Granted with paid leaves, a mayor in Quezon allowed city government employees, who are single, to go out and find true love on 12 February, Friday. Mayor Matt Erwin Florido of General Luna, Quezon in his social media post said he is giving them a head start to find their “forever” before Valentine’s Day catches them alone again.
The city executive said he understands what his single employees are going through. In an interview, he admits he just wants to make everyone happy on Valentine’s Day despite the CoViD-19 pandemic.
The paid leave is part of the employees’ performance reward for diligence. The mayor advises the singles to file their leave on 11 February. The 12 is the Chinese New Year and a special non-working holiday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A local indemnification fund for Marikina residents who would suffer severe injuries or any adverse effect from the coronavirus disease 2019 (CoViD-19) vaccines is set aside. The city government is setting up a post-care monitoring system that will serve as an observation post for individuals who will be administered the vaccines, Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said.
Marikina City has in place “an indemnification fund or CoViD assistance fund,” said Teodoro. The move was for residents to build their trust and confidence on the vaccination program. The city has a large share of marginalized residents willing to get vaccinated but express fear about the adverse effects that could happen after.
“Marami kasi dito na magpapabakuna ay indigent, mahihirap—nag-aalala na kung may mangyayari [sa kanila] saan sila kukuha ng panggastos? (Many of the residents here are poor and they are worried about where to source hospitalization expenses if something happens to them after being vaccinated),”he said.
Teodoro described the move as bayanihan spirit among the national government, the local government units (LGUs), and the private sector.
“I think ito yung sinasabi ng Pangulo [Rodrigo Duterte] at ni Sec. Charlie [Galvez] na yung bayanihan mahalaga and we should synergize everything na naku-complement natin ang isa’t isa (I think this is what the President and Secretary Charlie meant when they said that bayanihan is very essential, that should synergize everything so that we can complement each other),” he said.
Proceeding with cautious optimism
Teodoro said the city government is proceeding with cautious optimism for its city-wide vaccination plan.
“We rely on the IATF’s (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) medical and technical expertise sa pagpili ng pinaka-efficient at pinakaligtas na Covid-19 vaccine para sa ating mga kababayan (in choosing the most effective and the safest Covid-19 vaccine for our citizens),” he said. Hayaan natin yung mga experts at mga nakakaalam ang magsabi sa atin (Let’s leave that job to the experts to tell us),” Teodoro added
Teodoro said the city has formed a team of medical experts to guide them in their vaccination plan. This team will ensure the city’s efficiency on identifying, profiling, and validating the medical eligibility of the target beneficiaries. It will also serve as the city’s consultant for counseling and post-care services that will be provided for the vaccine recipients.
Keeping institutional integrity intact
The primary objective of the city’s vaccination plan is to preserve the institutional integrity of its healthcare system. “That our healthcare system remains robust and prepared for any health crisis or any challenge. And will always be ready to provide critical healthcare services,” Teodoro said.
The city government will prioritize the vaccination of individuals involved in the front-line services, medical or non-medical workers. “This is invoking the principle of reciprocity where we put more premium to those with great responsibility and protect those who are most at risk of getting infected,” he added.
The city’s vaccination plan
Simplified in three steps, the vaccination plan has (1) registration and screening, (2) inoculation proper, and (3) post-care monitoring services.
As part of the post-care monitoring services, a treatment center is already in place. It is equipped with facilities that will cater to individuals who would suffer from the possible adverse effects of the vaccines.
The city’s vaccination plan also includes:
preparation of logistical requirements
readying the needed peripherals and incidental expenditures
requirements for vaccinators
post-care services for the vaccinated residents
setting up the compensation fund
Vaccination sites and cold-chain storage facilities have been identified.
“Our major vaccination area is the Marikina Sports Center,” Teodor said. The sports complex is situated close to the city’s cold-chain storage facility in the city’s Health building and partner hospitals.
Uniformed personnel who were trained and qualified as vaccinators are from: the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Joint Task Force on Covid-19.
The city targets 7,800 public and private healthcare front-liners and supports the whole-of-nation approach in the Covid-19 national immunization program.
Coalition groups issued an open letter to world leaders Wednesday to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over China’s consistent records on human rights abuse.
The Games are scheduled to begin on February 4 next year, just six months after the delayed summer Tokyo Olympics, but preparations have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
China is also facing global scrutiny over a range of issues, notably the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, and its clampdown in Hong Kong.
About 180 campaign groups signed the open letter, which called on world leaders to boycott the Beijing Winter Games “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent”.
The coalition, which includes the World Uyghur Congress and International Tibet Network, said that since Beijing was awarded the Games in 2015, “President Xi Jinping has unleashed an unrelenting crackdown on basic freedom and human rights”.
In a statement to AFP, the International Olympic Committee said that concerns raised by campaign groups, including over rights, “were and are raised with the government and local authorities”.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said the 2022 Games would be “a wonderful and outstanding event”.
“At the same time, I would also like to point out that politically motivated attempts to interfere or disrupt the preparations of the Games is very irresponsible,” he said of the open letter.
“Such a move won’t be supported by the international community and won’t succeed.”
China has been under growing pressure, particularly over the fate of its Uighur minority.
Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.
After initially denying the camps existed, the Chinese government abruptly acknowledged them, saying they were vocational training centres aimed at reducing the allure of Islamic extremism.
The Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) submits its recommendations to declare coronavirus disease 2019 (CoViD-19) as a work-related sickness.
In a virtual briefing Wednesday, OSHC executive director Noel Binag said his office forwarded suggestions to the Governing Board of the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC). They have identified high-risk jobs where employees are prone to contracting the virus.
“We are of the opinion that there … are specific groups of workers that are really highly exposed to Covid-19 … the medical front-liners, the military, and those working in grocery stores,” he said.
“The Governing Board of ECC will have to come up with a resolution to declare qualified beneficiaries to receive compensation. We will wait for them to issue a resolution. I’m sure it will come out soon,” he said.
Binag is also confident that the board will come up with a resolution adopting OHSC recommendations.