are incredibly grateful for the recognitions given to the Philippines’ magnificent dive sites and the beautifully-restored heritage site of Intramuros at the 27th World Travel Awards,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.


 

“We will continue to promote sustainable, inclusive and world-class tourism, especially now as we slowly reopen our attractions to more domestic tourists,” she added.


 

This is the Philippines’ second win as the World’s Leading Dive Destination, beating different dive destinations around the world such as Azores Islands, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Maldives and Mexico.


 

In contrast, it is Intramuros’ first time to win World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, beating 15 different attractions such as Acropolis of Greece, Burj Khalifa of Dubai, the Grand Canyon National Park of the US, Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania and Taj Mahal of India, among others.


 

The Philippines earlier bagged accolades in the Asian leg of the WTA, particularly winning as Asia’s leading dive and beach destination. Intramuros also won as Asia’s leading tourist attraction.


 

In addition, the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) was declared as this year’s leading tourist board in Asia, beating 11 nominated countries.


 

“These recognitions are certainly an inspiration to the industry as we safely and gradually reopen our destinations for tourism. These would not be possible without the combined efforts from our tourism stakeholders, local government units, partner agencies and our fellow Filipinos who have tirelessly promoted our country’s attractions, products and culture,” Puyat said earlier.


 

DOT has recognized dive tourism as one of the key areas for positive industry growth, including increased visitor count, extended length of stay and higher tourism revenue.


 

The Philippines is home to the highest concentration of coral reef life and a variety of marine species in its world-renowned dive sites such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Apo Reef Natural Park in Mindoro and Apo Island in Dumaguete, among others.


 

Batangas recently reopened its dive sites establishments in Anilao for recreational diving, but guests are required to present negative COVID test result as well as observe minimum health and safety standards.


 

In Manila, on the other hand, Intramuros Administration (IA) has restored the walled city, with extensive renovations including installing bright capiz lamps around monuments and trees, unveiling colorful murals and new sites, such as the dungeon, to highlight the country’s Hispanic past. Through its programs, IA ensures Intramuros remains an iconic tourism site that honors the Philippines’ glorious past.


 

Founded in 1993, the World Travel Awards has been recognizing brands and organizations worldwide from the travel, tourism and hospitality industries through its annual Grand Tour, a series of six regional gala ceremonies held in each continent. Each year is capped with a Grand Final Gala.


 

The Philippines continues to retain the interest of the international traveling market despite the raging pandemic as a number of its destinations continue to be cited in travel magazines and websites.


 

In October, Palawan and Boracay ranked 8th and 18th in the Big 7 Travel’s 50 most beautiful places in the world list. The islands were also voted as among the best islands in Asia by readers of Conde Nast Traveler.


 

The DOT said it is optimistic that the WTA honors will inspire more people to travel and in effect help the Philippines’ tourism industry to recover after a challenging period.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - November 23, 2020 - 7:40pm

Palace: Government-paid COVID-19 vaccination won't be mandatory

MANILA, Philippines — While the Philippine government wants everyone to have access to COVID-19 vaccines, immunization won't be mandatory as only half of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, Malacañang said Monday.


 

The World Health Organization defines herd immunity as a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.


 

"According to DOH (Department of Health), we need to give vaccines to 50% of the population so we can have herd (immunity). To those who do not want to be immunized, we will just let them be," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.


 

Roque noted that 66% of Filipinos are willing to be immunized from COVID-19 based on a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations.


 

The Duterte administration, Roque added, would borrow money from the Land Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines, and multilateral lenders World Bank and Asian Development Bank to ensure that it has enough funds to buy vaccines.


 

At the same briefing, Roque shrugged off reports that Sen. Panfilo Lacson and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez have received COVID-19 vaccines.


 

"That's what the president said. We will spend for the vaccines of the poor, our frontliners, our soldiers, and our policemen. The government will buy (the vaccines to be given to them)," the Palace spokesman said.


 

"If there are people who have been vaccinated, that did not come from the government. The assurance of the President is if they were bought by our government, the poorest people would be prioritized," he added.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(The Philippine Star ) - November 26, 2020 - 12:00am

Vista Mall, Starmall launch Give Hope Project

MANILA, Philippines — Vista Mall and Starmall have launched Give Hope Project, the malls’ response to help families affected by Typhoons Rolly, Siony and Ulysses.


 

The project is a donation drive that enlists the support of Vista Mall and Starmall’s employees, partners and customers. Donation booths are available at the common areas of all Vista Malls, Starmalls, Vista Lifestyle Centers, NOMO and Evia.


 

Donations in the form of the following are accepted: cash, new clothes, bottled water, canned goods, medicine, sanitary products and other essential supplies.


 

A separate donation box is set up exclusively for cash donations. Give Hope Project started accepting donations on Nov. 17.


 

The first wave of donations will be forwarded to the victims in Cagayan, through their local government unit, where hundreds of families were affected by floods.


 

The Give Hope Project aims to provide much-needed help to allow those who were displaced by recent calamities to be able to bounce back quickly.


 

Vista Mall and Starmall encourage their customers from all over the country to send in their donations, no matter the size or quantity. The goal in setting up the donation drive is to empower the communities these malls are a part of by providing them with an avenue to extend their help and support to those in need – without having to consider location or logistics, just drop off donations and the malls will take care of the rest.


 

During the height of these typhoons’ onslaught, Vista Mall and Starmall offered overnight parking, restrooms, power outlets for charging and free WiFi access to those who were stranded and needed shelter from the storm.


 

The malls also made sure that essential services remain open and available for customers to allow them to be fully prepared in the face of calamity.


 

The Give Hope stations are available at Vista Malls Antipolo, Bataan, Daang Hari, Dasmariñas, General Trias, Iloilo, Las Piñas, Lakefront, Malolos, Naga, Pampanga, Sta. Rosa, Tanza and Taguig; Starmalls Alabang, Talisay-Cebu, EDSA-Shaw and San Jose del Monte; Evia Lifestyle Center and NOMO – A Vista Lifestyle Center.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - November 25, 2020 - 4:17pm

Government eyes millions vaccinated for COVID-19 in 3-5 years

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration on Tuesday said it is targeting to have 60 to 70 million Filipinos vaccinated against the coronavirus in three to five years, with some 35 million already identified as priority for inoculation.


 

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the country's vaccine czar, said in a Laging Handa briefing that mass vaccination could begin at "best case scenario" by mid-2021.


 

But, he has also said that the more realistic picture could be by the end of next year or early 2022.


 

"We will do this in a 3 to 5-year period because we can only vaccinate around 20 to 30 million a year," he said in mixed English and Filipino.


 

Galvez added that negotiations with China's Sinovac, apart from its talks with other foreign drug makers, could provide some 20 to 50 million doses of a possible COVID-19 vaccine.


 

The yearslong goal of vaccinating more than half of the population would mean that majority of the effort will be carried out by the next administration, with the Duterte government's term ending in June 2022.


 

In a weekly meeting of the coronavirus task force on Monday, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez reported that about P73.2 billion from multilateral funding sources would be used for the purchase of the vaccines.


 

This would fit into the 60 million target, which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said could bring a herd immunity in the country.


 

'Priority listings' and strategy

How is administration planning to carry this out then?


 

Galvez in the same briefing said the health department has submitted a list of individuals around 35 million, which will be prioritized once the approved vaccines finally arrive in the country.


 

This includes health workers and other COVID-19 frontliners, as well as the most vulnerable to the virus and the poor.


 

State forces would also be given priority, which follows through with the president's order that he wants a healthy military and police tasked to carry out coronavirus-related curbs.


 

"Kasama rin dito ang essential workers ng DSWD, DepEd at 'yung ating government agencies..vulnerable communities, indigents and poor communities," Galvez said.


 

(Essential workers of government agencies are also included as well as the most vulnerable, the indigents and the poor communities.)


 

Galvez added that government's strategy in vaccine distribution would take form in two: geographical and sectoral.


 

This means that areas such as Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro — places with high COVID-19 cases — would be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by the said groups of individuals that would be prioritized.


 

The Philippines has nearly 432,000 coronavirus infections to date, with over 8,200 deaths, months since the outbreak of the virus in the country.


 

The count remains the second highest in the Southeast Asian region, and 27th in the world, per a list by the John Hopkins University and Medicine.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star ) - November 25, 2020 - 12:00am

Chinese herbal medicine launched in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese herbal medicine designed to relieve influenza symptoms such as those of COVID-19 was officially launched in the Philippines on Monday.


 

According to Philippine Archipelago International Trading Corp. (PAITC) president Olivia Limpe-Aw, the Lianhua Qingwen capsule is the first traditional Chinese medicine registered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the “pharmacological category.”


 

“This a landmark registration? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to fore the importance of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and, in particular, the significant role of Lianhua Qingwen in the treatment of COVID-19,” she noted in a webinar.


 

Aw added the medicine is now available at selected drugstores in the Philippines, but it will be accessible at more outlets soon.


 

She said the entry of Lianhua Qingwen in the country “will be a big help to our countrymen.”


 

AIf thereIs a silver lining to this COVID-19 pandemic, itss the awareness for traditional Chinese medicine and the provision for effective, safe and affordable treatment,s she maintained.


 

Approval

In August, the Chinese embassy in the Philippines had announced that the FDA had approved the application for registration of Lianhua Qingwen as a “traditional medicine.”


 

An embassy statement showed the product is manufactured by “one of China’s renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine manufacturers, Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.”


 

In China, the Lianhua Qingwen capsule is an approved treatment for mild and moderate cases of COVID-19.


 

Based on Lianhua Qingwen’s certificate for product registration (CPR) issued by the FDA, the medicine “helps remove heat-toxin invasion of the lungs, including symptoms such as fever, aversion to cold, muscle soreness, stuffy and runny nose.”


 

The product can be procured in the Philippines with a doctor’s prescription.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - November 23, 2020 - 7:40pm

Palace: Government-paid COVID-19 vaccination won't be mandatory

MANILA, Philippines — While the Philippine government wants everyone to have access to COVID-19 vaccines, immunization won't be mandatory as only half of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, Malacañang said Monday.


 

The World Health Organization defines herd immunity as a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.


 

"According to DOH (Department of Health), we need to give vaccines to 50% of the population so we can have herd (immunity). To those who do not want to be immunized, we will just let them be," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.


 

Roque noted that 66% of Filipinos are willing to be immunized from COVID-19 based on a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations.


 

The Duterte administration, Roque added, would borrow money from the Land Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines, and multilateral lenders World Bank and Asian Development Bank to ensure that it has enough funds to buy vaccines.


 

At the same briefing, Roque shrugged off reports that Sen. Panfilo Lacson and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez have received COVID-19 vaccines.


 

"That's what the president said. We will spend for the vaccines of the poor, our frontliners, our soldiers, and our policemen. The government will buy (the vaccines to be given to them)," the Palace spokesman said.


 

"If there are people who have been vaccinated, that did not come from the government. The assurance of the President is if they were bought by our government, the poorest people would be prioritized," he added.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Agence France-Presse) - November 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Domestic workers take Hong Kong cricket by storm

MANILA, Philippines — After a long week cooking and cleaning in the cramped households of Hong Kong, a group of Filipino domestic helpers are using their Sunday off for an unlikely hobby: cricket. And they’re proving rather good at it.


 

Despite no background in the game, scant coaching and very little time, the SCC Divas have made a startling impact, winning Hong Kong’s development league twice in their first two seasons and going unbeaten since stepping up to the main divisions this year.


 

Along the way, they’ve inspired the Philippines’ first national women’s cricket team, providing seven of its players, while shaking up Hong Kong’s sleepy cricket scene, a remnant of British colonialism.


 

“We are all domestic helpers. Some are new players, having their first time holding a cricket ball,” said Josie Arimas, 52, captain and founder of the SCC Divas.


 

The satisfying clunk of bat on ball, at the scenic Po Kong Village Cricket Ground overlooked by green hills and tower blocks, is a world away from daily life for the Divas.


 

Many of them work from 6 a.m. till midnight, six days a week, scrubbing, shopping and looking after kids, to support their own children and families left behind in the Philippines.


 

They get “no rest. They’re tough,” said Arimas.


 

6 hours off a month

Tales of abuse and exploitation abound among Hong Kong’s 400,000 foreign domestic workers, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia.


 

One domestic worker watching the Divas said that rather than the government-mandated rest day every week, her employer gives her just six hours off a month, and makes her sleep in the living room.


 

For Divas player Liza Avelino, cricket is a chance to escape the difficulties of everyday life.


 

“It’s very relaxing, it makes my day worthwhile,” she said. “It’s good to be active and you forget all stress and the troubles and everything.”


 

During this month’s 45-run win over the Cavaliers, a team from the venerable and well-heeled Hong Kong Cricket Club, the Divas’ skills honed in baseball, a popular sport in the Philippines, were in evidence.


 

Positive hitting helped set a challenging total of 167-6, before the Divas restricted the Cavaliers to 122-4 with some energetic fielding including two side-on, direct hits on the stumps.


 

The team was cheered on throughout by a vocal band of teammates and supporters, who picnicked by the boundary rope and operated the scoreboard.


 

“They’re so passionate about it. They all come here and they all watch and they make a day of it,” said Cavaliers captain Tracy Walker, an independent board member of Cricket Hong Kong.


 

“They get one day off a week, and what do they do? They come and sit and watch, cheer along, train whenever they can. It’s pretty impressive.”


 

‘Very empowering’

Just three years after their founding in 2017, the Divas have already formed a development team, SCC Pinay, and aim to be a lasting force in Hong Kong cricket.


 

Team manager Aminesh Kulkarni, who founded the team with Arimas and raises sponsorship to pay for dues, equipment and other expenses, says the aim is to provide a positive pastime for domestic workers on their day off.


 

“The Filipinos have that gathering culture. So if one comes, a few come. One player started spending time here, and now we have 32,” Kulkarni said.


 

“My aim is finally about 200. It is going to happen in the next couple of years.”

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - November 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Siargao set to reopen shores to tourists

MANILA, Philippines — Siargao Island, the Philippines’ surfing capital, is back in business, opening its shores to tourists starting tomorrow, Nov. 23, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said yesterday.


 

“This is encouraging news for everyone who loves the sea, especially the surfers, as Siargao reopens to travelers, subject to minimum health and safety standards,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.


 

She cited a local executive order issued last Friday by Mayor Cecilia Ruson of General Luna, Surigao del Norte for the re-opening of one of the most beautiful island destinations in Asia.


 

“The people of the island will regain their livelihood and share their paradise with our kababayans once more with the same level of hospitality they have always been known for,” Puyat said.


 

Flights to the island would not resume until Dec. 1, but Ruson’s order gives local authorities and stakeholders ample time to set travel guidelines and put protocols in place.


 

With flights to Siargao resuming, the DOT said tourists can visit the country’s best-known surf spots through Sayak Airport near the barangays of Del Carmen and Heneral Luna and discover a variety of hidden attractions.


 

The local government of Siargao has set minimum health and safety standards, as well as COVID-19 testing requirements before tourists arrive on the island.


 

Tourists who would arrive at Sayak Airport in Surigao City would be required to present an e-health pass with valid identification card; a negative COVID-19 result taken within 48 hours; a five-day confirmed booking at an authorized establishment and a round-trip ticket or travel details.


 

“If RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) is taken more than 48 hours of departure from point of origin, a negative antigen swab will be required on the day of arrival,” the statement read.


 

Tourists from within Surigao del Norte, meanwhile, would be required to present an e-health pass with valid identification card, a certificate from barangay captain that the traveler is not a close contact of a COVID-positive person and confirmed booking from an accredited DOT accommodation establishment.


 

Hotels and resorts are required to present business permits, a certificate of authority to operate from the DOT, an e-health system registration, an e-health pass or QR code reader and new normal protocols approved by the municipal health office.


 

A curfew would also be implemented from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.


 

Siargao has been a popular tourist destination, with its towering limestone hills, shorelines of white sands and tiny shells, mystical caves with crystal formations and clear waters.


 

Aside from surfing, other popular leisure activities include island hopping, kayaking, nature trekking, bird-watching and leisure swimming.


 

Siargao has been gaining the attention of the international travel community in recent years, with the island being cited by several global travel magazines.


 

In October, readers of Conde Nast Traveler voted Siargao as the 5th best island in Asia, with the magazine describing it as “feels like Bali a few decades ago.”


 

“Given its smaller size (a population of 200,000, compared to Bali’s four million), Siargao has remained unspoiled, remote and still relatively under the radar – despite the influx of development in recent years,” Conde Nast Traveler said.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(The Philippine Star ) - November 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Pinoy student wins international engineering, design prize

MANILA, Philippines — A novel material made from rotting fruit and vegetables that absorbs stray ultraviolet light from the sun and converts it into renewable energy has landed its designer the first sustainability gong in this year’s James Dyson awards.


 

From a record 1,800 entries – despite the challenges of COVID-19 – the award was given to 27-year-old Carvey Ehren Maigue, a student at Mapúa University in the Philippines, for his Aureus system which uses the natural scientific principles behind the northern lights, according to the website of The Guardian.


 

The other top prize in the international competition has been handed to the inventor of a low-cost biomedical device that can be used at home to detect breast cancer, harnessing artificial intelligence to analyze urine.


 

Aureus is made from crop waste and can be attached in panels to windows and walls. It allows high energy particles derived from fruit and vegetables to be absorbed by luminescent particles, which re-emit them as visible light.


 

Unlike solar panels, the system is effective even when not directly facing the sun because it can pick up UV through clouds and bouncing from walls, pavements and other buildings.


 

Maigue was forced back to the drawing board with his invention after an earlier version proved too costly.


 

“Winning the James Dyson Award is both a beginning and an end. It marked the end of years of doubting whether my idea would find global relevance. I want to create a better form of renewable energy that uses the world’s natural resources, is close to people’s lives, forging achievable paths toward a sustainable and regenerative future,” he was quoted as saying by Guardian consumer affairs correspondent Rebecca Smithers.


 

The two overall winners, who each receive a cash prize of £30,000 (roughly P1.9 million) to further develop their inventions, were lauded by judges for tackling problems of global importance: sustainable methods to effectively generate renewable energy, and women missing breast cancer screenings.


 

The overall international award went to 23-year-old postgraduate student Judit Giró Benet for her Blue Box, which offers a simple home-based alternative to routine mammogram screening.


 

Now in its 15th year, the James Dyson award operates in 27 countries, and is open to students and recent graduates studying product design, industrial design and engineering. It recognizes and rewards imaginative design solutions to global problems.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star ) - November 20, 2020 - 12:00am

FDA eyes use of home test kit for COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines — The test kit for coronavirus disease 2019 that can be used at home may soon be available in the country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said yesterday.


 

FDA director general Eric Domingo said the agency could easily process and approve the use of a self-testing kit for COVID-19 when its manufacturer applies for the required registration.


 

The first self-test kit for COVID is available in the US.


 

The US-FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Lucira COVID-19 all-in-one test kit.


 

It has been authorized by the US-FDA for home use with self-collected nasal swab samples for people aged 14 years old and above who are suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus.


 

Domingo said it won’t take long to register the self-testing kit since this is neither drug nor vaccine.


 

He said products given EUA are still required to register or apply in the Philippines.


 

At this time, the FDA has no power to grant EUA, but Domingo expressed optimism that President Duterte will ask the Department of Health to grant the agency such authority.


 

If given the power, the FDA can issue EUA for the use of COVID vaccines thatstill “under development” or undergoing Phase 3 clinical trial.


 

There are five COVID vaccine manufacturers that applied for the conduct of clinical trials in the country, Domingo said.


 

He said all anti-COVID drugs and vaccines worldwide are considered “investigational” at this time.


 

Vaccine manufacturers must be able to prove its safety and efficacy before the FDA can grant EUA or approve its use in the country.


 

Many pharmaceutical companies are expected to apply for EAU once it becomes available to be able to distribute vaccines against coronavirus disease in the country.


 

Domingo said vaccine manufacturers given EAU in other countries are likely to secure similar authorization from the Philippines.


 

“Once we are given the authority to issue EAU, vaccine manufacturers will likely apply, particularly those that got EUA in other countries,” Domingo said.


 

But Domingo said FDA will first evaluate the safety and efficacy of the products before issuing EUA.


 

Domingo said the FDA would rather look at different vaccines because pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to be able to produce sufficient global supply.


 

“To be able to provide vaccine to all Filipinos, we should look at different vaccines,” he said.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star ) - November 20, 2020 - 12:00am

US vaccines may be used in weeks

Duterte OKs early payment for vaccines

MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna could be ready for US emergency authorization and distribution within weeks, setting the stage for inoculation to begin as soon as this year, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.


 

States and territories are prepared to begin distributing the vaccines within 24 hours of receiving regulatory authorization, according to news service Al Jazeera.


 

Officials told reporters complex cold storage requirements will not impede ensuring all Americans have access to the vaccines.


 

“We now have two safe and highly effective vaccines that could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and ready to distribute within weeks,” Azar said during his briefing on the government’s Operation Warp Speed program for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.


 

Pfizer said Wednesday that new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95 percent effective, is safe and also protects older people most at risk of dying — the last data needed to seek emergency use of limited shot supplies as the catastrophic outbreak worsens across the globe.


 

The announcement from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, just a week after they revealed the first promising preliminary results, comes as the team is preparing within days to formally ask US regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.


 

Anticipating that, an FDA advisory panel is on standby to publicly debate the data in early December.


 

The companies also have begun “rolling submissions” for the vaccine with regulators in Europe, the UK and Canada and soon will add this new data.


 

Pfizer and BioNTech had initially estimated the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective after counting a group of the earliest infections that occurred in its final-stage testing. With the new announcement, they have accumulated more infections — 170 — and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a comparison dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the companies said.


 

“This is an extraordinarily strong protection,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s CEO and co-founder, said.


 

Even if regulators agree, he dispelled any notion that an end to the pandemic is around the corner, warning “we are now awaiting a hard winter.”


 

“The available vaccine doses are just too small to ensure that we could make a significant difference to the society” right away, Sahin said. But next year if several companies’ vaccine candidates also work, “we might be able to get control of this pandemic situation late summer 2021.”


 

Earlier this week, competitor Moderna Inc. also announced similar effectiveness of its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is made with the same, brand-new technology — using a snippet of the genetic code of the coronavirus to train the body to recognize if the real virus comes along.


 

For both, “there’s every reason to be enormously optimistic,” said Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of FDA’s advisers.


 

“When these vaccines roll out, you’re only going to know it’s effective for a limited period of time,” he cautioned, adding that more follow-up information will come. “You don’t want to oversell it, but you don’t want to undersell it.”


 

All eyes are on the progress of potential vaccines as the grim infection toll jumps in the US and abroad as winter weather forces people indoors, in the close quarters that fuels viral spread.


 

While initial supplies will be scarce and rationed, as the supply grows Sahin said the companies have a responsibility to help ensure access for lower income countries as well.


 

In the US, officials expect enough doses of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines to vaccinate only about 20 million people at first. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine who is first in line, expected to include health workers and older adults.


 

Advance payments approved

President Duterte has finally agreed to advance supply agreements and make early payments to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers in an effort to make the vaccine accessible to Filipinos.


 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President has accepted the proposal of Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of government policy against coronavirus disease 2019 to enter advance market commitments with private foreign developers and provide advance payments to ensure the Philippines will secure vaccine doses once these are cleared for widespread use.


 

“If we don’t agree to advance payments, we will be left out as other countries secure vaccines,” Roque said in a press briefing yesterday.


 

The President actually initially expressed reservations and at first rejected the idea of advance supply agreements.


 

The Chief Executive reportedly changed his mind upon seeing how other countries are racing to get their vaccines through early procurement.


 

The President also approved the suggestion to allow the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the emergency use of vaccines.


 

However, Roque said Duterte is yet to issue the formal executive order allowing such emergency use.


 

At least 30 million to 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine could be available for Filipinos next year once it is rolled out abroad and in the Philippines.


 

Galvez earlier said currently, the task force, in coordination with vaccine experts, is continuing its evaluation on the right vaccine to procure.


 

Galvez said experts have ranked 17 possible sources of vaccines from other countries. Of these candidate vaccines, nine are already in the Phase 3 clinical trial.


 

And three of the vaccine candidates in Phase 3 will conduct trial here in December and January, Galvez said during the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting Tuesday evening at the Malago Clubhouse on Malacañang grounds.


 

Galvez said the Philippines may enter into an advance market commitment through multilateral arrangement with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank as the country’s finance managers for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.?Galvez said the government could secure advance procurement by the end of the year and proceed with the signing of loan agreements with the financial institutions.


 

The Chief Executive reminded Galvez that in the distribution of the vaccine the poorest of the poor should be prioritized.


 

The frontliners and poor and vulnerable communities, and then the soldiers and also the servicemen and essential workers shall all be prioritized.


 

“The soldiers include their families... For as long as one is not vaccinated, there’s a contamination in the family. So if you give it to a soldier, give it to the entire family.” the President said.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - November 18, 2020 - 2:41pm

Immigration bureau bans port employees from filing leaves during holiday season

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration will be enforcing a no leave policy for its employees in the coming holiday season, in anticipation of an influx of passengers in our ports nationwide.


 

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente the ban on filing of applications for vacation leave for BI port personnel will take effect on December 1 to Jan. 15, 2021.


 

This is to ensure that international airports nationwide will have adequate personnel in immigration booths for arriving and departing passengers during the holiday period.


 

BI port operations division chief, lawyer Candy Tan said the leave prohibition covers all immigration personnel assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and airports in Mactan, Cebu; Clark, Pampanga; Kalibo, Iloilo, Davao, Laoag and the Zamboanga international seaport.


 

The BI, however, only expects a “slight to moderate rise” in the number of passengers who will leave or arrive from abroad due to travel restrictions implemented in the Philippines and other countries.


 

Morente earlier said they are expecting a significantly lower turnout of arriving passengers in 2020, as he noted that even with past holidays where they normally see a spike in figures, “very low numbers” are recorded by the bureau.


 

He added they expect numbers to pick up in 2021, “hopefully when we see an end to this pandemic.”


 

In the Philippines, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases have gradually easing health protocols due to COVID-19, but restrictions remain in place.


 

On Tuesday, the bureau also clarified foreign investors who may enter the country amid community quarantine — Kristine Joy Patag

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - November 18, 2020 - 7:38pm

Luzon officially placed under state of calamity after recent typhoons

MANILA, Philippines — The entire Luzon recently hit hard by strong typhoons that submerged provinces and left millions affected was officially placed under a state of calamity on Wednesday.


 

Two typhoons — Quinta and Ulysses, as well as Super Typhoon Rolly, ravaged the island in a short period of time from end-October to the middle of this month, leaving regions such as Bicol and Cagayan reeling from the damage.


 

President Rodrigo Duterte's Wednesday declaration will "hasten the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts" of government and private groups as well as control the price of basic goods in typhoon-hit areas.


 

It will also allow local governments to tap funds for rescue and rebuilding efforts, as well as continue giving basic services to those affected.


 

"All departments and other concerned government agencies are hereby directed to implement and execute rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation work in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives," read Presidential Proclamation no. 1051.


 

State forces and other law enforcement agencies were also tasked to ensure peace and order in the areas affected. The state of calamity, the proclamation added, will remain in effect until lifted by Duterte.


 

Figures by the NDRRMC by Wednesday showed that the cost of Ulysses' damage has reached P5.7 billion for infrastructure and P2.8 billion.


 

It has affected over 3.4 million individuals and left more than 223,000 still in evacuation shelters, while the death count is at 73, 24 injured and 19 missing.


 

Rolly, meanwhile, the world's strongest storm this 2020, had about P12.8 billion in damage to infrastructure and P5 billion to crops. Its casualties were put at 25, with nearly 400 injured and six missing.


 

Quinta was responsible for 27 deaths, 40 injured and four missing, with damage to infrastructure at over P1 billion and agriculture at P2.6 billion.


 

Duterte had since formed a multi-agency task force led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea that would oversee rehabilitation efforts in the said areas.


 

The administration's response to these calamities had met criticism, so much that it had taken airtime in Duterte's weekly addresses.


 

Tensions between the president and Vice President Leni Robredo had since escalated, with Duterte erroneously claiming that it was Robredo who sought for his whereabouts amid the storms despite the calls coming from the public.


 

RELATED: Robredo: Duterte given false info on #NasaanAngPangulo


 

As the Philippine leader was lashing out on Robredo's response to the typhoons in last night's address, the vice president took to Twitter to respond to the allegations, calling him out for falling for false information as well as for his misogynistic remarks.


 

"There is no space for our ego when lives are at stake," Robredo wrote on the social media platform. "Sa panahon ng matinding sakuna, dapat lahat ng tulong, welcome. Hindi ito contest. Hindi tayo nag uunahan."

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star ) - November 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Pope prays for typhoon victims in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis on Sunday offered prayers for the victims of devastation caused by Typhoon Ulysses in the Philippines that left at least 69 people dead and affected around 1.7 million others.


 

In his official Twitter account @Pontifex, the 83-year-old pontiff also expressed his solidarity with the Filipino people, particularly those less fortunate.


 

“I am near in prayer to the dear people of the #Philippines who are suffering because of the destruction, and especially because of the flooding caused by a strong #typhoon,” said the pope.


 

“I express my solidarity to the poorest families and those who are doing all they can to help them,” he added.


 

The pope posted the tweet amid reports of heavy flooding triggered by Ulysses, particularly in Marikina City and the provinces of Rizal, Cagayan and Isabela that forced people to climb to their roofs as floodwaters swamped their homes because of incessant heavy rains. They waited for the floodwaters to subside or for rescue teams to come.


 

There were also those who evacuated their homes to live in temporary shelters, while others were buried by landslides.


 

Five cyclones struck the Philippines in a span of around two weeks, including Super Typhoon Rolly, the world’s most powerful this year.


 

Pope Francis also offered his support to all those working to help the victims.


 

CBCPNews reported that last Nov. 13, the Holy Father received in private audience Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, at the Vatican.


 

Tagle is also president of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of Catholic charities around the world.


 

The Holy See Press Office announced the meeting in its daily bulletin and gave no further details.


 

The Church social action arm, Caritas Philippines, earlier launched a global appeal to aid those affected by the calamities. It also called on the government to seek international aid, saying the country cannot do it alone.


 

“The nation is in a quandary,” said Fr. Antonio Labiao, executive director of Caritas Philippines. “It is clear that we cannot do this alone.”


 

In 2015, the pope visited the Philippines, Asia’s only Catholic country.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - November 16, 2020 - 5:20pm

Immigration clarifies travel restrictions for arriving foreign investors

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration on Monday clarified that foreign investors intending to come to the Philippines must first secure a specific type of visa before they can enter the country.


 

In a statement on Monday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente explained that foreign nationals holding visas issued under Executive Order No. 226 or the Omnibus Investments Code and those with Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) issued under the said EO can enter the country.


 

Late in October, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued a resolution that eased travel restrictions for foreign investors with visas issued under EO 226.


 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said then that the entry of these foreign nationals is subject to certain conditions, such as having a valid visa and a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility.


 

Morente said the bureau sought clarification from the Department of Justice whether SIRV holders can enter the country, following questions from several groups.


 

BI said that the DOJ opined that SIRV holders can enter the country since their visas were also issued under EO 226.


 

The bureau explained that visas issued under EO 226 are given to foreign nationals employed as executives of regional or area headquarters of multinational companies. Their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are also covered by the EO.


 

This visa is often valid for three years, BI added.


 

The SIRV meanwhile is a government program aimed to attract foreign investments to the country. “The SIRV program requires investors to invest capital in viable economic activities,” BI added.


 

The spouse and children under 21 years old of an SIRV holder may also secure the same visa as dependents.


 

Morente however said that SIRV holders with tourist-related projects and tourist establishments are still barred from entering the country. — Kristine Joy Patag

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star ) - November 13, 2020 - 12:00am

Ondoy-like floods trap thousands

MANILA, Philippines — With thousands trapped on rooftops by fast rising flood similar to the one unleashed by Tropical Storm Ondoy, local leaders in Marikina and Rizal yesterday cried for more help from the national government as the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses “overwhelmed” disaster response teams.


 

In Marikina, over 40,000 houses became submerged after Marikina River’s water level rose to as high as 22 meters by 11 a.m., which was higher than the 21.5-meter level recorded in September 2009 when Ondoy inundated Metro Manila. The river’s water level, however, dipped to 18.9 meters by early evening.


 

Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said the city’s 50 rubber boats were not enough to respond to calls for help from residents stuck on rooftops – many of whom were already suffering from hypothermia due to long exposure to rain and strong winds for hours.


 

“Air rescue is needed because our residents are on their roofs now,” Teodoro said in a radio interview. “We are lacking so much and our residents are terrified. Others have suffered hypothermia because of being soaked overnight.”


 

City government figures provided by the mayor said the flood touched the rooflines of some 30,000 houses in Barangay Nangka, 8,000 in Barangay Tumana and 5,000 to 6,000 in Barangay Malanday.


 

“The height of the flood exceeds the first floor of a house… So many months or years that we haven’t experienced this kind of flooding that’s why everyone was surprised,” he said in Filipino.


 

The city was able to preemptively evacuate about 5,000 residents even if it had not expected the river’s water to reach more than 18 meters. Dozens of trees have fallen due to the destructive winds brought by Ulysses (Vamco).


 

“We are preparing for the worst case scenario,” Teodoro said.


 

Aside from air rescue, the mayor said they needed more rescue boats and personnel.


 

As of late yesterday afternoon, more than half of those trapped on their roofs were still awaiting rescue, according to Teodoro.


 

Lapses

Teodoro admitted that there had been lapses on the part of the local government in its response and preparedness for Typhoon Ulysses. He said lack of resources contributed to lapses.


 

He said Ulysses was different compared to other cyclones that hit the city, even to Ondoy in 2009, as water had risen quickly in areas not previously considered flood-prone. “The circumstances escalated quickly,” he said in a television interview.


 

Teodoro said forcible evacuation began at 3 a.m. yesterday. The evacuation centers were already full by early morning.


 

“Admittedly, the local government had lapses. I admit our lapses in these circumstances and we would never be able to pride ourselves for this,” Teodoro said, assuring residents of continuous rescue operations.


 

He said even the city hall was inundated and rendered unusable.


 

“We transferred other operations of city hall in other areas,” Teodoro said in another television interview.


 

The mayor said the city government took advantage of the absence of rainfall later yesterday to “undertake vigorously the rescue operations” as several residents remained stranded on their roofs or inside the higher floors of their homes.


 

“There are still many, many more residents that are still trapped,” Teodoro said, adding that risks were doubled for communities where livewires had fallen into floodwaters.


 

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said nearly 20,000 individuals were evacuated from their homes in the metropolis. It said it deployed 692 personnel to assist in rescue operations around Metro Manila.


 

“Since last night, we accommodated all requests for assistance such as deployment of rubber boats and dump trucks to the affected areas. We will help with whatever assets we can generate,” MMDA chairman Danilo Lim, concurrent chair of the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.


 

Catch basin

Bound by the Sierra Madre mountain range, the low-lying Marikina city is also considered Metro Manila’s catch basin.


 

The rivers that overflowed and resulted in exceptionally high flooding during Ondoy are the rivers that drain into the Marikina River Basin. The overflowing of Marikina River also caused flood in Pasig City, prompting massive rescue operations.


 

Mayor Vico Sotto said severely affected villages were Santolan, Maybunga and Sta. Lucia.


 

Waist deep flood was also reported in Mandaluyong City including in areas around Maysilo Circle where city hall is located. Floods also inundated several areas in San Juan City, prompting the evacuation of residents from flooded communities.


 

Residents of Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal interviewed over radio stations recalled their terror as flood rapidly rose forcing many of them to climb on rooftops.


 

Carmelita Libawat, who was stranded with her family with 20 other people on the second floor of their neighbor’s house in Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, said in an interview aired over Teleradyo that barangay officials failed to inform residents of the unprecedented rise of floodwater.


 

In Cainta, the disaster management office cited difficulty in going to flooded places due to strong currents.


 

At least 58 persons were rescued after they were trapped inside their shanties when a concrete wall collapsed in Ermita, Manila early yesterday morning.


 

Manila Mayor chief of staff Cesar Chavez said personnel of the city’s disaster risk reduction management, Department of Public Service, and the Manila Police District conducted rescue operations after a condemned structure located at the corner of Sta. Monica and MH Del Pilar, Barangay 668 collapsed past 2 a.m. Strong rain and wind hampered rescue efforts.


 

He said an investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the collapse


 

The rescued individuals were taken to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guidance for temporary shelter.


 

No match vs rush of water

Meanwhile, a bulletin from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that flood control projects appeared no match to surging waters unleashed by Typhoon Ulysses.


 

According to the PNP bulletin, 50 areas across the five geographical districts of Metro Manila were heavily flooded.


 

A consolidated report by police stations in the area showed that San Lorenzo Street in Sta. Mesa and Lorenzo St. corner Dela Paz St. in Pandacan, both in Manila, were not passable to all types of vehicles due to high-level floods.


 

In Quezon City, motorists were asked not to traverse at least 23 areas. These included Calamba St. in Don Jose, Banawe/Retiro, Don Manuel St., Don Jose Retiro, Maria Clara/Araneta, Don Pepe/Tirad Pass, Araneta/Maria Clara and several other areas in barangays Del Monte, Sta. Cruz, Katipunan, Damayan, Doña Imelda, Damayang Lagi, Batasan, Sta. Lucia, North Fairview and Bagong Silangan.


 

In eastern Metro Manila cities, 14 areas were not passable as of noon in Mandaluyong, Pasig and San Juan.


 

In Manila, 13 areas were not passable to light vehicles, including España Boulevard, J. Tuazon, Old Sta. Mesa, Bambang to Tayuman, and several areas in Sta. Cruz, Sampaloc, Tondo and Sta. Mesa.


 

The PNP has also reported 81,047 families or 301,765 individuals evacuated nationwide.


 

Most of the evacuees were from Bicol where 54,264 families were moved to after places. In Metro Manila, 1,511 families were evacuated. —Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Rey Galupo

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - November 10, 2020 - 8:42am

More areas in Southern Luzon, Eastern Visayas under Signal No. 1 due to ‘Ulysses’

MANILA, Philippines — The state weather bureau placed more areas in Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas under Signal No. 1 as Tropical Storm Ulysses (international name: Vamco) slowed down while approaching land.


 

Ulysses was located 555 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes bearing peak winds of 65 kph near the center and gusts of up to 80 kph. PAGASA said it is forecast to strengthen into a severe tropical storm Tuesday evening.


 

Ulysses may reach typhoon category by Wednesday morning and attain its peak intensity of 140 to 155 kph Wednesday afternoon or evening.


 

PAGASA hoisted Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 1 (winds between 30 and 60 kph expected in at least 36 hours) over the following areas in Calabarzon, Bicol region and Eastern Visayas:


 

Catanduanes


 

Camarines Norte


 

Camarines Sur


 

Albay


 

Sorsogon


 

Eastern portion of Masbate (Aroroy, Pio V. Corpuz, Cataingan, Palanas, Uson, Dimasalang, Masbate City, Mobo, Baleno) including Ticao and Burias Islands


 

Southeastern portion of Quezon (Guinayangan, Tagkawayan, Buenavista, San Andres, San Narciso)


 

Northern Samar


 

Northern portion of Samar (Santo Nino, Almagro, Tagapul-An, Tarangnan, Calbayog City, Santa Margarita, Gandara, Pagsanghan, San Jorge, San Jose de Buan, Matuguinao), and the northern portion of Eastern Samar (Maslog, Dolores, Oras, San Policarpo, Arteche, Jipapad)


 

Residents of these areas will experience strong breeze to near gale conditions due to the tropical storm.


 

“We are asking those who live in these areas to prepare as Ulysses approaches,” PAGASA weather specialist Meno Mendoza said.


 

TCWS No. 2 may be raised in some areas of the Bicol region as early as Tuesday night. Based on PAGASA’s projection, the highest wind signal to be hoisted during the passage of Ulysses will be TCWS No. 3.


 

The tropical storm will dump light to moderate with at times heavy rains over Aurora, Quezon, Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, Caraga and Davao region. Meanwhile, moderate to heavy rains associated with the rainbands of Ulysses will begin affecting Bicol region and portions of Eastern Visayas Wednesday morning.


 

Ulysses will also bring rough to very rough seas (2.5 to 4.5 meters) over the seaboards of areas under TCWS, Aurora, northern Quezon, and the eastern seaboard of Eastern Samar, making sea travel risky, especially for those will small vessels.


 

Landfall

Ulysses is moving northwestward Tuesday, then head westward Wednesday.


 

PAGASA projected that the storm’s center may make landfall over Quezon province Thursday with a close approach in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte—areas badly hit by Super Typhoon Rolly.


 

“However, the slight shift in the orientation of the track forecast shows an increasing likelihood of landfall over Bicol Region tomorrow afternoon or evening,” weather forecasters said.


 

It is “highly likely” that Ulysses will crash into land at or near peak intensity.


 

Forecast positions

Wednesday morning: 280 km northeast of Virac, Catanduanes


 

Thursday morning: 60 km west northwest of Daet, Camarines Norte or 60 km east northeast of Alabat, Quezon


 

Friday morning: 370 km west of Sangley Point, Cavite City, Cavite


 

Saturday morning: 820 km west of Southern Luzon (outside PAR)


 

Sunday morning: 1,090 km west of Central Luzon (outside PAR)


 

— Gaea Katreena Cabico


 

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine 90% effective in Phase 3 trial


 

(Agence France-Presse) - November 9, 2020 - 8:25pm


 

PARIS, France — A vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials, the companies announced Monday.


 

Protection in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first, according to preliminary findings.


 

"The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine's ability to prevent COVID-19," Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.


 

"We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.


 

"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most," Bourla added.


 

Across much of the globe, COVID-19 infections rates are soaring to record highs, with hospital intensive care units filling up and death tolls mounting as well.


 

Based on supply projections, the companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.


 

'Ulysses' now a tropical storm, seen to hit Bicol-Quezon area


 

(Philstar.com) - November 9, 2020 - 6:58pm


 

MANILA, Philippines — Tropical Depression Ulysses has intensified into a tropical storm and could make landfall over the area of Bicol Region-Quezon by Thursday, PAGASA said.


 

The weather bureau in its 5 p.m. bulletin said Ulysses was last seen at 575 km east of Borongan City in Eastern Samar.


 

It now has the strength of 65 kph maximum sustained winds and gusts of up to 80 kph, moving northwestward at a speed of 15 kph.


 

PAGASA added that the tropical storm may intensify into a severe tropical storm in the next 24 hours and could develop into a full-blown typhoon by Wednesday.


 

No areas are placed so far under storm warning signals, but the agency said light to moderate with occasional heavy rains are expected over Eastern Visayas, Bicol Region and Quezon due to Ulysses' extension.


 

Cagayan including Babuyan Islands, Apayao and Ilocos Norte meanwhile, will see moderate to heavy rains due to the tail-end of a cold front.


 

Ulysses' possible landfall over Bicol and Quezon comes at the heels of then super typhoon "Rolly" (international name Goni) wrecking havoc early this month.


 

Casualties from Rolly's four landfalls are now at 24 per latest report of disaster officials, with over 1.6 million individuals in total affected.


 

Damage to properties are also now at P11.3 billion, with Bicol sustaining the most of the cost at nearly P10.7 billion.


 

Ulysses is only one out of the three more storms PAGASA is expecting to hit the Philippines this month, where government's disaster response had been affected by its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.


 

The new tropical storm will bring rough to very rough seas with wave height reaching 2.8 to 4.5 meters over the seaboards of Northern Luzon, eastern seaboard of Central Luzon, as well as the eastern and western seaboards of Southern Luzon.


 

Moderate to rough seas will also prevail over the rest of the seaboards in Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Mindanao.


 

Forecast Positions:


 

Tuesday afternoon: 555 km East of Daet, Camarines Norte


 

Wednesday afternoon: 320 km East of Infanta, Quezon


 

Thursday afternoon: 130 km West of Pasay City, Metro Manila


 

Friday afternoon: 660 km West of Pasay City, Metro Manila


 

Saturday afternoon:1,010 km West of Southern Luzon — Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - November 9, 2020 - 4:00pm

Philippines adds 2,058 new COVID-19 cases; total now at 398,449

MANILA, Philippines — The total number of coronavirus infections in the country reached 398,449 Monday after the Department of Health recorded 2,058 new cases.


 

Rizal registered the highest increase in new COVID-19 cases with 103. It was followed by Davao City and Maguindanao with 81 cases each, Quezon City with 77 and Cavite with 76.


 

Monday’s tally did not include data from nine testing laboratories that failed to submit on time.


 

At least 361,784 individuals have recovered from COVID-19 in the Philippines after the DOH logged 182 more recoveries. The day before, the agency confirmed the recovery of 11,430 people as part of its “Oplan Recovery” program.


 

Total recoveries accounted for around 91% of the country’s confirmed cases.


 

Meanwhile, the death toll hit 7,647 with 108 more succumbing to the respiratory disease.


 

Of the total cases, 29,018 or 7% are active. Of these, 83% have mild symptoms, 9% are asymptomatic, 3% are severe cases, while 5% are in critical condition.


 

Holidays may bring rise in cases

As the holiday season approaches, the DOH advised the public to avoid caroling as singing out loud can increase the risk of coronavirus transmission. The government is yet to decide whether to prohibit or allow the Christmas tradition.


 

The department also released guidelines on holiday celebrations, which encouraged limited and shortened face-to-face activities. It, meanwhile, discouraged traveling to areas with higher quarantine classifications and buffet-style food service during gatherings.


 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the country has scored “significant gains” in the battle against COVID-19, which include ramped up testing capacity and improved health system.


 

Despite these accomplishments, the country is still reporting thousands of new cases every day although daily infections have been decreasing. The Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.


 

The pandemic has killed over 1.2 million individuals worldwide since emerging in China late last year. More than 50 million cases have been logged.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - November 4, 2020 - 9:52pm

Intramuros named Asia’s leading tourist attraction

MANILA, Philippines — The World Travel Awards on Wednesday hailed the famed walled city of Manila, Intramuros, as Asia’s leading tourist attraction in 2020.


 

This recognition comes a day after the award-body recognized Philippines as Asia’s leading beach destination and leading dive destination.


 

Philippine Department of Tourism also won this year’s leading tourist board in the region, beating 11 other nominated countries.


 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat Tuesday said the DOT is honored and thankful for the accolades given to the country at the World Travel Awards Asia.


 

“These recognitions are certainly an inspiration to the industry as we safely and gradually reopen our destinations for tourism. These would not be possible without the combined efforts from our tourism stakeholders, local government units, partner agencies, and our fellow Filipinos who have tirelessly promoted our country’s attractions, products, and culture,” she said.


 

The Intramuros Administration is thankful for the recognition received by the Walled City.


 

“After months of online voting, our beloved Walled City bagged the coveted recognition while competing with equally beautiful monuments and sites in Asia,” it said in its announcement.


 

“Our noble and every loyal city truly deserves such recognition! Maraming Salamat po,” it added.


 

The Instramuros Administration said the prime tourist destination has been reinvented and continuously improved to benefit the needs of the visitors and the community.


 

“Through inclusivity and sensitivity to the needs of its people, Intramuros has become a model for heritage tourism and community development,” it said.


 

Aside from these accolades, the Philippines and the DOT still have remaining nominations under the World Category. These are:


 

World’s Leading Beach Destination 2020: Philippines


 

World’s Leading Dive Destination 2020: Philippines


 

World’s Leading Island Destination 2020: Siargao


 

World’s Leading Tourist Board 2020: the Philippines, Department of Tourism


 

World’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2020: Intramuros


 

The World Travel Awards, established in 1993, is celebrating its 27th anniversary. It acknowledges, rewards and celebrates excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.


 

Every year, it holds a series of regional gala ceremonies to recognize brands and best practices from the industry with a Grand Final Gala concluding the calendar of activities by the end of the year.


 

This year, World Travel Awards Grand Tour will regional gala ceremonies in the Caribbean (Bahamas), Europe (Antalya, Turkey), Africa and Indian Ocean (Nairobi, Kenya), Latin America (Santiago, Chile), North America (Thompson Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada), Asia and Oceania (Seoul, South Korea) and Middle East (Dubai).


 

Regional winners will eventually compete in the corresponding world categories where in the final winners will be announced during the Grand Final Gala in Moscow, Russia.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - November 4, 2020 - 5:49pm

Airlines told: Do not board travelers to Philippines without visa

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration has reminded airlines not to allow foreign nationals intending to go the Philippines to board the aircraft without appropriate visas to enter the country.


 

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morenete on Wednesday said the bureau received reporters of foreign nationals who were turned back at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for not having visas. International airports in Mactan, Cebu and Clark, Pampanga also reported excluding foreign passengers.


 

Morente stressed that airlines have the responsibility to review if their foreign passenger travelling to the Philippines possesses proper visas because the company would also bear the inconvenience if the traveler will be turned away upon arriving in Philippine airports.


 

“Apart from shouldering the cost of returning these aliens to their port or origin, it is also the responsibility of the airlines to defray the expenses of their accommodation at the airport while awaiting their return flights,” Morente added.


 

The BI chief urged airlines to keep themselves updated on latest issuances of the Inter-Agency Task Force on international travel, which are also posted on the bureau’s website and social media pages.


 

Lawyer Candy Tan, BI Port Operations Division chief, said they have been in close coordination with airlines on the latest policies of the IATF.


 

Tan said most of the foreign nationals who were turned away are those who have Filipino spouses and children but do not have any visa. She explained: “What they have in their possession are usually their marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children.”


 

The bureau said that the IATF partially lifted restrictions for foreign nationals who are working as executives in multinational companies with visas granted by either the Department of Justice or under special economic zones.


 

Filipinos, their spouse and minor children, foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs were allowed to enter the country.


 

But Tan stressed that those allowed to enter the country must still first secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates prior to arrival. This covers those who are eligible to enter the country as tourists.


 

This also includes accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas.


 

Tan said that arriving passengers will still have to undergo regular immigration inspection and present necessary documents. They will also be required to have a pre-booked quarantine facility before they arrive, she added.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star ) - November 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Batangas City bags WWF’s Most Lovable City award

MANILA, Philippines — Batangas City has been hailed as the “World’s Most Lovable City” and overall winner in this year’s edition of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s “We Love Cities” campaign.


 

The announcement was made online via Zoom recently and attended by representatives of WWF national offices around the world and We Love Cities campaign finalists, said Oliver Gonzales, environment and natural resources officer of Batangas City.


 

“We’re overwhelmed and happy. This challenge brought us together and made us proud as citizens of our city. We want to thank WWF-Philippines for their great support and guidance throughout this challenge,” Gonzales said.


 

The We Love Cities Campaign, which has empowered the general public globally with the opportunity to celebrate, vote and upgrade their city through suggestions made and addressed to decision-makers, is interwoven with the One Planet City Challenge (OPCC).


 

OPCC is a biennial global challenge organized by WWF to guide cities toward the most effective climate action, while publicly recognizing the most ambitious cities as leaders in the field of sustainable urban development.


 

Citizens from participating countries expressed their love and support for their cities with the campaign garnering over 1,170,000 votes through all channels, 4,600,000 social media engagements and a social media reach of 80 million.


 

Through the OPCC, the country’s declared national winner for 2020, Batangas City and national finalists Muntinlupa City and Santa Rosa City, were the representatives of the Philippines in this year’s We Love Cities campaign.


 

“This We Love Cities award for Batangas City is particularly special,” said lawyer Angela Ibay, WWF-Philippines’ Climate and Energy Program head. “It also highlights the active engagement that Filipinos have with their cities as they promote their solutions and aim to make their cities more livable, sustainable and resilient. It is truly aligned with WWF’s call: Together Possible.”


 

All the three Philippine cities ranked in the Top 10, out of 54 cities in 26 countries around the globe for the 2020 edition.


 

“Our three Philippine cities that participated in the We Love Cities initiative really stepped up to the plate and did quite well, even as they were addressing the current challenges brought by the pandemic. We are truly honored by their participation,” said Ibay.


 

“This means a lot to us, especially since we’ve been hit by the pandemic. The city is doing its best in implementing various initiatives and efforts. We have something new to hold on to, and this is great news to all of us. This win will inspire us to keep on going and to work hand-in-hand for this city,” said Gonzales.


 

In addition to recognizing the importance of public engagement in achieving sustainability goals, Batangas City aims to be the first carbon-neutral city in the country by 2030 and has developed a comprehensive climate mitigation and adaptation plan to realize this vision.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star ) - November 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Siony makes landfall todaySiony makes landfall today

MANILA, Philippines — Residents of Northern Luzon should brace for strong winds and heavy rains brought by severe Tropical Storm Siony, which moved slowly yesterday over the Philippine Sea and was forecast to hit or graze the Batanes and Babuyan Islands tonight or Friday morning.


 

Siony (international name Atsani) was expected to intensify into a typhoon before making landfall in extreme Northern Luzon, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.


 

Siony may reach peak winds of 125 kilometers per hour.


 

The center of Siony is likely to move very close to Batanes and Babuyan Islands between this evening and tomorrow morning.


 

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, tropical cyclone wind signal No. 1 was hoisted over the northeastern portion of mainland Cagayan, including Santa Ana, Gonzaga and eastern portion of Babuyan Islands, including Balintang Island, Babuyan Island, Didicas Island and Camiguin Island and their adjoining islets.


 

The center of Siony was spotted 735 kilometers east of Basco, Batanes as of 4 p.m., packing winds of 95 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 115 kph.


 

It was forecast to move north slowly or remain almost stationary in the next six hours.


 

Afterwards, it was expected to move generally west or west-northwest toward the Luzon Strait and extreme Northern Luzon.


 

Siony is expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility tomorrow afternoon or evening.


 

Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Department of Health had prepositioned medical supplies in preparation for Tropical Storm Siony.


 

“For Typhoon Siony, all regions have prepositioned supplies amounting to P31 million worth of supplies, drugs, medicines, health kits, PPEs (personal protective equipment), COVID-19 supplies,” Vergeire noted.


 

“We also have a buffer stock amounting to P21 million worth of commodities that are also ready for distribution,” she added.


 

Vergeire also said that their Health Emergency Management Bureau is on standby for possible response. — Mayen Jaymalin

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - November 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Philippine named Asia’s top dive, beach destination; DOT wins

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines continues to be recognized by the international travel community as it was named Asia’s leading dive and beach destination at the 27th World Travel Awards.


 

Apart from bagging the two awards, the Department of Tourism (DOT) was also declared as this year’s leading tourist board in Asia, beating 11 nominated countries.


 

“We are truly honored and thankful for the accolades given to the Philippines at the 2020 World Travel Awards Asia,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.


 

“These recognitions are certainly an inspiration to the industry as we safely and gradually reopen our destinations for tourism. These would not be possible without the combined efforts from our tourism stakeholders, local government units, partner agencies and our fellow Filipinos who have tirelessly promoted our country’s attractions, products and culture,” she added.


 

Dive tourism is identified by the DOT as one of the key areas in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2016-2022 that can positively affect industry growth in terms of increased visitor count, extended length of stay, higher tourism revenue, among others.


 

This is the Philippines’ fourth time to win Asia’s Leading Beach Destination and second time to win Asia’s Leading Dive Destination, following a number of nominations for categories since 2006.


 

In contrast, this is the second time for the DOT to win Asia’s Leading Tourist Board.


 

Apart from its wins in the Asia categories, the Philippines and the DOT still stand a chance to bag more awards in the World category as it has received five nominations.


 

Among these are the World’s Leading Beach Destination and World’s Leading Dive Destination for the Philippines, World’s Leading Island Destination for Siargao and World’s Leading Tourist Attraction for Intramuros.


 

The DOT is also nominated in the World’s Leading Tourist Board category. – Ralph Edwin Villanueva

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star ) - November 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Vaccine czar presents 2-dose, 3-week plan

MANILA, Philippines — The government is eyeing massive COVID-19 immunization activities early next year – to be done in two doses 21 days apart.


 

National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and newly appointed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. revealed this yesterday in his media presentation of the Philippine National Vaccine Roadmap.


 

“This is really our road to normalcy and recovery,” he said, adding it would be doubly challenging because it would be done twice 21 days apart.


 

The task force will present the roadmap to President Duterte for his approval at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) tomorrow.


 

Duterte formed the National Task Force for Vaccination last week to thresh out ways of ensuring an orderly conduct of nationwide immunization once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available.


 

Galvez said the task force has identified major stages in the implementation of the program as well as factors to consider for choosing the vaccine, like safety, sensitivity and efficacy “because some of the vaccines need cold chain refrigeration.”


 

“We also consider cost and the supply chain requirements because the handling of the vaccines is sensitive… then we have access to clinical trials and local and regional production and distribution,” he said.


 

“Last, (we also consider the) complexity of implementation. If we will have two doses… we will do it twice. The conduct of nationwide vaccination is like having national elections. After 21 days, it seems like we will have a re-election,” he said.


 

Galvez said the country has to plan carefully where to source the vaccine as several foreign groups are developing vaccines.


 

While Duterte has openly expressed preference for Chinese or Russian vaccines, Galvez said representatives from the United Kingdom, Singapore and India were also making offers.


 

“Most likely, the vaccine might be available by early next year,” he said.


 

Galvez said procurement is expected to start in January followed by production, shipment and storage. Actual distribution and vaccination are likely to begin in March.


 

According to Galvez, he has been consulting with vaccine experts and with members of the UP National Institutes of Health as well as representatives from the World Health Organization and the Asian Development Bank for the preparation and actual distribution of vaccines.


 

President Duterte earlier said he wanted a government-to-government arrangement for procurement of the vaccine. Finance Secretarty Carlos Dominguez III has recommended a multi-lateral approach involving the private sector.


 

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as the Food Drug Administration will be the lead agencies in vaccine distribution.


 

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr defended the President’s decision to appoint Galvez, a military officer, as vaccine czar last Monday.


 

“It’s simple: because the vaccine operation will entail logistics. One needs to have good managerial skills and somebody used to management processes,” Roque said. “It’s more of a logistics challenge than a medical challenge.”


 

The DOH also voiced support for Galvez’s appointment. “We look forward to working closely with him in the rollout of safe and effective COVID 19 vaccine,” DOH said in a statement.


 

The DOH also reported that COVID-19 cases nationwide rose to 387,161 with the addition of 1,772 cases yesterday.


 

A total of 348,967 or 90.1 percent of the total cases have recovered from the illness, according to DOH. Just yesterday, a total 153 patients were included in the list of recoveries.


 

There are 30,876 active cases, 92.5 percent of whom are mild and asymptomatic.


 

Pampanga recorded the highest number of new COVID cases with 154, followed by Quezon City with 115 and Laguna with 83. The cities of Baguio and Manila also posted high cases with 70 and 69, respectively.


 

Additional 49 deaths brought to 7,318 the total number of COVID-related fatalities, representing 1.89 percent of the total cases. – Mayen Jaymalin

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star ) - November 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Siony intensifies slightly as it moves over Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — Tropical Storm Siony (international name Atsani) slightly intensified as it moved slowly over the Philippine Sea yesterday.


 

Siony is likely to make landfall over the Batanes-Babuyan Islands area tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.


 

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, the center of Siony was at 620 kilometers east of Basco, Batanes, packing winds of 85 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 105 kph.


 

The storm was predicted to move east northeast slowly.


 

PAGASA senior weather forecaster Chris Perez said Siony is likely to start moving west tomorrow afternoon toward extreme Northern Luzon.


 

Perez said PAGASA is not ruling out the possibility that Siony could intensify into a typhoon before hitting landmass.


 

He urged residents of Cagayan Valley and the rest of Northern Luzon to prepare for Siony.


 

“Based on the area of probability, it could move more to the north or south, so it’s not just Batanes and Babuyan Islands that should prepare, but also Cagayan Valley and the rest of Northern Luzon,” he said.


 

PAGASA warned residents of Apayao, Batanes, Cagayan and Isabela against possible flooding, flashfloods and rain-induced landslides as the combined effects of the northeasterlies and the trough of Siony would continue to bring light to moderate to at times heavy rains over these areas.


 

The combined effects of Tropical Storms Rolly and Siony and the enhanced northeasterlies will also bring rough to very rough seas with waves expected as high as 4.5 meters over the seaboards of Northern Luzon, it said.


 

Ready for Siony

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has started preparing for Typhoon Siony, even as its quick-response teams are simultaneously clearing roads that have been blocked by landslides triggered by recent Typhoons Rolly, Quinta and Pepito.


 

“These teams are also trimming trees along national roads to minimize fallen debris during typhoons and expedite road opening,” DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said yesterday.


 

Up to 23 national road sections rendered impassable by Rolly and Quinta remain closed to traffic and are undergoing clearing by the DPWH.


 

Villar said 14 road sections are closed due to Rolly, nine of which are in Bicol, three in the Cordilleras and one each in Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).


 

Nine others remain closed following the onslaught of Quinta.


 

“Rolly and Quinta have triggered a series of landslides, felled trees and power posts, floods and cut roads from the main highways. Our quick response teams have so far cleared and opened 12 of these sections and are working continuously, particularly in Bicol,” Villar said.


 

Meanwhile, almost 700 police personnel were deployed for response operations in Central Luzon as several barangays remain flooded and road networks impassable as of noon yesterday.


 

Up to 70 barangays in Bulacan and Pampanga remain under floodwaters while nine major roads in Pampanga and Aurora are still not accessible to vehicles, according to Brig. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, Central Luzon police director. – Rainier Allan Ronda, Ramon Efren Lazaro

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - November 3, 2020 - 7:27pm

'Siony' seen to make landfall by Thursday or Friday — PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines — State weather bureau PAGASA on Tuesday said Tropical Storm Siony is possible to make landfall between the afternoon of Thursday or Friday morning over Batanes and Babuyan Islands.


 

In its latest weather forecast, the agency said "Siony" (international name Atsani) was last seen at 620 kilometers east of Basco in Batanes carrying peak winds of 85 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 105 kph and will continue to move east northeastward slowly.


 

PAGASA said it may also intensify before making landfall and also has the possibility of becoming a full-blown typhoon, advising Cagayan Valley and the rest of northern Luzon to prepare as well.


 

"Siony" entered the Philippines on November 1, when then Super Typhoon Rolly was ravaging parts of Luzon, to become the 19th storm to hit the country this 2020. The weather bureau on Monday also said one to three more tropical cyclones could enter this month.


 

Now a tropical storm, "Rolly" was last seen at 560 km west of Subic in Zambales and is expected to exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility by tonight. It now carries 75 kph maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 90 kph.


 

As a super typhoon that hit the Philippines early this week, "Rolly" has left 23 people dead so far and displaced thousands particularly in Bicol Region and Catanduanes.


 

Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administration Region will see cloudy skies with light rains tomorrow, PAGASA said, brought by the northeasterly surface wind flow.


 

Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, as well as Visayas and Mindanao will in turn see generally fair weather also on Wednesday, with possibility of isolated thunderstorms and scattered rains.


 

The agency said gale warning remains up over the areas of Isabela, Cagayan, Babuyan Islands, Batanes, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union as well as in Pangasinan. — Christian Deiparine


 


 

PAGASA: 1 to 3 more storms may enter Philippines in November


 

(Philstar.com) - November 2, 2020 - 7:20pm


 

MANILA, Philippines — PAGASA on Monday said one to three more storms may still enter the country this November after the onslaught of Super Typhoon 'Rolly' and Tropical Storm 'Siony' still in the Philippine Area of Responsibility.


 

The state weather bureau said this forecast is based on the number of weather disturbances that usually pass through the country during November in the previous years.


 

PAGASA said two tracks of these storms have been observed: one which hits the Luzon area but turns toward the southern part of Japan, and the second hitting the central part of the Philippines including Visayas area as well as northeastern part of Mindanao.


 

Once these storms enter the country, the agency said they will be named as "Tonyo," "Ulysses" and "Vicky." The Philippines has so far seen 19 tropical storms this 2020, with five entering the country in October, when PAGASA announced the onset of the La Niña.


 

Weather forecasters said this season may prolong until March 2021, where the country will see above normal rainfall conditions and five to eight tropical cyclones hitting.


 

Rolly, which had since weakened into a tropical storm from being a super typhoon, was last seen at 225 km west of Iba in Zambales, with now packing 65 kph peak winds and gusts of up to 80 kph.


 

PAGASA said its trough or extension will continue to bring rains and cloudy skies over the western portions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.


 

Tropical Storm Siony, meanwhile, was spotted at 655 km east of Calayan in Cagayan also with maximum sustained winds of 65 kph as well as gustiness of up to 80 kph. It continues to move generally north with a speed of 25 kph.


 

The agency said that while it is likely to remain a tropical storm in the next 36 to 48 hours, it may soon develop into a severe tropical storm as it approaches extreme northern Luzon and eventually a typhoon.


 

Siony's extension is seen to bring cloudy skies and isolated rains and thunderstorms over Batanes, Babuyan Islands, Cagayan, Isabela and the other parts of Cagayan Valley, Apayao, Calinga and Ilocos Norte.


 

The remaining parts of Luzon including Metro Manila, meanwhile, may see a generally fair weather condition tomorrow Tuesday, but with thunderstorms by afternoon and night.


 

Gale warning also continues to be raised over Isabela, Cagayan, Babuyan Islands, Batanes, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales and Bataan.


 

The havoc left by Rolly as a super typhoon has left 16 people dead, along with hundreds of thousands in evacuation shelters and severe to heavy damage in various areas in Luzon. — Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star ) - October 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Rolly enters PAR, may intensify into typhoon

MANILA, Philippines — Severe Tropical Storm Rolly, which entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) last night, may intensify into a typhoon before making landfall in either Aurora or Quezon province this weekend, the state weather bureau said.


 

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Rolly (international name Goni) intensified into a severe tropical storm after entering Philippine jurisdiction at 5:30 p.m. and was forecast to further intensify into a typhoon before making landfall Sunday or Monday.


 

Current projections show it will pass through Central Luzon before exiting landmass on the West Philippine Sea by Tuesday afternoon.


 

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, it was spotted at 1,505 km east of Central Luzon with maximum winds of 110 kilometers per hour and gusts of 135 kph.


 

PAGASA said tropical cyclone wind signal No. 1 may already be raised over some provinces in the Bicol region and Northern Samar tonight, areas still reeling from typhoon Quinta that recently hit the country.


 

Today, Metro Manila and most parts of Luzon could see fair weather with isolated thunderstorms, before Rolly passes these areas over the weekend.


 

Gale warning is still up in the northern coastal areas of Batanes, Babuyan Islands and Ilocos Norte and Sur, as well as Cagayan.


 

PAGASA also said that the low-pressure area being monitored west of Mindanao intensified into a tropical depression and is likely to further intensify into a tropical storm when it enters Philippine area of responsibility by Monday or Tuesday next week.


 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. yesterday said the government has about P800 million in contingency funds that are ready to be disposed to address the needs of provinces that might be adversely affected by the typhoon.


 

He added that the government has pre-positioned its resources to rescue and provide assistance to typhoon-affected areas.


 

Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista also gave assurance that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has standby funds and stockpiles worth P898 million for mobilization even as they pursue relief operations for the thousands of families affected by Typhoon Quinta which has just exited the country.


 

In a virtual press conference yesterday afternoon, he said DSWD regional field offices (FOs) in localities that lie in the path of Rolly were already thick in preparations.


 

“There is a ready store of stockpiles and standby funds worth P898,082,474.79 in the FOs,” Bautista said in Filipino during the press briefing.


 

Bautista said that DSWD regional FOs affected by Quinta continue to help local government units with augmenting supply of food and non-food relief needed by the LGUs in the evacuation centers put up for the affected residents.


 

Meanwhile, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) has issued an advisory banning fishing off Bicol peninsula as Tropical Depression Rolly continues to move toward the region.


 

At least three fishermen drowned while six others remain missing when Quinta hit the Bicol region.


 

“As part of the region’s preparedness measures for the tropical depression east of the Philippines… the ‘no sail’ policy for fisherfolks shall take effect,” said OCD Bicol director Claudio Yucot in an advisory.


 

Yucot said that banned to sail are fishermen using motorized boats (bancas) and large fishing vessels staying in the open sea for at least two or more days. He explained that the order aims to ensure no lives would be lost from the fishery sector as Rolly is expected to affect Bicol today.


 

“Fisherfolks may resume fishing upon lifting of gale warnings in respective seaboards and careful assessment of the local DRRM officers and local Coast Guard stations,” Yucot said.


 

Six fishermen from Catanduanes remained missing after Quinta hit Bicol last Sunday. Five persons also died while scores were injured across Bicol. – Christina Mendez, Rainier Allan Ronda, Cet Dematera


 

Rolly is moving westward towards the country at 15 kph and may bring heavy rains over the eastern sections of Central and Southern Luzon starting today or over the weekend.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2020 - 10:11am

Filipinos applying for Schengen visas surged by 43% in last five years — data

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine passport holders applying for a Schengen visa has spiked by 43% since 2015, according to data from a visa information site.


 

A Schengen visa lets passport holders travel to 26 Schengen Area Member States with the majority of them in the European Union.


 

The visa covers Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.


 

Data published by SchengenVisaInfo.com showed that from 132,611 visa applications from the Philippines filed in 2015, this went up in 2019 to 189,541.


 

Applications had been rising yearly with the highest year on year increase recorded in 2017. A total of 146,517 Schengen visa applications were filed in 2016, which jumped to 170,605 applications in 2017, meaning Schengen embassies received 24,178 more applications.


 

More Filipinos applied the following year with 175,703 visa applications recorded.


 

Global movement restrictions due to the pandemic have halted most travel in 2020.


 

Rejection rates rise as well

While visa applications balloon yearly, SchengenVisaInfo.com found that rejection rates likewise grew annually.


 

From 51.9% in 2015, rejections went up to 55.6% in 2016. It further increased in 2017 and 2018 with 60.6% and 62.8% rejection rates, respectively.


 

The highest rejection rate surge stood at 66.3% last year.


 

Aside from these, data showed Multiple Entry Visas (MEV) to the Schengen Area increased from 64,364 in 2015 to 114,077 in 2019, a 77.2-percent growth.


 

An MEV visa lets its holder to enter the Schengen Area more than once, in contrast to single-entry visas which can be used only one time within their period of validity.


 

According to SchengenVisaInfo.com, only 14 Schengen countries received and processed Schengen visas in the Philippines in 2019. Some of these countries represent the remaining Schengen states that do not have an embassy or consulate in the country.


 

These countries and the number of visa applications they received are as follows:


 

Austria - 4,757


 

Belgium - 6,884


 

Czech Republic - 3,632


 

Denmark - 7,248


 

Finland - 831


 

France - 35,068


 

Germany - 20,657


 

Greece - 5,814


 

Hungary - 993


 

Italy - 24,170


 

Netherlands - 47,156


 

Norway - 4,335


 

Spain - 20,497


 

Switzerland - 7,499


 

In the same year, almost 17 million Schengen visa applications were filed at the Schengen embassies, consulates and visa processing centers located overseas, marking the highest number of applications filed.


 

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the number of visa applications for 2020 is seen to drop as all Schengen countries have stopped receiving applications for Schengen visas for non-essential purposes.


 

Filipinos that qualify to enter Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, can submit their applications at the VFS Global visa application centers located in Cebu.


 

Cashless toll collection moved to December 1


 

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star ) - October 29, 2020 - 12:00am


 

MANILA, Philippines — Motorists will be given more time to secure radio-frequency identification or RFID stickers for their vehicles after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) moved the start of mandatory implementation of cashless toll collections on expressways from Nov. 2 to Dec. 1.


 

“DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade allowed the extension in order to give motorists, especially infrequent toll road users, more time to comply with the department order and to prevent the long queues currently being experienced at toll roads in the rush to get the RFID stickers,” Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) executive director Abraham Sales said yesterday.


 

However, the DOTr said there will be no further extension as the full implementation of cashless or electronic payment system at expressways begins on Dec. 1.


 

It warned motorists who fail to conform to the government mandate, as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease, would be apprehended and issued a citation ticket.


 

“We have given four months for them to comply. We want to avoid them getting their RFIDs at the last minute that is why we extended for another month. Whatever the reason, if they don’t have an RFID by Dec. 1, a citation ticket will be issued,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran said.


 

The TRB, an attached agency of the DOTr which has supervision over the operations of toll roads, said Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) are equipped and ready to implement the order, but have respectively extended the installation of RFID stickers beyond Nov. 2.


 

MPTC earlier said it would allow motorists who do not have RFIDs by Nov. 2 to pass its network of expressways, but they will be directed to installation lanes where they can have their RFID stickers installed.


 

SMC, for its part, extended the deadline for motorists to shift to RFID until the end of next month, saying that many motorists have yet to secure their RFID stickers.


 

Transportation Assistant Secretary for road transport and infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor urged motorists to make use of the extended deadline to have RFIDs installed in their vehicles as early as they can.


 

“Let us avoid rushing to go to installation sites to have the RFID installed when the deadline is just one week away,” Pastor said.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 28, 2020 - 9:50pm

Tourism chief pushes for COVID-19 tests price cap for tourism revival

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday sought for a price cap on the real-time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) or the RT-PCR swab confirmatory test and Antigen tests for COVID-19 to boost the reopening of tourism.


 

“The DOT (Department of Tourism) supports the call to impose a price cap on RT-PCR and Antigen testing to make traveling an affordable option for all,” she said.


 

Puyat made the appeal after the Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) eased travel restrictions in areas under the general community quarantine phase and allowed travel for leisure.


 

Prior to this, Puyat welcomed the announcement of reopening of several tourist destinations to areas under GCQ including Boracay, Baguio City, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Batangas, El Nido, among others.


 

Other areas for that are now open for travel and who are allowed to travel in these areas are indicated in the DOT’s travel safe website.


 

The tourism chief earlier stressed that securing a negative result test is still required as part of the agency’s “test before travel” policy.


 

In view of this, Puyat is seeking a price cap for COVID-19 tests.


 

“While the DOT acknowledges and puts paramount importance on the safety of visitors, locals, and the tourism workforce, the Department likewise finds it imperative to address the urgent need to impose a price cap on these accepted COVID-19 testing methods to promote domestic tourism, which in turn can generate employment and stimulate economic recovery,” she said.


 

Puyat has likewise appealed to Department of Health (DOH)-accredited testing facilities to make the RT-PCR and Antigen tests more affordable but credible.


 

The IATF-EID has earlier authorized the DOT to take the helm in accrediting procedures, facilities, and activities, as well as set determining operating capacities for tourism establishments in pursuant of Resolution No. 79.


 

This resolution indicates the relaxed interzonal and intrazonal travel restrictions and prescribed minimum health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


 

Last month, the DOH also sought for the ceiling on the prices of RT-PCR test for COVID-19.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 28, 2020 - 6:09pm

Tropical depression outside PAR could hit Bicol as typhoon by Undas

MANILA, Philippines — The tropical depression outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility could soon intensify into a typhoon that may landfall in Bicol Region by Undas, PAGASA said Wednesday.


 

The weather bureau in its public forecast said the tropical depression was last seen at 1,910 km east of Central Luzon and is expected to enter the country by Thursday morning or afternoon.


 

Currently, it has the strength of 55 kph maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 70 kph. Its movement, meanwhile, is at westward or northwestward at a speed of 10 kph.


 

Once it enters PAR, the tropical depression will be given the name "Rolly" and will be the 18th storm to hit the Philippines this year.


 

The weather disturbance, PAGASA added, could intensify into a tropical storm in the next 12 to 24 hours before reaching the country.


 

And as it moves southwestward towards Bicol Region to make landfall by November 1, it is likely to develop into a severe tropical storm and eventually a typhoon.


 

The expected hit of a typhoon in Bicol region comes less than a week after another typhoon, Quinta (international name Molave), made landfall in the said area and affected thousands.


 

The agency added that it could be out of the country by November 2, Monday.


 

Weather condition for Thursday, meanwhile, will be generally fair across the country from Luzon and Metro Manila to Visayas and Mindanao, with chances of thunderstorms in the afternoon and at night.


 

PAGASA said gale warning across the northern and western seaboards of Luzon remains despite Quinta making landfall now over Vietnam. — Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 26, 2020 - 5:56pm

Australia's Vaxine eyes coronavirus vaccine trial in Philippines — DOST

MANILA, Philippines — Australian company Vaxine Pty Ltd has expressed interest in conducting a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in the country, the Department of Science and Technology said Monday.


 

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said the biotechnology firm based in Australia has informed the department that it is willing to conduct clinical trial and manufacturing of its potential vaccines against COVID-19 in the Philippines.


 

“It is quite recent in terms of expressing interest,” de la Peña said in a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. He did not provide other details.


 

According to the coronavirus vaccine tracker of the New York Times, Vaxine’s candidate vaccine combines “viral proteins with an adjuvant that stimulates the immune system.”


 

The Phase 2 trial for the candidate vaccine is expected to begin by the end of the year. Phase 2 studies involve up to several hundred individuals and aim to define the optimal dose and safety profile of vaccine candidates.


 

Earlier, the vaccine candidate of Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech hurdled the initial stage of screening for clinical trials in the country after passing the review of the vaccine experts panel chaired by the DOST. It is still undergoing the evaluation of the Single Joint Ethics Research Board.


 

The World Health Organization-led solidarity trial for COVID-19 vaccines will start in September in the Philippines. It was initially scheduled to begin by end-October.


 

The country is in talks with 17 companies as it seeks to source a vaccine that will help end one of the worst outbreaks in Southeast Asia.


 

The Philippines' COVID-19 caseload reached 371,630 Monday, with 7,039 deaths.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 26, 2020 - 5:53pm

'Quinta' seen to exit PAR on Tuesday, but new LPA sighted

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon Quinta (international name Molave) has slightly intensified before it exits the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Tuesday morning, but PAGASA said a new low pressure area could also enter the country this week.


 

The weather bureau in its 5 p.m. bulletin said the eye of Quinta was last spotted at 310 km west of Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro, with a speed of 25 kph.


 

Currently, it has a maximum sustained winds of about 130 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 160 kph.


 

Disaster officials by Monday noon reported some 2,450 families or 9,123 persons affected so far across Bicol Region and the Cordillera Administrative Region.


 

Of the said figures, 1,478 families or 5,603 individuals are currently in evacuation centers, while 958 families or 3,471 persons are outside emergency shelters.


 

PAGASA said Quinta will continue to bring moderate to heavy with occasional intense rains over Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, northern Palawan including Calamian and Cuyo Island, as well as in CALABARZON, Aurora and Isabela.


 

The same will be experienced over Cagayan, Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur due to the tail-end of a frontal system.


 

Metro Manila, meanwhile, along with Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Bangsamoro and the rest of Luzon will see light to moderate with at times heavy rains.


 

As of Monday afternoon, Signal No. 3 and 2 have been lifted in various areas, with Signal No. 1 remaining in these provinces:


 

Batangas


 

Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, Oriental Mindoro


 

Calamian Islands


 

extreme northern portion of Antique (Caluya)


 

Officials have also yet to release figures on the estimated amount of damage incurred from Quinta's wrath in the country.


 

New LPA sighted


 

PAGASA said the new weather disturbance was seen at 1,945 km east of Southern Luzon at 4 p.m. of Monday afternoon.


 

The LPA, forecasters said, could enter the country by Wednesday or Thursday morning, but that "it is less likely to develop into tropical depression" in the next 48 hours.


 

It would be the 18th storm that will hit the Philippines this year, which follows through with PAGASA's announcement of the La Niña from October 2020 to until March of 2021, where above normal rainfall conditions will be experienced.


 

Forecast Positions


 

Tuesday afternoon: 835 km West of Tanauan City, Batangas


 

Wednesday afternoon: 1,230 km West of Central Luzon


 

— Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star ) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

‘Entry of foreigners a work in progress’

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal to allow more foreigners to enter the Philippines is still a work in progress because the government has to consider various factors, including the number of travelers the country could accept during the holidays, a Cabinet official said.


 

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would allow foreign investors to enter the country next month as part of the government’s effort to reopen the economy.


 

The decision will cover foreigners with visas issued by the immigration bureau pursuant to the Omnibus Investments Code and Republic Act No. 8756, which details the requirements of multinational companies that intend to set up headquarters in the Philippines.


 

Some sectors have expressed disappointment over the relaxed travel protocol as foreigners who have Filipino partners are still barred from visiting the country.


 

IATF vice chairman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions on travel should be done gradually.


 

“I can’t predict when we will allow the entry of foreigners who belong to other categories. Basically, it’s a work in progress. It’s something that is being studied. We are looking at the numbers. The point is we are opening (the country) but we don’t want to do it in haste,” Nograles said in an online forum last Saturday.


 

“We appeal for some patience. It’s moving and we listen to all requests... It has to be calculated and very calibrated so our system would not be overwhelmed,” he added.


 

Nograles said the government is studying the carrying capacity of the Philippines, noting that several overseas Filipinos and migrant workers are expected to come to the country during Christmas season.


 

“Many people also wish to come here for work-related reasons. In other words, we are calculating the carrying capacity, how many are anticipated to come home, how many OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), all these are being studied to determine if we have the carrying capacity in anticipation of this coming Christmas season,” he said.


 

Nograles said officials are also identifying countries with low and medium COVID-19 prevalence and those that are accepting travelers from the Philippines.


 

“There are discussions on reciprocity. Some countries accept travelers from the Philippines. In a manner of reciprocity we may also be open to them. But the other question is whether that country has low or medium prevalence,” he added.


 

Nograles said the IATF has not decided on whether to admit travelers from countries with low or medium prevalence of COVID-19.


 

He said while the health department has crafted guidelines for travelers from countries with low to medium COVID-19 prevalence, it was only done in preparation for the reopening of the Philippines to more foreign visitors. Nograles also advised Filipinos leaving for abroad to be aware of the health requirements set by the country they wish to visit.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star ) - October 24, 2020 - 12:00am

IATF allows entry of foreigners with investor, work visas

MANILA, Philippines — Foreigners carrying investors’ visas may enter the Philippines starting Nov. 1, Malacañang said yesterday as the country moves to a new normal with the resumption of businesses in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.


 

The easing of restrictions to foreigners was contained in resolution No. 80 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Thursday.


 

The resolution also lifts the requirement on antigen testing for Filipinos going abroad, increases to 30 percent the maximum capacity of churches and houses of worship, and allows the resumption of operation of motorcycle taxis.


 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., also IATF spokesman, emphasized the government is not opening its doors to all foreigners.


 

“Not all foreigners will be allowed, let’s make this clear; only those with investors visa under Executive Order No. 226 or the Omnibus Investment Code as amended by RA 8756 and foreign nationals with 47(a)(2) visa issued by the Department of Justice,” he said in Filipino and English.


 

Roque said those with visas issued by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority will also be recognized at the ports of entry in the country.


 

Ordinary tourist visa holders are still barred from coming to the Philippines, Roque said, noting the need to continuously observe stringent regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


 

“The entry of these foreign nationals to the country, however, is subject to conditions, such as they must have valid and existing visa at the time of entry and must likewise have a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility,” the IATF resolution read.


 

The task force stressed applicable immigration laws, rules and regulations will still apply to foreigners with investors visas.


 

Foreign investors wishing to enter the country should be in possession of valid and existing visa at the time of entry, with pre-booked accredited quarantine facility; subject to the minimum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry.


 

“The Bureau of Immigration shall make the necessary coordination with the airlines for the proper implementation of the foregoing,” it added.


 

In a statement, Philippine Airlines said it hopes to gradually increase its service as the government further relaxes travel and business restrictions. “At present, we are operating 17 percent of our regular number of daily flights pre-COVID,” PAL said. Spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said PAL has operated since March – the start of quarantine period – close to a thousand local and international cargo flights and over 300 domestic sweeper and repatriation flights.


 

As businesses and tourism gradually reopen, a health expert is urging the people not to let their guard down. – Sheila Crisostomo, Rudy Santos

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star ) - October 24, 2020 - 12:00am

Tropical Depression Quinta to hit Bicol on Monday

MANILA, Philippines — The low-pressure area off Mindanao has developed into Tropical Depression Quinta and is forecast to hit the Bicol region on Monday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned.


 

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the center of Quinta was spotted 880 kilometers east of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, packing winds of 45 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 55 kph. It was moving west slowly.


 

PAGASA said the cyclone was forecast to move generally northwestward then westward by Sunday.


 

It was expected to make landfall over the Bicol region by Monday.


 

“After crossing Bicol region, Quinta will continue to track westward over the inland seas of Southern Luzon. It is likely to emerge over the West Philippine Sea by Tuesday,” PAGASA said.


 

Tropical Storm Pepito, which hit parts of Luzon early this week, left P121.6 million in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.


 

In anticipation of inclement weather, Albay has issued an advisory banning fishermen from sailing and telling residents to be updated through the province’s Smart infocast and local radio stations.


 

Cedric Daep of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office said the ban to fish is to warn fishermen not to venture out during the storm.


 

“We know that these fishermen are spending at least seven days when fishing in the open seas. They could be trapped in the giant waves in the Pacific Ocean as the storm approaches land,” Daep told The STAR. – Cet Dematera

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - October 23, 2020 - 1:05pm

IATF eases travel restrictions on foreigners coming in, Filipinos leaving

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 task force is allowing the entry of foreign nationals with investors' visas into the country starting November 1 while outbound Filipino travelers are no longer required to take antigen tests before departure.


 

Under Resolution 80 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the following foreign nationals are allowed to enter the country:


 

Those with visas issued by the Bureau of Immigration pursuant to EO No. 226 or the Omnibus Investments Code, as ammended, and Republic Act No. 8756


 

Those with 47(a)(2) visas issued by the Department of Justice


 

Those with visas issued by Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority


 

These are the conditions for entry:


 

must have valid and existing visa at the time of the entry


 

must have a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility


 

subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry


 

must follow applicable immigration laws, rules and regulations


 

Meanwhile, under the same resolution, Filipinos traveling abroad are no longer required to present a negative result for an antigen test taken 24 hours before departure.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star ) - October 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Pinay nurse in UK conferred British Empire Medal

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino nurse has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her tireless work to support her colleagues and community during the COVID-19 pandemic.


 

Minnie Klepacz, matron for ophthalmology at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, felt “truly humbled” to be recognized for exceptional and outstanding service to the United Kingdom as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors.


 

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said a number of honors this year are given to recognize exceptional contributions during the coronavirus pandemic.


 

“What an incredibly proud day for Team (University Hospitals Dorset) – our brilliant matron Minnie has been recognized in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list and awarded a British Empire Medal,” the UHD National Health Service Foundation Trust announced last Saturday.


 

In its report, the UHD said Klepacz leads the hospital’s Black Asian Minority Ethnic Network at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and drove the trust’s response to provide risk assessments for all BAME staff. She also created a well-being hub for her staff to relax and take time out in.


 

While doing all of these as well as her day-to-day matron duties, Klepacz also provided exceptional support for the Filipino community outside of her work, cooking meals for colleagues who were recovering after being in intensive care, helping others move house and organizing virtual community events to offer comfort and reassurance.


 

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d get an award. I feel so privileged and honored,” she said.


 

“When I saw an email from the Cabinet Office, I was so worried, and thought I’d done something wrong. I plucked up the courage to read it again and responded asking if it was a spam email because I just couldn’t believe it. They told me it was true and then rang me to reassure me, I couldn’t believe it,” Klepacz added.


 

She has been working in the hospital for 19 years, having arrived from the Philippines to work in the UK as a teenager.


 

Klepacz, who lost 11 friends to the coronavirus, said, “COVID was really challenging, and most hospital staff affected by it came from a BAME background.”


 

She said she would send her medal to her family in the Philippines.


 

“Growing up, my mom always used to display all our awards prominently in the lounge as she was so proud of us all. As I can’t visit my family right now, it’s only right that they have my medal,” she said.


 

Publication of the honors list was postponed in June to include in the recognition those who played crucial roles in the pandemic.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 22, 2020 - 6:11pm

PAGASA monitoring new LPA outside PAR after 'Pepito'

MANILA, Philippines — State weather bureau PAGASA is monitoring a new low pressure area that could develop into a typhoon and enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility, after Pepito's exit on Thursday.


 

The agency said the LPA was spotted at 1,180 km east of Mindanao on Thursday afternoon.


 

Severe tropical storm Pepito, meanwhile, exited PAR at 7:30 this morning and intensified into a typhoon as it moves to landfall over central Vietnam over the weekend.


 

Disaster officials had put the number of individuals affected by the Pepito at more than 25,000 or some 5,555 families.


 

Some 8,473 persons were also sent to evacuation centers, per NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal.


 

There were also 11 flooding and 12 landslide incidents recorded in the regions of Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON.


 

Overall, the estimated damage so far has stood at P121.6 million both to agriculture and infrastructure in Region 2 and the Cordillera Administrative Region.


 

Weather condition throughout the country is expected to improve on Friday, with PAGASA warning that some areas such as Zambales, Bataan, Mindoro and Palawan could still experience rains due to Pepito's extension.


 

The rest of Luzon and Metro Manila, as well as Visayas and Mindanao, will see generally fair weather, with still some possibility of isolated rains.


 

Gale warning, meanwhile, is still raised over Batanes, Babuyan Islands, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Lubang Island, the western coast of Batanga and Palawan.


 

Typhoon Pepito was the 16th storm to hit the country this year, with the weather bureau warning that above normal rainfall conditions are to be expected from October 2020 to until March 2021, due to the onset of the La Niña. — Christian Deiparine

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo (The Philippine Star ) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Travel restrictions on resident foreigners

Like most countries in Asia, the Philippines imposed restrictions on the movement of people in and out of the country as a critical component of its response to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In recent months we have learned a lot about the impact this has had on Filipinos traveling into and out of the country, particularly OFWs. A little discussed subset of this restriction has been the impact on businesses, particularly multinationals that employ foreigners either as executives or Filipino companies that engage them as technical personnel. That restriction commenced on March 20 when a blanket travel ban was imposed against inbound foreign nationals, except for foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, foreign government and international organization officials, and foreign airline crews. This exemption was extended on July 16 to cover foreign nationals with long-term visas by virtue of being immigrants having acquired permanent resident status by reason of his/her marriage to a Filipino citizen. All these permitted categories were required to undertake the health protocol, including quarantine and testing.


 

Foreign business executives and employees, except those who were already in the country were however still covered by the ban. Subsequently, a process was put in place that allowed the exemption of foreign nationals from the travel ban on a case to case basis, such that its approval would depend on whether the purpose of their travel is urgent and essential. With an approved travel ban exemption, foreign nationals whose functions are highly critical and essential to the company may be allowed to enter the country to perform their duties and responsibilities.


 

That said, I understand that applications for exemption have had limited success, taking six to eight weeks for the process. For example, one chamber has handled 30 applications, only 10 have been approved, two rejected and 18 are pending. Depending on the sector the person is in, the request is filed with the appropriate department (e.g. DTI, DOE, PEZA, DOTr etc.). Once approved, the exemption is forwarded to the DFA which, in turn, is forwarded to the Bureau of Immigration. In the months of August and September, the DFA received 35 requests per day. DFA has since promised a seven-day turn-around upon receipt of the approval from the various departments/agencies.


 

There have also been unique challenges among teachers in international schools, causing a substantial drop in enrollment. The ADB and the US Embassy are the most affected. Then there are affected companies, like IBM, P&G, Fluor and others whose employees have 9A visas which have been invalidated requiring the above exemption process. One company had 60 expats in this category (9A) prior to lockdown and now they have only 10. They are concerned about the possibility of one power plant going down if these technical staff are not exempted soon.


 

Then there is the Philippine Retirement Authority SRRV visa, which is a lifetime visa. It is a special non-immigrant visa. They have chosen to make the Philippines their second home. Presumably they are exempted and can be treated as resident-Filipinos going back and forth to and from abroad in compliance with quarantine requirements.


 

AMCHAM comments, Christmas exemption

Ebb Hinchcliffe of the American Chamber commented: “Considering all countries in Asia and ASEAN also have restrictions, everyone is affected. I would think that the Philippines’ overall handling of the situation has been seen as a plus by many companies.” He said the situation is improving and that more exemptions are being granted, although still a long way from getting all that is needed. That seems to be the prevailing sentiment among expatriates even as they express the hope that serious consideration for dependents abroad should be allowed entry during the Christmas season regardless of the visa type issued.


 

Restoring business travel

Ease of travel for expat executives and those on short term business trips can be an important component of economic recovery as it impacts on FDI location decisions and has been intensified by the growing dominance of the global value chain business model, the deepening of supply chain networks and the prevalence of global outsourcing and offshoring. With the likelihood of COVID-19 being among us for a year or even more, and the uncertainty of when safe and effective vaccines can be widely deployed, the government should consider establishing protocols that facilitate such travel on the basis of a risk-benefits analysis supported by input from multi-sectoral considerations.


 

While we cannot second-guess the government in its effort to safeguard public health, it would help if the country participates in global and regional initiatives to develop ways to facilitate essential movement of business people and their dependents across borders, without undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Those efforts include calls for the urgent development of common health procedures and protocols that can lay the foundations for the earliest possible restoration of trusted travel across the region.


 

The various elements for trusted travel that have been suggested include: classifying countries as likely or not to be a source of imported infections; protocols upon departure and on arrival; tracking protocols in the destination country; and international agreements on “safe behaviors” such as wearing masks, social distancing and regular temperature checking.


 

Some protocols already existing in several countries require business visitors to be subject to PCR tests before departure and after arrival, and submission of schedules of their activities and record their movement using smartphone app. The International Chamber of Commerce has developed the ICC AOK pass, which is a secure way to present medical information at the border that is digitally authenticated using the AOK pass peer-to-peer blockchain verification technology.


 

Clearly there are ways to balance this very limited window of allowing the essential movement of business people, particularly expats, as part of the economic recovery effort while safeguarding public health. Let us encourage our policy makers to see it this way too.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - October 21, 2020 - 4:55pm

Travel agencies ask struggling airlines for full refund of canceled flights

MANILA, Philippines — As the country reopens skies for leisure travels abroad on Wednesday, travel agencies renewed their call for airlines to speed up paying refunds worth over P300 million for canceled flights during the lockdown period.


 

Airlines are yet to clear an estimated P315.55-million refund requests as of late September based on an “Outlook Survey” conducted by Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), an industry group, among members.


 

The amount could be higher, however, as only "close to half" of members reported the balances in the polling. That said, the latest reported balance was already down from P940 million unpaid as of last August.


 

“We continue to ask for the public’s understanding on their refunds," PTAA President Ritchie Tuaño said in a statement.


 

“Although we relatively have a good assessment on where we are in terms of the pending refunds, we will go through again with those who have not answered the survey to get the complete outlook,” he added.


 

By carrier, flag-carrier Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Emirates and All Nippon Airways accumulated the largest amount of unpaid refunds among 35 airlines mentioned in the poll of travel agencies. Local airlines have not responded to request for comment as of this posting.


 

That airlines have unpaid arrears are not surprising considering the financial struggles the industry is still trying to cope with. Among themselves, paying up customers was also a struggle. Last September, PAL has only finished refunding 80% of over $300 million it owed prospective flyers. Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific returned P2.4 billion to passengers as of last month, or equivalent to 50% of total requests.


 

Both airlines previously said their systems were not prepared for the influx of refund requests set off by the pandemic that ushered travel bans and lockdowns since March. That said, carriers committed to paying their dues and beefed up their processing capacities to clear backlogs.


 

PTAA, however, is unsatisfied so far, saying refunds "have been coming in trickles."


 

“Considering that three of the top five airlines that have yet to provide refunds fly the domestic route, it gives us pause to evaluate the pending refunds further," Tuaño said. "We want our member travel agencies to have the financial capacity to resume their operations normally,” he added.


 

The local aviation industry has asked government for help amid depressed travel demand, including direct state loans, credit guarantees and suspension of regulatory fees. But the industry said even these forms of assistance were hardly granted nearly 7 months into the pandemic.


 

For its part, PTAA said members are working to gain immediate access to financial assistance and soft loans provided under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which has allocated an additional P140 billion for crisis response programs.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star ) - October 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Laos, Afghanistan lift border restrictions on Filipino travelers

MANILA, Philippines — Two countries in Asia – Laos and Afghanistan – have lifted inbound restrictions on Filipino travelers, subject to flight availability and medical protocols, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.


 

The DFA said Malaysia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Tajikistan and Hong Kong have imposed stricter medical protocols and visa regulations for those who are exempt from entry restrictions.


 

Mongolia’s borders remain open but inbound travelers are now required to present negative COVID-19 test results and must have all applicable documents to support their visa status.


 

According to the DFA, Japan has gradually opened up inbound entry for students, dependents and technical interns but still prohibit entry of short-stay travelers, including tourists.


 

“In view of these updates, the DFA reminds the public that information contained in the infographics is subject to change without prior and sufficient public notice,” the DFA said.


 

The DFA advised travelers to always check ahead of travel dates with airlines, as well as with relevant embassies or consulates, before booking a ticket and before departure.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - October 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Travel agencies welcome resumption of operations

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) welcomes with caution the decision of the government to allow the operations of travel agencies and tour operators in general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ areas, emphasizing that it would only resume operations when there is already a reasonable demand for travel among Filipinos.


 

On Friday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) released Memorandum Circular 20-53, which prescribes the recategorization of travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities from category IV to category III.


 

This means these sectors will be allowed to operate in GCQ areas at 50 percent capacity and 100 percent capacity in MGCQ areas.


 

“With domestic travel bubbles being created along with the resumption of international leisure travel, we see travel agencies being a vital component in again reestablishing tourism as a key component of the Philippine economy,” PTAA president Ritchie Tuaño said.


 

“However, PTAA member travel agencies might be initially cautious and only resume operations when there is already a reasonable demand for travel among Filipinos that will allow them to sufficiently cover overhead costs of their operations,” he said.


 

In July, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the reopening of travel agencies in GCQ areas, but on a limited workforce. This allowed travel agencies to do admin works such as processing of refunds and payments to suppliers.


 

The PTAA reported in August that 419 out of its 439 member travel agencies remained temporarily closed with no timetable yet for the resumption of their operations.


 

The remaining travel agencies were partially open to service clients with essential travel needs, mostly overseas Filipino workers and seafarers.


 

The group earlier appealed for the public’s understanding in issuing refunds, emphasizing that the government’s move to allow the operations of travel agencies does not hasten the refund process, as travel agents are still waiting for refunds from suppliers such as the airlines, cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, and travel consolidators.


 

“The PTAA continues to ask the public’s understanding that financial liquidity is still a big concern for travel agencies,”Tuaño said.


 

“The PTAA is still in the process of assisting its members gain access to the financial packages and soft loans provided in the Bayanihan 2 and get airline refunds that have dated for more than six months now,”he added.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Danilo Garcia (Pang-masa ) - October 15, 2020 - 12:00am

Pagdura sa public places sobrang delikado-DOH

Virus na dala higit 100K beses kesa pag-ubo…

MANILA, Philippines — Upang hindi kumalat ang sakit o virus ay muling nagpaalala ang Department of Health (DOH) na huwag dumura sa mga pampublikong lugar.


 

Ito ay base sa pag-aaral ng Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, ang viral load sa isang pagdura ay mas malaki ng 100,000 beses kaysa sa bilang ng virus na inilabas sa loob ng 18 oras sa isang araw na pag-ubo.


 

Kumakalat umano ang COVID-19 sa pamamagitan ng droplets mula sa tao kaya pinayuhan ang publiko na huwag dumura kung saan-saan.


 

Kung hindi maiwasan ay maaring gumamit ng tissue at itapon ito ng maayos sa basurahan.


 

Ipinaala rin ng DOH na laging tandaan ang B.I.D.A. dahil ito ang may disiplina. B-Bawal ang walang mask at face shield, I-Isanitize ang mga kamay, D-Dumistansya ng isang metro at A-Alamin ang totoong impormasyon.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Jan Milo Severo (Philstar.com) - October 13, 2020 - 2:09pm

Russia allows 'all access' to Filipinos via new e-visa

MANILA, Philippines — The Russian Embassy in Manila announced recently that starting 2021, Filipinos can travel all over Russia under a relaxed e-visa rule.


 

In an online statement posted on Facebook, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishutin signed a directive that allows citizens from 52 countries, including the Philippines, to travel all over Russia using the e-visa.


 

“As of now, the e-visa will be applicable throughout Russia. Foreigners can enter via the specially equipped checkpoints anywhere in the country and travel throughout Russia. In addition to this, the duration of a stay for foreigners has been extended from eight to 16 days,” the statement said.


 

E-visas will be issued online for tourism, business, humanitarian and guest trips. Applicants do not need an invitation, hotel booking, or any other documents to confirm their reasons for travel. The consular fee is $40 (free for children aged under six), the embassy added.


 

Prior to the announcement, Filipinos can travel only to the Far Eastern Federal District, St. Petersburg and the Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions using the e-visa.


 

The e-visa project was launched in 2017 and included a number of restrictions such as visitors can only enter Russia through checkpoints and were not allowed to travel outside these regions.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 16, 2020 - 2:28pm

IATF allows outbound non-essential travel starting October 21

MANILA, Philippines — The government's coronavirus task force has lifted the ban on vacationing abroad, its spokesman Harry Roque confirmed.


 

"The IATF lifted the restriction of non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos effective October 21, 2020," Roque said in a statement released Friday.


 

He added that, under IATF Resolution 79, Filipinos "may be allowed to leave the country subject to the submission" of the following:


 

confirmed roundtrip tickets


 

adequate travel and health insurance for those traveling with tourist visas


 

execution of an immigration declaration acknowledging the risks involved in traveling


 

a negative Antigen test result taken within 24 hours before departure, subject to the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines


 

RELATED: Rapid antibody test, antigen test, RT-PCR test: How are they different?


 

"Outbound Filipino travelers shall likewise follow the Guidelines of the National Task Force (NTF) for returning overseas Filipinos," the statement further read.


 

The resolution also ammended guidelines on domestic air travel, revising the time period required between a negative RT-PCR test result and travel to Boracay Island which reopened to tourists this month. "The Test-Before-Travel requirement now stands not earlier than 72 hours prior to the date of travel," a more lenient adjustment compared to the prior 48 hour requirement.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star ) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Restrictions eased on foreign, local travel

MANILA, Philippines — With the country now recording slower transmission of COVID-19, the government is allowing non-essential foreign trips beginning Oct. 21, subject to health protocols and certain restrictions set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).


 

Under IATF Resolution No. 79, those allowed to leave for abroad are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), students enrolled abroad or those accepted in exchange visitor programs, permanent residents of foreign jurisdictions and foreign nationals.


 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. yesterday said the IATF approved the lifting of restrictions for non-essential travel of Filipinos after discussions among members of the task force.


 

“In the same 79th meeting, the IATF lifted the restriction of non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos effective Oct. 21, 2020,” Roque said.


 

This developed as the IATF also relaxed travel restrictions between general community quarantine to modified GCQ areas.


 

“The IATF has approved that interzonal movement of non-APOR between GCQ and MGCQ areas and the travel between MGCQ and areas to be declared as new normal,” Roque said. Non-APOR refers to persons not authorized outside of residences.


 

He said inbound travel by foreigners is still not allowed.


 

“Only Filipinos will be accommodated – their relatives and those specifically allowed by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) upon the endorsement of the relevant government agencies,” he said in Filipino and English.


 

The IATF amended earlier guidelines, which now allow outbound travel of Filipinos regardless of purpose. “For those traveling on tourist visas, submission of confirmed round-trip tickets and adequate travel and health insurance to cover travel disruptions and hospitalization in case of COVID-19 infections during their allowable period of stay abroad,” the IATF resolution said.


 

The government also requires the execution of a declaration from the BI in which travelers should acknowledge the risks involved in traveling, such as risk of delay in their return trips. The immigration forms will be provided at check-in counters of airlines.


 

“As a pre-boarding requirement, a negative antigen test result taken within 24 hours before departure, in accordance with the guidelines and protocols as may be issued by the Department of Health with regard to its fair and appropriate use or, whenever required by the country of destination, a negative test result taken in accordance with the health and safety protocols of the destination country,” the IATF said.


 

“The foregoing provisions shall not be interpreted to allow outbound travel by Filipinos to countries where travel restrictions are in place; and finally, this is without prejudice to the exercise of the mandate of the Bureau of Immigration prior to departure,” the IATF said.


 

Interzonal

The IATF said the interzonal movement of non-APOR between GCQ and MGCQ areas for any purpose are now allowed, subject to the regulations imposed by the local government unit concerned.


 

In the case of Boracay Island, the IATF said regulations will come from the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force.


 

The IATF also allowed the intrazonal movement of non-APOR across areas placed under GCQ or MGCQ and the interzonal movement of non-APOR between areas placed under MGCQ and the new normal.


 

Those considered APOR are health and emergency frontline services personnel, government officials and frontline personnel, duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors and persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons.


 

Individuals going to the airport for travel abroad, anyone crossing zones for work or permitted businesses and going back home, returning overseas Filipinos and other persons transported through the efforts of the national government are also covered. – Louella Desiderio

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Pilipino Star Ngayon ) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Leisure travel abroad ok na uli

Simula sa Oktubre 21

MANILA, Philippines — Tinanggal na ng Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases ang ban sa non-essential travel palabas ng bansa.


 

Ayon kay Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, maaari ng makabiyahe palabas ng bansa ang sinuman simula Oktubre 21, 2020.


 

Pero kailangang may kumpirmadong roundtrip tickets, travel at health insurance ang mga bibiyahe na may tourist visas.


 

Dapat ding ideklara na alam ng bibiyahe ang pa­nganib na puwedeng kaharapin dahil sa COVID-19.


 

Kailangan ding negatibo ang resulta ng antigen test sa loob ng 24 na oras bago ang biyahe at dapat sumunod sa panuntunan para sa COVID-19 sa pagbabalik ng bansa.


 

Ayon kay Roque, ang polisiya ay makakatulong para sa mga Filipino na nais bisitahin ang kanilang mga banyagang partners.


 

Maaari na ring lumabas ng bansa ang mga overseas Filipino workers, mga estudyanteng naka-enroll sa ibang bansa at bahagi ng mga exchange visitor programs.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman ) - October 15, 2020 - 12:00am

30 tourism resorts resume operations

CEBU, Philippines — At least 30 tourism-related establishments in 10 towns and cities of Cebu Province were given the green light to resume operations by the Provincial Tourism Task Force.


 

The Provincial Tourism Office has released the list of these establishments allowed to operate in the Province under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).


 

These establishments include Eskapo Verde, World Big 4 Resorts and Babambo in Badian town; Basdiot Hill Cottages, Kasai Villages Resort, Moalboal Eco Lodge, Kojie Guest House, Panagsama Dive Resort Inc, and Hale Manna Coastal Gardens in Moalboal.


 

Also included in the list to operate are De Payad Inland Resort in Daan Bantayan, Danasan Eco Adventure Park in Danao City, Tatope Travel Lodge in Carcar City and Cebu Club Fort Med Inc. in Boljoon.


 

For Dalaguete, seven of its tourism-related establishments can now operate again - Carlita’s View Beach Resort, Kellock Seaview Apartelle, Seaview Mansion Dalaguete Apartelle, Ocean Bay Beach Resort, Rockwalled Pension House and Timmi’s Beach House.


 

In Barili, two establishments are also operational, the Barili ATV Adventure and Cafe’ Alfonso while West 35 Eco Adventure Park and Sailor’s Cabin in Balamban were also given the go signal to operate.


 

In Alcoy, seven were allowed to operate also. These include the Voda Krasna Beach Resort, Cartagena Beachwalk Resort, Antig Tingko Beach Resort, Parrot Paradise Resort, Sola Homes Retirement Village Inc. El Paradiso Resort, RJ Delos Santos Beach Resort and Naguene Korean Restaurant.


 

These establishments have met the requirements needed to be able to operate again such as Certificate from the Department of Trade and Industry and Certificate of Authority to Operate from the Department of Tourism (DOT-7).


 

“Once mahatagan na sila ana and then kinahanglan na sila mo-comply sa mga protocols like UV light, purifier kay mao man na ang requirement sa DOT para ka operate sila’g balik. Kaning mga signages, facemask, face shield, air purifiers, naay foot bath, hand washing areas, thermal scanner, proper distancing marker mao na sya ang kinahanglanon sa DOT. Once nga naa na sila ana mo-contact sila sa tourism office sa LGU para i-inspect sila. Once ma inspect na sila tagaan na sila og Special Mayor’s to Operate from the LGU,” said Sidney Gonzales, packages circuits and programming officer of the Provincial Tourism Office.


 

The LGU will then contact the Capitol for the provincial-level inspection of the establishment.


 

The Provincial Tourism Task Force will then make an inspection if indeed the establishment is compliant and, if they pass, the Province will give them a certificate of compliance allowing them to operate. /GAN (FREEMAN)

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Ludy Bermudo (Pilipino Star Ngayon ) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

100% operations ng travel agencies, tours aprub – DTI

MANILA, Philippines — Pinayagan na kahapon ang 100 porsyentong kapasidad ng operasyon ng travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services at mga katulad nito sa mga lugar na nasa ilalim ng modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) at 50 porsyentong kapasidad naman sa erya ng general community quarantine, ayon sa Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).


 

Gayunman, kahit na napalawak ang operasyon, kailangang sumunod pa rin sa minimum public health standards at protocols na itinakda ng Department of Health (DOH), anang DTI.


 

Una nang pinayagan ng DTI ang 24/7 operations ng mga restaurant at food chain, dine-in, take-out, at delivery services na nasa GCQ areas.


 

Marami na ring ibang negosyo ang napayagan na magbukas ng 100 porsyentong kapasidad maliban sa barbershops at salon na hanggang 75% lang ang pinahihintulutan.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Ludy Bermudo (Pang-masa ) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Travel agencies, tour operators sa GCQ at MGCQ areas pinayagan

MANILA, Philippines — Pinayagan na ng Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) na makabalik ng operasyon ang mga travel agency, tour operator, reservation service, at iba pang kahalintulad na negosyo sa mga lugar na nakasailalim sa General Community Quarantine (GCQ) at Modified Ge­neral Community Qua­rantine (MGCQ).


 

Sa ilalim ng Memo­randum Circular No. 20-53 na nilagdaan ni Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, ang nasabing mga serbisyo ay pwede nang magbukas muli sa 50 percent operational capacity kung nasa GCQ areas at 100 percent capacity sa MGCQ areas.


 

Gaya ng iba pang mga establisyimento, ipinaalala ng DTI na kailangang sumunod sa minimum public health standards at protocols.


 

Babantayan ng Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) at ng Regional o Provincial Offices ng DTI ang mga establisyimento para matiyak ang pagsunod sa alituntunin.


 

Una nang pinayagan ng DTI ang 24/7 operations ng mga restaurant at food chain, dine-in, take-out, at delivery services na nasa GCQ areas.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 4:38pm

Ilocos Norte sets reopening guidelines for Luzon tourists

MANILA, Philippines — As Ilocos Norte prepares to unlock its borders for leisure travels, Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc has issued, through an Executive Order, guidelines for safely welcoming tourists from other Luzon regions, reviving the hospitality sector that has been on hiatus because of the pandemic.


 

The Phase II of the Ridge and Reef Expanded Travel Corridor initiative of the Chief Executive and Tourism Councils in Northern Luzon, marks the increased travel freedom in the province by allowing tourists in Luzon Island to visit Ilocos Norte starting October 15.


 

Only fifty (50) pre-arranged visitors, through the Department of Tourism (DOT)-accredited tour agencies and establishments, are allowed to enter the province each day. Persons who are pregnant, with comorbidities, and children with chronic health conditions are not permitted to travel.


 

Under Executive Order 98-2020, an Order Establishing the Guidelines for the Second Phase of the Reopening of Tourism in Ilocos Norte, visitors are subject to a compulsory COVID-19 test before traveling to the province.


 

In the identified General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified GCQ (MGCQ) areas with a sharp infection rate, travelers must have RT-PCR test results released within 72 hours prior to arrival. Travelers should also undergo Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) at the provincial borders upon arrival.


 

Alternatively, travelers from these areas can have RDT issued within 30 hours of arrival and RT-PCR test will follow upon the arrival. While in GCQ and MGCQ areas with a low infection rate, travelers can either have RT-PCR or RDT test and another RDT at the border upon arrival.


 

Leisure travelers who plan to stay for longer than three (3) days in the province must follow the repeat RDT test on the fourth (4th), ninth (9th), and fourteenth (14th) day of stay.


 

Registration to SafePass is also necessary for systemized management and contact tracing. The tourist’s information such as confirmed accommodation, travel agent, confirmed itinerary, medical certificate, and negative test results are recorded in every account.


 

Likewise, the software application will generate a QR code that will serve as the visitor’s Health Declaration ID and Travel Pass Authority at the provincial borders.


 

Tourists can only proceed with their itinerary with the guidance of their travel agencies only if they have accomplished the following on a designated Visitors Center: negative COVID-19 test results, validated Health Declaration, and signed Affidavit of Understanding.


 

In cases that a tourist manifests COVID-19 symptoms or strays from the set itinerary and cannot be contacted for two hours, an RT-PCR re-test is required.


 

With the gradual easing of travel restrictions and enabling tourism to begin again, Governor Manotoc assures that the priority of this initiative will essentially benefit the tourism-dependent families.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 16, 2020 - 5:00pm

Philippines now allows travel ‘for any purpose’ between GCQ, MGCQ areas

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines further loosened movement restrictions in the country after the government’s inter-agency task force on coronavirus response has allowed travel between general community quarantine and modified GCQ areas.


 

This means travel “for any purpose” between GCQ and MGCQ areas is now permitted subject to “reasonable” regulations by local government units.


 

“Our IATF allowed interzonal travel even for persons not authorized outside of residences (APORs) between GCQ and MGCQ areas,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday.


 

“Travel between MGCQ areas and places that will be declared under ‘new normal’ is also allowed,” he added.


 

Previously, only APORs could cross provincial borders.


 

The IATF also approved the adjustment of age-based stay-at-home restrictions. Individuals who are 15 to 65 years old are now allowed to leave their homes.


 

However, LGUs may enforce a higher age limit for minors depending on the situation in their localities.


 

The government’s coronavirus task force likewise lifted its ban on non-essential outbound travel. Starting October 21, Filipinos may be allowed to leave the country subject to the submission of confirmed roundtrip tickets, and travel and health insurance for those traveling in tourist visas.


 

They are also required to execute an immigration declaration acknowledging the risks involved in traveling and to have a negative Antigen result taken within 24 hours before departure.


 

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country reached 351,750 after 3,139 more infections were reported Friday. Of the figure, 6,531 have died, while 294,865 have recovered.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 14, 2020 - 9:38pm

DOT: Batangas now welcomes divers from areas under GCQ

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism on Wednesday announced that divers even from areas under general community quarantine are now allowed to visit the diving community in Batangas.


 

The agency said divers can now dust off their masks, fins, snorkels, regulators and other gears as popular dive sites in Batangas are now prepared to welcome tourists.


 

Batangas is home to Luzon’s best dive sites, including Balayan Bay, Cathedral Rock, Beatrice Rock, Twin Rocks and Mainit Muck.


 

The announcement came after Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, as Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), signed PCSSD Administrative Order No. 2020-001 or the Guidelines on the Operations of Dive Establishments Under a Community Quarantine.


 

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) also earlier approved Resolution No. 78, which provides for the DOT to determine the destinations in GCQ areas where recreational diving may be allowed.


 

The same resolution indicated that specific areas under GCQ and modified GCQ, dive establishments and resorts may accept guests from either GCQ or MGCQ areas for recreational diving purposes.


 

Prior to this, the IATF-EID banned travel between areas under GCQ and MGCQ for purposes of recreational diving.


 

Rules for divers, tourists

“Dive establishments in Batangas Province, insofar as the area is still under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), are hereby determined to be permitted to accept guests for Recreational Diving, taking into consideration the general preparedness of the area and its impact on the tourism industry,” Puyat said.


 

Mabini Tourism went ahead last Saturday and also announced that its tourism strip called Anilao, a world-renowned diving destination dubbed the “birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines,” would start accepting tourist on October 12, Monday.


 

This tourist destination is also considered as the center of marine diversity where divers from all over the world would go to find those rare underwater species in person.


 

In its announcement, Mabini Tourism said only it will only accept guests with booking confirmations, 72-hour swab test result and medical clearance.


 

The DOT released the Health and Safety Guidelines Governing the Operations of Dive Establishments in the New Normal on Tuesday which requires divers to bring their own diving gears such as a set of scuba gear and equipment box. Use of hand disinfectants and hand washing, practice of physical distancing, and wearing of protective face masks when not on an actual dive are required throughout the day.


 

For its part, the DOT said it supports the diving community in Batangas.


 

“We express our support to the diving community in Batangas, one of the premier diving destinations in the country. We remain optimistic yet cautious of its reopening to recreational diving,” Puyat said.


 

Puyat reminded visitors to follow the “Test Before Travel” policy while dive establishments are likewise reminded that only those with a valid DOT and/or PCSSD Accreditation will be permitted to operate.


 

“While guests of all ages from GCQ and MGCQ areas are welcome, the activity is off-limits to those with comorbidities and currently pregnant,” the tourism chief said.


 

According to DOT, there are six dive establishments and two liveaboards accredited by PCSSD in Region IV-A or CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon).


 

On the other hand, a total of 241 dive establishments and ten liveaboards are accredited nationwide.


 

The tourism chief said the DOT accreditation certifies that the dive establishments are conforming to the minimum health and safety guidelines and are ready to accept guests again.


 

She invited the dive resorts and stakeholders to take advantage of the free and newly launched online DOT-accreditation platform at https://accreditation.tourism.gov.ph.


 

Meanwhile, the DOT said that through its regional office for CALABARZON, a digital contact tracing application was provided to the Mabini, Batangas local government unit for a more efficient tracing measure.


 

In February this year, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and Vice Gov. Mark Leviste both said they are eyeing to boost tourism in the diving sites of the province. This, after the province was badly hit by the January Taal Volcano eruption.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 16, 2020 - 6:51pm

Eased travel movement to empower LGUs to reopen tourist spots — Puyat

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism on Friday welcomed the loosening of travel movement between general community quarantine and modified GCQ areas for tourism revival.


 

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases amended the guidelines on travel restrictions and approved the recommendation to gradually expand the age group allowing individuals aged 15 to 65 to go out of their residence.


 

Under IATF Resolution No. 79, “the interzonal movement of non-authorized persons outside residences (non-APOR) between areas placed under GCQ and MGCQ for any purpose shall be permitted subject to the reasonable regulations imposed by the local government unit (LGU) concerned, if any, and which should be submitted to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), or in the case of Boracay Island, subject to those imposed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF).”


 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that the easement of restrictions will encourage local government units to reopen their destinations with minimum health and safety measures in place.


 

“These new policies, approved by the IATF, support the Department’s programs aimed at rebuilding the tourism industry to bring back lost jobs and livelihoods and stir local economies,” Puyat said.


 

Puyat added that this new directive also complements the DOT’s strategy to develop tourism circuits and travel corridors, such as the Ridge and Reef Corridor Plan between Baguio City and the provinces of Region 1 namely, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, to help revive tourism under the new normal.


 

Ilocos Norte started welcoming tourists from Luzon on Wednesday. Batangas also welcomed its doors to divers.


 

Last October 1, Boracay likewise reopened to local tourists from areas under GCQ and MGCQ.


 

All these destinations require negative RT-PCR test results as part of the government’s “Test Before Travel” policy.


 

Tourists are also required to complete their online registration and health declaration at their respective LGU websites, and an issuance of a QR code for contactless transactions and contact tracing purposes, from travelers before entry.


 

Puyat said despite reopening of tourist destinations, health protocols will remain in place.


 

“The flexible travel movements, however, do not mean that we will be relaxing our health standards. We will continue to work with the LGUs in enforcing safety protocols and enhanced hygiene measures in all sectors of the tourism industry,” she said.


 

On Wednesday, the Department of Trade and Industry also issued Memorandum Circular No. 20-53 recategorizing travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities from Category IV to Category III. This means they are allowed to reopen at 50% operational capacity for areas placed under GCQ and at 100% capacity for areas under MGCQ, subject to minimum public health standards and protocols.”


 

Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jojo Clemente said there will be companies which will remain closed due to financial and health concerns. He added that some of them will not reopen “until steady income is expected.”

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - October 22, 2020 - 12:00am

All hotels can operate 100%

 IIn GCQ, MGCQ areas, with DOT OK

MANILA, Philippines — Hotels in areas classified under general community quarantine and modified GCQ may now be allowed to operate at full capacity, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced yesterday.


 

In a statement, Puyat said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases authorized the Department of Tourism (DOT) to determine the allowable operational capacity up to 100 percent for hotels, including “staycation” hotels, in GCQ and MGCQ areas.


 

Puyat, however, said the decision to open at 100 percent operational capacity would be subject to the hotel management’s decision and compliance with safety guidelines.


 

The DOT said this was made through the IATF’s approval of Resolution No. 79 on Oct. 15.


 

The resolution replaces the provision that accommodation establishments in areas under GCQ may only operate with a skeletal work force, and now provides that such operations may be governed by the issuances of relevant national agencies such as the DOT.


 

Operational capacity is defined by IATF as such number of employees who can be permitted to physically report to work on-site.


 

Puyat said the DOT would issue the amended guidelines for the expanded operational capacity of hotels, including staycation hotels.


 

Hotel Sales and Marketing Association of the Philippines (HSMA) president Christine Ibaretta said they understand the need to adhere to the guidelines, which are yet to be released.


 

“We thank the secretary for her support to really slowly reopen business as it will benefit the establishments, along with employees going back to work,” Ibaretta said.


 

“We fully understand the importance of sanitation, safety and strict adherence to the protocols which have been implemented since the start,” she added.


 

The DOT earlier issued Administrative Order 2020-006-A or the “Amended Guidelines on the Operations of Accommodation Establishments for Staycation Purposes under a General Community Quarantine,” which requires all accommodation establishments in areas under GCQ to secure a certificate of authority to operate for staycations (CAOS) from the DOT prior to accommodating any guests for staycation.


 

This was after the IATF approved earlier the operations of hotels for staycation purposes in GCQ areas as it allowed the recommendation of the DOT to explore various ways to restart tourism activities during quarantine, which includes staycations in GCQ areas.


 

Puyat said there are currently 10 hotels issued with a CAOS that are DOT star-rated.


 

These are the Grand Hyatt, Makati Shangri-La, Okada, Shangri-La at the Fort, Nobu Hotel City of Dreams, Joy Nostalg Hotel and Suites, EDSA Shangri-La, Solaire, Hyatt Regency COD and Nuwa COD.


 

The DOT reported that there are 28 star-rated accommodation establishments in Metro Manila in the four- and five-star categories. Of these, 16 are five-star and 12 four-star.


 

Puyat reminded hotels operating for staycation purposes to follow the guidelines and protocols set by the DOT to ensure a memorable and safe staycation of guests.


 

“While we all long for a little bit of fun with the family, it is the responsibility of hotel operators to make sure that the health and safety of their guests and employees are not compromised,” Puyat said.


 

Apart from giving the DOT the authority to determine the operation capacity of hotels in GCQ and MGCQ areas, under Resolution 79, the IATF also approved the easing up of interzonal and intrazonal movement, in line with reviving domestic tourism.


 

Under the resolution, the interzonal movement of non-authorized persons outside residences (non-APOR) between areas placed under GCQ and MGCQ for any purpose should be permitted, subject to reasonable regulations imposed by the local government unit concerned, if any, and which should be submitted to the Department of the Interior and Local Government or, in the case of Boracay Island, subject to those imposed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force.


 

“Along with this comes the need to ready the whole tourism value chain, which includes the accommodation, transportation and tour operation sectors. Allowing the accommodation sector to operate at full capacity will be most welcomed by tourism’s workforce that has been greatly affected since the community lockdown,” Puyat said.


 

No significant increase

While many are itching to travel abroad, it appears that not everyone is ready to fly just yet.


 

Local carriers said they did not see much improvement in international travel demand yesterday, the first day the government started allowing non-essential or leisure travel abroad.


 

“We have not seen a significant increase in international travel demand yet as other countries still have various restrictions imposed. However, we continue to hope this development will inspire more people to start traveling again,” Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and customer experience Candice Iyog said.


 

Philippine Airlines (PAL) spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said building up passenger traffic for tourist travel is a gradual process and will not happen overnight.


 

“There are parallel initiatives among travel and tourism stakeholders to entice and stimulate travel,” she said.


 

“At the same time, the readiness of the flying public to travel out as tourists doesn’t happen overnight after the go-signal on tourist travel. We are optimistic that in time, passenger numbers on non-essential travel will gradually build up,” Villaluna said.


 

Last week, local airlines welcomed the decision of the government to start allowing Filipinos to do leisure travel abroad as it is seen to provide a much-needed boost to their long road to recovery.


 

They believe easing of restrictions on international outbound travel serves as an opportunity to build passenger traffic to destinations whose governments carry out parallel easing of restrictions.


 

Local airlines have been hit heavily by travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


 

During the months of April to June, PAL, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines flew only around 800,000 passengers as compared to 13.5 million passengers flown in the same period last year.


 

Passenger traffic for the months of July and August have remained low, with the implementation of a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila disrupting further the restart.


 

“We are also looking forward to the reopening of more domestic destinations so we may restart tourism within our own country as well,” Iyog said.


 

“We believe in implementing a multi-layer approach to safety as we work towards regaining the public’s trust and confidence in air travel,” she said.


 

Local airlines assure their passengers that they maintain the highest standards of safety during all phases of a flight. – Richmond Mercurio, Ralph Edwin Villanueva

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 20, 2020 - 6:27pm

Gov’t-registered tourist vans now open to online booking

MANILA, Philippines — Some tourist destinations are now just a van away.


 

This, after van booking service Vanwagon announced that it is now offering regular trips to and from provincial destinations. The booking service is registered and allowed to operate by the government.


 

Passengers can book their seats online through http://booktouristvan.com for seamless reservation. Pre-booking of rides is required.


 

The online platform is powered by online bus booking platform Biyaheroes which aids van operators with a comprehensive system for contact tracing and inventory oversight.


 

With the new online platform, passengers can experience paperless transactions, various payment options and sure seats. They will also be provided with free face masks.


 

As of writing, here are the available tourists van trips available along with their corresponding fares:


 

SM Mall of Asia to Cabanatuan and vice versa (P550/person/way all-in)


 

SM Mall of Asia to SM Rosales and vice versa (P770/person/way all-in)


 

SM Mall of Asia to Clark or Dau and vice versa (P450/person/way all-in)


 

Baguio to Dau and vice versa (P660/person/way all-in)


 

Baguio to Clark (P660/person/way all-in)


 

 


 

 


 

The booking services reminded that passengers coming from Clark going to Baguio City can board via the Dau Terminal. It said that the terminal is just a few minutes away from Clark International Airport.


 

Aside from the available routes, the booking services advised the public of current travel requirements.


 

It said that terminals require face masks and face shields for entry.


 

Mandatory temperature checks are required while social distancing are also implemented inside the vans. The company said temperatures above 37.3°C will not be allowed to board.


 

It added that travel authority from the Philippine National Police and certificate of employment and/or company ID must also be presented.


 

Meanwhile, tourists headed to Baguio are asked to register at the city’s visitor management platform, VIS.I.T.A. online portal (Visitor Information and Travel Assistance at http://visita.baguio.gov.ph/ prior to arrival with reservations to an accredited hotel and travel agency.


 

On the other hand, returning residents and or visiting relative must also register via the city’s website (https://hdf.baguio.gov.ph/).


 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the VIS.I.T.A. platform received an encouraging number of 2,000 registrations and some 200 travel requests since it officially launched on September 22.


 

Last Saturday, Puyat said Baguio City will welcome tourists from Luzon starting October 22. The city will accept a maximum of 200 guests per day “to ensure proper visitor management.”


 

The booking services warned the public to check the requirement of local government units they are visiting before finalizing their trip as there may be multiple travel requirements for each destination on national and provincial levels that may change from time to time.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Malou Escudero (Pilipino Star Ngayon ) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Mga bawal sa MGCQ tanggal na sa ‘new normal’

MANILA, Philippines — Tiniyak ng Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) na hindi na ipatutupad ang mga “restrictions” sa ilalim ng modified gene­ral community quarantine (MGCQ) sa mga lugar na ilalagay sa “new normal” o post-community quarantine.


 

Sa Laging Handa online press briefing, sinabi ni DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya na kailangan lamang sundin ang minimum health standards pero wala ng mga bawal.


 

Sinabi pa ni Malaya na bagaman at wala ang kumpletong datos, ang isang lugar na walang community quarantine ang ilalagay sa new normal na kategorya.


 

Samantala, pinayuhan ni Malaya ang publiko na hintayin ang anunsiyo ng Joint Task Force COVID Shield para malaman kung ano na ang mga lugar na wala ng travel authority at alin ang mga kaila­ngan lang magpakita ng travel authority.


 

Ginawa ni Malaya ang pahayag matapos ma­tanong kung kaila­ngan pa ng travel autho­rity ng isang tao mula sa Metro Manila na nasa ilalim ng general community quarantine na pupunta sa lugar na nasa MGCQ katulad ng Laguna.


 

Sa Inter-Agency Task Force No. 79, ang mga non-APOR o hindi kasama sa Authorized Persons Outside of Re­sidence ay maaari na ring bumiyahe para sa leisure activities upang mapasigla ang turismo.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 18, 2020 - 5:01pm

Ilocos Sur open to Luzon residents by mid-November

MANILA, Philippines — With a number of travel restrictions eased by the coronavirus task force, the province of Ilocos Sur will be open to Luzon residents as early as November 15 "once all systems and health and safety measures are in place," tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat disclosed Sunday in a bid for the industry's recovery.


 

In a statement sent to reporters, the Department of Tourism said that it welcomed the news, adding that it came upon the announcement of Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Singson to open the province amid growing interest from Metro Manila tourists.


 

"The DOT also lauded Governor Singson's initiative to give back jobs to the tourism workforce from the kutcheros or carriage drivers to the waiters, the souvenir shops, to the tour guides through the slow but sure reopening of the province," the statement issued Sunday afternoon read.


 

READ: Eased travel movement to empower LGUs to reopen tourist spots — Puyat


 

"Ilocos Sur first welcomed back tourists through the Ridge and Reef travel corridor with Baguio City and Ilocos Region including the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Norte. Among the famous tourist destinations in the province are the Vigan Heritage Village and Calle Crisologo, Plaza Salcedo Dancing Fountain, Bantay Bell Tower, Santa Maria Church, and Plaza Burgos," it also said.


 

Baguio City first began accepting visitors from La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, which are part of the Ridge and Reef travel corridor in October. According to reports, it only accepts 200 visitors daily from these areas.


 

Puyat has said as early as September that over four million workers in the tourism sector ended up jobless amid the coronavirus pandemic.


 

Earlier, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, which enforces the quarantine protocols set by the coronavirus task force, called Tagaytay City "a good model" for other local government units that plan to open their borders for tourism in the future.


 

The joint task force also reminded the public that travel authorization is still a requirement for any tourists looking to cross borders but are not included in the list of the authorized persons outside residence list despite most parts of the country being under modified community quarantine.


 

As of the Department of Health's latest case bulletin also on Sunday afternoon, over 356,000 coronavirus infections have been recorded in the country since December. Of which, 39,000 are still classified as active cases.


 

— Franco Luna with reports from Rosette Adel

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 20, 2020 - 12:36pm

Signal No. 2 up over areas in Luzon with 'Pepito' now a tropical storm

MANILA, Philippines — Parts of Luzon are now under Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 2 with tropical storm Pepito now firmly over the Luzon landmass, weather forecasters said Tuesday.


 

In its latest weather bulletin 11 a.m. on Tuesday, state weather bureau PAGASA said that Pepito was last seen 295 kilometers east of Baler, Aurora at 10 a.m., moving northwestward at 25 kilometers per hour.


 

Pepito was also measured carrying winds of greater than 61 kph, with PAGASA warning that these may intensify further and peak up to 120 kph in at least 24 hours until possibly reaching severe tropical storm category by Thursday.


 

Signal No. 2 has been hoisted over the following areas:


 

La Union


 

Ifugao


 

Benguet


 

Nueva Vizcaya


 

Quirino


 

Pangasinan


 

Nueva Ecija


 

Tarlac


 

Aurora


 

southern portion of Isabela (Palanan, San Mariano, Benito Soliven, Naguilian, Gamu, Burgos, San Manuel, Aurora, Cabatuan, Luna, Reina Mercedes, Cauayan City, Dinapigue, San Guillermo, Angadanan, Alicia, San Mateo, Ramon, San Isidro, Echague, San Agustin, Jones, Santiago City, Cordon)


 

southern portion of Ilocos Sur (Sugpon, Alilem, Tagudin)


 

northern portion of Zambales (Iba, Palauig, Masinloc, Candelaria, Santa Cruz, Botolan, Cabangan)


 

northern portion of Quezon (General Nakar)


 

For areas under Signal No. 2, tropical cyclone will affect the locality while high to gale-force winds greater than 61 kph and up to 120 kph may be expected in at least 24 hours, PAGASA warned.


 

"It will then cross the Luzon landmass, and emerge over the West Philippine Sea tomorrow morning. This tropical cyclone may exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Thursday morning," PAGASA's report read.


 

"Light to moderate with at times heavy rains will be experienced over Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Bangsamoro," it also said.


 

Gale Warning is in effect over the seaboards of Batanes, Cagayan, and Ilocos Norte, indicating areas where sea travel is significantly risky due to rough to very rough seas, according to PAGASA.


 

Signal No. 1 is also over the following areas:


 

Abra


 

Kalinga


 

Mountain Province


 

Bulacan,Pampanga,


 

Bataan,Metro Manila,


 

Rizal,


 

northern portion of Camarines Norte (Paracale, Jose Panganiban, Capalonga, Vinzons),


 

Catanduanes,


 

rest of the northern portion of Quezon (Infanta, Real)


 

rest of Zambales


 

In these areas, PAGASA said, high to gale-force winds of 30-60 kph may be expected in at least 36 hours or intermittent rains may be expected within 36 hours.


 

Forecast positions

Wednesday morning: 155 km West of Dagupan City, Pangasinan (16.1 °N, 118.9 °E)


 

Thursday morning: 465 km West of Dagupan City, Pangasinan (16.2 °N, 116.0 °E)


 

Friday morning: 605 km West of Dagupan City, Pangasinan (outside PAR) ( 16.5 °N, 114.7 °E)


 

Saturday morning: 850 km West of Northern Luzon (outside PAR) (16.5 °N, 112.4 °E)


 

— Franco Luna

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 21, 2020 - 6:33pm

Megawide proposal to upgrade NAIA still under study — DOTr

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal of Megawide consortium to rehabilitate and expand Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) remains under study by government, the transportation department said on Wednesday.


 

“There is no contract awarded yet, or any agreement decided upon, on the NAIA Expansion project, Transport Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso said in a statement.


 

“The proposal is still to be evaluated and approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) and the NEDA Board,” he explained.


 

The ICC, chaired by the finance secretary and composed six other officials, approves big-ticket state projects. The NEDA Board, meanwhile, is chaired by the president.


 

Megawide Construction Corp. and its Indian partner, GMR Infrastructure Ltd., were awarded original proponent status of the NAIA expansion project in July after talks were terminated with a consortium of six conglomerates including Ayala Corp. and Aboitiz Group. The group, at the time, tweaked their offer to ensure the airport’s financial returns operating amid travel prohibitions, which government rejected.


 

Since then, Megawide has been waiting for word from government examining its proposal for an 18-year contract to refurbish the ageing gateway worth $3 billion. While the study endorsed by the transport agency is not yet completed, Reinoso said the company will be informed once it’s done.


 

“The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), as the primary grantor for the unsolicited proposal, will be the contracting party to the concession agreement, if approved by the ICC and the NEDA Board,” he said.


 

Once approved, a Swiss challenge will be held wherein other parties will be allowed to challenge Megawide’s offer. As original proponent however, the company will have the chance to match a better proposal should there be one.


 

If the company ultimately bags the NAIA expansion project, it would add to Megawide’s growing list of foray to the government’s infrastructure program. Currently, the consortium also operates the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.


 

Beyond airports, Megawide also won the contract the building and operations of Paranaque Integrated Transport Exchange, a terminal for public transport systems, as well as the first phase of the Malolos-Clark Railway. — Franco Luna

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 18, 2020 - 5:33pm

Rail lines set to gradually increase passenger capacity, DOTr says

MANILA, Philippines — Starting Monday, all four of Metro Manila's rail lines will be gradually increasing the maximum passenger capacity of their trains to accommodate more commuters, transportation secretary Arthur Tugade said Sunday.


 

In a statement sent to reporters Sunday afternoon, the Department of Transportation disclosed that the Metro Rail Transit Line-3, Light Rail Transit Line-2, Light Rail Transit Line-1, and the Philippine National Railways will increase their respective maximum passenger capacities to 30%, and later 50%.


 

This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte and the entire Cabinet voted to approve the transportations recommendations of the economic development council, which also include a "one-seat apart" rule on public transportation, the use of service contracting to expand bus and jeep capacity, the expansion of rail capacity to 30 to 50%, and the expansion of provincial buses, motorcycle taxis, shuttles and transport network vehicle services.


 

As it stands, the current maximum passenger capacity of these railway lines ranges from 13% to 18%.


 

According to DOTr data requested by Philstar.com earlier, passenger averages over the initial general community quarantine period were 43,341 during weekdays and 33,570 during weekends.


 

The MRT-3 will be increasing its train capacity initially to 30% with 372 passengers per train set, from the current reduced capacity of 13% with 153 passengers per train set. Once the 50% increased capacity is implemented, the MRT-3 will be able to cater to 591 passengers per train set.


 

The LRT-1 line will also be increasing its passenger capacity to 30% and expect that its trains will accommodate 370 passengers per train set, and later, 620 passengers once it increases to 50%.


 

For the LRT-2, trains will be able to accommodate 486 passengers per train set at 30% capacity, up until 814 at 50% capacity.


 

The PNR will be implementing an increase to 30% in the capacity of each of the rail line's train models, after which it will be able to accommodate:


 

179 passengers per train set for the DMU ROTEM model


 

167 passengers per train set for the DMU 8000;


 

228 passengers per train set for the DMU 8100;


 

and 302 passengers per train set for the EMU model.


 

Once the 50% capacity is implemented, the PNR will be able to serve an average of 259 passengers per train set.


 

In preparation for the implementation of the increased capacity, social distancing marks inside trains are being adjusted for passengers, the department also said in its statement. Train marshals will also be deployed in stations and inside the trains to ensure the compliance of passengers.


 

Tugade added that the railway sector was reminded to implement the department's thrust of adding PUV, routes, trains, increasing speed and capacity, then reducing travel time and headway.


 

LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN: Limited operations for land transport as more Filipinos hit the road


 

During the lifting of enhanced community quarantine in June, the rail lines were able to accommodate:


 

LRT-1: 43 per train car, 158 per train set, or only 12% of its capacity


 

LRT-2: 40 per train car, 160 per train set, or only 10% of its capacity


 

MRT-3: 51 per train car, 153 per train set, or only 13% of its capacity


 

PNR: 148 average persons per train car or 20% capacity on average

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Raymund Catindig (Pilipino Star Ngayon ) - October 16, 2020 - 12:00am

Ilocos Norte tatanggap na ng turista

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan , Philippines — Tatanggap na ang Ilocos Norte ng mga turista mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng Luzon kabilang ang Metro Manila sa pagpapairal ng Expanded Ridge and Reef Travel Corridor program simula kahapon.


 

Sa ipinalabas na Executive Order ni Governor Mathew Manotoc noong Oktubre 13, bukod sa NCR ay binubuksan ng Ilocos Norte ang pintuan ng kanilang turismo sa mga taga-Cordillera Admi­nistrative Region,Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON at Bicol Region.


 

Una nang binuksan ng Ilocos Norte ang kanyang teritoryo sa mga bisitang nagmula sa mga kapwa probinsiya nito sa Region 1 at Baguio City matapos mabuo ang nilagdaan nilang memorandum of agreement kasama ang Department of Tourism at iba pang government line agencies noong Setyembre 1.


 

Sa pinalawak na programa; 50 slots muna ang maaaring tanggapin ng Ilocos Norte sa isang araw.


 

Ang mga napiling bisita ay kinakailangan na makipag-ugnayan lamang sa mga akomodasyon at serbisyong accredited sa DOT.


 

Nakasaad din sa guidelines ng kautusan na kinakailangang maipakita ng papasok na bisita ang negatibong resulta ng RT-PCR nito na kinuha sa loob ng 72 oras at kailangan sumailalim sa Rapid Antigen Test pagsapit sa border ng Ilocos Norte.


 

Ipinagbabawal naman sa pagpasok ang mga buntis, mga mayroong karamdaman o comorbidities at mga batang abnormal ang kalusugan at congenital heart disease.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 16, 2020 - 12:47pm

IATF allows minors, senior citizens to leave homes during community quarantine

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:49 p.m.) — Individuals who are 15 to 65 years old may now leave their homes, the government's coronavirus task force decided on Thursday, amending the previous range of 18 to 60 years old.


 

"The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Thursday, October 15, 2020, approved the adjustment of age-based stay-at-home restrictions," presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed in a statement released Friday.


 

"Persons from 15 to 65 years of age are now allowed to go out. Local government units (LGUs) may impose a higher age limit for minors, depending on the COVID-19 situation in their respective jurisdictions," the statement adds.


 

These new adjustments are contained in IATF Resolution No. 79, which also updates the list of authorized persons out of residence (APOR) to include the following:


 

Returning or repatriated overseas Filipino workers


 

Overseas Filipinos returning to their places of residence


 

Other persons transported through the efforts of the national government upon observance of the necessary quarantine protocols with the concurrence of the receiving LGUs


 

Previously, only "health and emergency frontline services personnel, government officials and government frontline personnel, duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors, persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons, persons going to the airport for travel abroad, and anyone crossing zones for work or business permitted in the zone of destination and going back home" were considered APORs.


 

"Related to this is the issue of curfews. The IATF enjoined LGUs not to cover workers, APORs, and necessary establishments in the application of their curfew ordinances, to coordinate between and among each other and standardize curfew rules, and relax curfew hours," Roque added.


 

'Adjustments are based on science'

In a separate statement also issued on Friday, the IATF spokesman stressed that these adjustments on age-based stay-at-home restrictions are "based on science and hard data."


 

"Global experience has shown that the case fatality rate and severity of sickness between 15 and 20 years old vis-à-vis those who are 65-years old and above is much less as younger people have fewer health risks while there is a prevalence of immunodeficiency and comorbidity among senior citizens who would be better off at home," Roque added.


 

In the Philippines, individuals 60 years old and above are considered senior citizens. However, Roque noted that 65 "is the retirement age of most in the private sector."


 

Latest data from the Department of Health shows that senior citizens comprise 62.7% of the country's coronavirus death toll. Those aged 60 to 64, specifically, make up 13.5% or 848 of the Philippines' 6,497 fatalities. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star ) - October 12, 2020 - 12:00am

IATF OKs easing outbound travel limits for Pinoys

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s pandemic task force has agreed in principle to relax the outbound travel restrictions on Filipinos who want to be with their foreigner partners.


 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, vice chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said the government is fine-tuning details to ensure that those who would be allowed to leave are not infected with the coronavirus.


 

“There are certain details that we have to thresh out. Everything has to be coordinated – from the testing to the airports, to (the measures to be implemented by) the Bureau of Immigration, the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the airlines,” Nograles said in a live online session last Saturday.


 

“But in principle, we in the IATF have agreed. It’s OK. We just have to finalize details. We do not want to do it unprepared or there would be problems,” he added.


 

The Philippine government is implementing restrictions on people traveling from countries with active COVID-19 cases to contain the virus, which has infected more than 37 million people worldwide and has claimed more than one million lives.


 

Exempted from the travel ban are Filipino citizens and their foreign spouses and children, and holders of government-issued diplomatic visas and permanent resident visas.


 

Some Filipinos who have foreigner partners are urging the government to ease the restrictions, noting that the travel ban has delayed the weddings of some couples.


 

The IATF has formed a technical working group to study the travel ban.


 

Nograles said among the details to be finalized are the type of testing to be administered on outbound travelers and the certifications that have to be secured to allow people to leave.


 

He added that the IATF also has to coordinate with accepting countries, airline companies and various agencies to ensure that the relaxed travel protocols are implemented smoothly.


 

“In principle, we have agreed on a lot of things... and we are just fine-tuning details. Once it’s done, we will immediately issue a resolution,” Nograles said.


 

“We are asking for a little patience. We can thresh this out. Let’s help each other. We understand your plight, but let us help each other,” he added.


 

The IATF is looking into a new testing methodology that would make the processing of the requirements of outbound travelers easier, according to Nograles. He said the government also has to come up with protocols to prevent the issuance of fake testing certifications.


 

The Philippines already has more than 336,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

(Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 10:05am

All wind signals lifted as 'Ofel' moves over West Philippine Sea — PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines — State weather bureau PAGASA said all tropical cyclone wind signals in the country have been lifted as Tropical Depression Ofel moves over the West Philippines Sea, away from land.


 

“Ofel” was last seen 170 west northwest of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro or 150 km west of Tanauan City, Batangas, heading west at 20 kph.


 

It packs maximum sustained winds of 45 km per hour near the center and gusts of up to 55 kph.


 

PAGASA said there is an “increasing likelihood” that the tropical depression will weaken into a low pressure area within the next 12 to 24 hours over the West Philippine Sea.


 

While TCWS No. 1 is lifted for all localities, occasional gusts may still be experienced over Zambales, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Occidental and Palawan (including Calamian and Kalayaan Islands) due to “Ofel” and the southwest monsoon.


 

Gusty conditions associated with the northeasterly surface wind flow will be also experienced over Batanes, Babuyan Islands, Cordillera Administrative Region, Aurora, and the coastal and mountainous areas of Ilocos Norte and mainland Cagayan Valley.


 

Weather forecasters also said that moderate to heavy rains will be experienced over Aurora.


 

Meanwhile, light to moderate with at times heavy rains will affect mainland Cagayan Valley, CAR and the rest of Central Luzon due to “Ofel” and over Occidental Mindoro and Palawan (including Calamian, Cuyo and Kalayaan Islands) due to southwest monsoon.


 

Gale warning is in effect over the entire seaboard of northern Luzon and the seaboard of Aurora due to rough to very rough seas associated with the northeasterly surface wind flow, making sea travel is risky over these areas, especially for those using small sea vessels.


 

Meanwhile, moderate to rough seas due to the tropical depression and the southwest monsoon will be experienced over the seaboards of Zambales, Bataan, Quezon, Occidental Mindoro and Palawan.


 

Forecast position

Friday morning: 730 km west of Subic Bay (outside PAR)


 

— Gaea Katreena Cabico

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Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star ) - October 14, 2020 - 12:00am

MSMEs in tourism get access to interest, collateral-free loans

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Small Business Corp. (SB Corp) have rolled out a loan assistance program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism industry.


 

The program under the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) of the SB Corp., an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, gives tourism MSMEs access to zero interest, no-collateral loans with a loan term period of up to four years, including a corresponding grace period of up to one year.


 

Under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2, the tourism industry was allocated P6 billion for loans.


 

“We look forward to working with the SB Corp in providing our tourism enterprises with what they need - access to working capital loans,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said.


 

She said the department believes that the program would accelerate the country’s tourism recovery from the harsh impacts of the pandemic.


 

“By working together, we can hopefully bring tourism, an industry that contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s 2019 GDP, back to its glory days,” she said.


 

Under the loan program, borrower MSMEs will only need to pay a one-time service fee, which is set at a maximum of eight percent for a four-year loan.


 

SB Corp will evaluate and process all loan applications of DOT-accredited MSMEs and local government unit (LGU)-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises to ensure their eligibility and will determine the loanable amount and terms in accordance with the CARES for Tourism Rehabilitation and Vitalization of Enterprises and Livelihood (TRAVEL) program guidelines.


 

The DOT will regularly endorse to SB Corp a list of accredited tourism enterprises and LGU-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises that may be entitled to avail of business loans under the CARES for TRAVEL program, subject to further evaluation by SB Corp.


 

Meanwhile, the SB Corp will regularly submit loan implementation reports to the DOT subject to compliance with Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.


 

“Aside from rescaling, rebooting and making some sort of whole industry pivot, we also recognize the need for tourism MSMEs to have access to financial assistance or funds just to tide them over the present pandemic crisis,” Puyat said.


 

The P6-billion credit facility is part of the P10.1 billion package for the tourism industry under Bayanihan 2, which also includes P1 billion for tourism road infrastructure to be implemented with DPWH; P100 million for DOT-accredited and LGU licensed tour guides; and P3 billion to be administered by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for cash-for-work program to help DOT-accredited enterprises and its displaced employees.


 

Puyat stressed earlier that the policy for the P3 billion program is not just a release of funds, but would be used as a cash-for-work or cash-for-training mode“ because the intention of both departments is to ensure that apart from the cash, the stakeholders would receive something permanent in the process.”


 

The tourism sector, among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key driver of the Philippine economy.


 

Data from the DOT show that estimated inbound tourism revenues for the seven months of 2020 plunged 72 percent to P81 billion from P284 billion in the same period last year as travel restrictions remain in place amid the pandemic.


 

In addition, international visitor arrivals during the period dropped 73 percent to 1.3 million.

PHILSTAR GLOBAL

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 14, 2020 - 9:24am