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Prioritize teachers’ training, DepEd asked

Neil Alcober

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The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) on Monday asked the Department of Education (DepEd) to prioritize the training of teachers and orienting parents as it prepares the whole system for school year 2020-2021.

“The scheduled reopening of classes (24 August) is less than a week from 18 August, the initial target date to end the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ),” Benjo Basas, the group’s national chairman, said in a statement.

The group also asked DepEd to strictly observe work from home set up in areas under MECQ.

“The appeal from several groups of health professionals to revert to a stricter quarantine category and the response of the Malacañang to put Metro Manila and nearby provinces under MECQ attest to the fact that this Covid-19 pandemic is far from being controlled. It also says that everybody needs to contribute to minimize the movement of the people to prevent the further spread of the disease,” Basas said.

Over the weekend, the Philippines recorded a total of more than over 100,000 cases and ranked 10th in the whole of Asia, even surpassing China.

“There are also confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection in DepEd personnel which attributed to the performance of their tasks in schools or offices,” Basas noted.

The TDC called on the DepEd management to stand firm by its own directive contained in DepEd Order 11, s. 2020 that teachers, as long as practicable should render their tasks at home and the option for physical or onsite reporting is discouraged and may only be used in exceptional cases.

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Fill up teacher vacancies, DepEd urged

Hananeel Bordey

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Senators have urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to fill up the 55,807 vacant positions which were compensated by the 2020 national budget.

In different statements, Senators Francis Pangilinan and Sherwin Gatchalian pointed out the crucial role of teachers in implementing blended learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to DepEd, currently, there are 55,807 unfilled positions of which around 34,000 are Teacher I, II, III posts.

The Education Department recently disclosed that they are requesting additional 10,000 posts under the proposed 2021 national budget.

For Gatchalian, DepEd should prioritize hiring teachers for unfilled positions especially now that private school teachers are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s better to fill it (34,000 teaching positions) up first before we hire again so that we can use the savings for other purposes,” Gatchalian said.

The Education Department can address these unfilled positions by hiring around 4,000 teachers affected by the suspension of operations of around 865 private schools this year due to the pandemic.

“I would like to urge the Department to hasten the hiring of those displaced teachers, since there are 34,000 teaching positions available. It will help them continue their work and bring home something to their families,” Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Basic Education Committee, added.

For Pangilinan, this will help teachers continue their profession amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sufficient human resources in the education system is as crucial these days, especially when we are embarking on blended learning,” Pangilinan also pointed out.

Blended learning will also be successful if DepEd will assure that there are additional budget for teaching and non-teaching personnel’s needs.

He cited DepEd’s August 2020 Learner Enrollment Survey which showed that 50 percent of learners prefer the use of printed modules in the conduct of distance learning for the upcoming school year.

“This early, we have been hearing from DepEd officials about the lack of funds for the printing of modules and the scenario of sharing of the printed copy among students,” Pangilinan said.

“This has to be addressed as this could pose health risks to both the teachers and students. Knowing, too, how devoted our teachers are to their vow, it is not far-fetched that they would initiate producing the extra copies of the modules out of their own pockets. Our teachers deserve better treatment from the government,” he stressed.

DepEd will be getting the lion’s share of the proposed 2021 national budget with a total allocation of P754.4 billion.

This is followed by the Departments of Public Works and Highways with a proposed budget of P667.3 billion; Interior and Local Government, P246.1 billion; National Defense, P209.1 billion; Health and its attached agencies, P203.1 billion; Social Welfare and Development, P171.2 billion; Transportation, P143.6 billion; Agriculture, P66.4 billion; Judiciary, P43.5 billion; and Labor and Employment, P27.5 billion.

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Seafarers stuck in HK seek help

TDT

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A group of seafarers is seeking the help of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as they are now stranded in Hong Kong Port sans three months compensation, while one was held in captivity in his cabin due to an alleged crime.

In an information exclusively disclosed by the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) to the Daily Tribune, it said the 16 Filipino crew are now presently trapped inside a Greek registered Bulk carrier vessel Angelic Glory, which is now anchored in Hong Kong.

Engr. Nelson Ramirez, UFS president, said one of the seafarers, identified as Rico Guarnes, asked the union’s help through Facebook messenger, and said that he was held in captivity in the same vessel.

“He told me that the ship captain ordered his arrest because seaman Guarnes allegedly told the chief cook to stab his co-seafarer. He is now detained in his cabin, handcuffed since 7 September. Guarnes also told me he is eating while shackled and well-guarded,” according to Ramirez.

Beside this, Ramirez said these 16 seafarers are not receiving compensation since July, manifested in a demand letter wired to him.

“They sent me a copy of the demand letter directed to their manning agency and ship captain to ask for the release of their compensation for the months of July, August and September. The mandatory allotment meant for their families here in the Philippines, were also not received by their spouses. They are also worried about the condition of their families here,” according to Ramirez.

The Daily Tribune secured a copy of the demand letter, undersigned by those 16 seafarers, addressed to Angelic Glory Ship Master Konstantinos Triantis; Panthalassa Maritime Corporation; Grimaldi Marine Partners in Monaco; and Capt. Joselito Navales of Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, dated 1 September.

The 16 Filipino crew are now presently trapped inside a Greek registered Bulk carrier vessel Angelic Glory, which is now anchored in Hong Kong.

“Amid pandemic, imagine the stress and anxiety that these seafarers are experiencing. The detained seafarer told me that her wife was just released from the hospital. I hope the authorities here and their manning agency will be able to rescue or help them,” Ramirez told the Daily Tribune.

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Ensure blended learning quality, Go asks

TDT

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Education authorities and institutions have been asked to ensure the quality and appropriateness of learning modules while implementing blended learning techniques amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go made the suggestion after a learning material using what is perceived as “provocative’’ and “malicious” content went viral on social media. He then sternly warned individuals responsible for provocative content in learning modules.

“This has reached the attention of President Duterte and he wants those responsible to be charged,” he said.

Go cited that in blended learning, students are required to adjust to new learning techniques through a mix of online classes and prepared modules provided to them as alternatives to a traditional classroom set-up.

With relatively limited guidance from teachers, he emphasized that the accuracy and appropriateness of learning materials provided through modules must meet quality standards for blended learning to work.

Go pointed out that with the recently enacted Republic Act 11476, or GMRC and Values Education Act, values formation must be at the core of education and not simply be an additional subject or requirement.

“Learning modules must adhere to set standards. They must be child-friendly, appropriate, and teaches good values,” Go said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) has already disowned the provocative materials that went viral recently, saying that they were not created by the department. Education Secretary Leonor Briones, however, assured that they will take action on this matter.

After an initial investigation, DepEd found out that a private Catholic school in Zambales, Carmel Academy of Palauig Inc., used the controversial module.

The Philippine National Police initially reported that the preparation, review, final printing and distribution of all learning materials, including the viral module, were all made by the Association of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Iba (ACSDI).

In a report of the Zambales Schools Division Superintendent to the regional office of DepEd, the said modules were developed by member schools of ACSDI and submitted to the latter for reproduction.

A subsequent progress report reflects that DepEd — Zambales has issued a memorandum stating that Rev. Fr. Reymann Catindig, Superintendent of the ACSDI, has apologized for the modules on behalf of the association.

He has also vowed to strengthen the implementation of their guidelines regarding the writing of the modules. The teacher and writer of the modules had also both apologized for the learning materials. The modules have now been retrieved for editing.

Meanwhile, Go manifested full support to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), its attached agencies and corporations during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the 20201 budget.

“In these trying times, DTI has been instrumental in extending assistance to our beloved countrymen who are deeply affected by the current pandemic. I urge the DTI, its attached agencies and corporations to continue and improve their services to our beloved countrymen,” he said.

He enumerated some of the notable programs which helped alleviate the plight of medium, small and micro-enterprises.

“The DTI also helped avert the food shortage in the ongoing pandemic through maintaining the inventory levels of major food categories,” Go said.

“Finally, DTI has been a prime pillar in responding to the current pandemic. It increased the supply of critical products and enforced the imposition of a price freeze on basic necessities and commodities,” he added.

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Stranded OFW from China back today

Gabbie Parlade

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday confirmed that 19 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) stranded in China since the onset of the pandemic will arrive in the Philippines by early morning today.

In a statement, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said that it includes the 11 stranded seafarers from the Ocean Star 86 who have been stuck at sea since March as well as five other seafarers from M/V Maria P. who are also stranded in Ningdu since July.

The vessels have been affected by China’s ‘no disembarkation’ policy which was imposed as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus disease.

The DFA disclosed that the sailors to be repatriated will be in Manila around 1 a.m. on board a chartered flight, adding that 11 of the 16 seafarers are from Ocean Star 86, who have been docked in Dongshan since March 2020.

It also noted that they will be joined by five seafarers on board M/V Maria P., who have been stranded in Ningde since July 2020.

In addition, DFA said that three other land-based OFW will likewise be joining the chartered repatriation flight after being unable to go home due to unavailability of commercial flights.

The department assured that the condition of the seafarers had been monitored through the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen such that assistance were distributed.

It added that the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen has been providing them welfare assistance and ensured that their salaries and other entitlements are provided for by their employer.

As thousands of Filipino workers abroad were left stranded after losing their jobs due to the pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the DFA to ensure that all of them will be brought home safely at once.

Since February of this year, 195,225 came back to Manila through various chartered flights organized by the department. Of this figure, 67,000 are sea-based while 127,000 are land-based.

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DENR shares ecosystems research findings online

Manny Angeles

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An online platform providing public access to various significant studies on environment and natural resources has been launched by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB).

The platform, according to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, hosts various ERDB research findings and scientific publications that proved crucial in formulating DENR programs, policies, and decisions for the protection and conservation of the environment.

“As Secretary of the DENR, I am very pleased that through the collective efforts of the scientists, experts, researchers, and employees of the ERDB, the Department gets to understand more about our environment and every little (thing) that goes with it,” he said.

Cimatu’s speech was delivered by Undersecretary for Legal, Administration, Human Resources, and Legislative Affairs Ernesto D. Adobo, Jr. during the virtual launch of the online platform via Facebook live last 15 September.

“They spend months, even years, doing rigorous research to provide the Department with the scientific knowledge that we need,” he added.

The research materials can now be downloaded from the ERDB’s official website, https://erdb.denr.gov.ph/.

Among those that can be downloaded from the website are Sylvatrop, Canopy International, and Research Information Series on Ecosystems or RISE.

Sylvatrop is the DENR’s official technical journal for new and original scientific information and research breakthroughs on ecosystems and natural resources, while Canopy International is a semi-technical publication on science-based stories about ecosystems issues and solutions.

RISE, on the other hand, is a compilation of pertinent knowledge on the propagation and planting techniques of important indigenous reforestation species to help students and researchers save these species from extinction.

Cimatu said the online platform is one of the innovative ways of the DENR to reach the public, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, this is our response to the growing demand for information that may empower us Filipinos into achieving sustainable growth and development,” he stressed.

The DENR chief also noted how research is vital to the agency’s strategic programs and policies that help address major environmental problems in the country.

“This pool of knowledge serves as a vehicle to allow us to move further. Science helps us arrive at more informed decisions. It tells us what to do next, which steps to take, and how far we will go. This is how we use knowledge in the DENR as a fuel towards growth and productivity,” he pointed out.

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NCR quarantine fate up in air

MJ Blancaflor

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The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would decide this week if Metro Manila and other areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) would be placed under a more lenient lockdown status.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed on Sunday that the IATF, which serves as the government’s policy-making body on pandemic response, would convene this week to discuss the matter.

Business groups, as well as Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, have been pushing to place the capital region under modified GCQ to allow the reopening of more businesses and public transportation.

Under modified GCQ, public gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities are allowed, but participants may fill no more than half of the capacity of the venue.

The same rule applies to religious gatherings, community assemblies and non-essential work gatherings.

However, researchers and analysts from the University of the Philippines (UP) have warned that a premature easing of GCQ in Metro Manila would lead to an “exponential” rise come Christmas time.

The UP group said in a report that while the situation in the capital region has “improved,” it has yet to achieve the 28-day case doubling time set by the IATF as a prerequisite to shift into modified GCQ status.

The GCQ status in Metro Manila would lapse by the end of the month and President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce his decision on the quarantine level on or before Wednesday.

Metro Manila is the region that has stayed the longest under GCQ for nearly four months, a quarantine classification which allows public transportation and most industries but prohibits tourism activities, entertainment events and large mass gatherings.

Of the 61,766 active COVID-19 cases in the Philippines as of Saturday, Metro Manila accounts for 45 percent of the number with 28,010 infections.

Apart from the capital region, other areas under GCQ until the end-September are Bulacan, Batangas and Tacloban City.

Roque previously said that the government is eyeing to place parts of the country without COVID-19 cases in the past month under the “new normal” classification, which lifts restrictions on business activities including travel, provided that minimum health standards are observed.

The “new normal” classification used to be the fifth and lowest quarantine classification until the task force temporarily removed it in June.

Under the current four-tier classification, the MGCQ is the most lenient lockdown status.

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DoLE helps acquitted Saudi OFW

Raymart Lolo

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has committed to provide assistance to an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) recently repatriated after being acquitted of murder in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement on Sunday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government has worked closely on the case of Rose Dacanay Policarpio until she gained her freedom, and will continue to help her to start anew.

Policarpio was repatriated last week, two years after being acquitted on the murder of her Lebanese employer.

In a report to Bello, Labor Attache Nasser Mustafa of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh said Policarpio arrived in Saudi Arabia on 3 June 2013 after being deployed by her Philippine recruitment agency, Saranay Philippines Inc. as a food server for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation.

However, she ended up as a household service worker to a Lebanese woman who was living alone. Barely two weeks after her arrival, she was falsely accused of the murder of her employer.

Policarpio denied the accusation and claimed that the crime was perpetrated by three unidentified men, who entered the house of her employer while she was out throwing garbage.

After the incident, she called her Saudi agency, who arrived at the scene with members of the Saudi police. She was detained thereafter and the case of murder was filed against her.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh provided her with a lawyer from the AI Kheraiji Law Office, which helped her obtain an acquittal in November 2018.

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Over 5,000 rebels neutralized inside 9 months

TDT

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A total of 5,164 New People’s Army (NPA) members and supporters have been neutralized in police and military operations in the first nine months of the year, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Sunday.

Of this number, about 169 communist terrorists were killed in focused military operations, 4,777 were former rebels who have chosen to abandon the insurgency movement, and 218 were arrested by security forces.

“Our recent successes in combating the communist scourge would not have been possible without our strong partnership with our counterparts in the Philippine National Police (PNP),” AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said in a statement.

Last 24 September, the AFP and the PNP concluded the National Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center meeting, which has so far been successful in instilling the joint operations concept between military and police units nationwide.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

“We have once again convened to ensure the continuous synchronization of our respective efforts in winning the peace, intensifying security, and bringing to justice those who have caused chaos and spread terror in their attempt to corrupt the peace and democracy that we all have been preserving,” Gapay said.

Recent joint operations have resulted in the neutralization of notorious communist leaders nationwide, including a certain “Mitchel Fat,” who was killed after resisting government forces serving arrest warrants late in August in Ilog, Negros Occidental.

He was believed to have masterminded the killing of four policemen in Ayungon, Negros Oriental in July 2019.

Meanwhile, elements of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion and the 1st Police Mobile Force Company in Surigao del Sur also apprehended during a checkpoint operation, Sarvina Rivas Quijano, a finance staff of the communist terrorist group in northeastern Mindanao.

She was accosted and found carrying two improvised explosive devices (IED) along with other IED paraphernalia.

Also, combined forces of 81st Infantry Battalion and Ilocos Sur Provincial Police Office also arrested the top ranking NPA leader operating in Abra identified as Joel Sibalo Banganan and Ranny Velle Urbis, an NPA leader operating in Ilocos Sur last 14 August in Barangay Damacuag, Santa Lucia, Ilocos Sur.

Mario Caraig, an NPA leader operating in the Southern Tagalog region, was also killed by AFP-PNP forces in Kalayaan, Laguna on 7 August.

Aside from the neutralization of high-value targets, the AFP and the PNP also confirmed the dismantling of eight so-called guerrilla fronts this year.

The dismantling involves the destruction of communists’ fighting force and its support and propaganda systems, rendering them incapable of staging attacks, recruiting new members, and generating funds.

The AFP said three of the dismantled terrorist cells were from Luzon, two were from Visayas, and three were from Mindanao.

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CLOA distribution to be intensified

Francis Wakefield

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The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will intensify the distribution of certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) and the provision of support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) in line with the thrust of the Duterte administration to emancipate farmers from the bondage of the soil.

DAR Secretary John Castriciones made the assurance as he recently led the simultaneous distribution of CLOA and awarding of seed capital and agricultural inputs assistance to 297 ARB in Nueva Ecija.

The CLOA comprise a total of 364 land titles covering 192.62 hectares of agricultural lands located in the municipalities of Cuyapo and Talavera, Nueva Ecija.

Aside from the distribution of CLOA, Castriciones also distributed certificate of award of checks to different ARB organizations (ARBO) worth P20 million as seed capital assistance for rice retailing project, agri-farm input project, and technical skills development that will benefit 30 ARBO of the province.

The DAR secretary said the seed capital assistance and agri-input program are being implemented under the Convergence on Livelihood Assistance for ARB Project (CLAAP) in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“The program aims to boost farmers’ household income by helping them develop their agricultural enterprises through livelihood and micro-enterprise projects like vegetable and fruit farming, food processing and livestock raising, among others,” Catriciones said.

Castriciones, at the same time, reiterated that farmers play a vital role in the development of the country and in society in particular with the onslaught of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“That is the reason why I am exerting a lot of effort to really go around the country despite the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic, because I believe that farmers are considered one of the heroes of our country,” Castriciones said.

“What we want is that through the help of this land, and social and support services which was given by DAR and other government agencies, your standard of living will improve,” he explained.

As this developed, the DAR chief also led the “Serbisyong DAR-to-DOOR” CLOA distribution where he personally handed over the land titles to the ARB, whose homes are near the venue of the event.

Castriciones said this is to ensure that the farmers would personally receive their CLOA themselves and be able to congratulate them for having their own lands.

Among those who were personally given land titles were spouses Antonio and Anicia Encomienda and Dolores Butardo from Barangay Malineng, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija and Rene Aguino, Danilo Mendiola and Chanda Sacatrapos from Barangay Sibul, Talavera, Nueva Ecija.

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