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US assures free COVID vaccines to Americans

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AMERICAN has funded six vaccine projects with $10 billion.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is proven effective, the US will ensure it’s distributed for free to all Americans, officials said Thursday, underscoring there will be no shortcuts on safety.

“We are not at all reducing the regulatory rigor with which we will evaluate and hopefully approve vaccines,” Paul Mango, a senior health department official, told reporters.

Washington has invested more than $10 billion in six vaccine projects and signed contracts guaranteeing the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses should they be approved following clinical trials.

The vaccine doses themselves will be paid for by the government.

Doctors or clinics that administer them will have to be paid but these costs should mostly be covered by private and public insurers.

“Most” commercial insurers have agreed to waive any out-of-pocket costs to their customers, said Mango.

“We are on track to deliver hundreds of millions of doses by January 2021,” he added.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said he was “cautiously optimistic” that at least one of the six vaccines the US had invested in would come through by the end of the year.

Critics of President Donald Trump have expressed worries that the administration may bypass safety precautions to announce a vaccine is available before the election on November 3 — a charge Mango denied.

“We are not at all reducing the regulatory rigor with which we will evaluate and hopefully approve vaccines,” he said.

Russia this week approved a vaccine even before the start of the last phase of clinical trials, in which the drug is injected into tens of thousands of volunteers to verify its effectiveness and safety.

“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective, but I seriously doubt that they’ve done that,” Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease official said at a virtual panel hosted by National Geographic.

Collins compared Russia’s vaccine, which they have dubbed “Sputnik V” after the Soviet Union’s pioneering satellites, to a game of “Russian roulette.”

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Widow gets needed aid

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SARANGANI – After the death of her husband because of a fire incident at their home, Jeaneth Divinagracia received a ray of hope as she got emergency aid from Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go’s staff on 11 September.

Divinagracia – who is still mourning the passing of her husband Berio Divinagracia – received cash assistance, food and medicine packs, masks, face shields, and a bicycle.

She was also given family kits, hygiene kits, and extra food packs by representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

They were joined by Department of Labor and Employment director RD Agravante as well as representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, National Housing Authority and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The Department of Health and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation likewise pledged to extend additional assistance.

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Five drug suspects fall

Neil Alcober

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Operatives from the Marikina City Police early Saturday arrested five suspected drug pushers in a drug buy-bust operation in Barangay Marikina Heights in Marikina City.

The suspects – identified as John Michael Libao, Paul Erickson Libao, Rogelio Labrador, John Zel Bellen, and Benedict Corgado – were nabbed by the police following a sting operation at No. 208, Narra Street at 1 a.m.

Of the four suspects, John Libao was found out to be included in the unified drugs watchlist.

Seized from the suspects were ten sachets of suspected shabu weighing more or less 20 grams with an estimated street value of P136,000; a coin purse; one gun replica; one empty magazine of gun replica; and the P500 buy-bust money.

The suspects are facing charges related to Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

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Trump to name Amy Coney Barrett to US Supreme Court

The President said this week he will announce his pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Washington, United States — President Donald Trump intends to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, US media reported Friday, who if confirmed would cement a solid conservative majority on the high court.

The President said this week he will announce his pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday, and various media outlets said it would be the 48-year-old conservative judge.

Citing sources close to the process, various media outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, said Trump would nominate Barrett.

If she is confirmed, the court would shift to a 6-3 conservative majority.

Asked by journalists if Barrett will indeed be nominated, Trump responded: “I haven’t said that.”

But he added that he had already made a decision “in my own mind” and that Barrett is “outstanding.”

The media reports noted the mercurial Trump could still change his mind before the official announcement, expected at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Saturday.

Democratic opponents, led by presidential candidate Joe Biden, have demanded that Republicans back off on replacing liberal icon Ginsburg — who died last week — until after the 3 November election, after it’s determined whether Trump will get a second term.

Leaders of the Republican majority in the Senate, which is tasked with confirming Supreme Court nominees, said they have enough support to hold a vote on the nomination either before the election or at worst during the “lame duck” session between the election and the inauguration of the next president in January.

“We will certainly do that this year,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said.

Barrett, a practicing Catholic and law professor, was only appointed to the bench for the first time in 2017. Deeply conservative, she is considered hostile to abortion rights — a key issue for many Republicans.

In 2018, the mother of seven was on the shortlist presented by Trump for a seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a position ultimately filled by Brett Kavanaugh after a ferocious confirmation battle.

Earlier Friday, Ginsburg became the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the US Capitol, where the justice’s relatives, US lawmakers, and dignitaries including Biden paid their respects.

Ginsburg’s last wish reportedly relayed to her granddaughter, was for her seat to be decided by whoever wins the next election.

Trump cast doubt upon the veracity of that in an interview Monday, suggesting it could have been a ploy made up Democratic leaders.

Republican leaders have said that if the fate of a disputed election rests with the Supreme Court, they will need a full bench of judges to prevent a deadlock.

The Democrats have vowed to do everything in their power to prevent the confirmation of a new justice before the election, but with a 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate, there is little they can do to stop it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week the Democrats “have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” prompting speculation that if the Democrats win big in Congress but lose the White House, they could try to impeach the president a second time or expand the number of judges on the Supreme Court to 15 from its current nine.

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Agusan Sur fire victim gets aid from Go’s team

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Fire victim Bobby Balderas received a bicycle and food pack from Bong Go's team.

AGUSAN DEL SUR — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s team visited on 18 September Bobby Balderas (in photo), a single father whose house was completely razed in a fire here last 12 September.

Balderas and his child received emergency assistance from the team which included cash aid, food and medicine packs, masks, face shields and a bicycle last 18 September.

Also in attendance during the event were representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development who provided added financial assistance, food packs and family and hygiene kits. The National Housing Authority was likewise present to offer their services and help the Balderas family rebuild their home.

Other national agencies committed to provide emergency assistance and services, such as the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

“Palagi po naming uunahin ang kapakanan ng mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan, lalo na po ‘yung mga kababayan nating biktima ng sakuna at walang-wala po talaga. Tulungan natin silang magkaroon ng kabuhayan upang makaahon sa kahirapan,” the senator said.

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Go supports DepEd 2021 budget proposal

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Sen. Bong Go urged DepEd and other concerned authorities to exert more effort in improving further the digital educational system while face-to-face classes remain prohibited.

Senator and Senate Finance Committee vice chair Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed his support for the budget proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd) during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing held on Friday, 25 September.

In his manifestation, Go called on schools and other educational institutions to adhere to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available in the country.

The senator stressed the importance of ensuring the health and safety of the students, teachers and wider community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the nation.

“Ang pera naman po ay kikitain ‘yan, pero ang perang kikitain ay hindi mabibili ang buhay na mawawala. Huwag nating pilitin kung hindi pa kaya. Mas lalong dadami ang mga magpopositibo na kaso kung hindi natin paghahandaan ng mabuti ang pagbabalik ng mga guro at mag-aaral sa eskwelahan,” he said.

(Money can be earned but it cannot buy lives that will be lost. Let us not force it if we can’t. There will be more positive cases if we don’t prepare well for the return of teachers and students in schools.)

Go, however, agreed that the education of the students can no longer be put on a standstill. He urged DepEd and other concerned authorities to exert more effort in improving further the digital educational system while face-to-face classes remain prohibited.

The Senator commended their efforts but urged their endeavors remain flexible and adaptable to the different needs and situations of their students. He reminded DepEd to ensure that schools are ready for the opening of classes on 5 October through blended learning techniques.

Furthermore, he commended DepEd for recognizing the pandemic’s mental toll on people, and for taking the necessary steps to address the needs and concerns of the students, their parents and the teaching and non-teaching personnel.

According to Go, psychological concerns must be taken into consideration when drafting programs and policies for the upcoming school year.

On that note, he asked teachers to focus on their goal to educate students and refrain from putting unnecessary pressure. He expressed empathy for the challenges students are facing, adding that he too is not immune from experiencing unreliable internet connection.

“Let us not pressure our children learners, if possible. Huwag po muna natin silang ibagsak dahil talagang ‘yung iba po ay pressured, minsan pumupunta po sa bundok makakuha lang po ng signal, lalung-lalo na po kapag hindi sila nakakasagot dahil walang signal. Kawawa naman po sila, napi-pressure po ‘yung bata, malaking epekto po iyon sa kanila. Ang importante po, walang masayang na taon. Ang importante po matuto sila,” said Go.

(Let’s not fail them because they are pressured moreso when they can’t answer because there is no signal. Sometimes, they climb a mountain to get signal. They are pitiable and that has a big effect on them. The important thing is there is no wasted year and they learn.)

He also lamented about poor internet connectivity, urging private internet providers to improve their services.

“Ako nga rin po… hirap din po sa paghanap ng signal para sa internet. Minsan kinakailangan pang lumabas ng bahay para gumanda or umayos ang koneksyon, ito po sana ang iniiwasan natin para sa ating mga kabataan na lumabas pa at doon po posibleng makakakuha sila ng sakit kapag sila ay lumabas na,” he said.

“Sa lahat po ng internet providers, kung gusto niyo talagang tumulong, ngayon na po. Ayusin niyo po ang inyong mga internet connectivity,” he appealed.

The senator expressed his support to provide DepEd and its attached agencies with enough resources to effectively and efficiently perform their functions during such a very uncertain and trying time.

“Magbayanihan po tayong lahat upang makapagbigay ng agaran at kalidad na serbisyo sa ating mga mag-aaral,” he said.

Earlier this year, Go asked government to bridge the gaps in the delivery of education without imposing unnecessary mental, emotional and financial stress on Filipino families. He specifically encouraged the Department of Information and Communications Technology and other relevant agencies to work together to fulfill the vision of providing universal internet access that is both stable and affordable for all Filipinos.

“Siguraduhin natin na may pantay-pantay na oportunidad ang mga bata na makapag-aral kahit saan mang parte ng bansa sila naroon at anumang estado nila sa buhay. Bigyan din natin ng konsiderasyon ang marami nating kababayan na walang pambili ng kagamitan, walang access sa internet at walang pambayad sa matrikula at iba pang gastusin dahil nawalan ng trabaho ang pamilya dulot ng epekto ng pandemya,” said Go.

He also called on DepEd and the private sector to work in partnership in order to make sure that all schools and families are adequately trained and equipped to use the new digital learning platforms.

“Importante rin masigurong handa ang mga teachers natin. Kailangan handa sila na gumamit ng mga makabagong paraan para masigurong hindi makompromiso ang matututunan ng mga bata.”

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MisOcc fire victims get aid from Bong Go

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Noel Abad Sintos received a bicycle and foodstuffs from Sen. Bong Go's team.

MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s staff met with Noel Abad Sintos (in photo) and his family after their house was destroyed by a fire.

The Sintos family from the town of Panaon this province received emergency aid from the senator’s team, including cash assistance, food packs, a bicycle and medicine packs as well as masks and face shields to ensure their safety last September 16, Wednesday.

They were joined by representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development who brought additional food packs and family hygiene kits.

Other agencies were likewise present to offer various forms of emergency assistance, which included access to emergency employment services, livelihood support and temporary housing. These include aid from the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, National Housing Authority, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and local social welfare office.

“Let’s prioritize the interest, welfare and lives of the poor and those in need so they will have a chance to recover and live normal lives,” the Senator said.

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#NationsUnited: Urgent solutions for urgent times

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Indian children learn from a social experiment on "computer on a hole."
Nations United is a special, first of its kind film, created for the UN’s 75th Anniversary and to mark five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. It focuses on the solutions and action we need to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change.
Nations United features UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Malala Yousafzai, Don Cheadle, Michelle Yeoh, Forest Whitaker, Thandie Newton, Sugata Mitra and an exclusive performance from Grammy nominated singer Burna Boy, and a new version of a previous UN performance by multi-Grammy award winning artist, Beyoncé.

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‘Hatid-Tulong’ sends home 218,452 OFW

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Around 67,668 OFW were transported by bus to the provinces. (LTFRB photo)

A total of 218,452 overseas Filipino workers were sent home to the provinces by bus, plane and ship under the Hatid Tulong Program (HTP) of the government as of 24 September 2020.

Of the figure, 67,668 were transported by land, 103,930 by air (from 25 May to 24 September) and 46,854 by sea (from 27 April to 24 September), according to the Department of Transportation (DoTr).

The HTP was launched in response to the call of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to send OFW back to their provinces. The DoTr, National Task Force for COVID-19, and concerned government agencies implemented the program and helped stranded OFW in Metro Manila return to their provinces.

The HTP is a joint initiative of the Office of the President, National Task Force Covid-19, DoTr), Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Tourism, Philippine Ports Authority, Office for Transportation Security, Manila International Airport Authority, Land Transportation Office, and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

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House panel approves 2021 budget bill

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Rep. Eric Yap.

The House Committee on Appropriations passed House Bill 7727 or the 2021 National Budget Friday after 15 grueling days of briefings, according to panel chair Rep. Eric Go Yap.

“This is the people’s budget and it is our obligation to make sure that the National Budget will not only be passed on time, but ultimately, it will respond to the growing needs of our countrymen,” said Yap.

“More work needs to be done and it is my hope that the entire budget process will not delayed by whatever issue that the Congress may face in the coming days,” he added.

Yap thanked the vice chairpersons and members of the Committee on Appropriations for their dedication and hard work to have the bill approved. He also thanked the House leadership for their undying support and to everyone who helped the Committee in overcoming the first hurdle of the passage of the 2021 National Budget.

“As we have said many times, this year’s budget proceedings is both historic and challenging not only because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but also because of other circumstances that this august chamber is in. We may have encountered a few bumps in the road during the past couple of weeks but it surely helped us recalibrate our focus and take one step closer towards our goal,” said Yap.

“The next few weeks will be very challenging and I appeal to our colleagues for their cooperation, unity and professionalism,” he said.

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