The House Committee on Visayas Development convened in Cebu City on Tuesday and urged the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to put up satellite offices in Regions 6, 7, and 8 comprising the Western, Central and Eastern Visayas, respectively.
Attended by representatives from Cebu, Samar, Leyte, Negros Oriental and Panay island, the legislators noted no one from the DoTr was present.
House Deputy Speaker and Representative Pablo John Garcia of the third district of Cebu moved for a House committee resolution urging the DoTr to put up satellite offices in the Visayas.
“Central Visayas, Cebu especially, is a maritime and air transport hub and a premier tourism destination. Guests fly in and take inter-island ferries to their other destinations. We need the DoTr here,” Garcia said.
He acknowledged it was Department of Tourism Regional Director Shahlimar Tamano and stakeholders from the private sector who brought this up with him. He said he now understands that tourism needs a seamless transportation experience and making air, maritime and land travel development happen requires dealing with more or less six separate agencies.
Tamano said the other regions of the country do not have the benefit of DoTr services in their jurisdictions as well.
Garcia added all three regions of the Visayas need the reassuring presence of the DoTr to help government leaders deal with maritime, air and land transport issues.
For this reason, the House Committee on Visayas Development chaired by Rep. Duke Frasco of the 5th district of Cebu urged the DoTr head office to set up satellite offices in the interim, particularly in Cebu where President Rodrigo Duterte pledged funds on Sunday to improve traffic and mass transport in the region.
A bill to address the lack of DoTr regional offices and directors is currently pending in Congress.
PH eyes more contact tracers—tracing czar
Tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong said the government needs to recruit more contact tracers amid the rising number of people who get infected with the coronavirus disease.
In a radio interview, he said that an ideal team of four people composed of a health worker and a police investigator should be allotted to trace the close contacts of each COVID case.
However, due to the lack of staff, some of the infected patients remain to have untraced contacts.
“Four is to one sana ang ideal kaya lang na-ooverwhelm po ng cases nangyayari po yan. Kung minsan hindi na po nako-contact trace. There are places dyan sa Manila na tumatawag sakin mga tao nag [positive] na sila pero not one of the local government contact tracers ay tumawag na sakanila,” he said.
Although the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ongoing recruitment and training allotted for thousands of contact tracers, he warned that it may not be enough.
“Malaking bagay iyong pag-recruit natin ng 50,000 na contact tracers. Pero kung tatanungin ninyo ako, is it enough? Hindi enough iyan, kukulangin tayo,” he said.
“We need volunteers, cause-oriented groups na sa tingin nila meron silang critical thinking ability, iyong members may investigative mindset, hindi naman naghahanap ng suweldo. They can always volunteer,” he added.
At present, the country has 97,400 contact tracers and may be increased to 150,000 as soon the government begins hiring.
Hike healthworkers’ salary and they will stay, says Labor secretary
The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Tuesday urged the government to hike the salary of nurses that would convince them to stay and give their services in the country amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a television interview, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III explained that salary upgrade for nurses is long overdue, noting that it is one of the reasons why around 200,000 nurses in the country are unemployed even if the Department of Health (DoH) already launched an emergency hiring program.
“We need to upgrade the salary of nurses, especially in the private sector. How can we convince them if they will be the ones who will pay for their needs?
“What’s happening now is that nurses have 10 to 12 hours of duty, but the salary ranges from P9,000, P15,000, and maximum P18,000, so you really cannot blame them if they want to leave,” Bello said.
The Labor chief also stressed that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would need to go to Congress to call for passage of the law that would increase the salaries of nurses.
He also urged the nurses to assert their right by filing a complaint if they are being deprived of the benefits due them.
“They also have a responsibility to stand for their rights. Gather yourselves even for a day and file a complaint,” Bello said.
To recall, the government has suspended the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only allowing new hires who have completed their requirements on or before 8 March to leave.
The suspended deployment was eased Monday, when the President allowed all returning health workers and new hires who secured requirements by 31 August to leave the country.
Earlier this month, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) called for an increase in the minimum wage and benefits of nurses working in the private sector, saying they also render the same service as colleagues in the public sector.
While nurses in the public sector are assured of a salary increase under the Department of Budget and Management’s Circular 2002-4 issued on July 17, FNU said nurses in the private sector were not included.
“Sadly, no equivalent decree that may apply for nurses in the private sector to accord them due recognition and at par compensation to ease them from their present miserable condition even though both belong to one profession rendering the same service for the general population,” the FNU said in a statement.
The FNU said some nurses in the private sector cannot even afford their own basic needs because their salary is “way below” the minimum wage. “The wage of nurses in the private sector is way below at P537 daily for those in NCR and much lower at P280 per day in BARMM with some nurses getting an insultingly low P5,000 to P10,000 average monthly salary,” said the FNU. “Worse, these overworked nurses are made to handle a patient load beyond the DoH-set standard of 1:12 patients with no additional pay for overtime or extended work,” it added.
DAR gives self passing mark on agrarian justice delivery program
Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones gave his agency a passing performance despite the quarantine restrictions in Luzon during the early months of the new coronavirus pandemic.
“The DAR implementation of a swift and efficient agrarian justice delivery program is on the right track with the help of the department’s zero-backlog campaign,” Castriciones said.
He also paid tribute to the farmers for ensuring enough food for Filipinos as the country continues to deal with the virus.
He said the farmers are the real strength of the country.
“I want our farmers to trust that agriculture is their key to success. In the first world countries, their farmers are earning big and are treated well by their citizens. We would emulate these countries to empower our farmers by pooling all our resources to improve their economic and quality of lives,” Castriciones said.
The Secretary showed his appreciation to them when he visited some of the houses of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) to deliver their certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) in Benito, Soliven, Isabela.
Legal affairs office Undersecretary Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan earlier reported the good news in favor of the ARB with the signing by President Rodrigo Duterte of Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law which condones the interest payment and restructures the principal obligation of ARB.
Nurses’ group welcomes move allowing more health workers to work abroad
The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the government to allow more health workers to work abroad, stating the country has enough to fill its needed workforce.
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday night that all health workers with perfected contracts as of Aug. 31 may now be allowed to leave.
“Masaya ang FNU para sa 1,500 na pwede nang makaalis dahil pinayagan na yung mga may perfected contract hanggang Aug. 31,” FNU president Maristela Abenojar said in an interview with DZMM.
Abenojar believed that the move would not affect the country’s healthcare workforce with about 200,000 health workers who are still unemployed.
She also lamented the existing need for more staff among hospitals due to a continuing increase in the number of patients infected with the virus.
Abenojar stressed that the government should consider conducting a mass hiring of workers especially during the pandemic where more people have lost their jobs.
“Hindi po sapat yung emergency hiring lamang kasi yun po ay tatlong buwan lang po ang inooffer samantalang alam naman po natin na nagextend na po ang ating national state of calamity for one year until next year. So ang amin pong kahilingan ay mass hiring talaga,” she said.
She reiterated that offering positions that are permanent, with a security of tenure and with a well-compensated salary are the best ways to encourage more health worker-applicants to stay in the country and seek jobs here.
Duterte urges Cayetano, Velasco to honor term-sharing deal but…
President Rodrigo Duterte is hoping that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco would abide by the term-sharing agreement they had, but said the latter “cannot do anything” if he is not backed by the Congress supermajority.
At a Palace briefing Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque shared to reporters what President Duterte had said when asked about his thoughts on the brewing power struggle among Congress leaders.
“Tinanong ko po siya rito kagabi at dahil sinagot niya ako, uulitin ko ang sagot niya. Umaasa siya na tutupad sa usapan ang dalawang partido. Pero kung wala pong numbers si Congressman Lord Allan, eh, wala po siyang magagawa,” Roque said.
“So, the President is hoping that the Speaker and Congressman Velasco will honor their agreement, but ultimately the decision will be the decision of individual congressmen. Ang sabi po niya, to quote, ‘Kung talagang walang numero si Lord Allan, wala siyang magagawa,’” he added.
In 2019, President Duterte brokered a term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Velasco to put an end to the speakership race which bugged the House for months.
Duterte publicly endorsed Cayetano to be the House Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco would replace him for the remaining 21 months.
Asked if the President’s remarks on Monday night is an endorsement for Cayetano to stay in his post as House Speaker, Roque said: “That’s what he said. If Lord Allan has no numbers, I cannot do anything. And that is the Constitution: members of the Congress shall elect their leader.”
Earlier in the day, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, a known ally of Cayetano, claimed that the “supermajority” of congressmen does not want the sitting House Speaker to step down from his post.
“You saw the performance of Congress, we work even though we’re under a break, the ratings increased — highest rating ever for the House of Representatives. Everybody is happy. If ever there is anyone complaining, just one or two people which the Speaker will resolve,” Villafuerte said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.
Duterte to Leni: Spray pesticide if you want to end COVID
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said Vice President Leni Robredo should spray pesticide throughout the country if she is determined to get rid of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his public address, the Chief Executive lashed out at Robredo for criticizing the country’s COVID-19 response as he insisted that the government is “doing its best” to solve the health crisis.
“Ito, si Leni, kung ano-anong pinagsasabi. Alam mo Leni, kung gusto — if you really want to do away with COVID, i-spray natin itong Pilipinas or Manila ng pesticide galing sa eroplano para patay lahat,” Duterte said.
“Wag na ninyong palakihin ang problema. Do not add something to the pandemic by making such reckless statements that we are not doing enough,” he added.
The President’s latest tirades against Robredo came after the Vice President lamented the supposed “lack of system” in the government’s COVID-19 efforts.
Robredo said this when she was asked in a television interview why she did not join calls for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who was heavily-criticized over his purported lackluster performance in leading the country’s fight against COVID-19.
“Iyong problema natin is so much bigger than Secretary Duque. Para sa akin, iyong problema talaga iyong national government, na parang walang sistema… parang walang cohesive na plano,” Robredo said in the interview.
Duterte, for his part, said the government has been exhausting its resources to provide the medical equipment needed by hospitals amid the health crisis.
The President also lauded the work of his Cabinet members, as he thanked them for their efforts in the country’s pandemic response.
“Ano bang enough na gusto ninyo? May ospital, may kama, at may punerarya. Nandiyan lahat. Ano pa ba gusto niyo? The microbes, the virus is flying around. That’s why you still have to wear a mask,” Duterte said.
“Gingagawa na ni Secretary Duque. ‘Yung halos di na kumakain, di natutulog… Wag ninyong pasobrahan,” he added.
The President also took a swipe against an unnamed priest who, according to him, has been hitting his administration’s handling of the crisis.
“Yung mga bunganga niyo wala nang ginawa para lang to criticize at idiin ang administrasyon. Wala sila magawa. May pari, sinabi, ‘Si Duterte, dapat magka-COVID.’ The day after, siya nagkaroon ng COVID, pu**** i**,” Duterte said, laughing.
President Duterte, who has been hit for his alleged reliance on military leaders to address the crisis, also maintained that the public should wait for vaccines against COVID-19.
“You cannot exterminate the COVID by itong ano lang. ‘Yung ganyan, the only thing we can do is wear mask. Wear face mask and wait for vaccine. COVID-19 equals vaccine,” he said.
So far, the Philippines has the highest caseload in Southeast Asia with over 290,000 coronavirus infections, of which 54,958 are active cases. The death toll, meanwhile, stands at 4,999.
Rody OKs more health workers to work abroad
Medical workers with complete documents like visas and contracts as of 31 August are now allowed to leave the country and work abroad, the Palace announced Monday.
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the proposal of the Department of Labor and Employment to expand the deployment ban exemption, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
The Palace official said about 1,500 health workers are expected to benefit from the President’s move.
“Makikinabang po ang 1,500 nurses and other health professionals. ‘Yung mga health professionals na kumpleto ang documentation as of August 31, 2020, pinayagan na ng Presidente na makaalis para sa inyong mga trabaho abroad,” Roque said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases previously allowed healthcare professionals to leave if they had existing employment contracts as of 8 March.
Nurses have long appealed for the lifting of the deployment ban on health care workers, saying that it is the frontliners’ right to seek better salaries overseas.
Suspected Dawlah Islamiya recruiter arrested in QC
A suspected recruiter of the Islamic State-inspired Dawlah Islamiya was arrested by police operatives over the weekend, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief PGen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan announced on Monday.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Cascolan presented Kevin Madriñan, also known as Ibrahim Abdullah Madriñan and Ibrahim Khalil Al-Garaba, who is believed to be the liaison officer of the terrorist group in Luzon.
Madriñan is also said to be a close associate of Abu Sayyaf Group commander Mundi Sawadjaan, the mastermind of the recent Sulu bombings, who is among the government’s most wanted terrorists.
“He is under investigation. We are monitoring him. What we are looking into is the recruitment he has been doing here in Manila. His recruits, those we call `balik-Islam’, are sent to Mindanao for exposure on said (terror) activities,” Cascolan stated.
“We will be investigating him and we will extract more information from him,” he added.
Seized from Madriñan, who was apprehended last Saturday, 19 September 2020, in North Fairview, Quezon City, were one .45 caliber pistol with a high-capacity magazine, a hand grenade, and three pieces of P1,000 bills.
Bayanihan Act, new bill offer relief for COVID-hit households
Aside from the Bayanihan Act, families facing eviction from their properties due to unemployment or loss of livelihood brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic can find relief from a pending bill.
House Bill (HB) 7665, or the Rent Relief Act of 2020, aims to protect families with newly unemployed members that caused them to miss rental and mortgage payments.
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority 2015 census, some 2.7 million households occupy rented housing. The number is estimated to have increased to about 3.1 million this year.
“Our analysis of new unemployment rate shows that up to three percent of those households, or some 93,000 households, may be in danger of eviction due to nonpayment of rental dues even with the Bayanihan measures to provide rent relief,” Albay Representative Joey Salceda, bill author and chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said.
HB 7665 provides a three-month moratorium on evictions, to allow tenants and landlords to “renegotiate rental terms as well as refinancing options.”
“Bayanihan rent deferments are good, but because it takes people longer than three months to find new jobs, we still run the risk of eviction unless we can find ways to get pending rent paid now, and allow tenants more time to finance their rent,” he said. “Deferments alone are unsustainable because lessors, many of whom are retirees, need to eat, too.”
Under the Bayanihan Act, lessors or landlords must provide a minimum of 30 days in grace period on residential rental fees due within the period of community quarantines, without incurring interests, penalties, fees and other charges.
HB 7665 mandates the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and Pag-IBIG Fund to offer rent refinancing loans to their members at favorable rates.
It tasks Landbank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines to offer rent refinancing loans at rates not higher than the lowest-yielding loans.
Under rent refinancing, banks will pay rent for a specified period while providing the tenant a longer loan repayment period.
Measures that not only defer payment schedules, but actually get the rent paid for a period that is long enough to regain meaningful employment are urgently needed, Salceda noted.
HB 7665 also allows promissory notes to be accepted, under an arrangement where government financial institutions finance the promissory note, and the rent obligation is converted into a loan with a government financial institution, to ensure that the tenant is not evicted during the period paid for with the loan.
To allow tenants reasonable time to avail themselves of the programs under the bill, it imposes an eviction moratorium for three months, to provide the implementing agencies enough time to roll out the measures contained in the bill.
The bill also mandates setting up rental assistance centers by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development to help tenants and lessors renegotiate terms of lease, access programs under the bill, and find other assistance programs available that would prevent tenants from being evicted
“While current grace periods under the Bayanihan emergency measures allow for amortizations to be distributed in the succeeding months of rent, these grace periods may not be of much help to tenants who have totally lost their sources of income,” he said.