‘No-disconnection’ policy on power supply until February

'No-disconnection' policy on power supply until February | Front of a Meralco office

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) extends its ‘no-disconnection’ policy as a compliance with government directive for further extension, the company said Thursday. The policy covers customers with low monthly electricity consumption.

“We will comply with the government’s directive and will wait for the specific guidelines from the Department of Energy. We would like to assure our customers that we will continue to assist all of them in addressing their billing issues,” Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco spokesperson, said in a statement.

Meralco’s extension period for the ‘no-disconnection’ policy is longer than the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) order to not to implement any disconnection on account of non-payment of bills until December 31, 2020 for consumers with monthly consumption “not higher than twice the ERC maximum lifeline consumption level.” 

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendation to extend the policy for the whole month of February. Previously, Meralco extended its no-disconnection period until January 31, 2021.

“According to the DOE, while lifeliners comprise 32% of the customer base, they only account for 3% of electricity sales. So, this is very doable,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

Duterte also urged Congress to extend the subsidy for marginalized power consumers for a period of 30 years or from 2021 to 2051, Nograles said.

Retrenched PAL employees’ work ends 12 March

Retrenched PAL employees’ work ends 12 March | A row of parked airlines

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) said that the effective date of separation for employees who are placed under the company’s work reduction program is on 12 March. 

The flag carrier earlier this week announced a 30% reduction, about 2,300 employees, of its workers as part of its comprehensive recovery plan to ease the impact of CoVID-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate the DOLE’s (Department of Labor and Employment’s) support and guidance since the start of the pandemic, and we have regularly apprised DOLE officials of the significant challenges we faced, along with our efforts to preserve jobs and keep the Flag Carrier flying amidst the substantial financial losses,” the statement said.

Committed to providing fair treatment and assistance to impacted personnel, PAL said it will provide separation pay equivalent to one month’s pay for every year of service and shall also provide employee transition support including outplacement assistance..

“We are deeply grateful to all our employees for their years of valuable work and dedicated service, and will focus strongly on securing a full recovery so that PAL continues to serve our customers and the Filipino nation,” it added. 

DOLE Public Information Office Director Rolly Francia said in a Viber message to reporters, the DOLE-National Capital Region (NCR) will handle PAL’s situation.

 

DOLE vows to aid retrenched PAL workers

The case of more than 2,000 retrenched PAL employees is now in the hands of DOLE-NCR. The agency said it will assist the affected workers by ensuring the payment of separation pay of the workers PAL cut off. It will provide employment facilitation services and livelihood assistance to interested employees.

On Tuesday, PAL, Asia’s oldest commercial carrier, announced that because the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the airline deeply, 30 percent of its workforce had to go. About 2,300 employees are either terminated or offered voluntary separation packages.

DOTr, LTO told to suspend costly vehicle inspection policy

DOTr-LTO told to suspend motor vehicle inspection policy | Protest poster

Without any exhaustive public consultation or a public information campaign, the Department of Transportation DOTr and the Land Transportation Office formulated a policy that authorizes private inspection centers to collect an inspection fee of ₱1,800 from motor vehicles weighing 4,500 kilograms or less. If the vehicle fails the test, it will be required to undergo necessary repairs and taken back to the private inspection centers, where the motorist is charged an additional P900 reinspection fee to obtain clearance.

Motorcycles and tricycles are charged ₱600 for the inspection fee and ₱300 for the reinspection fee.

The agencies then issued Memorandum Circular 2020- 17 2240 dated 29 December 2020 that directs the immediate implementation of said policy. But the Senate caught them on their tracks.

Senator Ralph Recto filed a resolution to defer the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) planned roll-out of 138 private motor vehicle inspection centers nationwide. The additional expenses they would have on motorists and the lack of transparency in program implementation were two of more reasons Rector cited.

 

Recto’s Senate Bill No. 638 cites: 

  • Unfair treatment to vehicle owners. Subjecting private vehicles to annual roadworthiness tests and franchised vehicles to semi-annual checks after five years is seen as unfair by the motoring public. 
  • Lack of public consultation. 
  • The testing fees are exorbitant. Recto questions the basis of the testing fees amounting to ₱1,800 for light vehicles, ₱600 for motorcycles, and ₱300 for public utility vehicles.
  • Is the policy illegal? While expressing fears that the roadworthiness testing procedure is prone to corruption, some sectors have raised doubts on the legality of Memorandum Circular 2020-2240.
  • LGUs don’t agree with the policy. The LGUs have cited mounting complaints regarding erroneous readings of testing results, alleged instances of mechanical damage to vehicles, improper handling by technicians, faulty equipment, and poor Internet connections at local LTO offices.

A few days earlier Senator Grace Poe also sought the deferment of the same policy for the same reasons.

“This has triggered widespread protests from motorists and civic organizations who questioned the integrity of the process and described the 72-point series of roadworthiness automated tests as more demanding than those required for car dealerships,” Recto said.

During a pandemic and an economic downturn that are causing suffering, fear and anxiety, Recto argued, the public should not be further burdened by regulatory measures with questionable procedures, imposing exorbitant fees with doubtful effectiveness, and implemented without proper public consultation.

“Resolved by the Senate, as it is hereby resolved, to urge the DOTr and LTO to suspend the operation of the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers until a comprehensive public consultation is conducted, with the end in view of promoting transparency to stakeholders and the public, forging programs with social acceptability and ensuring public safety,” Recto said.

Before the Motor Vehicle Inspection System program was put in place, Poe said, motorists only had to pay an average of P500 for the emission testing fee. The new inspection procedure is supposedly more thorough as it uses advanced technology to check the car from inside out.

Online dating and love in a time of pandemic

Online dating and love in a time of pandemic | A phone with a heart

In the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (CoViD-19) pandemic that limits people’s movement, love is not and cannot be restricted. Love it is then in a time of pandemic. 

At least that is what some individuals who use online dating apps say. “Online dating makes it easy for singles to connect with people who share the same interests,” one online dater said. He said he never thought he would be able to have deeper and more meaningful connections with his matches on the app he currently uses.

It gives enough time for heart-to-heart talk

Ang kaibahan nito sa traditional dating is yung pagkakaroon nyo ng enough time to have a deep conversation or heart-to-heart talk (It’s different from traditional dating; you find more time [through the app] for a deep conversation or heart-to-heart talk), he said. 

The app user said he had a hard time finding a long-time partner but learned a lot of lessons from people he met online.

It is convenient

Another finds it very convenient to use dating apps to find a partner. “Online dating is very convenient for me,” he said. A public school teacher, he said, “I prefer meeting strangers instead of friend referrals.”

In a relationship for nearly six years now with the person she met online via a dating app, still another user said that virtual dates helped her form a deep bond with her current partner.

“Online dating doesn’t require such meet ups. You can adjust your dates either by phone calls or just video calls,” she said.

Virtual dating for safety purposes

Already popular even before the Covid-19 pandemic, online dating gained more prominence for people who seek serious relationships when lockdowns became the norm. 

Although nothing beats traditional dating, according to the app users, they do online dates for everyone’s safety. They said couples can still feel the presence of their partners through video chats or phone calls.

“We do online dates if there are work changes, as one of us gets to be assigned to a remote area because of work. Online dating helps a lot for us to catch up. A simple sharing of experiences for the day is our routine as well as checking out what we will have for dinner separately,” one said.

Price ceiling covers imported pork sold in NCR supermarkets — Malacañan

Price ceiling covers imported pork sold in NCR supermarkets | Pork cuts

All imported pork sold in Metro Manila are covered by the price ceiling the Department of Agriculture set for 8 February. 

The President’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gave its commitment in a Cabinet meeting that labels will be placed on all imported pork sold in the supermarket.

Nangako ang DTI sa pamamagitan ni Secretary [Ramon] Lopez na henceforth magkakaroon po ng label na imported ang baboy na binibenta sa supermarket [The DTI made its commitment through Secretary Lopez that henceforth there will be label on imported pork sold in the supermarket],” Roque said at a press briefing.

At kapag ito ay imported na baboy nga, subject na rin po siya sa price cap [And if it’s imported pork, it is subject under the price cap],” Roque added.

Citing government data, Roque said the local hog raisers spend P172 to produce a kilo of pork while imported pork (Canada) costs P114.35 per kilo, inclusive of tariff.

Ano ba ang pagkakaiba ng baboy sa supermarket at baboy sa palengke? [What’s the difference between pork sold in the supermarket and the one sold in the wet market?]

Sabihin mo nang mayroon silang mga additional overhead, eh kapag sila naman ay nag-angkat, mas mura kaysa doon sa binili sa lokal. So ngayon po patas.” [Just say they (referring to dealers) incur additional overhead (expenses), when they import (pork), it is cheaper than those locally sold. So now, they (imported pork and locally sourced pork) are even,” the spokesperson said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier said that a number of supermarkets are selling pork at much lower prices than public or wet markets.