No people should suffer the ravages of this pandemic for whatever reason—PRRD

No people should suffer,,,--Duterte | Juan Manila

 

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte, with some cabinet members, met with the Chinese Embassy entourage as the Chinese military plane with the much-awaited coronavirus vaccines landed at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City past 4 p.m. Sunday. In his speech he stressed, “No nation—no people—should be left to suffer the ravages of this pandemic for whatever reason.”

Duterte thanked the Chinese government for the vaccine donation. He is confident that more batches of vaccines will be made available at the earliest possible opportunity.

“I convey my sincere gratitude to the Chinese people and the government of China for this gesture of friendship and solidarity – the hallmark of Philippines-China partnership,” he said.

Duterte also reiterated his statement that Covid-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike.

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said at least 100,000 of the total doses are donations made by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Despite the increasing domestic need for vaccines, China has decided to donate vaccines to the Philippines and more Chinese vaccines procured by the Philippine government will surely come soon as expected,” he said. “I hope that the vaccines will help kick off the Philippines’ mass inoculation campaign to curb the pandemic and allow Filipinos to return to normal life at the earliest.”

President Rodrigo Duterte inspected the crates containing the vials during its ceremonial turnover to the Philippine Government.

From Villamor Airbase, the vaccine would be transported to cold storage facilities, including at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the Metropac Logistics in Marikina City. (JSM/JuanManila)

A huge iceberg breaks off in Antarctica

A huge iceberg breaks off in Antarctica | Juan Manila

 

LONDON A huge iceberg (1270 km²) the size of the county of Bedfordshire has broken off the 150-m thick Brunt Ice Shelf, almost a decade after scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) first detected growth of vast cracks in the ice.

The Brunt Ice Shelf is the location of British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Halley Research Station. BAS glaciologists, who have been expecting a big calving event for at least a decade, say that the research station is unlikely to be affected by the current calving.

Calving or glacier calving or iceberg calving, is the breaking of ice chunks from the edge of a glacier. It is a form of ice ablation or ice disruption.

The research team has observed the first indication of a calving even as early as November 2020 when a new chasm, called North Rift, headed towards another large chasm near the Stancomb-Wills Glacier Tongue 35 km away.

North Rift is the third major crack through the ice to become active in the last decade.

Maps shows the cracks and chasms forming on the shelf. | Juan Manila
Map of Brunt ice shelf and Halley Research Station. (Map by British Antarctic Survey)

“Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years. We monitor the ice shelf daily using an automated network of high-precision GPS instruments that surround the station, these measure how the ice shelf is deforming and moving.

“We also use satellite images from ESA, NASA and the German satellite TerraSAR-X,” Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey says.

A crack in the ice widened by several hundred meters on Friday morning before the iceberg broke off completely.

Britain’s Halley VI Research Station monitors the state of the vast floating ice shelf daily.

“Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years,” said BAS director Jane Francis.

The glaciological structure of this vast floating ice shelf is complex, and the impact of ‘calving’ events is unpredictable.

In 2016, BAS took the precaution of relocating Halley Research Station 32 km inland to avoid the paths of cracks.

“This is a dynamic situation. Four years ago we moved Halley Research Station inland to ensure that it would not be carried away when an iceberg eventually formed. That was a wise decision,” Simon Garrod, operations director at BAS adds.

The glaciologists said the latest event is unlikely to affect the station’s current location.

The base’s 12-person team left earlier this month, as they leave the base uninhabited in winter due to the unpredictable conditions.

While they are away, data from GPS instruments at the site goes to a center in Cambridge, eastern England, for analysis.

“All the data are sent back to Cambridge for analysis, so we know what’s happening even in the Antarctic winter, when there are no staff on the station, it’s pitch black, and the temperature falls below minus 50 degrees C (or -58F),” says Francis.

Change in the ice at Halley is a natural process and there is no connection to the calving events, and no evidence that climate change has played a significant role the BAS says.

“Over coming weeks or months, the iceberg may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf,” says Francis.

The British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in environmental research in the region.


Featured image: North Rift crack photographed by Halley team in January 2021 (British Antarctic Survey)

525K AstraZeneca doses to arrive Monday—Malacañan

 

MANILA Malacañan confirms an initial shipment of 525,600 AstraZeneca doses, sourced from the COVAX facility, are to arrive on Monday.


Why we need COVAX

Developing a vaccine against COVID-19 is the most pressing challenge of our timeand nobody wins the race until everyone wins.

The global pandemic has already caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupted the lives of billions more. As well as reducing the tragic loss of life and helping to get the pandemic under control, introduction of a vaccine will prevent the loss of US$ 375 billion to the global economy every month. Global equitable access to a vaccine, particularly protecting health care workers and those most-at-risk is the only way to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

 


 

The country is expecting about 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines through the COVAX facility, but the doses are expected to arrive later this year. These vaccines are on top of the 17 million procured by the National Government, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector.

AstraZenceca’s vaccine efficacy is 70% on average and can be stored in standard refrigerator temperatures of 2°C. (JSM/JuanManila)

POEA wants status and condition of OFWs abroad ASAP

POEA wants status and condition of OFWs abroad ASAP | Juan Manila

MANILA – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) directs all recruitment and licensed manning agencies to submit monitoring reports in its system until 31 March. The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Welfare Monitoring System (OWMS) is already in use for monitoring and reporting to the administration the status and condition of all deployed OFWs onsite and seafarers onboard.

Administrator Bernard Olalia orders recruitment and manning agencies to furnish copy of reports on the status and condition of deployed OFWs who are either onsite or onboard in his recent advisory.

“In view of the foregoing, all PRAs (Philippine recruitment agencies) and LMAs (licensed manning agencies) are hereby advised to create and/or update not later than 31 March 2021, the welfare records in the OWMS of all deployed OFWs and seafarers who are still onsite or abroad,” the POEA says.

The OWMS is the standard tool for use by the PRAs and LMAs in submitting reports on OFW status and conditions, as indicated on POEA Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 9, Series of 2019.

The directive requires that an initial report on the status and conditions of newly deployed OFWS onsite and seafarers onboard shall be completed within three months after deployment. Updates of their status and condition should be submitted every quarter thereafter.

Meanwhile, significant and critical incidents involving deployed Filipino workers should be reported to the POEA within five days from the occurrence thereof.

Monitoring the status and condition of deployed Filipino workers complies with the Revised POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Filipino Workers of 2016, the 2016 Revised POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Seafarers, and MC No. 12 Series of 2018.

The agency warns of non-compliance as it will prompt application of appropriate penalties.

“Failure to submit the required reports shall warrant the imposition by the Administration of such sanctions as it may deem appropriate,” it said. (JSM/JuanManila)

We can choose not to get the Sinovac shot—AFP

We can choose not to get the Sinovac shot—AFP

MANILA — As the Sinovac coronavirus vaccines are in transit and due to arrive Sunday, 28 February, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are having second thoughts or a change of heart, perhaps, as regards the vaccine they want jabbed on their shoulders. They say they can choose not to get the Sinovac shots allocated for them. But the downside is they will have to pay for whatever they prefer.

“Our soldiers can choose a different vaccine brand,” AFP spokesperson MGen. Edgard Arevalo said in Filipino during a briefing aired on state-run People’s Television. “But since these are not the vaccines allotted for the AFP, they will need to pay for the vaccine brand that they will get.”

Although it is unclear how the armed forces can procure coronavirus vaccines from drug makers of their choice as they mostly are granted emergency use authorizations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not yet sold in the market. They need product registration certificates also from the FDA before they can be sold.

Arevalo did not explain either how the troops who prefer a different brand would pay for vaccines, but only says this is a “concept” available to them.

“If they really want to opt for another brand apart from the effective vaccine that we have allocated for our soldiers, then they can exercise that option,” he says partly in Filipino.

100,000 doses of the 600,000 Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines, set to arrive today, are earmarked for military personnel. The AFP targets 100 personnel a day in all of 47 vaccination centers located across the country.

“We give our soldiers protective equipment during battle because they will fight a fierce enemy. We cannot allow it to be optional if they want to wear protective equipment or not,” he said in Filipino. (JSM/JuanManila)


Featured image: Military chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana during a visit in the Western Mindanao Command at Camp Navarro in Calarian, Zamboanga City, 19 Feb. 2021. (Photo credit: Interaksyon)

Opting out of free offer risks losing priority status — Roque

Opting out of free offer risks losing priority status — Roque | Juan Manila

 

MAKATI CITY — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says healthcare workers who would opt-out of China’s Sinovac’s CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine may refuse the free offer all they want, but, at the same time, they risk losing their priority status in the government’s immunization program.

Walang sa-pilitan, walang mahuhuli sa pila, walang mawawala sa pila,” Roque stressed in a press briefing although hinting they could lose the priority status afforded them.

Roque’s statement came amid protests by healthcare workers over their collective dislike of taking a free jab from the Government using the Sinovac vaccine which is due to arrive in the country today, 28 February.

On Saturday PGH (Philippine General Hospital) health workers demonstrated outside the Government hospital to dramatize their opposition for the lack of medical scrutiny, proper data, and assessment over the China-made CoronaVac vaccines.

As this happened, Makatizens took it to social media saying “No to Sinovac, Yes to AstraZeneca and Moderna.”

The Makati local government also announced that the vaccines will be free for those who would want to avail the shots.

The city government ran a post announcing the start of online registration for the free Sinovac doses. But the announcement was met with strong opposition by Makatizens.

The free Sinovac vaccines of around 600,000 doses is a donation from Beijing for the national Government’s vaccination program which has outlined ‘priority sectors’ as laid down by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and the Department of Health (DoH).

A majority of Makati residents expressed opposition to Sinovac and prefer vaccines from other countries and not products from China.

Meanwhile, in related developments, it was learned that the IATF-MEID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) has approved the recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and the health department’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to allocate Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines for medical front-liners.

Sabi sa DoH briefing kahapon, ligtas ang bakuna ng Sinovac. Ito ay safe vaccine at mapapakinabangan or beneficial ito sa healthcare workers,” Roque says.

Dagdag pa ng DOH, binibigyan ang healthcare workers ng pagkakataon na pumili ng bakunang nais nila,” he says. (JSM/JuanManila)


Featured image: Makati City mayor Abby Binay during her announcement that all citizens of the city are covered with Covid-19 vaccine for free. (Photo credit: Makati City PIO)

Only NBI investigates PDEA-PNP shootout—PRRD

PRRD: Only NBI investigates PDEA-PNP shootout | Juan Manila

MANILA — Only the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can investigate the matter of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shootout that left four persons dead, orders President Rodrigo Duterte.

In the same vein, the president also ordered both the PDEA and the PNP to cease their joint probe.

“This is to ensure impartiality on the Quezon City shootout incident,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says.

Having lost two policemen, a PDEA agent, and an informant, in the shootout both agencies earlier agreed to conduct a joint probe with the NBI doing its parallel inquiry. With the president’s order, the NBI will do it on its own.

What is known so far?

That operatives of the PDEA and the PNP clashed Wednesday outside the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City;

That said encounter was first described as a “misencounter” but both PDEA director-general Wilkins Villanueva and PNP chief PGen. Debold Sinas dismissed the term;

That both leadership, Villanueva and Sinas, have asserted there was coordination between their personnel, that they expected the supposed joint investigation to unravel more facts, and that conclusions could not be drawn just as yet without seeing the big picture;

That the possibility that the drug ring might have played them, although it was too early to dwell on it, as it had happened in the past, was what they were trying to avoid;

That both leaders did not disclose who the target of the operation was; neither did they mention any whereabouts of the drug bust money, the actual drugs in the operation, nor had there been any exchange that occurred;

That both agency heads affirmed the legitimacy of their respective operations and assured the public there would be no cover-ups as all angles will be looked into; and

That they have deflected questions from reporters and urged the public to let the investigation run its course.

Initial reports say

An earlier police report, that Sinas rejected, indicated that the Quezon City police conducted a buy-bust operation, but were unaware that they were transacting with PDEA agents. It added that PDEA agents first fired at police, which left cops with no option but to fight back.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation into the incident is set on Monday at the House of Representatives. (JSM/JuanManila)

Thailand receives its first batch of coronavirus vaccines

Thailand receives its first batch of coronavirus vaccines | Juan Manila

BANGKOK – China has delivered Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac to Thailand on Wednesday. It is the country’s first batch of coronavirus vaccines. Inoculation is set to commence this weekend.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine. Most doses have been reserved for frontline medical workers.

“Thank you to the People’s Republic of China for delivering the vaccine this month and subsequent months,” Prayuth said on the tarmac at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport as a refrigerated container bearing the flags of the two countries was lowered from a Thai Airways plane. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul earlier this week said 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine would also arrive on Wednesday but a little delay got in the way.

Thailand is expecting further doses of CoronaVac in March and April to be administered mainly to health workers and at-risk groups. The country has been spared of the other variants seen elsewhere. To date, recorded cases of infections reached only a little over 25,000 overall while there had been only 83 reported deaths. Meanwhile, recoveries are almost 25,000.

The vaccine’s arrival came amid public criticism of the government’s slow-paced posturing in securing vaccines.

Its mass immunization campaign, which the government aims to administer to 10 million doses a month, will begin in June. It will utilize 26 million shots of AstraZeneca vaccines that is locally produced by Siam Bioscience. It has also reserved a further 35 million doses of the vaccine.

The government plans to vaccinate more than half the adult population this 2021.

“We will procure more as we produce them so there is enough to create herd immunity in our country,” Prayuth said.

He said the Chinese vaccine would need a few days to be prepared for inoculation.

“As for who will take it first is another story,” he said. (JSM/JuanManila)

Meralco to lower electric bills this March—Zaldarriaga

Meralco to lower electric bills this March—Zaldarriaga | Juan Manila

MANILA — Good news to power consumers.

Starting next month electric bills are expected to go down as it will include the average refund rate of 0.1528 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to cover the reported “over-recoveries” as ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

Meralco vice-president and corporate communications head Joe Zaldarriaga says, “based on initial projections, there is a strong likelihood that power rates for March 2021 will go down, as this will be the second consecutive month of decrease for the year.”

Zaldarriaga, however, clarifies that the distribution utility was still waiting for the final bills from its power suppliers. He  adds that next month’s power rate would include the average refund rate based on Meralco’s distribution rate “true-up” or actual weighted average tariff, which is derived by dividing its revenues by the total kilowatt-hour sales.

Concerning “over-recoveries,” the Meralco official explains that this happens when the actual weighted average rate breached the price cap based on the ERC-approved interim average rate.

Last week, the ERC announced that it had released the order for Meralco to refund 13.89 billion in “over-recoveries” based on the power firm’s actual weighted average tariff from July 2015 to November 2020.

The refund would take effect starting March. The total amount must be refunded within 24 months or until fully returned to power consumers, according to the commission.

“Meralco’s refund rate will be reflected as a separate line item in the bills of the customers during the refund period,” Zaldarriaga points out.

“The projected decrease in power rates would continue the downward trend in electricity costs, as overall rates have gone down by more than 1 per kWh since the start of 2020,” he said.

On 8 February, Meralco announced that typical households in Metro Manila should expect to see a 14 drop in power rates this month.

The decrease is attributed to lower generation charges. It said that the overall power rate in February stood at 8.6793 per kWh, which was 0.0704 per kWh lower than the rate in January.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, is partly owned by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). (JSM/JuanManila)

China hit over disregard of Sino-Vatican agreement

China hit over the disregard of Sino-Vatican agreement | Juan Manila

TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan — The Chinese Regional Bishops Conference of Taiwan (CRBC) hit China’s new measures on clergy that ignores the Vatican’s recent agreement with Beijing, saying that the communist government has promulgated a new set of rules for religious clergy that violates the Sino-Vatican understanding.

The new Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy, which is set to come into effect within two months beginning on 1 May, cover priests of all five authorized religions in China—Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam—and part of it is bishop appointments to be conducted by asking people to elect their bishops democratically.

The new measures, adapted from the 2018 Regulation on Religious Affairs, were promulgated on 8 January as State Administration of Religious Affairs Order No. 15. An English translation of the original text in Chinese appears on bitterwinter.org, a website on religious liberty.

“Catholic bishops are approved and consecrated by the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC),” says article XVI of the order, but refused to mention the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments which was renewed for another two-year term in 2020.

The BCCCC, which is not recognized by the Holy See, and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and directly work under the Chinese administration overseeing the state-approved Catholic Church, are given responsibility for reporting the election of bishops.

Within 20 days of the consecration of a bishop, the BCCCC and CCPA should report it to the State Administration of Religious Affairs, stipulates article XVI.

One of the documents to be submitted to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for the record of electing the bishop is “a statement issued by the Catholic community on the democratic election of the bishop.”

The Catholic community electing a bishop could be of a province, autonomous region, or municipality functioning directly under the central government, the article says.

 

New clergy regulations need no Vatican or pope, contrary to Sino-Vatican agreement

The new regulations indirectly assert that the election of Catholic bishops will be done by the state-approved system under the Chinese Communist Party’s direction and the Vatican and Pope Francis will have no role in it.

It runs contrary to the laborious China-Vatican deal on the appointment of Catholic bishops, signed in September 2018 after several years of negotiations. The still undisclosed deal aims to appoint bishops with the agreement of China and the Vatican.

It also aims to end the division in the Chinese Church between the state-approved church and the Vatican-recognized church. While state-appointed bishops lead state-approved church communities, Vatican-appointed bishops lead the other group, also known as the underground church.

Since the Sino-Vatican deal, the Vatican has approved seven Beijing-appointed bishops, while the state-sanctioned church has approved and installed at least five Vatican-appointed bishops.

But the new regulations aim to smother the underground church by criminalizing the existence of clergy outside the state-approved database of the clergy.

“Religious clergy should love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, abide by the constitution, laws, regulations, and rules, and practice the core values of socialism,” says article III of the regulations.

The clergy should also “adhere to the principle of independent and self-administered religion in China, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religion in China, operate to maintain national unity, national unity, religious harmony, and social stability,” it says.

Hundreds of underground Catholic clergy have refused to register with the state-approved database because they are unwilling to obey atheistic dictates in the services of the Church.

However, under the new regulations, clergy who are not registered with the state could be arrested and jailed if they perform any clerical office, Catholic insiders say.

A church observer said the new regulations are a legal tool to intensify the crackdown on underground clergy and annihilate the underground church.

Mainland Catholic leaders have been skeptical about the Sino-Vatican deal ever since it was signed, pointing to Beijing’s lack of respect for international deals and the conventions it employs in pushing communist ideology in China.  (JSM/JuanManila)