The Labor department on Friday is opposing the proposal of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to ban smoking as part of government efforts to curb the increasing number of COVID-19 transmissions.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the opposition is in consideration of its serious repercussions to businesses and employment.
“We can’t ban smoking because it will adversely affect the tobacco industry,” Bello explained.
He said the tobacco industry remits to the government P145 billion in excise taxes yearly while employing 2.5 million Filipino workers.
“It contributes heavily to the universal health fund of the government. If we ban smoking, those figures will be severely affected,” he added.
As a result of Department of Labor and Employment’s position on the matter, smoking is still allowed, but doing so should be done individually in designated smoking areas.
“We can smoke in smoking areas. But the condition is, (it should be) one smoker at a time,” Bello stressed.
Bontoc ramps up anti-virus manpower
BAGUIO CITY — The local government unit (LGU) of Bontoc, Mountain Province further strengthened its manpower working the frontlines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by hiring more nurses and deploying more personnel to man quarantine control points to ensure the strict adherence of locals and visitors to the health and safety protocols.
Bontoc had been tirelessly exploring avenues on how to further protect people living and working in this town and arrest the spread of the contagion by enforcing a triage and an “Umayam” (where you go) system for faster contract tracing, if necessary.
Umayam is an online registration platform geared primarily to help the municipality in its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 and aid medical workers and contact tracers should there be additional index cases in Bontoc.
It requires everyone who travels to and from Bontoc to register for the processing of their required medical clearance, travel permit or pass, and travel authority. The LGU has also recently tapped the assistance of the Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay officials in the four central barangays to augment the health and uniformed personnel in border monitoring.
Once registered to the system, one may proceed to secure a medical clearance, the basic requirement for all travel documents. The Office of the Municipal Treasurer is collecting a minimal fee of P50.00 for the Medical Clearance and another P50.00 for the Travel Permit. The collection of said fees is mandated in the Revised Revenue Code of Bontoc. For four months since the start of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March, the Bontoc LGU waived the collection of fees in the issuance of travel documents.
The Bontoc LGU only started to collect fees sometime July in compliance with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2020-097 that allows LGU to impose reasonable fees and charges for medical certificates and other services.
Said circular authorizes “the regulation of business and activities as well as the delivery of services to the people through local government entails costs to the government, and equity requires that person/s benefitting from the services to share the cost of providing such services.”
Fees collected from the issuance of travel documents then go back to the community in the form of services and programs.
This include the wages of at least 12 nurses, one graduate of Doctor of Medicine, one graduate of Bachelor of Science and Medical Laboratory Science, and one midwife who augment the 28 permanent personnel of the Municipal Health Office responsible for the issuance of medical clearances, conduct of interviews and physical examinations to those travelling from Bontoc, conduct of Rapid Tests and Reverse Transcription-polymerase Chain Reaction (RT–PCR) testing and contact tracing.
Meanwhile, Mayor Franklin Odsey credited the minimal number of COVID-19 cases in Bontoc to the cooperation of the public and the collaboration of all stakeholders in the implementation of minimum health standards and the National Inter-Agency Task Force guidelines.
“I thank everyone for your compliance with the minimum health protocols to avoid and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Let us not be complacent and remain to adhere to minimum health standards. By doing so, we are not only protecting ourselves from the virus, but also our families and the community. Let us work as one in the fight against COVID-19,” he stated.
Narvacan rice terraces get tourism boost
BAGUIO CITY — The municipal government of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur is in the process of pushing for the addition of its rice terraces as one of must-see attractions for visitors.
Their existence still unknown to many, the rice terraces can be found in Sitio Barangobong, Barangay Cadacan, a 30-minute hike from the foot of Mt. Barangubong.
Said rice terraces are also in close proximity to Cosocos, a historic land area American soldiers retreated to after killing General Gregorio del Pilar.
The Cadacan Rices Terraces were skillfully carved by early Narvaceneans and are now emerging as a choice attraction for tourists not just from Ilocos but other places in the country.
Apart from being likened to the famed rice terraces in Banaue, locals and visitors also compare them to Batanes’ hill sites with their own version called “Sanggaan.”
SC junks petitions vs Anakbayan
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday junked the petition for habeas corpus and Writ of Amparo filed against progressive group Anakbayan in connection with the alleged disappearance of 18-year-old Alicia Jasper Lucena.
Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, in a decision he penned in G.R. No. 252120 promulgated on 15 September 2020, ruled that the plea of Alicia’s parents, Francis and Relissa Lucena, for the issuance of a writ of amparo is not proper and that the prayer for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus lacks merit.
The court also said that since the petitioner’s daughter has already attained the age of majority which is 18 years old, she, in the eyes of the State, has earned the right to make independent choices with respect to the places where she wants to stay, as well as to the persons whose company she wants to keep.
Further, the remedy of amparo, in its present formulation, is confined merely to instances of extralegal killings or enforced disappearances and to associated threats.
The SC decided that Alicia’s case does not qualify either as an actual or threatened enforced disappearance or extralegal killing.
It also said that Alicia is not missing and her whereabouts determinable as she is staying with Anakbayan and its officers.
This, therefore, does not merit the granting of a writ of habeas corpus as this is a remedy applicable only to cases of illegal confinement or detention where a person is deprived of his or her liberty, or where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.
Alicia, the Court noted, did not appear to have been deprived of her liberty nor were her parents been excluded from their rightful custody over her person.
“The petitioners, the Court said, failed to make a case that AJ is being detained or is being kept by the Anakbayan against her free will,” the SC public information office, quoting part of Peralta’s ruling, stated.
Convert to e-titles, LRA urges land owners
The Land Registration Authority (LRA) is urging holders of legitimate land titles to surrender their manual copies to the agency and convert their documents to the more secured electronic titles.
LRA Administrator Renato Bermejo reiterated the call Friday, pointing to the Notice to the Public memorandum issued last 24 June 2020 which ensure individuals their transactions would not bog down with the use of the digitized copies as compared to the manual titles.
Bermejo noted that the LRA’s Land Titling Computerization Project (LTCP) has already scanned around 16.6 million titles from its 159 registry offices nationwide. All scanned documents are now uploaded in the agency’s database.
“However, the scanned image in the system is not the title itself but is only the picture thereof. The title remains the paper title kept in the vault of the registry office,” he clarified in the circular.
Bermejo explained that the manual titles surrendered to the LRA would still be considered valid and existing as it is already certified as the document where the electric titles already in their vault have been lifted from.
“As of the recent time, of the 16.6 million titles nationwide, only 28.54 percent, or 4.7 million titles were upgraded to electronic title, leaving 71.46 percent, or 11.9 million titles in a paper title status,” he said.
Digitizing the documents, Bermejo asserted, “is even more needed because of the increase in transactions in the registries nationwide”.
For the year 2018 alone, there were a total of 2.7 Million transactions in the registries.
The LRA said the scanning of a title, including the encoding of the entries in the document, serves as a preparatory process before the upgrading of the title to Electronic Title.
When there is a transaction involving the title, be it sale, mortgage, or any transaction that requires annotation, pursuant to Sections 54 and 57 of PD 1529, the Office of the Register of Deeds through its Records Officer is required to find the title to ascertain that it still exists because when it cannot be found, the office has to recommend the filing in court of a petition for the reconstitution of the lost title before any transaction can move forward.
The completion of migrating all titles to their digitized version is also one of the indicators of the World Bank in the determination of the Philippine’s ranking in Doing Business among 190 economies. The other indicators include getting credit, taxes, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, among others.
This was backed by Department of Trade and Industry who stressed that converting paper titles to electronic titles would specifically improve the country’s Doing Business ranking.
Bogus passport clique bared
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday warned the public to be vigilant against any form of passport irregularities.
This came after reports came out of foreign nationals attempting to secure a Philippine passport from the DFA consular office in Lucena.
In a statement, the DFA said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was tapped to arrest the suspects for violation of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.
DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Neil Ferrer said staff of the DFA’s Lucena office fended off threats or bribes offered by the foreigners and instead immediately coordinated with the NBI.
He said the agency will remain alert with the kinds of motives as violators will be sanctioned in accordance to the law.
Investigations will also be conducted in other consular offices in the country including those that were detected at the central DFA consular office in Aseana, Parañaque.
As stated in Republic Act 8239, penalties of this law include a minimum fine of P60,000 until P1 million along with imprisonment of six years to seventeen years depending on the severity of the case.
“The department looks forward to the results of the investigations and possible prosecution of these foreigners and other individuals involved in the attempts to circumvent our laws in order to gain rights given only to Filipinos,” the DFA said.
DepED floors new school year preparations
With the opening of classes being moved from last 24 August to 5 October, the Department of Education (DepEd) is further ramping up its rigorous preparations for the 2020-2021 academic year.
DepEd is using the remaining weeks of September to fill in the remaining gaps for the new school year and address other challenges educators and students alike are facing under the new normal in learning.
The printing of self-learning modules (SLM) remains to be the agency’s top priority, with modular learning being the preferred learning modality across different regions. Most regions such as Region I, Region IV-A and National Capital Region are already at the advanced stage of preparing these modules, with 80-100 percent of SLM already printed. Other regions are also making good progress, with only four out of over 200 School Division Offices having a completion rate below 25 percent.
Focus is also on the National Educators Academy of the Philippines transformation, which is set to provide interventions for schools throughout the school year. According to Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, schools were asked to conduct self-readiness assessments before the start of the school year. Those who have rated themselves below 50 percent will receive necessary assistance, such as professional development training and physical and psychosocial support. These training programs have already begun, and are set to continue for the rest of school year 2020-2021.
The agency’s dry-run simulations have also been ongoing for the past several months to determine areas of improvement and best practices when it comes to implementing the learning delivery modalities. Approximately 500 schools from various regions with diverse circumstances have already conducted these simulations, and the results have been promising.
Sucao Elementary School, which is located in the mountain province of Abra, conducted a modular distance learning simulation in cooperation with the Baay-Licuan local government unit. The school gave learners transistor radios and flash drives containing pre-recorded lessons. The school also showcased how these flash drives can also be plugged into the radios, making it easy for learners to access their modules.
Schools under the alternative learning system also participated in the simulation runs. Tagum city’s TAGUMpay Palengskwelahan, a learning center that offers ALS programs for elementary and secondary learners, showcased how they implemented modular distance learning and online learning by using 20 computers, e-modules, and radio-based instruction. The modules were sent to student homes and retrieved the week after through DepEd’s Knowledge on Wheels mobile. The school is located within the Tagum City Public Market.
Indigenous groups in Calay IP School, meanwhile, exhibited resourcefulness and innovation by inventing the Learning Resource on a WiFi Hub for Expanded e-learning in Sarangani Province. Using intra-net technology, access point antennas were set up in communities where learners can connect their gadgets. All self-learning modules and video lessons were made accessibl via the “LR on WHEeLS” projects. Students can send their teachers in-app messages if they have any clarifications and are prohibited from accessing social media pages or online games to ensure that the technology could only be used for learning.
These are only some of DepEd’s efforts that showcase how continuous preparation and collaboration between education stakeholders can create a promising future for education’s new normal. The Department assures the academic community that they will identify and address the needs of each school before the opening of classes.
“We trust that this is the final adjustment of the school opening,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.
“We will use this time to make the necessary adjustments, look after our school and education stakeholders, and ensure that all preparations have been made for the successful opening of classes for school year 2020-2021,” the DepEd chief added.
Transport easing done in phases
The Department of Transportation (DoTr) on Friday reiterated that it has already been letting more public vehicles back on the road even before medical experts asked the agency to do so and refrain from cutting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) distancing rules.
In a radio interview, DoTr Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran clarified that the proposal to reduce physical distancing is not just the sole proposal, since it was proposed alongside with other interventions in the transport sector.
“The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has been increasing public transport units since 1 June,” said Libiran.
She noted the LTFRB as of Friday has opened 206 routes for some 17,500 public jeepneys in Metro Manila alone, up from zero authorized routes before the region eased its coronavirus lockdown in June.
Libiran added that transport regulatory board announces almost every week additional routes.
AboitizPower subsidiary donates distance learning materials
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — A private energy power producer came to the rescue of teachers and students struggling to keep up with distance learning as the new mode of education, donating P150,000 worth of school supplies to select public schools here.
Hedcor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AboitizPower, distributed the learning materials which include bulks of bond papers for the printing of Self-learning modules (SLM) and envelopes to Bineng Elementary School, Bodiweng Elementary School, and Bineng National High School.
“Education in the new normal is not only through online classes. The SLMs are aligned to the learning competencies that can surely cater to the needs of our students. Production of these SLMs is costly and the donation of Hedcor will surely ensure the continuous learning of our students,” Grace Calatab, Bineng Elementary School principal, said.
Hedcor’s External Relations Supervisor Arron Andawi said that the education sector has not been spared from the coronavirus disease pandemic and that a collaborative effort of all sectors will ensure that students will continue to learn even amid the crisis.
The power firm operates 22 plants across the country, 11 of which is in Luzon. Hedcor currently has a total installed capacity of 227.36 MW of Cleanergy, AboitizPower’s brand for clean and renewable energy.
DU30 health disclosure petition thrown out
The dismissal of the petition on the disclosure of President Rodrigo Duterte’s health was declared final on Friday by the Supreme Court (SC).
The Court’s junking of the resolution filed last 8 May 2020 dismissing the Extremely Urgent Petition for Mandamus is deemed final and no further pleadings or motions shall be entertained in the case.
Declared final was the ruling on the petition and subsequent pleadings, including the plea for oral arguments, filed by lawyer Dino S. de Leon who had earlier asked the SC for the release of the President’s health records and cited various “concerns” which he claimed should compel the President to disclose the real state of his health.
De Leon, in his motion for reconsideration and plea for oral arguments, argued the SC “made a reversible error when it made a perfunctory determination that the President is, in fact, healthy without sufficient basis other than his recent physical appearances in meetings, the same appearances cited in the petition as having indications of the President’s deteriorating health.”
The SC, however, ruled that the instances cited by De Leon in his petition where he claimed Mr. Duterte had to cancel public appearances at the last minute due to health reasons were unfounded.
“The Court deems it proper to emphasize that in the recent months, the President has been visibly holding regular cabinet meetings, belying petitioner’s insinuations that the President is suffering from serious illnesses. Further, the President’s regular television addresses to the nation as regards the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic show that the President has been actively performing his official duties,” part of the high tribunal’s decision read.